Tag Archives: Minimalist

What is Enough?

Long before I found the FIRE (Financial Independence/ Retire Early) movement that inspired the title of this blog, I discovered minimalism. Minimalism, to me, is a study in less and a pursuit of the answer to the question, “What is enough?”

Vicki Robin analyzes the concept of “enough” in her iconic book Your Money or Your Life. One interesting graph, “The Fulfillment Curve,” shows how things bring happiness until one achieves a particular peak happiness point.  From there on, having more things diminishes joy.

I’ve been a bit of a natural minimalist all of my life, so when I found out that there was a popular movement, I was naturally drawn to it. For me, the appeal has always been a neat, clean space: I love for my surroundings to be peaceful and inspiring. I’ve noticed that the less I own, the easier it is to achieve that goal.

Unfortunately, I also enjoy the adrenaline rush of buying a nice, new, shiny thing.  So, I have to constantly ask myself when do I already have enough (of any given item, or of items in general.) Minimalism is a lifestyle and a constant journey.

Minimalism has many benefits, but there are three that really stand out to me:

  1. Minimalist decor is beautiful and can be inspiring.
  2. Time is your most valuable asset, and the less stuff you have, the less time you spend maintaining stuff.
  3. Minimalism can save you money.

The study of “enough” and the general pursuit of balance has enriched my life and made me happier.

Good advice: adopt minimalism to achieve the elusive “enough.”

Let me tell you more:

Minimalist Decor is Beautiful and Inspiring (#1)

I love “house porn.”  I could spend hours watching HGTV (Home and Garden Television) and reading Real Simple magazine. I love the images of beautiful, clean houses.  All different types of home decor are appealing to me: I love modern, country, shabby-chic, and other styles. One thing that I’ve found in all of the decorating styles is that the decorator knows exactly when to stop.  The rooms are stylishly furnished with the perfect amount of stuff; they have precisely “enough.”

I enjoy decorating my own house and sometimes it’s hard to quit.  Minimalism has taught me that adding more items to a room doesn’t necessarily make it look better.  In fact, sometimes the best way to spruce up a space is to remove something from it.

Have you ever tried that?  Occasionally, I clear everything out of a space just to see how it looks empty.  Then, I add back only the things that I really want to look at. The result can be very beautiful.

Time Is Your Most Valuable Asset (#2)

When we were newlyweds, we were very excited to see what we could make of our lives. We had the typical interest in collecting things: maybe one day a boat, a camper, or a jacuzzi? Luckily, we talked it through and paid attention to the experiences of others who owned those things.  Eventually, we came to the conclusion that we didn’t want a jacuzzi and that we’d rather just temporarily rent a boat or a camper.

The people we know who own these things say they like them.  However, after the shiny newness wears off, I notice them spending much more time and money maintaining them than enjoying them.  Boats need a lot of cleaning.  Campers need to be stored, fixed up, and then repaired when things go wrong. Jacuzzis require a lot of work to keep clean with balanced chemicals in the water. 

When we moved to our current house in Utah, there already was a jacuzzi in the backyard.  It had a nice cedar building around it.  Maybe this would have been a great bonus to someone else, but to us, it was unwelcome work.  Some cedar planks had fallen off the building and many wasps nests lined the walls and ceilings. I probably could have gotten the whole thing cleaned out and ready to use within a week- after many, many hours of work.  Then I could have found a way to repair the missing boards and I could have mastered the art of checking and adjusting water chemicals.  I could have periodically drained and cleaned the hot tub and removed wasp and spider nests from the building.  After and between all of that, we could enjoy a hot tub a few times a week for the first month (before getting bored with it and tired of all of the work it involved.)

So, we sold it.  I think we got a few hundred and someone hauled it off for us.  When it was gone, we celebrated how much nicer the yard looked to us without a big “to-do” list sitting in the middle of it. 

Maybe you’re a hot-tub person and you think I’m crazy.  I will concede that if someone absolutely loves jacuzzis and plans to use one several times per week, they might enjoy owning one.  In our case what matters is that we recognized that it wasn’t right for us.

Everything you own costs more than money: It costs time. Because time is your most valuable asset, it is important to spend it wisely. Which things are truly worth your time?  Joshua Becker, a star of the Minimalism movement, wrote about his garage full of stuff.  This is on his blog and is quoted from his book, The More of Less:

“The sentence reverberated in my mind as I turned to look at the fruits of my morning labor: a large pile of dirty, dusty possessions stacked in my driveway. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my son, alone in the backyard, still playing by himself. The juxtaposition of the two scenes dug deep into my heart, and I began to recognize the source of my discontent for the first time.”

(Ad link to the book The More of Less)

You see, even our smallest, most mundane possessions can own us.  We spend time sorting them, dusting them, storing them, and cleaning around them. 

Even worse, in some cases, we actually pay to store them in storage units.  Of course, there are some good purposes for storage units, but there are also reasons to avoid them.

Why Avoid Storage Units:

1. They cost money! 

2. You have to drive to the storage unit to access your stuff.  So, you mostly store things you won’t need often (or at all).  “Out of sight, out of mind” comes into play here.  

3. Storage units make it possible to push the natural limits of what fits in your home.

I think one day I will start an experiment tracking how much of my time I spend maintaining, organizing, cleaning up, and fixing our family’s stuff. Watch for that in a future blog post.  Unfortunately, I can already predict that the answer will be “way too much!”

How much time do you spend on your possessions?  Do you own them or do they own you? Would minimalism save you precious time?  Owning less saves me time, but so does shopping less. Minimalism could be the answer to our overpacked schedules.

I already have my “enough.”  I don’t need anything else, except for the occasional new clothes when kids outgrow them or mine wear out.  I would like to take the time I spend shopping and instead spend it at a park, in the garden, or playing board games with my kids.  Would you benefit from the same?

Minimalism Can Save You Money (#3)

Is there anything you own that currently needs repair? I have a white picket fence that is tipping over, a tree limb that is threatening a different fence, and a porch swing that needs rebuilding.  Why haven’t I already fixed these things? 

Okay, harsh reality time: I haven’t yet made these repairs because I don’t have the time, and I don’t have the money.  But that’s not true.  Really, I have enough time and enough money to do these things, but I am “too busy” shopping and my money is tied up in the new things I’m purchasing. The repairs seem big and daunting to me, but buying a new pair of garden boots is easy.

Yes, I “needed” the new garden boots.  My old boots flaked and the rubber failed, so water could enter them.  I also “needed” whatever else I bought this week.  But, I spent time shopping.  I spent money on things that were less urgent than my home repairs. Sometimes it’s easier to acquire something new than to take care of what you already have. 

Buying new stuff is expensive.  It doesn’t matter if I “save” money by using coupons, promotion codes, sales, or even buying used.  Those things help, but I’m still consuming.  I’m still spending money, often on things I don’t even need.  One prime example is the impulse buy: when a bright, new, shiny gadget pops out at me in the store and I suddenly “need” it.  How can it truly be a need if I had lived without it just fine?

Since discovering minimalism, I have been practicing a new skill: repurposing.  Often, if I “shop” in my own house, I can find something that perfectly fits my purpose without buying something new.  This has dual benefits: it removes the need to go spend money, and it gives a job to something that was otherwise just taking up storage space in my home.

Some bloggers that I follow have tried taking a month or more off of shopping. I love this idea.  Basically, you promise yourself that you will only buy food and necessary consumables for the next month.  If you “need” something, you just wait.  The result is almost always a large pile of saved cash.

Another great technique is to wait for the alley to provide.  I learned this phrase while listening to the ChooseFi podcast. They were interviewing Mrs. Frugalwoods, and I heard her say, “the alley will provide.”  It was said with humor, but it’s really great advice.  Mrs. Frugalwoods will wait a pre-established length of time before buying something that she wants or needs.  If she still wants it after the waiting period, she buys it.  She said that most of the time she no longer wants or needs it.  On the other hand, it often magically shows up in the alley at the curb or somewhere else for free.  I love both the idea of the waiting period (which I need to instigate in my own life) and the advice to watch for it to appear for free.  Here is the Frugalwoods’ post about 12 Tips For Finding Roadside Treasures.

This has worked in my life.  I always wanted a porch swing on a stand.  That’s a decent-sized purchase, and luckily, I waited.  Just last week, “the alley” provided.  I found a porch swing offered up for free on Facebook Marketplace.  My kids and I rushed over to find it at the curb.  It took two trips and we had to learn how to use ratcheting straps to hold it in the truck bed, but we did it: we got a free porch swing!  Okay, so it’s not 100% free, because I’ve decided to rust-proof it and paint it.  And, I’m going to refinish the fabric part.  But, when it’s done, it’ll cost a total of about $30, and it will be 100% personalized.  That’s a lot more fun than buying it new.

Here it is painted, waiting for the seat to be built. I plan to use wood to build a seat around the frame.

I knew I wanted the porch swing because I had wanted it for a long time. It was a smart acquisition. Other things gather for less appealing reasons. For example, in the past I might have purchased cheap lawn chairs to use while I waited to afford the porch swing. It wouldn’t matter that I didn’t even like the lawn chairs, because they were convenient and quick to buy and were “good enough” in the meantime. Now that I am a student of minimalism, I would rather wait for what I truly want and go to the effort to get it.

Minimalism means finding your perfect “enough.” That’s a constant effort for me, but it pays off in money, time, and beautiful surroundings.

What is your “enough?” Do you currently have everything you need? Do you have too much?  How could finding this balance improve your life?  I’d love to hear from you. 

My Meandering Path To FIRE (Financial Independence/ Retire Early)

I wish I’d learned about FIRE a long time ago. FIRE is an acronym that stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early. Here is a summary of FIRE from the FIRE Movement Wikipedia page:

The FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Earlymovement is a lifestyle movement whose goal is financial independence and retiring early. The model became particularly popular among millennials in the 2010s, gaining traction through online communities via information shared in blogs, podcasts, and online discussion forums.[1][2][3][4][5]

Those seeking to attain FIRE intentionally maximize their savings rate by finding ways to increase income or decrease expenses. The objective is to accumulate assets until the resulting passive income provides enough money for living expenses in perpetuity. Many proponents of the FIRE movement suggest the 4% rule as a guide, thus setting a goal of at least 25 times estimated annual living expenses. Upon reaching financial independence, paid work becomes optional, allowing for retirement from traditional work decades earlier than the standard retirement age.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIRE_movement)

Like many things in my life, the path to discovering FIRE was a long, meandering one:

First, I found frugality. I can’t remember the exact moment that I initially took an interest in saving money, but I do recall a certain book: The Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn. I think I ran into the book at a yard sale or a library book sale. It caught my attention and curiosity, and I spent several days devouring its tips about penny-pinching. It turned out to be a compilation of what would have been blog posts, but they were written long before the Internet existed. So, they were letters. Yes, actual snail mail. When I finished it, I wanted more. I discovered that The Tightwad Gazette had sequels, and all had great reviews and were available on Amazon.

(Ad link to the book The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn)

It was written in 1999, so as you can imagine, some of the tips in the Tightwad Gazette were a bit outdated.  (Use WD-40 on a typewriter ribbon to extend the life of the ribbon. Write letters to save on long-distance phone bills.) Still, there was much that was timeless. I was fascinated by the lengths to which people would go to save a few cents.  Even more intriguing was the idea that this woman created a newsletter of tips so long ago, developing such a massive following.  She even had “tightwads” paying good money for her tips! It turns out that the craving for advice on frugality is nothing new.  

Frugality fascinated me. I searched for more content- blogs, podcasts, and books about penny-pinching and making do. Many of the tips I discovered seemed over-the-top, but there were also money-saving gems and new ways to look at the world. For example, why was I buying disposable plastic fridge storage containers for my leftovers while throwing away glass bottles and other useful containers? I started to wonder why I was so wasteful. In my Google searches about waste, I discovered the Zero Waste movement, and I realized that I wanted to be a tree-hugger. (More to come on this topic.)

The next thing that I remember on the journey toward FIRE was discovering minimalism.  I learned about loving what you own and owning only what you love.  This was a natural fit for me as I’ve never enjoyed collecting things and I’ve always preferred neatness in my surroundings. An interesting challenge I discovered in minimalism is that it doesn’t always go well with frugality.  Frugality and minimalism can be complementary, but there are often challenges to decide which takes priority in particular instances.  For example, it is more frugal to wash out product containers and then save them for future use.  It is more minimalist to own fewer containers.  The perfect balance can be tricky. For me, it helps to consider the packaging as part of the purchase right from the start.

In my search for knowledge about minimalism, I found The Minimalists, (Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus,) and Marie Kondo. I discovered the joy of getting rid of stuff (it’s as fun as buying stuff!) and the joy of owning only what I love. On the topic of frugality, I enjoyed podcasts by Clark Howard. (The man can make one disposable razor last a year!) Still, with minimalism and frugality, I felt something missing.

(Ad link to Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus)

(Ad link to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)

(Ad link to Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul)

Around that time, my dad shared a book by Dave Ramsey with my brothers.  I heard about it and wondered why he hadn’t shared it with me.  I still don’t know why, but it doesn’t matter- my curiosity took it from there.  I found Dave Ramsey’s podcast and listened to months’ worth of episodes.  Dave Ramsey taught me the horrible power of debt. I was surprised at how fascinated I was about the subject of getting out of debt. It seemed like an extension of the same principles I’d learned in minimalism (less consumerism, more quality) and thrift (save more, spend less.)

(Ad link to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover)

After a while, I was able to predict Dave’s answers to every single caller; it was clear that it was time to move on.  I spent some time on Suze Orman’s podcasts until I ran out of episodes.  I enjoyed Suze’s podcast and the focus on a female audience (although Suze pointed out that smart men were her listeners, too.) Suze inspired me to finally take action writing my will and other important documents. I signed up for software through her company before unfortunately discovering that it had to wait until after my divorce was final.

(Ad link to Suze Orman’s Women and Money)

By then, I knew that financial podcasts were of interest to me. I was hungry for more. I googled “top financial podcasts,” and found ChooseFI. ChooseFI is hosted by a couple of “regular guys” learning about financial independence.  One of the hosts, Brad Barrett, is already “FI,” meaning that he has achieved financial independence and doesn’t have to work for a living.  The other host, Jonathon Mendonsa, is on the road to FI.  As they teach on their podcast, you are “FI” when you have enough money invested that you can live on only the investment returns. At that point, work is optional and can be focused exclusively on one’s passions. Their casual, inquisitive and informative style really caught my interest. They invited experts in the FIRE movement for guest interviews and I learned about many of my favorite bloggers and podcasters through them.

All Episodes

I don’t know where I am on the road to FI because I am going through a divorce. Divorce is a topic that FI bloggers and podcasters don’t dwell on.  I suspect that the reason for that is divorce is entirely unpredictable. 

I don’t know my net worth. I don’t know my financial future. As a homeschooling stay-at-home mom, I did the unpaid labor for the family, and I lack paid work experience.

Divorce can take months or even years.  During that time, one’s financial situation is unclear and is in a state of limbo. So, that is where I am right now. I have been in the process of divorce for over a year, and there is no telling how much longer this uncertainty will last.

In the meantime, there is much that is in my control:  I am learning all that I can so that when I am able to take action I will be ready to make smart financial decisions. I am adding skills such as computer coding, dishwasher installation, and tree pruning to my can-do list.  I am “habit-stacking,” as James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits would say. (More on this later, too!) Most importantly, when it comes to the time I spend with my three wonderful children, I am aiming for both quality and quantity.

Even while stuck in a waiting period, I’ve found the concepts of FIRE very comforting. Budgeting is not as stressful when you’ve learned to identify your “enough.” (See Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin.) Considering a job search is not as scary when you understand the secrets to getting your dream job. (Check out this episode of ChooseFI: https://www.choosefi.com/how-to-get-any-job/) And, for me, working-from-home is my best option, but even that isn’t so scary with FIRE.

(Ad link to Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin)

I can grow my writing skills and create a type of a resume right here, with this brand-new blog. Maybe my own struggles and learning experiences might help you. I certainly hope so. Do you want to try starting a blog, too? Check out what this talented FIRE writer has to say about it: https://millennialmoney.com/how-to-start-a-blog/.

I am at the beginning of my FIRE journey. I’m a newbie. I’m excited, curious, and eager to learn. Want to come along for the ride? I promise to share everything I discover, even what I learn from my mistakes.