Real Life Minimalists: Cheryl Magyar

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, I’m happy to feature Cheryl Magyar. Last year, her husband Roland introduced us to their minimalist lifestyle in Hungary; now Cheryl shares her side of the story. Be sure to visit their lovely blog, Handcraftedtravellers, to learn more!

Cheryl writes:

Cheryl

Cheryl

Thoughts become actions, simplicity becomes routine and once you remove yourself from a consumer mindset you will never go back.

In a suburb of Chicago I grew up in a small house which held a considerable amount of stuff. Everybody had their own personal belongings, we shared many things, but you know how it is with calendar holidays: from birthdays to merry days presents just add up. It accumulates till you feel trapped, then you give some away – and this cycle can go on forever, until you are the one to slow down the process, almost stopping it entirely.

Moving to Hungary at the age of twenty-seven was the catalyst for a major lifestyle change. My husband and I shipped twenty boxes full of books and kitchenware, two trunks bursting with clothes and some artwork we thought we couldn’t live without. We arrived long before our stuff, then ironically put it in storage for four months till the purchase of our homestead was complete.

We thought that we had made the international move with few items, but in retrospect it turned out to be too much, definitely more than we needed. People tried to give us clothes seeing that our wardrobes were “stagnant”, they tried to help occasionally with processed foods, only our hearts were not in an accepting mood.

In moving out of the cityscape not only had we inadvertently discovered the benefits of minimalism, knowing full well that what we owned was already enough, but living so close to nature our paradigm was rapidly shifting.

The relative quiet of the countryside is an inspiring place for observation and reflection. As I write this story a white wagtail (Mortacilla alba) is cleaning its feathers in the pinkish glow of the rising sun, presently joined by another. They will find lots to eat on our organic thirteen acres, then they may return to their nests, delicately woven with bits of plastic from neighboring lands and the trash of society.

And by that very measure, what some may perceive as cuteness or resourcefulness of the birds, brings a tear to my eye not only for the plight of creatures, but of man and the waste created by industry, the wants, the need to constantly fit in by buying more, the consumption that arises from boredom…

One can never be out of the consumer cycle completely. However, we can all live lighter, with deeper regard for the environment by not wanting more than we need, by choosing quality over quantity, supporting organic agriculture, purchasing locally grown, choosing handmade, wearing compostable fibers and by embracing the art of self-reliance.

A sustainable world is based on minimalist principles. For my part, that is where I live right now, always and onward into the future.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Kevin

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, Kevin shares his take on minimalism, from his perspective as a philosopher and father. Visit his blog to read more of his thoughts.

Kevin writes:

Kevin

Kevin

I think I’ve always been a minimalist at heart but have recently become much more mindful about it. When I lived alone in my own condominium it was quite easy to be a minimalist. Although I am a bookworm, I had only a few bookshelves so that limited my collection of books. I enjoyed the open space of my living room without a coffee table and the clean surfaces of my kitchen table and counter tops. As a musician and composer I am a big fan of the minimalist music of Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Now I am married, have a daughter, and live in a house. My life is full in so many positive ways but also fuller in some non-minimalist ways! As an unschooling dad I realize the importance of “strewing” but needless to say this conflicts with a minimalist approach to living. My definition of “just right” has had to change but that’s quite natural.

To solve the practical problem of clutter we have devised a system in our family that seems to work pretty well. We have a designated “playroom” where chaos is allowed to run a little freer than in other parts of the house. We also have “zones” in the living room/dining room area where we can accommodate projects. So, for us these active or ongoing projects (crafts, etc.) don’t get defined as clutter. They don’t entail clutter that never gets put away but rather an active process of creation. Of course, when a new project comes along or it’s time for a meal we do clear off the relevant spaces.

In addition to these accommodations, there are certain rooms in the house where clutter is not allowed at all. These rooms are used (as opposed to formal living rooms which never get used) but we just don’t let clutter hang around at all.

Fatherhood provides me an excellent opportunity to teach some important minimalist lessons. Among these is a lesson I also teach as a philosophy professor: the difference between wants and needs.

I think the confusion between these two categories drives a lot of the consumerism that prevents people from seeing the benefits of minimalism. Given a strong natural impulse towards acquisitiveness, it’s important to begin teaching the benefits of living with less at an early age. As parents, freeing our children from the grip of constantly chasing their wants is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

As a philosopher I think of my work as “clearing the clutter” from our thinking. Much of what I do i my classes is to help students clarify their thinking on such important issues as ethics, morality, knowledge, and reality. Making distinctions like the one between wants and needs is an important part of this clutter clearing.

Making the connection between our values and our stuff is important and provides a good philosophical foundation for striving to live in a minimalist way.

I write about the philosophical work of clarifying as well other topics of education and unschooling on my blog titled “Think” which is located at http://kevinjbrowne.weebly.com/blog1.html.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Verity

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, I’m pleased to feature Verity, who tells us how she’s simplified her household while adding to her family. Check out her blog for more tips on living a minimalist life with young children.

Verity writes:

Verity

Verity

If you had met me 10 years ago, I would have been the worst candidate for minimalism. More was more to me. Even in junior high, I started collecting furniture and decorations to furnish my future home. My relatives soon learned that I was happy to take anything they were getting rid of.

As a newlywed, our first apartment’s clutter level was manageable only because my husband is a natural-born minimalist who brought hardly any junk into the marriage.

Within 3 months, a fixer-upper home purchase led to an influx of tools, and 3 months after that, two relatives downsized and lovingly donated much of their old furniture and books to us. I had enthusiastically agreed to take their stuff, but gaining 40 years of built-up clutter was a powerful object lesson not even lost to a natural hoarder like me. I still remember standing in the garage surrounded by the ceiling-high stacks, and feeling for the first time, the true weight of possessions. Our house was still under construction, I was 2 months pregnant, I couldn’t lift most of the ‘donations,’ and I didn’t know where half of it should go.

Five months later our first child was born early, and church members, friends, and family gave us bags and bags of clothing and toys. As an optimist and people-pleaser, I never told anyone ‘no,’ and I always thought I would use the items.

I realized it had gone too far when at a year, my toddler had TWENTY-THREE pairs of pajamas.

I thought back to when my son was born. We only had 5 preemie sleepers that fit him his first 6 weeks. That had felt very easy to maintain. Why was it so much harder now that he had so many clothes?

In desperation, I googled “how many outfits should a toddler have?” I downsized his clothes to 12 outfits and was thrilled to find at least laundry manageable.

With the birth of baby number 2 and the start of a family business, things were stressful again. I worked desperately to maintain balance by reducing family clothing to 8 outfits per person and decluttering the kitchen and bedrooms. Again things got easier.

That was about the time I ran across Francine Jay’s book. It was incredibly freeing. I learned that I could let go of old objects, unfulfilled and outdated dreams, and others’ expectations of me to strive for what I really wanted. My eyes were opened to the weight that possessions had on me, and I gained the courage to say ‘no’ to well-meaning family that wanted to ‘help’ by giving me items.

Since then we’ve gotten rid of at least half our stuff even though we’ve had two more children. Clearing out most of the basement opened up space to finish a place for the kids to play and a guest room, 5-6 every day outfits per person has helped me keep laundry under control, and maintaining a clear-of-knick knacks living area has kept the chaos at bay despite 4 children under the age of 5. While our friends with smaller families are moving to bigger houses, I’m surprisingly content with where I am.

Embracing the ideas that drive minimalism has helped me to let go of stuff not only physically but emotionally. I was able to get focused on what was important to me: my relationships with God, my husband, and my children.

Moreover, the concepts of contentment prevalent in a simpler approach to life have helped me to teach my children contentment instead of a need to gain. What started as a personal journey for me has become a family journey. We make our purchases and choices based on family goals, conviction, and faith instead of what the culture says we need.

Baby #4 just arrived, and we are living comfortably and happily in a small rambler with no plans to move in the near future.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Rhiannon

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, we hear from Rhiannon, who tells us how the birth of her son helped her finally conquer her clutter.

Rhiannon writes:

My cousin and I have joked about how the hoarding gene runs in the family. It is not a joke so much as a sad reality. My mother is a compulsive shopper who could never get rid of anything. My step-father was a compulsive “collector” who could never get rid of anything. The large house we lived in was full of things and a total disaster. The 2 car garage was rarely able to hold one car. The last time I was in that garage, it was so full I had to brace against the ceiling for balance as I climbed over the piles.

My desire for less stuff was born in that house. My room was always tidy and neat, I had the least amount of stuff out of anyone in the family. At 16 I moved to my dad’s house and into a much smaller room. I got rid of more stuff and better organized. In college, I started collecting things; books, hobbies, movies, trinkets. One of my roommates teased me about all the stuff I had in my tiny room of our tiny attic apartment. I didn’t like the fact that she was right. When my brother and his family moved back into the country, I was able to give them all my household stuff. But I still held onto a lot. Each move I made I didn’t get rid of anything.

And then I got married.

My husband lived in California. I lived in Minnesota. Begrudgingly, I got rid of some stuff, stuffed my car full, and drove out West. We bought a huge bookcase for all of our books and trinkets and lived a steadily more cluttered life as well-meaning relatives gave us all kinds of odd gifts that were shoved into the Room-of-Doom (storage room).

And then I got pregnant.

Suddenly we didn’t need a Room of Doom so much as we NEEDED a nursery. That huge tippy bookshelf looked extremely dangerous for a baby to be anywhere near. Out it went. With it went almost all of our books. We have books on our phones now, so what was the point of hanging on to all these books that would never be read again? (I saved a few favorites that aren’t available on e-book.)

As my due date grew closer, all the things I had and all the time spent dealing with everything seemed very silly and unimportant. More stuff went out the door.

After our son was born and we got a real understanding of what it REALLY meant to have a baby in the house, the last of the superfluous stuff left the house. Most of my hobbies and their accessories went out the door. We didn’t want anything to distract us from the joy of just spending time with our baby.

When we bought a house a few months ago, we picked the smallest house that we could find (almost 700 sq feet smaller than my mother’s cluttered house) in the area that we wanted. We didn’t run out to buy STUFF to fill it with. We looked at how we actually wanted to use the space and arranged our furniture accordingly. My husband and I talk about what we don’t want to buy or how we can get better organized.

I have less personal stuff now. Everything that I own could fit into 3 bags. We do have a surprising amount of baby things, but nothing that won’t be sold after he out grows it. We have been able to avoid getting more useless gifts from relatives by suggesting that they focus on the baby. I have found homes for 2 of the 3 sets of china that my husband and I inherited from our families. (My husband informed me that we are stuck with the last set of china. He says that being in a family means that you hand down useless stuff that nobody wants to the next generation.)

I may never live in a mini house, although I adore them. But I love the house that I am in. I like that it is easy to clean and I know where everything is. I don’t have to dig around for anything anymore or worry about what my toddler is getting into. When we have guests come over, I am often invited to their houses to de-clutter.

Moreover I love the peace of mind I get from just having a clean, well-organized, and useful space.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Freda

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, Freda tells us about living the simple life as a painter in Scotland. Be sure to visit her blog to read more, and see her lovely artwork and photos.

Freda writes:

Freda’s garden gate

I am an artist trying to live a more simple life (but not too simple!)

I think it is possible to live simply and also be design conscious, love beautiful and sophisticated things and still be ethical and environmentally responsible. What I’m saying is that I’m not a brown rice and sandals and back to the land minimalist, though I admire those who are. And I’m not a count the number of things I own type either, yet I have cut down and am still cutting down…. Neither am I set on the frugal path though I believe thrift is in my DNA.

So what kind of minimalist am I?

Well I try to live simply in order to have more time and energy to Simply Live, mindfully. I live in a modest wooden house by a sea loch in Scotland. I now have fewer, better things which I love and which last. I spend a lot of time choosing then keep things for a long, long time. I know what I like – modern classics – and am willing to wait, for years if necessary, for the right thing to come along. I don’t mind too much if things get a bit worn, but I have just replaced my 20 year old white cotton curtains with the moth holes in them! So with a house furnished with beautiful, though not necessarily expensive things which look good and function well and are easy to look after I can concentrate on living my life to the full with time for family, friends, travel and work I love. (I am a painter.)

I began my blog Live Simply Simply Live in order to think through aspects of my life which I could simplify – how I eat, work, play and spend my money, and I found that writing short posts under each topic helped me to think more clearly, and make changes at a realistic pace. I’ve been writing the daily blog and simplifying my life for four years now and I love it. Researching other blogs on the topics of minimalism (thank you Miss Minimalist) and simple living and getting insightful and encouraging comments from readers had been wonderfully enriching in the things that matter – communication and connection and sharing.

Simply joyous.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

I Want

My daughter Plumblossom is nearly 2.5 years old now, and has had almost no exposure to advertising or marketing. We don’t have a television, we stay out of the mall, and most of her little friends aren’t verbal enough to inquire why she doesn’t have the latest Disney princess paraphernalia.

Grocery shopping with her is a breeze—she’ll ask for a star fruit or a bell pepper or an avocado, but never balloons, toys, or candy. I can even make a run into Target, that mecca of toddler tantrums, without her requesting a single thing (instead, she informed me that “there’s too much stuff in here.” LOL—that’s my girl.)

Although she’s been verbally capable of it for a while, she’s never asked me for a consumer item—until yesterday. We were reading a book about colors, and she pointed to the Lego Duplos in one of the pictures—“Mommy, what are those blocks called?” “Those are Legos, sweetie.” I went to turn the page, but she stopped me: “I want some Legos.”

Well, color me surprised. I wasn’t sure how to respond. The only thing I could think to say was “Why?” She looked at me blankly. “What are you going to do with them?” I pressed. She considered it for a moment, then said with a big smile, “Build towers!”

Pretty good answer, I thought. And one could conceivably argue that for a toddler, Duplos are not just a want, but a need; they certainly contribute to the development of fine motor skills and an understanding of spatial relationships. And yes, they’re fun.

I told her “Ok, we’ll talk to Daddy about it”—mainly because I wanted to stall, and see if it was just a short-lived whim. But sure enough, come dinnertime, those bright little bricks were still on her mind. Furthermore, she was smart enough to try a more charming approach: “Daddy, I would like some Legos, please.”

Suffice it to say, daddies can’t resist sweet requests from their little girls, or the excuse to play with Legos again—so Plumblossom’s wish will be fulfilled. But her entree into the world of “I want” got me thinking about the “I wants” in our own (adult) lives. How carefully do we consider our desires and the reasons behind them? If we stopped for a moment—instead of rushing to fulfill them—we’d likely avoid the bulk of our clutter.

This simple experience with a toddler (who’s at the very start of her consumer—or I hope, minsumer—life) can give us some good tips for dealing with our own “I wants”:

1. Ask “Why?” Whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a bigger house, can you come up with a good reason for acquiring such an item? Something better than “because it’s there,” “because it’s pretty,” or “because so-and-so has one?”

2. Is it a need? Will it contribute positively to your life, or your development as a person? (Will it help you “build towers?”)

3. Impose a waiting period. Give it a day, a week, or a month (depending on the significance of the purchase), and see if you still want it. This strategy is immensely helpful in curbing impulse purchases, as you’ll likely forget about 99 percent of those shiny new whatsits if you don’t act immediately.

As a first-time parent, I still don’t know if I’m doing the right thing by indulging my daughter’s request. I feel like I should wait until a special occasion, but her birthday and Christmas are 7 months away. I also don’t want to save it as a “reward” for something, because I hate to tie good behavior to material items. My inclination is to give it to her without fanfare, simply because she had a good reason to ask for it.

I have to admit, I miss the days when Plumblossom was perfectly content with what she had—before she realized there’s other stuff out there to want. I’d love to hear from more experienced parents—how did/do you keep from sliding down that slippery slope of kiddie consumerism? And for those without little ones, how do you keep your own “I wants” at bay?

I look forward to your comments and advice!

(And yes, before anyone asks, she really does speak that well–sometimes I think I’m talking to a 12-year-old, not a 2-year-old. She started talking at a very early age, and was using (short) sentences at 18 months old. Today she was on the phone with her grandfather, who’s coming to a barbecue at our house this weekend. As they were hanging up, she told him, “See you Saturday. Bring the wine.” :) )

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Sara Richards

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Sara Richards. I can’t help but smile at the joy and enthusiasm she brings to her decluttering!

Sara writes:

Sara

Sara

Converting to Simplicity

Yesterday, after another fruitless weekend of attempting to declutter my tiny house, I was wailing on Facebook about how frustrating it is to try and get rid of stuff. A friend recommended your book and I downloaded a sample on my Kindle (having already taken THAT step to try and cut out on the number of books threaten to swallow me whole).

I was expecting yet another book on boxing and labeling, but to my surprise, no! A book about the psychology of why we clutter in the first place. By chapter 3 I was hooked and bought the book. And read it all the way through.

To say that I am inspired is to say the least!

As a single mum I have used “stuff” to show the world “look I am coping, I can give my son everything he wants.” The result? A Wendy house full of stuff we never use. Cupboards overflowing with things never worn.

I have 43 scarves, ladies. 43. And I live in Africa. Where the coldest it gets is 10 degrees in winter. For about 3 weeks. I do not need these things!

This got me looking around the house. I particularly liked the exercise of walking in to my house and looking at it through a strangers eyes. My reaction was one of “ugh. What a depressing space.”

So I have boxes now – ready and labelled “Donate It” and “Recycle It” and I am being ruthless. And the stuff I am keeping is going to be modularised to the last degree.

My bedroom – which is currently a dumping ground for everything I try and hide when visitors come over, is about to get reclaimed. I am even getting rid of the 4 decorative pillows.

The dining room suite (which was my great aunts) is a hulk of horrid brownness, is going off to get a makeover so I can love something beautiful. (Despite the inner voice crying “What will Auntie Lil think?!?”)

All the books that I have read and won’t be reading again are off to the second hand bookshop.

The rest of the stuff – all the duplicate kitchen things, clothes, shoes, knickknacks, craft supplies and such  – is off to my friend’s charity – an organisation that helps refugees.

I cannot wait to have SPACE!!!!

Because I have realised that it’s not the stuff that makes me happy (In fact right now it is making me very Unhappy).

I would far rather have a clean and cleared home filled with friends and laughter than surfaces covered with unnecessary stuff. That I have to clean. Alone.

I am looking forward to live a pared down, simple life.

But I cannot guarantee I will stop buying plants for the garden.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: KandK

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, we have a wonderful contribution from KandK. They tell us how simplifying their work inspired them to create an open, airy, uncluttered home.

KandK write:

K.

K.

My husband and I drifted into minimalism, starting around the time we simplified our work. In the late ’90s we went from being owners of a small business with a staff, a payroll, and rented office space to being independent contractors working in cozy home offices. We didn’t make as much money as we once had, but our work didn’t cost as much either. We had done away with most of our fixed costs along with the daily hassles and stress of management. The biggest issue on our daily commute was somebody forgetting his coffee and turning around on the stairs. We saved more money by cutting back to one car, and we began to walk or cycle to run errands.

But home became more crowded when we added our offices and a large amount of computing equipment. We got organized, made good use of shelves and floor space in closets and built rows of wide shelves in the basement, then filled all these spaces high and tight with what can best be described as “stuff.” It seemed that everything our family had brought into the house over twenty-odd years was still there. We used some of it some of the time, but mostly it was squirrelled away on a shelf or in a closet.

Now, my husband (K) is a wonderful man, and I love him, but he’s clumsy: two left feet. Unlike me, he’s uncomfortable without a lot of space around him, and although I found our situation cozy he had difficulty in what he experienced as cramped quarters. This was the impetus for the next change, which started slowly and picked up in earnest when our teenagers grew up and moved on. Over the course of some years we made room by freeing the house of an astonishing amount of that stuff. Not being garage sale people, we looked for places to donate. Furniture and clothing ended up at our local Goodwill. Surplus building materials and tools made their way to The Habitat for Humanity. Through Freecycle we found new homes for old electronics, textbooks and computer programming manuals, surplus garden tools, and even a stack of previously trodden patio stones. We donated books to our local public library and excess office paper and art supplies to the neighbourhood school.

It wasn’t easy to give these things away, but we learned to manage and negotiate emotional attachments, and though we (more often I) couldn’t bring ourselves (myself) to dispose of everything, we ended up with a small stack of boxes that fit unobtrusively and neatly in the basement. The benefits were many and easy to identify. The house became easier to clean, and the very atmosphere felt lighter. We didn’t hesitate to open closet doors for fear of what we’d find stashed inside. And, most importantly, my sweetie found he had room to move about without tripping or knocking something over.

By the time we’d taken most of the stress out of work and eased our “stuff burden”, we found we had time and head space for the next step. We embarked on a campaign of simplifying the house itself. We resolved to rid ourselves of cubbyholes in which clutter could breed unnoticed. We took doors off closets and turned them into open shelving which we keep only lightly populated. We turned a narrow, gloomy front hall into a bright, sunny space wide and clear enough that K can turn around (see photo). We gutted our galley-style kitchen and rebuilt it in a streamlined Scandinavian style (did I hear someone say Ikea?) with a pantry unit at one end, no upper cupboards, and a hand-picked piece of postmodern art mounted above the sink.

Our story isn’t over. Hobbies beget clutter, and my stash of fabric and knitting supplies threatens to swell on a weekly basis. K has built new shelves in the garage, and the last time I looked there wasn’t much free space there. But even if we backslide a bit I believe we’ll be able to keep it under control because we’ve developed a mindset that must be common to the people on this site. It’s best described by the words of a visitor to our bare-bones kitchen. When his wife, looking thoughtfully at the bare wall, asked if it would be possible to put back the upper cupboards, he said in a soft and wistful voice, “Sure you could, but I like it like this.”

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Aimee

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, Aimee explores the relationship between minimalism and money—namely, how much of it you’ll save when not filling your house with stuff! Surf on over to her blog to read more.

Aimee writes:

Aimee

All that money – G O N E

The concept of minimalism came so easy to me and at a young age. I loved to declutter, clean and organize. I don’t know where the interest came from, but I just loved having everything in its place, neat and orderly. I’ve always preferred to ‘travel lightly’ as they say. It was a piece of cake to declutter the contents of my kitchen, bathrooms, closets, office, etc. I could easily identify the items I no longer used or needed. Decluttering was never a struggle for me. I now realize it’s because I always knew I could just replace the things I was discarding or buy cool, new stuff. Not because I am rich, but because I had a wallet full of credit cards. I always found so much to be donated. It felt great to unload things I no longer wanted, but I realized that I was never done decluttering. It’s because I never stopped bringing more stuff into my home. Then I thought about how much money I spent on all that stuff. Ouch. As someone who prides themselves on not being wasteful, it suddenly hit me how much of my hard earned money (at a job I don’t like) I wasted over the years of purging and then reaccumulating. I thought about what it would be like to have that much money in the bank, where it really belonged. Ouch again.

It had taken several years to get rid of all the debt. Getting rid of the clutter was fast and easy, but that was when it really drove home the importance of carefully considering ALL future purchases. It felt so great to pay off the last of the credit cards, student loans and car loans. I thought I was home free. In a way, I was, paying off debt is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself, financially speaking. Everyone talks about the ‘high’ they feel when they buy something new, I was the same way. It was during our last yard sale when I saw my belongings being sold for a fraction of what I had paid for them when the light bulb finally came on. Never again do I want to sacrifice my financial freedom to have a new TV or piece of furniture. Possessions have never improved my life in anyway, at any time.

I’ve vowed to take more time deciding on potential purchases. The rush felt when buying something is often followed by the let down when you realize how much money you just parted with, or when you realize that your shiny new purchase isn’t really going to do anything to make your life better. Now my shopping excursions are few and far between. First I consider whether or not I really need the item I’m thinking about buying. Next, I try to think about what the item costs in terms of how many hours I have to work to pay for it. What an eye opener that is! Are you willing to sacrifice a week’s pay on new designer items or a fancy cell phone? I’m not – not anymore. It took a long time to learn this lesson, but it was well worth the wait.

Follow me on my journey to a more meaningful life through simplicity at LiveSimpleNow.com.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

100 Possessions: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

 

When I was a carefree, world-traveling digital nomad, with no permanent address or mailbox, it was fairly easy to be paperless. I had few commitments, and little contact with people or organizations who found it necessary to bestow piles of printed matter upon me.

Now that I’m a homeowner with a child, being paper-free has become more of a challenge. In the past two years, paperwork has been flying at me in all directions: from mortgage statements, to home improvement invoices, to medical records, to school info, to utility bills that aren’t available electronically (I like to keep the latter to track water and energy use).

For the most part, I need the information, not the actual paper upon which it’s delivered. My minimalist filing system served me well in the past—I’d accumulate a year’s worth of bills, statements, etc., and scan what I needed at the end. I was also pretty diligent about scanning miscellaneous papers as they arrived. But with a two-year-old at the center of my attention, that’s not happening anymore; I just don’t have the time to scan individual documents with my slow-as-molasses flatbed scanner. My file box was beginning to bulge, and I realized that in order to keep up, I’d have to optimize the process—in other words, scan many more pages in the minimal time allotted.

I finally took the plunge and invested in a sheet-fed scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500. Regular readers know that I don’t do product reviews on my blog—I only mention items that I’ve purchased myself, and that have enhanced my minimalist lifestyle. So rest assured that Fujitsu has not provided me with any product or compensation—I shelled out 425 of my own hard-earned clams for this. (I have, however, used an Amazon affiliate link above; meaning that if you decide to buy one, a few dollars will go to support this blog and minimalist community.)

So, disclosures out of the way, how do I love thee, my little Fujitsu? Let me count the ways. You’re small: 11 x 6 inches, folding down to the size of a shoebox. You’re fast: 25 pages per minute according to the manufacturer, and I have no reason to doubt it. You never jam: your space-age roller and sensor thingy means I can feed you a healthy stack of paperwork without ever having to pry you open and extract a wrinkled mess. And finally, your software works beautifully with my Mac (which is more than I can say for my old flatbed).

I’m not one to splurge on gadgets, especially pricey ones. In fact, I have an aversion to expensive items in general, and rarely spend $425 on anything (I’d much rather have Nothing to Steal). But after six months of ownership, I’m pretty much in scanner love. I whipped through my backlog of paperwork in a few hours, and am now once again on my way to being as paperless as possible. Woo-hoo!

Bottom line: if you have more time than money, such a scanner is probably not necessary. But if you have more money than time, it could prove a worthy investment. (For the record, I tried to find a used one, to no avail–but now that it’s been out awhile, you may have better luck.)

So now I’m feeling ambitious, and looking for ways to leverage my new scanning superpowers. I have about a dozen books I’ve been carting around, from move to move, because they’re either out-of-print or hard to replace, and unavailable in electronic form. I would love, love, love to disassemble them, feed them through my scanner, and turn them into ebooks (my sincere apologies to all the booklovers who are cringing right now, but even as a writer I have no attachment to the printed page—see Why I Love Ebooks, Part 1 and Part 2).

The big question being: is it legal?

My impression is that it would fall under Fair Use: by destroying the hardcopy to make an electronic one, I’d essentially be trading one format for another (ie., I’d still end up with one copy, which is what I paid for). It would be solely for personal use, so there shouldn’t be any economic impact on the copyright holder (particularly if an electronic version isn’t even available).

Furthermore, in my internet research on the topic, I came across a company called 1DollarScan that offers this very service. I would imagine they’ve done their due diligence on the legal aspects; if publishers took issue with such scanning, they’d have been hit with a lawsuit by now.

Still, I’d like to be sure. Are there any lawyers who can weigh in on the legality of bookscanning for personal use? Inquiring minimalist minds want to know…

And on the broader topic, is anyone else striving to be paperless? Please share your strategies, triumphs, and tribulations in the Comments!

(This post is part of my “100 Possessions” series, in which I explain why each item I own deserves a place in my minimalist life.)

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}