From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


Leave a comment

Minimal Holidays

Tis the season

It is the holiday season and in America that means the season of more.  More stress, more debt, more guilt, more pressure, more commitments.  It  is what turns the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” into the most stressful.  It has everyone tense and where you would hope for wishes of peace and goodwill, you instead get road rage, races for parking spaces, stolen packages, and arguments about happy holidays vs. Merry Christmas.  Frankly as long as the intention is pure I could not care less.  

Here is where I confess I love this time of the year.  I did not always.  I also felt overwhelmed overcommitted and the pressure to buy the perfect holiday.  I pushed through and by the time we got through the holidays I felt like I missed everything I enjoyed about them.  Minimalism did not ruin the holidays it gave me back the things I actually loved about them.  My 4 AM run through the neighborhood under beautiful holiday lights.  It makes the everyday exercise somehow magical.  The old fashioned Christmas music that I grew up with.  I defy to hear Johnny Mathis croon a classic Christmas tune and not feel lifted up.  I focus not on what I or my friends and family want but what many need.  We stopped doing gifts and only make charitable donations on behalf of other and in the name of loved ones for something they are passionate about.  Pay for someone’s coffee or give someone short of cash some money to complete their purchase.  Carry some care packages made from the dollar store for homeless people who ask for help when driving.  Most of the simple pleasures of the holidays cost little or nothing.  

Also when we do spend money it is on experiences.  Like supporting a local theatre by seeing their Christmas play.  Driving around the area blasting classic Christmas tunes and watching lights costs nothing.  Reading a book watching lights twinkle and having a purring cat.  The kitchen full of the smell of cookies baking is cheap.  Take a walk around the city square decorated or your neighborhood.  Say no to spending the day in a mall and instead listen to children signing in the square.  Yes we buy less and the day of Christmas other than watching our kitties play with some new toys we don’t have gifts torn open.  We have a quiet breakfast and we reflect on how fortunate we are.  We take a run in the cool bracing morning air and enjoying our health, family and friends. We take off over a week and we reset by spending time together and thinking about what we want in the coming year.  It is a personal holiday permeated with music, lights and cookies.  Slow down, say no, so you can reclaim the things you love about the holidays.  You are in charge, not Amazon!


2 Comments

Minimal Cats?

lena

Lena enjoying a box, I am sure from something we bought them

I have been wanting to do this blog topic for a while.  Mostly to help me process the inconsistency or find that maybe I am right where I need to be.  I do strive to be more of a minimalist. I want to have less material possessions and focus more on experiences and the people and beings in my life that matter.  I have pared down my wardrobe, my kitchen paraphernalia, my coats and jackets.  I try to be a more conscious consumer and still I struggle, but I keep trying.  That leads to my cats.  I would say my cats are where minimalism goes to die in my house.

First we have 5 cats.  Most people would not consider that minimal.  For us this is the smallest number of cats we have ever had.  The most was 7 cats that lived with us full-time and 1 foster mama and 4 kittens.  The truth is if I ever won the lottery I would spend it creating a no-kill haven for kitties no one wanted.  Difficult to win the lottery when you don’t play it.  That is another story.  Back to my feline minimalism quandary.  If you walked into my house you might first ask, “how many cats do you have?”  When my husband and I moved into our current home a couple of years ago the movers commented that the cats had more furniture than we did.  My husband just calmly stated, “there are more of them and don’t break any of their stuff. ”

My cats have stuff.  They have their own “bedroom”  really it is a place to call their own.  It houses their toys (when they have not carried them all over the house) the food bowls and the litter boxes that are upstairs.  It also has a floor to ceiling post and a loveseat my husband brought home from work just for them.  They have cat posts and cat jungle gyms in every significant room in the house, including our bedroom.  Pablo and I share the downstairs as a meditation space and his cat man cave.  He has a bean bag chair he took over from us, a litter box, window perch and cat tree.  I still get my meditation chairs a sofa and the second TV so I can watch Hulu while hubby watches sports.  The cats are fed a diet I make because they are obligate carnivores and they need meat and who is going to take more care with their diet me or a cat food conglomerate?

All that is to say the cats take space, they take money, they take time, they have stuff.  With all of that, maybe, to many I am not a true minimalist.  I had to ask myself that.  Here is where I landed.

I like the concept that minimalism helps you clear the things that don’t matter so you can focus on what does matter.  To me and my husband those cats matter.  We say what we are grateful for before dinner every night and there is rarely a night where we don’t mention one or all of the cats as something we are grateful for.  When I think about life without them, or minimizing them, I feel like I would be missing out. Not FOMO, I know for real what they bring into our lives.  I feel like I am comfortable with where I am with our cats.  I am grateful we have the means and shared will to help cats and give our cats, all of whom are rescues who were thrown away, a pretty spectacular life.  I don’t see us without cats and as long as we have cats those cats will have everything they need to have a fulfilling life indoors.  What is it that makes you question whether or not you have simplified enough?


2 Comments

The Benefits of Lazy Days

lazy cat

Sometimes I feel like I am on a never-ending treadmill to get it done, check it off.  In an effort to have more experiences and be more present, my homebody hubby and I have lost most of our quiet weekends.  It seems with volunteering, races, going out, seeing friends, plays, festivals, concerts, and sporting events; we have had later nights and busier weekends.  With all of that I have been pleased that we have spent our resources of time and money on those experiences over stuff.  That being said I am tired.

Maybe it seems wrong to those who are naturally extroverted and gain energy from being surrounded by people and stimuli a plenty!  Give me a Saturday at home with a cold rain falling, meaningless TV, some hot tea, PJs, and cats to cuddle and I feel recharged.  It is not that I have not done anything today.  We went grocery shopping, a necessity unless your idea of sustenance is Cheerios and 2% organic milk.  Also I cleaned the house and made my cat’s homemade cat food.  The difference was I did them in my own time and did not have to fit them in before jetting off to an activity.  I love doing these things with my husband and my friends.  In fact in November Hubby and I will be catching the Atlanta leg of the Minimalists’ Less is Now Tour and my best friend and I will be going to see my cat hero, Jackson Galaxy, and get a signed copy  of his new book.  I am really looking forward to those.

I think the key is balance.  Lately, I haven’t felt like I have had any lazy/do nothing time.  All rest was like breathing in the pause.  I found myself at the end of this crazy week looking forward to this weekend where we had nothing planned like it was Christmas.  I think maybe I have said yes to too many outside things and not yes to me enough. I can enjoy all of those things, but only if my introverted self gets a break.  Meditation provides some space for me to evaluate and I feel like that has helped me look at things more clearly and really be able to assess.  “How do I really feel?” It has been one of the surprising benefits of regular practice.

Clearing clutter and trying to live more simply and minimally has shortened the time and frustration I used to feel cleaning up.  I still think I can simplify more and this last month we definitely purchased more than we had the previous couple of months. A lot of it was necessary, or at least it seemed to be at the time.  I don’t know maybe after a lazy weekend I will be able to look at things with a clearer head.  Here’s to cold rainy Saturdays watching mindless TV in the clean house with a fridge full of human and kitty food.


3 Comments

Sometimes Life helps you Prioritize

IMG_1061

Mo 17 and still going

I have not had a chance to write recently, and this guy is the reason.  Mo became very sick last Sunday and after trying supportive care at home and watching him decline we decided to take him to our vet on Wednesday and wanted to know if she thought it was time for us to say our good-byes.  So that you keep on reading, I will let you know we might have come to terms with the possibility of letting him go, but Mo had not. He has rebounded and is doing really well right now.  Things like last week, really brought our priorities into focus.  For hubby and me our cats are our family.  They are our little four footed children.  Mo’s illness and the reminder of his advancing age cast a pall over the whole week.

We love our cats.  I mean we are those kind of cat people.  The kind that when we moved the movers said, “you have more furniture for the cats than for you.”  To which hubby responded, “there are more of them.”  Seems obvious, right?  Our cats bring so much more joy than anything else in our lives.  Often the best part of our day is coming home to read or relax and pet the cats or watch them be their quirky selves.  Those non-cat people think cats don’t bond and don’t have unique personalities, but they are so wrong.  All this week my husband said “the only time Mo perks up is when you come home.”  Mo is a little bit of a Momma’s boy but that is just part of his charm.

I should do a post about pets and minimalism, but I look at it like this.  Minimalism or simplifying  our life just makes room for what is truly important.  For us, as if we needed a reminder, it is those furry family members. They also have a way of reminding me to be present in the moment and not too far in the future.  Mo is certainly focused on enjoying the here and now and as long as he is here I am committed to not missing him before he is gone.

On a side note if you, like us, really love your pets and are worried about making sure you can always provide the best care, something we get a lot of value out of is pet insurance.  It is so worthwhile.  I always say it lets us choose the A option for our cats.  Also having five cats it gives us peace of mind if more than one was facing a medical crisis at the same time.  Enjoy your caturday.  I certainly am.


2 Comments

Half Way to My Goal Checking In

zen_as_a_frog

This year instead of lofty or repetitive goals for the New Year I had one simple goal.  Meditate everyday for one straight year.  I started in November for very practical reasons.  In November I had an injured foot and needed to take weeks, which led to months off of running.  I picked up meditation as a way to stay married and employed.  I downloaded the Insight Timer and I have to say, after day 183 that is by far my favorite app on my phone.   Surprisingly it is also the only one changing my actual life.  Nope, not Facebook.

So this post is not to pat myself on the back but rather to reflect on a very surprising result of this experiment.  I only focused on one thing, meditate everyday.  In the weirdest set of cosmic karma I got improvement in so many areas of my life.  These are just a few things I have noticed since adding daily meditation.

  1. I have an inner calm instead of an inner critic.
  2. I have self-control!  Turns out I don’t have to say exactly what is on my mind at every moment and the world still ambles along just fine.
  3. I have time for everything that is truly important to me.
  4. I am comfortable with silence and find I crave it more.
  5. I can, for periods of time get control of my thoughts by focusing on my breath in the moment. I thought those things were wilder than a mustang!
  6. I don’t drink anymore.  I used to unwind with a glass a wine.  Now most days I am not wound so no need to unwind, and when I am wound sitting is far more helpful.
  7. I have more clarity about what is important and it helped me clear physical and mental clutter.
  8. Cut way back on TV because I want to be present with my loved ones, experiencing, growing and learning, not zoned out.
  9. Our finances were never out of control, at least not since we both got grown up jobs in fulfilling fields, but now I am more conscious of what we spend money on.  I set up an additional retirement investment account to work toward our long-term goal of retirement in 8 years and a move to the western part of the country.
  10. I am more grateful and hubby and I have instituted the three things we are grateful for exercise before dinner.
  11. I was always a doer and could get things done but there was a certain panic and inner turmoil and dialog behind it.  Now I can handle a single task complete it and move on.  I am more focused but it is a peaceful focus. Surprisingly, I get more done with less inner chaos.
  12. I am a better listener, but still have to work on that.
  13. I got back to writing and that is a creative pursuit I let drop because I thought I had no time.
  14. I increased my volunteering adding a no-kill cat shelter to coaching a run club at hubby’s school and volunteering in professional water organizations
  15. I have even said “no” and guess what?  The world did not actually spin-off its axis.

I don’t know how meditation led to all of this.  I only know that the thing I consciously decided to change was to meditate and on that road the rest of this fell into place.  Who knew all I needed to do all these years was shut up and sit down.  Well some people probably knew.


1 Comment

Mindfulness Through a Cell Phone

notifications-2

I found some space to be more mindful and intentional in the weirdest place.  I found it in my cell phone.  What was this magical elixir that freed up the time I usually spend responding to an ever present inanimate task master…notifications.  I turned them off.  I mean everything, except my phone and text because my phone is also used for work. Guess what?  After the initial withdrawal, and checking my pulse to make sure I in fact did sill exist if a tiny red number failed to appear on my screen, I felt free.  I mean truly free and peaceful. It was liberating and I could breathe deeper and easier.

I never realized how hard it is to  fully engage in a conversation or activity when my pocket or purse are vibrating and moving slowly of their own power, like one of my cats’ toys. It is this constant roadblock to the mindful and meaningful connection I have been looking for.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not a luddite.  I still like technology.  I still believe good use can come from my cell phone.  I am typing this on my laptop not carving it on a stone tablet, that would greatly decrease the frequency of posts.  The big difference is now I am in charge of what the benefits are.  Incidentally, prior to this little experiment I thought I was in charge.  Humbly, what I have come to realize is that little flat glowing screen was in charge.

As well as shutting off notifications I also removed some unnecessary apps.  In fact I believe the app I use most now is Insight Timer, my meditation app, and the podcast app.  Both of which help me learn and are consistent with other goals I have set.  Before I could not imagine not knowing the moment someone wanted me or reacted to something I said or posted.  You know what?  It turns out it is even better when you are sitting across from that person fully engaged and you get to react right back.  No thumbs up needed.


Leave a comment

Shrinking my Wardrobe Made Me Feel Better

Are your clothes judging you?  Or rather are you using your clothes to judge yourself?  A few weeks ago I would have said no.  Now I know I was wrong.  I thought having endless options of what to wear and when to wear it was the way to feel like you always had clothes that would make you feel good, no matter what.  You know what I mean if I am having a “fat” day what clothes will make me feel attractive.  If  I am having a “hot” day which will highlight that?

As I am focusing on living more simply, I have been reading up on minimizes my wardrobe.  I took a few weeks and I have finally made my initial cleaning in all categories.  It resulted in a pretty significant reduction.  It had some important results.  Some I could expect from other efforts to simplify, but some I found surprising.

office-clothes_ill-fitting

First, I no longer hate opening my closet and my drawers.  I used to really dread it.  Mostly because it took forever to find anything, and sometimes it took so long I gave up on looking for the item I really wanted and settled for something I did not even like.  Also it gets old pretty fast, when you are hit by something falling out of your closet every time you open it.  Why that has not bothered me for decades I am not sure.  Now when I open each drawer and closet I can find in seconds exactly what I am looking for at that moment.  It has been weeks since I was hit by a hangar, shoe, or suitcase.  Also did you know drawers not overfilled actually slide open and don’t require you to brace your foot on the cabinet while you pull it open.  All of that I might have expected.  Still I am enjoying it.

The surprising thing I noticed is I now love my clothes.  I don’t mean I love clothes and I am headed out to buy more.  I mean the clothes I kept make me so happy.  As I was cleaning out, I asked myself honestly how do I feel when I wear this?  I am a pretty confident girl who does not tie herself in knots about how I look.  I actually found that the answer to that question was often things like: fat, out of shape, out of proportion, tight, sloppy.  Umm, who starts out their day or any activity with the goal of feeling like that?  Apparently me before now.  Now I have less choice and maybe for some people who might be a bad thing, but for me, everything I kept makes me happy and feel good about myself.  Truth be told I am none of the things my clothes accused me of being.  Who knew efficiency, peace, and self-esteem could be found in a more streamlined wardrobe?