Cutting Cable: Update to Day 21

I’m doing some research.

I’ve been reading blogs about ditching the TV, about going cable-free, about people turning their time towards more meaningful endeavors. Not one person has regretted it. Not one person has said “I wish I threw away more money on that cable subscription” or “I wish I spent less time with my family and more time staring at a box”.

I myself have not thought either one of those things in the last 21 days.

I have however found myself with a lot of extra time. Extra time I’ve spent reading, researching, and really pondering what my meaning is. What is my next step?

Cable Box RecordingI’m here making all these big plans about changing my life, getting out of debt, cutting back on cable and material possessions, but then what will I do?

When I have no debt, when I have more time, when I’m free from the mundane?

I think I’ve been putting off these thoughts because they’re big scary questions, and because I feel like I’m not there yet. But the truth is I am there. I can start working towards the next step today. Reading, doing more research, trying new things. I want to keep moving towards the next stop on my journey.

I am thankful for 21 days without cable. I accept that there will be a lifetime more. I understand that it is my responsibility now to go out into the world and do something with my time. To make something that I’m proud of. It’s not enough to simply switch my focus from cable to Netflix.

Who knew cutting cable would create such a change within a person. Who knew ditching the TV set would foster more creativity, more passion, more commitment to oneself.

I hope you’re all ready to join me as we turn the page and start the next chapter in finding more meaning.

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Boxed

Recently, I made the drive back to my parent’s house. I love visiting because I don’t have to cook or forage for food, it’s all done together as a family and it’s way more fun. My parents are both talking about downsizing in the next year (sooner rather than later) so I’ve been slowly cleaning out the remains of my childhood bedroom.

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Most of my belongings came with me when I moved out, occupying space in my own one bedroom apartment now. Before I whisked my furniture away, mom encouraged me to box up anything I wouldn’t need, but couldn’t part with. This should have been a clue, but I didn’t see it. I happily filled the boxes with memories. Dance trophies, a paper fan collection, CD’s and high school yearbooks. It wasn’t goodbye, it was see you later. And I was perfectly fine with that.

Fast forward 4 years as I’m becoming more serious about living with less. I was combing through my closet in my childhood bedroom and came across the old box. I’d passed it before, but without a label I hadn’t thought to open it. Upon discovering these memories, I was struck by how much these possessions meant to me. I had missed them! I wanted them all, right down to the bags of loose keys I thought I could use…someday.

I cried and sniffled my way through the memories, and then I closed the box and set it back in my closet.

“WHAT?!” You ask, appalled. “You went 4 years without those things, and now all of a sudden you need them? You’re stuffing them back into the closet? Are you actually a minimalist at all?”

And you’d be right, inner monologue and observant world. You would be so right.

llife changing magic of tidying up.jpgMy last brush in with the box was a month ago. I had come home for a very short weekend, got the urge to check out the closet, and then decided I wanted it all. Next time, I’m going through everything. I’m adopting Marie Kondo’s method and touching every last item in the box. If it brings me joy, it stays. If it doesn’t, it’s out. I’m also going to try displaying the items I keep. If I can’t think of a way or a place to put it, it’s not welcome in my space. I probably should have chucked the whole box when I realized what was in it, but I wasn’t ready. Now I’m ready.

My trip home will inevitably involve cleaning other closets, cabinets, drawers, and hiding places for my things. If mom and dad are serious about getting out of their house, I will soon lose my “free storage at mom’s” (you know what I mean). My next trip will be about cleansing and not letting those boxes weigh on my mind, even from 3 hours away.

Do you have things you’ve forgotten about in other storage spaces? What are you doing about it?

Maybe going through them will help you find more meaning.

Meaning of Meaning

Picture this: It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m lying lazily on the couch scrolling through FaceBook and stumble upon a picture of an engagement ring. A friend from college got engaged the night before, and posted a lovely picture of her stunningly large ring. We haven’t spoken since we graduated college together and moved to different states, and I hadn’t known she was seeing anyone. I ponder for a moment whether it would be weird to like her photo, then go ahead and do it.

Then I immediately text the group chat “Did you see so-and-so’s engagement ring?!”

Within minutes I have a reply, “No way, she’s engaged?!”

After which, the five of us spend the next 15 minutes significantly FaceBook stalking said “friend” to figure out when she met her new fiance, where they were during the engagement, how many people liked her status and whether we should love or hate this new member of her life (who we also FaceBook stalk in order to form a valid opinion). We decide we like them together.

The whole time I was also texting another group chat, trying to make plans for the weekend. This group was planning a weekend getaway to a mountain cabin, where we would relax and play board games together for a solid 2 days before returning to the realities of work.

In addition, I was texting a friend about how annoying it was to make plans when everyone’s schedule was so different, and how adorable the bride-to-be looked in her FaceBook photos.

By the time I finished my exhaustive FaceBook stalking and making plans for a cabin filled weekend and complaining about it all, my Saturday afternoon had turned to evening and the laundry had (yet again) gone unwashed.

//End scene//

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A reminder of all the things left undone

Sound familiar?

I never intended to waste an entire Saturday, but in the blink of an eye it was gone. I made tentative plans (that I would later cancel because I realized I didn’t value spending time with those people), I worried about and compared myself to a “friend’s” life (who I haven’t even thought about in over 3 years), and the one conversation I did care about was dominated by unimportant crap!

When I started this blog, my goal was to stop buying clothes for a year and document my experiences. I wanted to focus on wearing what I owned, and spending less money on clothes that sat unworn in my closet. After my move, I felt guilty and panicked over all the clothing I had schlepped into my new space, when it had never even been unpacked into the old space. This blog was an attempt to put a plan into action to get rid of those negative feelings.

My first month of blogging was….confusing. I had to decide every day “Does this post fit into what I’m trying to say? What am I trying to say?

I was finding out what worked and what didn’t, trying new things, reading a ton of other blogs about similar topics, and deciding what direction I would take next. I was discovering my meaning one blog post at a time.

I had no idea that three months later I would be on track to creating a capsule wardrobe, minimizing my apartment and investing in a retirement account.

Meaning, to me, represents being in the moment with the people you love. It means working towards dispensing things that don’t matter to make room for things that do. A large part of that for me is minimizing my belongings. It means shopping less so I can enjoy what I have more. My meaning comes from spending time with the people I love. It comes from not settling for something just because it’s easy, but putting in work towards what I want.

Simplifying my life and clearing out what is no longer important has allowed me the time and mental clarity to understand that Saturday afternoons are not made to be wasted. If I had cut out all those distracting text messages, I could have actually called my friend and had a meaningful conversation. If I had gone outside I could have walked around the lake, found a new adventure, made a new friend. I gave up all these opportunities to sit on my couch and waste an afternoon.

How dare I.

So I encourage you to find your meaning. Find something that makes your heart happy and do it. Go out and experience life. Get rid of the distractions so you can focus on what matters.

Find more meaning. Define. Decide. Do.

Book Review: The Capsule Wardrobe

**This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through the links in this post I will make a percentage of the sale in commission. This comes at no cost to you and helps me continue to bring you meaningful content.**

1,000 outfits from 30 pieces. How could it be possible.

I tried imagining my own beautiful wardrobe (stuffed with way more than 30 pieces) turning into 1,000 outfits. And I drew a blank. I often wear the same pieces together. This shirt with those pants. Navy with white. Black with grey. I hate to say it, but when I stare at all those combinations, I can’t think of a single thing to change. My creativity is gone. My closet is packed to the brim yet devoid of a style. I needed help.

So I consulted the library, the keeper of all the answers if only you know where to look. I stumbled upon the book The Capsule Wardrobe: 1,000 Outfits from 30 Pieces by Wendy Mak. Research, I called it. Research for my future (potential) capsule wardrobe.

The capsule wardrobeAs if I needed any more convincing, Wendy lays out about 101 reasons why having a capsule wardrobe is beneficial, the first being that you will generate a style and always have outfits that fit it! Maybe she could help me too?

Wendy outlines her 30 suggested pieces (leaving room for you to add, subtract, or replace items as you see fit) and explains why she made her choices. Much of what she said made sense, you only really need three pairs of shoes, while adding an extra top to your wardrobe could create way more new looks.

Then she broke down how to wear it. I’m a visual person, so I really appreciated the pictures drawn into the book to help visualize what each outfit would look like. And then, the icing on the cake, at the end of the book she lists all 1,821 outfits you can make from these 30 items. (Your numbers may vary depending on how many pieces you wind up with.) Now while I don’t agree that swapping flats for heels constitutes a whole new outfit, there are certainly more than enough ways to wear over 1,000 outfits that truly won’t look repeated.

This book was a great beginner’s guide to capsule wardrobes. It laid out all the practical reasons why, and how to figure out how many of each type of item you’d need in your own wardrobe. Plus, it wasn’t pushy, wasn’t trying to sell me anything, and made sure to mention plenty of times that I could take this as a general guideline and create my own perfect capsule from it.

the capsule wardrobe girls.jpgAlthough I’m not 100% sold on the idea, I’m certainly closer to creating my own capsule. I began thinking about items in my wardrobe that would be in, and items that certainly would not fit into more than one outfit, let alone could be worn differently every day of the week. I’m thinking of one sweater in particular that wouldn’t make the cut, although I did love it when I bought it. (I better start saying goodbye now…)

The Capsule Wardrobe: 1,000 Outfits from 30 Pieces also inspired me to start taking pictures of my own wardrobe. Not in the bright white lights, clothes-equidistant-from-each-other-on-the-bar type of pictures either. Real, serious, down and dirty pics of my actual closet, while I try to morph it into a capsule wardrobe. I think it would be good to document, and explain my reasoning for keeping some pieces, and not others. As well as serve as a visual guide for anyone striving to start their own.

What do you think? Would you be interested in watching my journey towards a capsule wardrobe? Let me know in the comments below!

And as always, I’m taking on this project to find more meaning in my life.

PS. Check out my list of other must-read books for minimalists here!

 

**This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through the links in this post I will make a percentage of the sale in commission. This comes at no cost to you and helps me continue to bring you meaningful content.**

Christmas Unpacked

Leading up to Christmas, the most popular blog post topic must have been presents. How to give great ones, the best places to grab last minute ones, round-ups of who might like what, and a handful of people begging not to receive any presents at all (I was one of the latter).

I explained many times to each family member that I did not need presents this year. If they did feel the need, I would prefer gift cards and consumables, but I’d be perfectly happy without. I brought it up many times with my mom, who seemed disappointed.

Sirena's gift.jpgI wasn’t sure if anyone was listening.

Christmas eve rolled around there were not as many big boxes under the tree. But I still wasn’t convinced. I started opening, and I realized that most, if not all, of my family members had heard my pleas. They had not bombarded me with objects or items I would have to store and dust and move. I received mostly gift cards, and consumable items, or items on my wish list for a future business.

I was elated.

Somehow, amid the craziness of this time of year, my family had taken the time to listen to my request, and chose to respect my wishes to not introduce anything new into the house.

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Scrabble Tile coasters from mom

One of my favorite gifts was from my mom and dad. I’m hoping one day to start a music business for toddlers so I can share with them early the joys of music. Mom has been hunting since I told her, and collected up as many musical instruments as she could find. From triangles to shakers to wood blocks, I now have a great start to my class thanks to this big box.

No, it’s not a gift card or an experience, but it is an investment in my future. A future they believe in and support me in 100%. This to me is even more of a gift than any physical object.

Cutting Cable Days 2, 3 & 4

I’ve been clean for three days now. No cable, no TV, no Netflix, no nothing. I think I’ve developed a twitch.

On New Year’s Eve I had a talk with myself. “Self!” I said, “Our No Cable January challenge is only for a month. And I know you can do it. But in reality, we’re testing to see if this can be a long-term, sustainable way of life. Right?”

I nodded.

“Then what we’re really doing is deciding what we’re giving up, in order to make room for bigger and better things. You’re not going to miss some shows this month, you’re going to miss some shows from now on. And you are okay with that, because you are making room for so much more. This challenge doesn’t end on February 1st. That’s the day you make the call and cut the cord. But after that, you have to choose every day what you’ll do instead of wasting hours in front of the TV. Choosing not to pay for cable, but investing in travel, or friends, or even food. So this is practice. This is making yourself into a better person. And you best not take that lightly.”

Myself and I can get pretty serious sometimes.

So when the red light came on the DVR last night to record one of my favorite shows, I didn’t panic. (I did panic, but only for a second.) I grabbed a book, and I read. I thought about all the things I’ll do instead, how much better my blog will be from all this free time I have to spend on it, how much money I’ll have to pay down my loan faster. And in spite of myself, I smiled.

Cable Box Recording.jpgToday I woke up to the best news a teacher can get. A snow day. While I haven’t banned myself from enjoying other forms of visual content like Netflix or Amazon Movies, I decided that this snow day was not for wasting. I wanted to squeeze every last moment out of it that I could.

So I spent today cleaning, and fixing, and tidying, and minimizing, and making tea and taking photos and doing things that add joy and value and meaning to my life. I didn’t sit down until after 7pm to share these thoughts with you. I’m literally sore from all the work I did today (yes I’m out of shape, but I still did a lot!)

It turns out day 4 without cable was easier than I ever imagined. I didn’t miss it, and I didn’t waste my snow day on the couch. Oh and that twitch I was talking about? That’s the can’t-sit-still twitch. The get-things-done twitch. The one that keeps me focused on my goals and motivated to achieve greatness. It could have easily turned into the grab-the-remote twitch, but I didn’t sit still long enough to let that happen.

I hope you are all crushing your New Year’s Resolutions, goals, and challenges you set for yourselves. Know that I’m right there with you, finding meaning at every turn.

 

Tools

Putting water in the iron changed my life. Let me explain why.

Iron.jpgI was researching how to take pictures for a blog (because let’s face it, I’m not doing a very good job) and I decided to try laying out a white sheet for a more contrasting background. But when I pulled out the sheet, it was folded and creased more than any amount of tugging and pulling could fix. In the name of good pictures, I got out the iron.

I set about ironing the sheet. But the bigger creases weren’t budging. I didn’t want to add water (it was about 5 feet away) so I stubbornly continued to press and wish that the creases would flatten. To no one’s surprise, it didn’t work.

So I gave in, and I put water in the iron.

A job that had already taken me far longer than was necessary was finished. So why didn’t I stop to add water in the first place?

Sometimes we’re faced with insurmountable tasks like digging ourselves out of debt or welcoming a new life into our family. And sometimes we must do something as simple as iron a sheet.

There are tools for that help make both these jobs easier. Tools that can get the task done faster, better, or more completely. Sometimes we don’t have the necessary tools, but other times we’re simply too lazy to grab them. Today I was lazy. Today I chose not to use the correct tools for the job, raising my frustration and making me want to quit before I’d even gotten started with the real task.

Minimalism is the same way. It is not easy. Without the proper tools and guidance it can be frustrating and limiting instead of empowering. It’s a lifestyle that takes time, energy, concentration and persistence. Things creep back into our space (I’ve been seeing many other bloggers up against holiday presents invading their space!) and we have to fight to keep them at bay. It’s a process. But there are better tools for the job.

I started a page on the blog to house all my suggested ‘tools’ in the form of information. What I wanted most when I started my journey was to have a definitive list of all the best information I could find about people actually making this lifestyle work. So if you click here you will find what I wish I had, a list of books, blogs and other great resources for starting your own journey to minimalism.

This is a growing resource, so as I come across new info I’ll be updating the list. I’m constantly on the hunt for more real stories and ideas so if you have any suggestions of future reading, please leave them in the comments below.

Happy snow day, and may today be the day you find more meaning.