Minimalism: Bathroom Routines

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If you were to walk into our tiny home right now, barge yourself up to our bathroom and pull back the shower curtain in one fell swoop, you may be shocked to find the bare-bones tub that we bathe in. The amount of products that we allow ourselves are few and far between. I never realized before that it was uncommon to house only a single bar of soap in the shower. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law stayed with us for a few weeks and commented on how “bizarre” our bathroom was that I thought to myself, “Maybe we ARE outliers.”

When I asked her why, she mentioned how most people would have products up the wazoo strewn over their bathing areas. I suppose it never occurred to me that some people have soaps, shampoos, conditioners, face moisturizers, loofahs, and whatever else (I don’t even know what else as I’ve run out of things to list). She said that most couples have his and hers products, because the beauty industry would like us to think that we need separate goods.

So we don’t own many things, and she may have stayed with us back when we were practicing zero plastic living much more stringently, hence the singular bar, but in our defense we’ve lightened up a bit on both counts since then. There are a few luxuries that we’ve afforded ourselves recently, one of which is this beautiful Japanese body scrub, which said mother-in-law gifted me for Christmas. And while the tub still usually holds only a bar of soap and this loofah hung up to dry on the shower curtain rod, we also own gifted bottles of Aesop products which we take into the tub occasionally.

I know that I may not get most people on board with me on this one, but may I pitch the idea that minimalist bath routines are the way to go? Firstly, we can reduce our environmental impact by just limiting the products that we buy. There is no need for his and hers segregation. Even though they are advertised as such, I don’t see why he and I need different products. Is that weird?

Secondly, we reduce packaging by reducing our consumption. In fact, people may find this odd, but we shampoo perhaps one to two times a week. We use the conditioner less frequently than that. We own beautiful products that were gifted to us but this miniature Aesop body soap has lasted me six months. Not because I never wash, but I don’t use it in excess. A tiny drop is good enough to bathe in. The shampoo and conditioner have also lasted us just as long, and we aren’t close to finishing. I would gander that the conditioner would last us the entire year.

Yes, they are in plastic bottles. No we are not perfect. Perhaps being gifted these and using them isn’t a sin. I like to think it’d be more eco-conscious than shipping more ethical shampoo and conditioner options across the country? I don’t know.

From a frugalist’s perspective, Aesop products are not cheap. In this case, they were free, but even if they weren’t, limiting consumption of Aesop bath products could save you more money than a person squandering Dove products on the daily. With less products to use, you can also reduce your monthly water bill. I like to shower in less than five minutes and Mike turns the water off every time he uses a bar of soap.

Phew, after this discussion, perhaps we are whackos. Just out of curiosity, how may items do you have in your bathtub?

Also, two of my favorite companies have 20% off sales on their entire site this weekend, which is sort of post related.

+ Bath towels and accessories from Parachute is 20% OFF through Monday. My favorite is this classic starter bundle in the color Bone.

+ Territory design also has 20% off everything and that is where my mother-in-law bought this body scrub

 

Simple Things: Ikebana

It’s Mother’s Day and while most of the Western world is showering their moms with love in the form of large bouquets and wreaths, I figure I’d share a personally preferred minimalist and intentional flower arrangement – ikebana.

The art of ikebana is a Japanese way of making bouquets. Translated literally, it means “making flowers alive”, which to me is poetry itself. Rather than focusing on gathering as many flowers as possible, the art requires a curation of sorts. Typically, only five to thirteen stems are used, and a flower frog with pins are employed to arrange the flowers in a romantic way.

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Unlike flower bouquets lining groceries and florist shops, these arrangements use stems and leaves, even blades of grass. Whatever is calling to the artist is included. It’s the ultimate proof that beauty can be found in even the simplest of things.

I like the practice of Ikebana because it adds an element of mindfulness to the process. Not needing to drive to a floral shop or pay for flowers, I pick simple buds or greenery that I find on walks around the neighborhood. What captures my attention depends on the day, and sometimes even twigs will appear wondrous in their own right. I collect a handful of treasures and curate them when I get home. Curating is arguably the most difficult part, but also my favorite. I put to use everything I know about creating an intentional home and apply it to ikebana.

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I’ve chosen these beautiful vessels from Notary Ceramics, a hand-thrown pottery located in Oregon dishing out the most beautifully minimalist pieces. There are two that I like – one with a water bowl in the center and only a few spaces for stems, and a smaller one with more opportunity for fronds and the like, but without a water bowl.

The water is another element of ikebana. It is said that one shouldn’t care whether petals or leaves fall into the water, for there is beauty in the imperfections, too. I love when soft petals float over the water’s surface, or when small buds break off from their stems into the pool.

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As you’ve probably guessed, for Mother’s Day I gifted my mother one of these flower frogs from Notary Ceramics. I hope that she keeps it by her bedside table, or in the center of the kitchen island for the morning light to shine on. I imagine her finding a few whimsical strands of nature when she walks our family dog with my father. I hope she remembers what it was like to be a child, carrying treasures home from her adventures. May she find a creative moment each week that lends beauty to her home as she carefully chooses her pickings. May more people practice a simpler art, daily, and bring joy to mother’s everyday after Mother’s Day.

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Intentional Living: How to Curate a Minimalist Home

Growing up, I was always impressed by still-lifes and images of homes. Museum-like staging of historical dwellings on field trips and home-decor magazines alike had me imagining what my ideal house would look like. As an early twenty-something, I would peruse magazines and circle with a pen the items that I would love to own one day. Along the way, I collected trinkets here and there every time I visited Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Target … until one day, I woke up to having too much stuff. I realized that instead of the clean, well-manicured homes that I looked up to as a teen, what I had was a very dirty rented room that held a hodge-podge of mismatched items and styles. I didn’t know who I was, which style was “me”, and I suffered many hours keeping things tidy.

These, of course, weren’t my biggest life problems – only a reflection of other aspects that bothered me about myself. After spending months (then, years after the first phase) of de-cluttering, I decided that I was not going to put in all that effort just so I can fill my space back to an over-whelming state, where I had to spend most of my free time organizing stuff, tidying up after trinkets that find their way out of their proper places like the toys from Toy Story.

Like with everything else, I decided to slow. it. down. Limit what I purchased and bought for my home, so that I could discover the whos, whats, whens, and whys of things. I wanted to be the curator of my own museum, and while homes aren’t meant to be museums themselves – they’re meant to be lived in and touched and loved and messed up, even – neither are they meant to be storage units holding symbols of our financial status. But as curator, I wanted to make sure that what I had was worth keeping.

The skill of curating doesn’t magically come from a bout of de-cluttering. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a completely separate ability that places more importance on our stewardship of what we allow in, rather than our selection of what we get rid of. You could be very good at de-cluttering without being good at maintaining your clutter. You need both skills to be able to create a minimalist space that allows for maximalist function.

With books up the wazoo about how to properly de-clutter a space, and movements that have people Marie-Kondoing their homes, I think what people still struggle with the most when creating a minimalist home is the inundation of stuffs through our doors – aka: the curation itself.

A curator for a museum needs to have a passion for the job, a knowledge about history and the arts, an eye for detail, patience and superior organizational skills. They research different pieces before deciding on one and manage the finances and lending needed to get the best piece for their space.

A curator of the home requires similar things, requiring knowledge of the self, patience, and the willingness to research options before a purchase.

Personally, I simplify the process down to three questions – which I ask of myself before I make a purchase. I ask them in the following order of importance:

Is it beautiful?

Beauty is my first question because I find that without beauty, I can easily fall out of love with something and lust after a nicer alternative. And while there are always nicer options, when you fall in love with the beauty within an everyday thing rather than the thing itself, no matter what happens to that thing or to you, you will have a sentimental connection with the piece that makes it hard to even look at another. Metaphors aside, I find that beautiful things hardly feel like clutter. A hand-made ceramic mug left sitting on the table with coffee drips dried from the lip is an artful piece on its own. A beautiful cardigan thrown over a chair looks almost staged when in reality, it was flung there forgotten after a more pressing life-matter beckoned. We are attracted to beautiful things, and of the three, sentiment is the strongest decision factor as to whether an item earns its keep. Because when something no longer becomes necessary or breaks and become dysfunctional, when it has lost its purpose and meaning, a person may still choose to keep it simply because it is beautiful.

Is it functional?

I like to think that what I own earn their keep. They do the hard work for me. They help me to not only live, but also to thrive. My things deserve my deepest gratitude for the sole reason that without them, my life would be a little less than. So it goes that my second question is to the functionality of a piece. Will it do it’s work? Is it practical? Will it hold against the tests of time? Things considered include the brand (is it reputable?), the material (I prefer iron, wood, ceramics, and linen), the maintenance (I don’t like delicate thinks that require looking after) and whether it does the job well (it must be efficient as well as easy).

Is it necessary?

This is the last question that I ask of myself, because sometimes, after you’ve determined that something is both beautiful and functional, you may also realize that you already own something else that does the same. And if two things fill the same void, then one of them will, eventually, have to go. An example that I have is tupperware. We love to cook. And we always run out of tupperware. But our tiny tupperware cabinet is 80% full with containers when all are available. I could choose to buy more containers so that we never run out, but I would hate to have a weekend where all are empty and spilling out of the tupperware cabinet. That is the exact definition of clutter! Not to mention the stress and waste of time spent on said weekend organizing tupperware into kitchen cabinets. So I refuse to buy more. Instead, I look for alternatives. I grab a casserole dish and put a lid on it. I store things in glass jars that we’ve kept instead of recycled.  Currently, on our kitchen island is a dutch oven holding everything bagels with the pot lid on to keep them from going stale. These and more, just so the home doesn’t accumulate things for the sake of having them. It’s a fun game I play. The less stuff you have, the more creative you can get.  What I’ve learned from this experiment is that in the moment, we may feel the need for something, but the moments often pass, the need – temporary. Most times, it is this final question that stops items from entering our home.

Surely, there is a long list of people who have Marie-Kondoed the ish out of their homes during quarantine. To you, I say congratulations. Before we all re-enter back into what once was, I wanted to share this tip on curating. Good judgement about what to consume can easily be clouded when we are stressed, which tends to happen at our usual pace of go-go-go. So before we return to “normal”, do recall that normal wasn’t working, and de-cluttering was more than a trend. This period has shed light on what was uncomfortable and what you felt was most important, so let’s hang on to that just a bit longer. And continue to take it slow.

Curating Closets: One Work-out Outfit

I have never been one to stick to a work-out routine long-term. I find that we train our minds to have grit with certain things, but with physical activity, I haven’t had much practice. However, with the turn of the decade, for the world but also for myself, my thirtieth birthday brought on an awareness of muscle aches, tenderness, and fatigue. Instead of dwelling on the regretful lack of physical activity in my earlier years, I decided to start setting it all straight.

Since there are only two exercises that I ever liked, swimming and yoga, I decided to sign up for an unlimited membership at CorePower. I did this a year ago and regretted my decision from a financial perspective. But I realized that without the discipline for sticking to a regular workout routine, I would not get anywhere without a financial reason to push me. Spending money is a great motivator for someone who seeks getting the most value. The last year has taught me the value of outsourcing certain things in order to get high returns. I knew it was the right choice for me.

Which brings us to the topic of work-out clothes.

Having Just One

For those curating closets, I am here to tell you that one work-out set (a top and bottom) is enough for all of your work out needs. I attend yoga classes at least FIVE TIMES a week, and I have one set. In black, of course, not that that’s a pre-requisite for all. Just for me. (Why black? I like to streamline my clothes so that it works for every season. Your color could be rainbow, and that wouldn’t matter so much as the fact that it’s a color that works for you despite changes in weather or mood. For me, black looks good whether my skin is tan or not, whether my nails are painted a bright color or nude, and just makes me feel confident and comfortable overall. Curating closets, after all, is about knowing yourself.)

Maintenance

The secret with having a singular outfit is being pro-active with keeping work-out wear clean. The yoga sessions are heated and intense, and I don’t have an anti-sweat recipe up my sleeve. Yes, I do come out of those sessions drenched. But I shower right after those sessions and in the shower, I hand wash my top and bottom and hang them to dry. I am not so good (yet!) as to attend back-to-back sessions, so my workout attire can typically hang to dry until the next day. In the morning, I take the drying towels and yoga wear and toss it in my “yoga bag” which is nothing more than a ten-year-old enlarged shoulder tote that happens to fit a water bottle, my workout attire, and a yoga towel. At the end of every week, I toss the workout set into the wash with the other clothes.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

One of the best things about having a curated closet is the avoidance of decision fatigue. Our brains require energy to make decisions and it is not proportional to the size of the decision. This means that making little decisions is just as taxing for our brain as making larger, life-altering decisions. To save brain power for the important stuff, I avoid having to choose for the smaller things in life, yoga attire included. Imagine how much stress and energy it takes to decide which outfit works well for you today while you are rushing to make class. My timelines are always filled with to-do’s, so it isn’t worth wasting time and energy on the mundane. Plus, I guarantee you’ll enter yoga class with a clearer mind, ready to accept all the benefits that the class has to offer, instead of fretting about whether you made the right outfit choice.

Easier Organization

I have met many girls who struggle with organizing their workout wear. Intricate straps make it difficult to hang and bulky to fold. Silky leggings slip right off the hanger. Drives a neatnik quite mad.  It helps to choose workout wear that skips all of that. For me, I have a T strap top with no inside bra cups to lose in the wash. It has an empress style body to hide the fact that I just engulfed a burger prior to class. The bottom of the top has a cinch that can tighten around my hips, for yoga inversions that tend to be unsuccessful. The leggings are cropped right underneath my knee caps, with enough coverage for the winter and enough air flow for the summer. The pants are fairly light, with a drawstring around the waist and no pockets.

Instead of trying to hang my slippery workout wear, I fold my clothes into tiny squares and toss in the bag. The bag hangs on a hanger in our bathroom, making it easily accessible when I’m ready to dash out the door and keeping it off the floor. The hanger is on a rod next to the shower, where I wash the clothes. When wet, the clothes hang on a shower curtain rod to drip into a tub until dry. The next morning they are dry enough to toss into the bag, which helps control clutter, and eliminating the need to search for them later on.

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Accessories

I have only a few accessories for yoga. The first is a Maduka yoga mat which is inside a yoga mat bag that stays in the back of my car at all times. Inside this yoga mat bag is a yoga mat cleaner and a lock for the locker room. Additionally, in the cold winter months, I wear a white Eileen Fisher sweater. This sweater is dedicated to yoga only. I don’t wear this sweater for other occasions, and it stays inside the same bag as my workout clothes. I do not change the sweater I wear to yoga either. It is always the same (see “decision fatigue” above). Lastly, I have one yoga towel that I lay over my mat. This yoga towel is also folded inside the bag that holds my clothes. I lay this towel over my yoga mat, and also hand wash the towel with my clothes. I use this same towel to dry myself off after my showers, too. Then it gets hung up to dry on the shower rod, just like everything else.

Having a routine helps me focus on the yoga itself. It makes gym-going a calm and easy experience. For anyone looking to curate their closet, I would highly recommend trying this! If you already own a ton of workout wear, I wouldn’t get rid of them right away. Pick one and see if its an outfit that jives with you. See if you can do without the others. When you’re ready to finally pull the trigger and slim your closet down even more, donate!

I’d love to hear some of your curating closet tips! Leave a comment and say hello.

Plant Paper, A New Toilet Paper Alternative for Body and Eco-Conscious Individuals

This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap.  But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.

So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

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Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.

The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!

Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.

One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”

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Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.

When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.

In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.

Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.

Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.

When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.

Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.

Beyond Environment and Health

To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.

We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.

Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.

As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.

The Verdict:

So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?

Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.

The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”

If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.

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Frugal Challenge: Practice Minimalism

In my life (as it is now), minimalism came first. By practicing minimalism, everything good in my life fell into place, financial clarity being one of them. Every time I choose a life of less stuff, I enforce a habit of not relying on external stimuli to make me feel whole. I am also deconstructing a fallacy that we were taught from birth, one that says we can buy our way to happiness. Minimalism is, after-all, a modern by-product of Zen teachings on how happiness resides within ourselves and the worlds our minds create. Any external stimuli only prevents us from tapping into our inner state of calm or peace by acting as a distraction from true happiness. Without the material things to distract me, I am able to focus on the more important (non-material things) in my life, such as paying down $575k in student debt! I can confidently say that I would not have been as successful with finding frugality and working towards financial independence without first practicing the art of saying Goodbye, Things.

My frugal challenge for the month of October is to start practicing minimalism. After all, it goes hand-in-hand with frugality. Practicing minimalism can cut down costs in many ways. Here are a few!

  • LESS SHOPPING, ERGO LESS SPENDING: After you’ve de-cluttered a lot of your items, you will naturally develop a hesitancy with buying something again (unless it’s something you realized you really need or want). The de-cluttering process, when done right, is a tedious process for the average American because of how much stuff we tend to accumulate. I guarantee that once you’ve really pared down, buying things is not as attractive as it once was, which means you will spend less money on shopping.
  • LESS STUFF MEANS LESS LIVING SPACE: Having less things allow for a smaller home, which usually leads to cheaper rent! Many minimalists find that once they are freed from the burden of material objects, they are suddenly free to live alternative lifestyles, such as pursuing the small space movement! Housing is one of the largest expenses in most people’s budget, so reducing the cost of housing will greatly catapult your path towards financial freedom.
  • LESS UNNECESSARY SPENDING FOR REPAIRS AND REPLACEMENT. Minimalism is a lesson in being grateful for the things we already have. Because minimalists surround themselves with only their most beloved things, they are more likely to preserve, mend, and fix a broken thing than they are to throw it away and replace it. They aren’t going to buy things for convenience sake and they are more invested in maintenance. Because of this, they save more money.
  • LESS KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES’S: Minimalists do not participate in keeping up with the Jones’s. In fact, they think the Jones’s are making a dying, rather than making a living. And minimalists prefer to live life rather than work themselves to death in order to buy material goods. And since minimalists do not participate in upward social comparisons, they are not as easily influenced or frequently bombarded by and with advertisements. They aren’t called upon to be consumers. And if they are, the calling is easily ignored. Overall, they don’t spend money in order to keep an appearance. Minimalists save their dollars, preferring to build wealth rather than build social status.
  • LESS STRESS RELIEF BINGES. When we are stressed, we tend to spend in order to make ourselves feel better. We want to take a vacation to run away from stressful work. We go out to drink during happy hour after a difficult 8-5. We binge on food and eat our misery away. We even have retail therapy. A practice in minimalism leads to more space physically, emotionally, and mentally. Minimalism reduces stress by reducing the external stimuli in our environments. With all this Zen, there is less cost dedicated to stress relief practices.
  • NO EXPENSIVE FRIVOLOUS EVENTS. Minimalists do not want to celebrate big life events with lavish parties, nor do they want to receive a tower of gifts. What will they do with all of this stuff? I may be speaking for myself, but my ideal celebration involves people and homemade food in a warm setting. I like gatherings in small spaces because you can feel the presence of others and there’s no nooks and crannies to hide in and stare lovingly into your phone. A good example of this was our wedding. We got married in an empty warehouse and the decor was handmade. My father tied gold streamers onto a string, and I made a backdrop for the photobooth area. My aunt collected wild flowers and put them in vases, and Mike’s grandmother made cookies and her famous magic bars. Our friends provided local beer for the reception as their wedding gift. We hired a taco truck and had donuts for desert. I’d imagine the same would go for children’s parties, funerals, graduation, & c. No frivolous events means no expensive events!

These are just a few ways that minimalism can help build a frugal lifestyle. The truth is, minimalism goes a step further than frugality. When I became a minimalist, I reduced the distractions in my life. I honed in on who I was and what made me happy. Because of this recently tapped in energy, I performed better at work and increased my income. I then found a few interests that became side hustles (writing being one of them). This further allowed me to make more money. And as I became happier, I also became less dependent on buying my way to happiness. My work made me happy, and I funneled even more time into my passions. And so the cycle snowballed, and slowly, our debt repayment changed from 25 years to 10 years to 9 year, to 7 years, to hopefully less than 6 years! All because I got rid of my things.

As all minimalists argue, if minimalism involves shedding physical burdens in the form of material possessions in order to be liberated to live the life that really matters, why isn’t is called maximalism? Frugal maximalism.

De-cluttering Photos

The past few weeks have been spent revisiting the act of de-cluttering. I came to the realization that while I followed Marie Kondo’s rules about the severity with which to get rid of stuff and the order in which to let go of items, I never did really finish the work. Sure, I de-cluttered my stuff. It was easy to “touch up” on the physical things, since I no longer own many clothes or books. Our furniture and rooms are sparse. The kitchen items increased in volume after the wedding with gifts that I now regret adding to the registry but those were quite easy to acknowledge and forgive. It took less than half an hour to reaffirm the bathroom has only what we need. In the physical realm, it was easy to make everything right.

However,  there are two categories that still remained untouched – digital clutter and sentimental items. Marry the two together, and I am now faced with the sorting of digital photos with a sudden realization that I am a photograph hoarder. I have always had a careless way with the camera, snapping picture after picture desperate to freeze moments in time. Likewise, I struggle with letting these so-called memories go. Many excuses come to mind, such as, “What if I write a blog post about that sometime?”, or “How will I keep track of every place we’ve ever traveled to?”. “What if I need more photos to showcase my bread?”, or “What if I get forgetful one day and want to remember even the smallest span of time?” I didn’t know until now how much attachment I felt towards pixels on a screen.

Which goes to show, I suppose, that it comes as both a blessing and a curse that the work is never quite done. You think you’ve reached a level of understanding about the world and yourself, and then you find some little part of your life you haven’t quite looked at before and discover still more improvements to be made. It’s a curse that personal growth never reaches an end because we spend our whole lives trying to figure ourselves out. But on the flip side, it’s a blessing because … what else would we do if we already knew everything?

Besides, we cannot maintain a level of understanding if we stop trying to understand. The world will change and us along with it, and the worst one can do is assume they’ve got everything figured out and stand still. How can WE figure it out when a lineage of ancestors could not? Surely, the beauty lies in the process.

Speaking of process, there I was the past few days, making grueling work out of organizing photos and getting rid of 80% of them (which was hardly enough as evidenced by five different storage drives) when yesterday, on my day off when I thought I would get the most work done, my memory card became corrupt and was reformatted. Which in layman’s terms meant that all data was lost. I couldn’t believe it. It was like some wind had come and swept everything I worked hard for away from me. Oh the lessons life had yet to teach.

When I finally overcame the grief thirty seconds later, I realized with shock the relief that overcame me. The heartache of the last few days’ work turned into excitement, when I realized there were less days ahead being wasted sorting that stuff out. I realized quite quickly how disengaged I was from those photos, how little of my heart they truly held. I had organized snapshots to keep, ones filled with smiling faces and beautiful scenery, but when they were gone I found that it didn’t take away from the fact that they’ve touched me somehow. I think losing all of that proved to me that our memories are not tied to paper or lit up screens. And if one day, I do become completely incapable of memory, well, then maybe I will finally learn to live in the present moment without anything to hold me back.

There are still 4 more hard drives to address. But after losing one fifth of my work, I continue the task with a lighter heart and an easier mind as I press the delete button with more frequency and delight. I will still enjoy taking photos, but the joy will remain in the act of taking photos themselves. By the time the images become registered, it would have already served its purpose. I finally understand what Marie Kondo was trying to say when it comes to de-cluttering photos.

“With this method you will only keep about five per day of a special trip, but these will be so representative of that time that they will bring the rest back vividly. Really important things are not that great in number. “

I’d like to keep that last part on repeat.

A Guide to Staycations

For two and a half years since we’ve said the words “I do”, we’ve spent every holiday getting away to see the world. This Labor Day, we’ve decided to slow it down from the traveling and relish in the beauty of our home. We had just returned from three back-to-back travel destinations (Seattle, Juneau, and Santa Rosa) and I was feeling a bit like I was missing out on the joys of being home. Perhaps that’s a sign of aging? We thought it’d be great to try and re-create vacation vibes in our own city… and our own living room. While everyone is fighting for limited space on highways tonight, higher hotel and flight prices over the weekend, and surely every last little bit of summer sun, maybe you could turn your home into a vacay oasis too, without opening your wallets or car doors (too often).

We always took off whenever we had a bit of freedom from work, which was in essence every holiday that has ever been granted, because we felt that time was precious and tough to come by. So when it finally did, we seized the opportunity. But that’s exactly it! Time IS tough to come by, even in the comforts of our own home. Actually, ESPECIALLY in the comforts of my own home, where I do multiple jobs as a home baker and home writer after long shifts at the dental office. And now that we are homeowners, I have finally come to feel that there can be more time spent valuing this sanctuary, in a city that we so love.

Yet staycations are a tricky thing. The trick lies in re-creating the feeling that you are actually on vacation. There are a few things we feel when we are away – relaxed as we are freed from our daily responsibilities, excited as we explore to see something new, and warm as we connect with others whether that be friends and family that we are traveling with, newly met locals, or fellow wanderers. Sometimes, traveling is a way for us to simply escape from our norm. Whatever it is that you seek when you travel, you must also seek in a staycation. Your mind must be in its own wonderland and you must be focused on establishing that feeling of “elsewhere”, lest you return to work after the long weekend feeling like you’ve wasted your staycation cleaning up around the house.

To focus on creating a REAL staycation, you have to clearly know in your mind what you want to achieve. What is this staycation meant to be?

This is for all those times you had to spend balancing work and life, getting home after a long day only to complete a list full of chores. This is for the days you wished you could wake up late, and lounge in bed all morning long like a teenager on a Saturday, contemplating which would draw you out of bed first – the beating rays from a high sun or the smell of bacon and eggs. This is a time for sitting down and reading an entire book from beginning to end, undisturbed. This is for staring out of a window instead of at a screen, for playing with your cat and not giving up when he wins. This is for having breakfast in bed, and possibly never leaving the bed at all.

Here, a few guidelines for creating the perfect staycation.

Break Routine

The secret to feeling like you’re on vacation when you’re actually where you were yesterday is to distance yourself from as many daily occurrences as possible. Avoid doing the laundry, sweeping the floors, organizing your shelves, if only for one weekend. If anyone could understand how hard this first step is, it would be me. But it is essential to creating success. A way in which we’ve prepped for this at Casa Debtist is by doing all the laundry on the weekdays prior. Now we have a full closet, freshly steamed. We’ve cleaned our home as well, so our floors are looking polished, our bathroom sparkling. The sheets are newly washed, without any cat hair (for now) and the bed will be made when our staycation starts. I’ve finished my organizing in the kitchen, a project that I was hoping to tackle for some time, and the counters are finally bare, the appliances wiped down, and the dishware beautifully displayed behind closed cabinet doors, just the way I like them. Last week, we purchased enough groceries to last us through the holiday weekend, plus a bottle of wine, our attempt at feigning luxury for under $10. Usually, the cat wakes us up at 6am on the dot every morning and we get up and go about our day, but perhaps we’ll crawl back into bed and banish the sun for a few more hours. If you typically prefer showers, maybe soak in a bath with a bath bomb? Color the tub pink! I don’t normally have scented things around the house, but for this weekend I’ve situated PF candles of in each room, for lighting during the most mundane tasks of showering, lying in bed, and reading a book. In essence, we are trying to act as if we are waking up to a buffet breakfast on the resort of an island or awaiting a foot massage at a spa. In fact, I would be first to admit that part of the allure of travel time is the beautiful AirBNB homes that we get to live in, which goes hand-in-hand with the façade that we were living some other life. So I guess staycationing requires also that nostalgic façade, but in the comforts of our own home.

Avoid Screens

This is a rule that was important to establish in our home. Mike is a frequent Redditor and avid gamer (especially after the release of World of Warcraft this past Monday) and I am a workaholic who types words onto a digital page all day long. But when we travel, we don’t have access to computers. My minimalist self abhors at the idea of lugging around a heavy laptop, so I never do. Which means, more times off screens and looking at each other in the eye. This weekend, we’ve decided on a zero-computer policy. I’ve got a few blog posts with publish dates on queue, and the rest can wait. Which gets doing other things, or better yet, nothing at all.

Connect with People

Traveling has always been about connecting with people. At first, we were trying to connect with locals and other expats, probing their minds for other world views. Lately though, we’ve been traveling with friends and family, and relishing in the moments that can steal from the everyday, moments that we once shared more frequently when we were young. This weekend, we wanted to re-create the Santa Rosa trip we had only two weeks ago. On Saturday, our friends are invited to our abode for a gathering of sorts. We plan to go out to dinner as a group, then come home and drink leisurely with a game of beer pong as a few Switches are streaming multi-player games on our projector screen. In essence, re-creating our college days when none of us had jobs, we were all poor still figuring things out, and life was at its prime. On Sunday, we have a gathering at an Aunt’s beach house with Mike’s whole side of the family. Lounging on their patios overlooking the ocean, eating veggies and dip and having dinner outdoors under twinkling lights as the sun sets over glasses of wine.  Lastly, Monday is dedicated to Mike and I, discovering new coffee shops and restaurants, lounging in bed and in the sand, and watching movies in the theatres regardless of whether there’s a movie worth spending our free movie tickets on.

Act Like A Tourist In Your Own City

Aside from getting away from the daily grind and connecting with people, the final perk of traveling is having excitement in discovering something new. Mike and I live in a city but due to our frugality and my love for cooking meals, we recommend the same three restaurants when friends come over to eat. This weekend, we’ve decided to get to know our neighborhood more. We wish to try a new coffee shop, dine at a new restaurant (with friends), and act like a tourist in our own town. There are so many spaces to discover yet and we want to learn everything we can about our surrounding area. Plus, part of our plan to avoid daily habits is to cook as minimally as possible, for less clean up! So, making the city our symbolic kitchen and living room will help with that.

If you’ve actually read through this whole post, I’d wager that you haven’t made plans for the holiday yet. Or perhaps you’re considering bailing on those plans. If so, I hope this helps with creating an alternative to travel. And if you ARE getting away, maybe this will inspire you to stay next time. Maybe your home (and your wallet) will thank you for it. Either way, we wish you a happy holiday.