The reason for the season

Today is Black Friday.  You may or may not have gone shopping at 4:00 this morning.  I know that my sister was at a store before the sun was up because she literally started a retail job TODAY.  Poor girl.

Anyway, today I want to bring your attention to the reason for the season.  No, it’s not (necessarily) Jesus.  It’s love and peace and giving.  Here are some ways you can embrace love and peace and giving without going to the mall:

  • Donate time, money, or gently used items to a charity, soup kitchen, or family in need during the season.  Make it a family tradition.
  • Make gifts: Make a delicious food item, put it on a pie plate from a thrift store, and include a note that the dish is theirs to keep or regift to someone else.  This is a nearly zero-waste gift. If baking or cooking isn’t your thing, consider making bath scrubs (in repurposed glass jars!), or make creative art pieces.
  • Spend time together: Spend time with your family and friends during the holidays, just catching up or doing something you enjoy like seeing a movie or treating yourself to a favorite restaurant.
  • Offer your services: Offer to do the dishes after the holiday meal, or spend some time watching your relatives’ or friends’ kids so the parents can get some time alone.  Every minute you spend helping someone else is a minute they get to themselves, and that is a wonderful gift to give.

These are just a few ideas for keeping the focus on family and love around the holidays. Share more ideas in the comments!

What are your favorite things-that-aren’t-things to get in the holiday season?

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A minimalist by any other name…

This is a request from the Suggestion Box. Feel free to suggest a topic you would like me to write about if you are interested in seeing something appear on the Born Again Minimalist blog!

What exactly is a minimalist, and how does minimalism differ from simple living, or any other term?  Basically, we’re all doing the same thing, right?  We all want to declutter our homes, break free of consumerism and debt, focus on quality over quantity, and make room for our lives.

I’d like to invite you to watch this video, which I find very amusing.

There are blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook groups, YouTube videos, and more, just lurking on the internet waiting to teach you how to be a minimalist.  The best part, however, is that you don’t need anyone else to tell you how to live simply, live minimally, live lagom, or live your life any way.  There are guides and advice, sure, but your simple life is how you make it.

Forgive me for citing Wikipedia, but here are some general definitions:

Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include reducing one’s possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics. Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.

Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in “quality time” for family and friends, work–life balance, personal taste, frugality, or reducing personal ecological footprint and stress. Simple living can also be a reaction to materialism and conspicuous consumption. Some cite socio-political goals aligned with the anti-consumerist or anti-war movements, including conservation, degrowth, social justice, ethnic diversity, tax resistance and sustainable development.

Okay, cool, this sounds like me.  I’m living simply.  I have reduced my number of possessions, I plan to garden to increase self-sufficiency, I am pretty satisfied with my needs vs. wants.  I live simply for health and personal balance reasons, bordering on spiritual motivations.  I am striving to be anti-consumerist and anti-disposable-items.

Wikipedia also offers the following definition of minimalism:

Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts. Minimalism is any design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.

At its root, minimalism refers to music, art, architecture, writing, etc. that seeks to eliminate the superfluous and focus on the important bits.  It makes sense that the term could be applied to a lifestyle with the same basic idea: get rid of the excess and focus on what matters.

Giving a shout-out to Living Lagom, lagom is a term that basically translates to “just the right amount.”

There are as many terms to describe minimalists as there are minimalists.  And there is no one-size-fits-all definition.

Certainly I am not living as small as I could be.  I have a cat, and a compost bin, and I want to garden one day and maybe even keep chickens — these are not pack-up-and-move-your-life things to include in one’s minimalist life, but my intent is not to be able to move my life at the drop of a hat (though the thought of such a life is exhilarating!).  I only hope to live simply, decrease my dependence on corporations and consumerist culture, and be happy and as self-sufficient as possible, with a small carbon footprint.  I can call myself whatever I want, and so can you!

Be simple. Be a minimalist. Live lagom. Seek enlightenment.  Whatever you’re doing, keep it up if it brings you joy.  Remember that minimalism is not a destination — it’s a journey.  And you get to decide how it unfolds!

Spreading the word

I’d like to take today’s post to share some other blogs I have found since I began my minimalist journey.  I’m following 17 blogs, which seems like a lot, but many of them don’t post often, and they aren’t all about minimalism.  I am a woman of many interests.  I follow parenting blogs, vegan eating blogs, personal blogs of people I care about, and a healthy dose of minimalism blogs, including these:

Living Lagom – This blog is the first I started following when I began my Reader on WordPress!  She posts very insightful posts about living with just enough, and her tales of her non-minimalist sister help me to get through life with the non-minimalists in my life (which is everyone but me, basically!)

The Simple Year – This mother commits to buying nothing new for a full year, and talks about her trials and tribulations, and she throws in some really funny stories too.  One of my favorites is the one about mismatched socks.

Living Simply Free – The tales of a woman who, upon having an “empty nest,” revisited her home full of stuff with new eyes and began to live simply and simply live, enjoying her time with her children, grandchildren, and several creative projects in her 300 square foot home.

Recently on Living Simply Free, I read about the Reverse 100 Thing Challenge, in which I shall participate.  It’s a challenge to remove 100 things from your home by the end of the year.  I’m in!  I can’t decide if I will write about it as I go along or if I’ll just do a post in December with everything I purged.  We’ll see.

What are your favorite minimalist blogs?

October spending: Week one

I have a confession to make.  I don’t really stick to a budget.  I pay all my bills and still have money leftover for nonessentials like going out, and I save over 10% of my income each week, so I usually assume I’m doing okay.

I have tracked my expenses for one week.  I am not doing okay.

Inspired by a fellow blogger at Drop That Debt, who posts her weekly spending every week, I decided to track mine for the month of October and see where my money was leaking out.

Spoiler alert: It’s groceries.

From October 1 to October 7, I spent over $950.

Bills: Rent ($505), student loans ($42ish and $96ish), internet ($30), and gas ($60 – includes the last installment of my deposit; gas bills will henceforth be a fraction of this cost!).  Okay, over half of that ridiculous number up there is bills.  Bills are legitimate expenditures.  Not bad.

Essentials: Gasoline ($31.77) – I have reduced my spending on gas over the last month by WALKING every day! Gotta go to the store? Walk. Want to eat out? Walk. Post office? Walk. (I love my city). My general practice is to use the car only for commuting to and from work, but I do use it to go to Earth Fare grocery store, which is too far for me to comfortably walk.  I try to do that on my way home from work though.  I also drive to my mom’s house, usually once a week.

Nonessentials: Kindle eBook ($5), DVD gift for my mom ($8.27), Groupon to organic restaurant ($1 – I had credits on my account), and a carbon offset for my flight to Spain ($38.42).  Obviously this section could be reduced by not buying eBooks, gifts, or Groupons.  I felt really compelled to buy the carbon offset being an eco-hippie.  It won’t be a regular thing because I don’t regularly take transatlantic flights.

Groceries (I hope you’re sitting down): 

  • Target on 10/1: $10.24 (spices, bread, vegan beef tips for soup)
  • Earth Fare on 10/1: $28.58 (some produce, ingredients to make two batches of soup – lots of canned goods)
  • Amazon, 10/2: $10.79: Organic non-GMO canola oil (because I’m a dirty hippie)
  • Earth Fare, 10/4: (big sigh) $64.76.  IN MY DEFENSE, $40 of this was a bulk bag of frozen soy nuggets, so that I can make vegan mock-chicken salad at home at half the cost (in the long run) of buying it pre-made from the deli counter.  I also got some apples, and stuff to make a vegan no-bake Thin Mint cookie recipe (which is delicious).
  • Walgreens, 10/6: $18 on batteries for my camera and bottled drinks before a photo safari.  Big fail here, I should have brought drinks from home.  I should also look into rechargeable batteries.
  • Marc’s, 10/6: $7.45 on vinegar, castor oil, wax paper, peroxide, and bread – I have no shame about this one.

I clearly have to get my grocery budget in order.  I promise that I do not normally spend $140 per week on groceries.  I usually spend about $20-30 per week.   I would like to get to a grocery budget of $100 per month.

How will I do this?

  • Avoid convenience foods or pre-made foods.  It’s cheaper to buy ingredients and cook.
  • Only buy what I will eat (if I buy too much, I will freeze it and eat it later)
  • Buy dry goods instead of canned goods.  It is more affordable to get a bag of dried beans than it is to get a few cans of the same beans.
  • Plan weekly menus and make a shopping list.  No more impulse purchases.

I think these goals will help keep me in line when it comes to groceries.  I am using October as my “control month,” and I will post these weekly updates on Sundays so as to not interrupt your regularly scheduled Born Again Minimalist programming.  My expectation is that the rest of the month will have a lot less spending because I’m keeping track of it all and I won’t want to keep confessing these spending sins.

How do you minimize your grocery budget?