A weekend Retreat

peace

This weekend I volunteered at a retreat center that for two years I spent most of my summer (college and post college).  It was out of the blue a one-time friend, contacted me, inviting me to come back.  God must’ve been listening to my thoughts, as I had been thinking about the organization for a few weeks prior and my desire to return (it’s been 4 years).  It was an organization I love deeply, but after a nasty break-up with a friend (who is deeply involved), I felt that I was not allowed back, even though it had no relation.

Thankfully, that was not the case and I made a joyous return there.  My stay was amazing and I sincerely can’t wait to go back.  The staff has mostly changed, but everything there felt right and I found peace in my time there.  I served as a host and assisted a group of bishops (from around the U.S. and abroad).

I stayed at the retreat in a simple room that, being a minimalist, suited me perfectly.  A bed, good desk, couch and bathroom in a not too big, not too small place was perfect.  Being cut off from technology also aided in my peace and renewal.  As much as I can rely on technology, I’m the sort who has a love-hate relationship with it.  I really wish I could’ve been part of my parents generation before this technology stuff became all consuming in our society!

 

red-coffee-cup-mug-large

As I sat eating breakfast with a table of bishops this morning, the discussion of minimalism came up.  One brought up that she once had a large house, but sold it in favor of a 1 bedroom apartment with adequate space for one.  Another chimed in to say it was hardest to part with her books.  So the conversation went, which made me reflect on my own thoughts of minimalism.

Recently I sat down and began mapping out, on paper, my plans in the coming months and through 2017 to reach my undetermined minimalism goal.  Starting large won’t work, so I’m in the process of setting a few objectives towards minimalism as a whole.  I’ve been working towards this over the last 2 years, but now I’m ready to buckle down more.  This year has been another stride towards that through;

  • Buying high quality items (particularly clothing and accessories)
  • Continuing to go through things every few months
  • Being more considerate of what I buy and use

 

Next year I hope to (this is my ‘so far’ list)

  • Buy less things than I get rid of
  • Invest in only high quality items that I need
  • Replace furniture I don’t want/need with things that will last for a long time
  • Move into a smaller apartment (with hardwood floors)

 

Off-shooting from minimalism, volunteering this weekend reminded me of my true self and calling.  I love helping others and being in a place where I help and travel renewed me.  On a spiritual level, I felt more connected to God (nature has always done that for me, along with minimalism, volunteering and aiding others).  This weekend was meant to be, so to speak and I look forward to the lessons, growth and change I will accomplish in the coming months and through next year when it continues to happen.

 

 

Thoughts on minimalism

IMG_0023

I want to start with a bit of a backstory here and one I alluded to in my previous post.  After graduating college I spent a year doing part-time and freelance jobs and just surviving (financially).  I also graduated with considerable student loans, which I managed to defer for 1.5 years until I had been at a stable full-time job for 6 months.

It wasn’t a well paying job and I was in the expensive city of Charlottesville, VA.  I got by with a lot less and while I had family aid, going out to eat was definitely a treat as well as the rare once every few months book. I utilized things that were free or cheap, which made me a penny pincher (or more of one).

Fast forward to the fall of 2015.  My freelance writer job ended when the company I wrote for folded.  I had been selling a lot of things, which helped me to see more of what was important (which has stuck).  I was barley making ends meet, even with family support, when I got a job offer….a teaching job paying more than double what I was making, I leapt at the chance.

A year later, my student loans have crashed dramatically, I can freely donate to causes I’m passionate about, buy quality items (i.e. quality clothes), buy better food (I can afford shrimp??) and I feel comfortable money wise.

 

Personal philosophy

I believe that too much stuff clouds our insides.  Clutter is not only distracting, but it takes away from something being special.  You’re going to remember that one book you bought and the circumstances around it more than the pile of books you loaded up on.  I individualize things both with people, memories and stuff.  When I do buy things or go on trips or to events, it’s special.

A smaller space

IMG_0171

As I’ve gotten older, my ideal living space has decreased in size.  Granted I’m still going to opt for a 3 bedroom house (someday), I’ve been looking more into downgrading my rentals in the future.  Currently I have a 2 bedroom apartment to myself and while its great (especially those 3-4 times a year company comes over), I wonder if I really need that space.  Is it worth the extra $100-200 a month?  Maybe not.  It’s just me and my second bedroom functions as an away place when I’m tired of chilling in another part of my apartment…but mostly its an organized storage space.

With my lease coming up for renewal at the end of next month, I’ve been seriously considering downgrading to a 1 bedroom apartment, with the following considerations:

  1. If it saves me $100+ or more per month
  2. Job depending (offered a contract renewal which I’ll sign if another offer doesn’t come in the next two months)

If nothing else, my next apartment will probably be a 1 bedroom.  Can I downsize what I have?  Absolutely.  Realistically I enjoy space, but I could easily make with a smaller space and I enjoy the idea of a smaller space.  I plan on renting/nomading for at least another 3-4 years, unless a life change (marriage, family member illness) prompts me otherwise.  Speaking of downsizing…

 

Thoughts on stuff

IMG_0252

(My buys from Toomanygames in Greater Oaks, PA)

Every year I set an ‘anti-consumerism’ goal.  This goal is a set number of objects that I intend to recycle, sell or donate over the course of the year.  This year it’s 200, which I have almost met.  In previous years I had higher numbers, but that was when I was a poor post-college student who had to sell her rare video games to make a student loan payment.

Do I think I have too much stuff?  Of course.  Could I get rid of more?  Yes.  If I had to, I’d not be heartbroken about downsizing my stuff to the point where I only have enough to fit into my car.  I have things that are important to me for necessity and emotional reasons, but at the end of the day, its just stuff.  Yes, I’ll keep the things I don’t need, but want, because I don’t have to get rid of it.

I feel there are some minimalists that take things to the extreme.  It’s a gray area for me to explain why because ‘I can live without it, but I don’t have to so I’ll keep it.’  I’m a fan of physical media (i.e. DVDs) and I have a massive book collection.  For most of my books/movies/games, I do go back and play, watch or read them every few years.  I just only keep what I want.

I go through all of my belongings every 3-4 months.  It might mean taking a small load of unwanted books to the local bookstore or selling a game I beat and know I won’t play again (if I love a video games, I will keep it, same way with a movie).  I usually make that decision when I finish a book, movie or video game, but I check my collections regardless every couple of months.

A ‘luxury’ my current job and pay has allowed me is buying quality items.  My wardrobe has become filled with quality clothing that will last me many years and washings that are staple items (I avoid fast fashion for ethical and financial reasons).  In the past I loaded up on cheap camp’s, but those days are gone.  This rule extends to other things like linens and organizational supplies, with some organizational skills and forward thinking thrown in.

.

Going forward

Thinking ahead to next years goals (hey, I’m a planner) I will be making a goal of NOT buying more than X number of clothes, books, games what have you.  In addition, I want to set another ‘get rid of X number of things’ in an amount greater than my intake.  It shouldn’t be hard and it’ll help move me towards a more ideal minimalist life, especially if the goal I am setting becomes reality.