my year of less

woman sitting on wooden planks

Photo by Keenan Constance on Pexels.com

It’s twelve days into the month. They tell me that by this time, most people have already broken their new year’s resolutions.

I’ve tried the resolution thing before. It’s been these etherial statements like, “get in shape”, or “stop being negative”; but like, what on earth does that even mean and how the heck would I even measure that?

Then I stumbled across this whole “One Word” thing, and that was pretty great. I did really feel God lead me to a single word during a single season. The “problem” was that it was never within the confines of a single year. Case and point, I started my One Words in 2014, and I’ve only had 4 words since then. It seems God needed far more time for me to learn tough words like “surrender” or “journey” than one little neatly-packaged year.

In fact, I think I’m still learning all of them–slow, surrender, journey, and grace–and I’m sure I’ll keep circling back to these little words with their powerful lessons on a more-than-annual basis.

But this year I did feel a release from my last word, which was “grace“, and it came right before Thanksgiving.

I’ll spare you the details, mostly because they are pretty private, but I’ll tell you that I finally learned how to forgive someone major in my life, and it was an eye-opening experience for me.

Letting go of “grace” isn’t really letting go of “grace”, but I think I’ve learned it well enough to loosen my grip of focus on it for the time being.

God has given me another word to turn round and round like a prism in my hand, examining it and asking “what are you? what do you need to teach me?”

The word is very simple, and almost painfully vague. It’s “less”.

Less? Less of what? you might ask. Good question.

As my former blog title/alias once stated, I’m a “wannabe minimalist” with the tagline, “less stuff; more freedom”. So the “less stuff” part is truly on my heart, for sure. But the truth is there is a lot more in my life that I think I need less of than just tangible “stuff” (though I guess it all is just “stuff” isn’t it?)

I’m a list person, so here is a list of things I want less of in 2020:

less spending

less coveting

less consuming

less stress

less idols

less selfishness

less striving

less preoccupation

less anger

less exhaustion

less bitterness

Part of this pursuit of less has lead me to take a shopping ban a la Cait Flanders’ “A Year of Less”, which, as she points out in her book, is also very much a browsing ban. See, I like to spend my time looking at things on Amazon, price comparing, reading reviews, adding items to my wish list, or my kids’ wish list, or searching the lightning deals for gift ideas. It reaches a fever pitch at Christmastime, which it probably why this year’s word hits right at the New Year this go round. Browsing often leads to purchasing things I don’t need (I did say I was a wannabe minimalist– did you catch that?). I would feel a little giddy rush getting items in the mail. Even if the items were not for me, but for someone else. This made me concerned that “retail therapy” was actually becoming a thing in my life, and that thing is actually, in reality, just a funny way of saying idolatry.

Online shopping was becoming an idol, and that was no good.

Another part of this pursuit of less has lead me to officially delete my Facebook account. This is the reason most anyone who might possibly have read this, probably won’t. But Facebook made it so easy to compare myself to other people and be preoccupied with basically nothing at all, and it was a temptation to check out and not be present to my actual life. So it’s gone, at least for the year, but probably forever. I’m really over social media you guys, and I’ll probably never be an established blogger for this reason. I think I’m okay with that.

And probably the most etherial of the bunch, I want less stress.

I remember in high school–flippin’ high school guys!–I was stage managing this show and the director said to me, “Claire, you always seem stressed. You should like, smoke or something.” (This was a college student director for a summer project, not a teacher telling me to go smoke some weed, which, for the record, I didn’t. Smoking is not one of my vices, though I’ve got plenty others.) And then, this past July, I went to get a massage. The masseuse who worked on me didn’t remember me from the last time I was there until she felt my shoulders, which were completely riddled with knots. “Oh yes, she said, I remember this tension. I don’t want to upset you, but yeah girl, this kind of stress is pretty rare.”

This, this is true about a gal who’s been trained in the Alexander Technique and used to teach Yoga? This, also is true about a very entrenched Enneagram Type One, desperately hoping that there is an actual way to achieve perfection (yes, I am aware there is not, but I am also not one to give up on my dreams so easily, it seems).

So yeah, yeah, I’m trying to be less stressed. Trying to let go of striving for the elusive perfection, trying to be everything to everybody. Trying to make sure that everyone and their mom likes me, like, really likes me. Trying to say “no” more often because too much on my calendar makes me absolutely crazy. Trying to leave early so I’m not stressed about being late. Trying to…. trying to… trying to….

Aye, there’s the rub. All this “trying” stresses me out. And here we come to my word again.

Less.

Less trying. Less striving. Less working at it. Less taking care of it. Less fixing it. Less “I’ll get it together, don’t worry; I’m on it.”

Less doing. 

More being.

Because, in reality, when there’s less of something, it leaves room for more of something else. Something better.

Less spending leads to more saving.

Less coveting leads to more contentment.

Less consuming leads to more creating.

Less stress leads to more joy.

Less idols leads to more freedom.

Less selfishness leads to more sacrifice.

Less striving leads to more stillness.

Less preoccupation leads to more presence.

Less anger leads to more connection.

Less exhaustion leads to more energy.

Less bitterness leads to more forgiveness, yes, more grace.

…   …   …   …   …   …   …

So, although this year of “less” will also be a year of “more”, the “less” is what I feel led to focus on. Less stuff, less time commitments, less stress, less worry, less striving, less to-do’s… When faced with a choice to add an unnecessary “more” to my life, I will consciously choose less

A Minimalist’s Wish List

Wish List

A minimalist having a wish list seems like an oxymoron. If the idea of minimalism is to own less, then why have a laundry list of more “stuff” you want?

I get that. I really do.

But hear me out, even though I’m just a “wannabe” minimalist.

Having a wish list helps you be a minimalist in a few different ways:

1- It saves you from impulse buys.

I recently went to a consignment store with a friend. We were looking for very specific things: she was looking for a leather shoulder bag and I was looking for cloth napkins. Looking for extremely specific items can be a total hit or miss when it comes to resale shops, and as expected, we ended up walking out of the store with nothing. However, I doubt it would have been that way if we hadn’t had very specific purchases in our heads. In my browsing, I found a number of blouses that I would have loved to try on, and my friend noticed two extremely cute dresses in her size. This often happens to the average person at the grocery store: if you don’t come there with a list, you’re likely to leave the store with more than you planned on getting. This also puts a stress on your budget! Having a wish list, or just a single item you are in search of, can help you when you feel the urge to purchase something on impulse–just because it’s there and looks like something you’d love. Since there is a list of things you KNOW you’d love, you aren’t as likely to stray from that list for impulsive decisions you may later regret and may add up to break the bank.

2- It allows you to really think about what it is you want, and gives you time to decide if it’s worth it.

I noticed this the most when I created a baby registry for my first child. I started the registry very early, not because I was eager to pick out things that I wanted, but because I wanted to spend a lot of time deciding upon the essential and best things I knew I could use and enjoy. I ended up changing that list so many times because I had time to sit with it, research, and reevaluate every item I placed on that registry. In the end, I don’t think I had any items from the registry that went unused. If I hadn’t spent as much time with it, I think I would have registered for a ton of things I didn’t really need, which is not the point of minimalism at all. When you create a wish list of any kind, you get to spend time really evaluating what it is you want, what you really need, and what would be useful to you.

3- It allows you time to decide if this particular item is even in your budget, and if it’s not, it gives you a goal to save towards.

If you aren’t registering for something or creating a birthday wish list of some kind, then a wish list ends up being a list of things you plan to buy yourself. If you plan to purchase something at all, among other things, you need to factor in how much it will cost you and if you can afford it. For the majority of us, if we don’t ever evaluate these things, we end up in serious financial strain or credit card debt. Having a wish list helps you decide if these items you want are even in your budget, and it gives you time to price compare as well. If something ends up not being in the budget, it can remain on the list until you save enough money for it. If you have to save for it, it also helps you evaluate if this is something worth all the time and effort in saving in the first place. If it’s not, then you probably don’t need it and it can come off the list.

4- It gives others ideas for useful, meaningful gifts to give that would not simply add to the accumulation of “stuff” in your life.

If you have a wish list already carefully made, then you can easily help others give you thoughtful and meaningful gifts. I know that minimalists can be hard to buy for since the accumulation of “things” is something we try to avoid. However, when someone asks you what you would like for your birthday or Christmas, having a wish list will allow you to clue them in on things you actually need. Of course, you don’t ever need to share your wish list with anyone, but at least it gives you an option to give friends and family a little guidance. Instead of getting the usual Bath and Body Works lotion and yet another cute coffee mug, they can get you those reusable cotton produce bags that you will use and appreciate the heck out of (or whatever is on YOUR wish list!).

There are a number of ways one can keep a wish list. Here are my top four ways:

1- Amazon Wish List: it’s so simple. Just go to Amazon and create one. You can also create private lists for other items so you can save gift ideas for others, or create a list of things to price compare. I currently have a personal gift wish list, a list of items my daughter will need soon, a list of gift ideas for my hubby, and a shopping list of things I will need to save for.

2- Written out on paper or in a bullet journal: way too simple and arguably the most minimalist. However, it’s not as easily shareable or editable. I used to have two in my bullet journal–one for my wishes and one for gift ideas for other people. I’d also have a column for locations to purchase and the price I found the items for.

3-An Etsy list: the only drawback to this one is that it’s limited to Etsy items, much like the Amazon lists, but you can find way more items on Amazon. This is good for vintage wishes or handmade items you would want made for yourself or others. You can also make different lists for different things. For instance, I have one for gift ideas for myself, but also one for gifts for others that I plan or buy or will consider buying. I also have a board for my daughter, because who doesn’t love handmade baby girl clothes?

4- WishList.com: here you can add anything from any website. I don’t have one myself, but my sister-in-law uses this to clue her Secret Santa in each year when we use Elfster to exchange gifts with my husband’s family. It reminded me of my baby registry (babylist.com) where I also could add anything from any website and categorize it all. If you aren’t a pen and paper person, this is probably the most appealing to a minimalist because you can have everything in one location that is easily managed and shared. You can put things from Amazon or from Etsy and it’s all on one place; you don’t need to have multiple lists going on different websites.

Before you get started making your “minimalist wish list”, a word of caution: remember your own personal reasons for a minimalist lifestyle. I don’t know what those reasons are, but I’m assuming they help you to get rid of the access stuff in your life, rather than aid in adding to it. If your wish lists ever start to make you crave a more materialistic lifestyle or clutter your life with more stuff, then they aren’t working for your pursuit of minimalism and, ultimately, freedom.

How about you? Do you have a wish list? How do you decide what goes on it, and of course, I’d love to hear what types of things are on it! Leave a comment below!

What Minimalism Isn’t (to me)

It’s been about a year now since I began my minimalist journey– or rather, my wannabe-minimalist journey. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff, mostly clothes, and I’ve reworked a lot of my schedule to reflect a more simplified … Continue reading