The Gratitude Challenge

If you have ever read the book ‘The Shack’, the main character suffers a very traumatic loss.   The author describes the period of time following this event as The Great Sadness and described what it felt like for the character.  I sobbed as I read this part of the book.  It resonated with me and I understand exactly what the author was describing.  I, and I am certain many, many others, understand The Great Sadness.

Last night I was texting two friends, telling them about my Great Sadness and how much it has engulfed me, rendering me unable to feel…….anything.  I expressed my frustration and fear that I would always remain in this state of numbness and sadness, that I had exhausted all the things I could think of, to shed this heavy, emotional weight.

Both friends suggested I try a gratitude challenge.  While each friend had slightly different ideas how to approach it, how to document it, how long, or how detailed the challenge, both believed this is the key to conquering The Great Sadness.  Individually, they challenged me to express gratitude daily.  Especially in those dark moments when I am lost in my head and engulfed in melancholy and depression.

I accepted the challenge, not really caring, not believing in its ability to help me.

So, remaining true to my commitment, I start this challenge in this blog post.  The rules are:

I can’t repeat a gratitude

I must do it daily

The challenge lasts a minimum of 6 months (that is approximately 180 individual    items of gratitude)

So today…….I am grateful for:

(crickets)

There are obvious things like my job or health or kids, but…….it doesn’t seem right to start this challenge with a broad and generic gratitude.

Today…..I am grateful for:

(more crickets)

I don’t know what to put or what I want to say.  Maybe I just need to say the generic.

I have one and at this moment it is genuine and sincere.

Today….I am grateful for my duvet.  It is comfortable and warm and always has been.  It has never failed me in that regard.

There!  Challenge met.  Phew!!

 

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Stupid Subtitle….

The subtitle for this blog is:

Starting over….one less thing at a time.

When I came up with that oh-so-witty subtitle, I had just gone through a divorce and had purchased my little townhouse.  I was thinking I would document my new, cute little life in a smaller space with slightly fewer possessions.  I was going to document my new, cute little start-over in life after a 16 year marriage but with goals for my new career and hopes and dreams for a new love.

But……starting over isn’t cute.

It has been gut-wrenching, devastating, hard, hopeless, scary, and so painfully sad at times, that I wondered if I would make it.

I still wonder if I will make it.

In the past two years I have started over several times due to divorce, death, change, mistakes, and very bad choices.

I have lost friends because I pushed them away in my grief.  I made new friends, but lost them when they couldn’t give me the answers I am searching for.

I lost the love of my life and fiancé to suicide.  I lost a future and a lot of hope.

I lost a shot at a new career due to bad choices, grief, and fear.

I have lost of lot of closeness to my children because I work so much and got lost in my head with my sadness for so long.

Minimalism isn’t always cute and blissful…..freeing…. and isn’t always a choice.

Starting over isn’t always hopeful and promising…..exciting and isn’t always a choice.

I hate my stupid subtitle.

 

 

 

Re-engaging in minimalism….

My last post was dated August of 2014.

I was three weeks into the first semester of nursing school.

Today is February 18, 2015 and I am three weeks into the second semester of nursing school.

And oh my…..have things changed.

I still attend school several hours per day, plus work the on-call night shift.  I am the primary care giver of my two kids with their school, hockey, friends….their lives.

I did, however, become engaged to a wonderful guy.  We are getting married June 6, 2015.  The date after my nursing board prep test….and two days before two finals and 5 days before graduation from the LPN program.

My house is on the market and I am planning on moving myself and kids to another town 30 minutes away.

The home I am moving into is an old 1940’s cottage.  It is charming and cute.  But….it needs some work.   Hubby (to be) and I are renovating the bathroom…..and painting the rooms for my kids.  The outside needs desparately to be painted as well.

Summer will be busy.  I need to go back to working full time for a while before starting my second year nursing/RN program.

I am not practicing my minimalist ways.  The house I am moving into is twice the size of my condo.  It is on one third an acre.  My time for the next several months is jam-packed.

And I am planning a wedding.  Or not?  I am planning a marriage….but a wedding?

How do I make the next 6 months happen?

How do I make the next 6 months minimalist?

Another minimalist beginning?

My commitment to sleep….

An entire summer has come and gone.

At work, one colleague became very sick.
Another colleague quit.

I ended up working full time this summer.

I also applied and was accepted to nursing school. I started that 3 weeks ago.

In the 3 weeks I have been in school, I have had (if you include my lab skills requirements) about 6 tests so far. I spend about 6-8 hours per day at school with about 2 more hours of studying per day. Weekends included.

My kids started school two days ago.

I have been averaging about 4-6 hours per night depending on the night.

I am tired. So very, very tired.

But…I also don’t have a bed.

When I divorced, the kids and I moved to a really nice, cozy condo. In my mind, plenty of room for myself and the kids. I love it. However…we did come from a home that was about 3500 square feet. It had a massive, awesome family/play room for the kids. I wanted to mimic that room to some degree in our new home so the kids would feel like they have a large play space….spread out a little more than just their bedrooms.

So….I gave my kids the master bedroom to make it their play space. I acquired a memory foam mat, tossed it on the floor with a pillow and blanket and slept there. When I wasn’t sleeping, the mat, blanket, and pillow were folded in the corner. It wasn’t too bad…..until a huge spider crawled right by my head one evening.

I moved my mat, blanket and pillow to the couch. I have been sleeping there ever since.

It isn’t too bad. Comfy enough. Except…I am a little too tall for the couch, but it isn’t a huge issue because I usually sleep on my side in a loose, fetal position.

But…the kid’s family/play room has remained unused this entire summer. Maybe…it is because it is summer. Maybe it is because they are kind of outgrowing toys and play more with friends and less with stuff. Maybe it is because we are so busy shuttling between two households and the babysitter and now school and extracurricular activities….

Maybe when we are all home, it is our time to be together and we would all rather be downstairs together, eating and doing homework and reading or playing games at the big dining table that doubles as an office space, than in this empty space upstairs. Maybe my attempt at recreating something familiar for them, something they really enjoyed before the divorce, was paltry at best.

The time has come to get my bed back. My bedroom back. Maybe the kids need a place to go when they have their nightmares or feel sad and lonely. Maybe they need to bring mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day or just because….they used to love to do that all the time. Maybe instead of reading along in our bedrooms at night, we can all snuggle together and read together at night. Maybe instead of recreating the spaces they and their friends played and had fun, I should be recreating the spaces where they felt safe and bonding took place.

But not only that…maybe I just need to sleep again. Maybe that is what will help fix me and my little family again.

So, instead of taking something away, owning one less thing, unburdening myself of one more object, one more item….I am adding something more to my inventory of “stuff”, I am conforming to some notion of a Western, societal-deemed need, I am introducing one more chore or item to clean….

But I am so tired and I want to reclaim that sleep that has eluded me immensely these last couple years…and that has eluded me somewhat since I started my family.

I know it isn’t the sleeping on the floor, or the couch, or a bed that will miraculously solve this sleep “issue”……

I am tired…I think I will try and go to sleep. I have a big day tomorrow. I am going to get a bed.

Tired

Tonight is my second night in my new house.

I signed on the house 2 weeks ago.

I have been working full time and some overtime because we are short staffed and I wanted to paint the brown color in the master bedroom white before I moved in.

I am on the 2nd coat of white after two coats of primer.

It still isn’t right.

The master bedroom is supposed to be the kids playroom and I would sleep on the couch.

My daughter’s room was a butter yellow.

It is only half painted white.

My place is a mess and there is stuff everywhere.  I still haven’t grocery shopped.

Today I have eaten a Sausage McMuffin with Cheese from McDonald’s that I grabbed on my way to work, about 10 handfuls of Frosted Mini Wheats, a Dr. Pepper, some pretzels and now Nutella.

My kids are with the Tornado….their dad…..for some good times to be had for two days.  With his girlfriend/friend/fiancee…I don’t know who she is, but they sure do like her!

I am too tired to grocery shop.

I am too tired to put things away.

I am too tired to finish painting.

I am too tired.

I really don’t want to do anything at all.

I know this blog is supposed to be about minimalism.

I am too tired to think about minimalism.

 

Bucket Lists

I think I have gone minimalist on my bucket list as well. 

Or maybe my divorce has just made me depressed and my motivation and ambition is low.  

My bucket list had all sorts of things on it.  In the health and fitness, I wanted to weigh a certain weight, my hair a certain length; I wanted to do a certain amount of push ups, pull ups, handstand push ups, long distance, ultra runs, hike certain trails, hike certain peaks, etc. etc.

My bucket list had numerous places of travel.  Most of my bucket list was where I was going to travel and the places I was going to see.  All sorts of places in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, all over the US….stuff like that.  In fact, many of my fitness goals were incorporated into my travel goals.  

My bucket list also had some professional goals in it and a couple financial goals as well.

I started to write my previous bucket list in this post, but the list is so long and I didn’t want to type it all.  I was getting lazy and annoyed and the idea of putting it all down in this post.  

For many people, minimalism is for them because it allows them to focus less on the mundane aspects of living or getting caught of in the stuff and living on autopilot and it is more about bucket lists….doing what you really want to do. 

For me…minimalism is pretty multi faceted.  Yes, it is about focusing more on the parts of life I want, and weeding out the parts of life that don’t work for me, but I am starting to think that we can turn minimalism and bucket lists into yet another ball and chain that we are trying to break free from.  

The expectation of accomplishing a bucket list, of accomplishing and completely clutter free house, of accomplishing the task of weeding down to only owning X number of items or whatever aspect of minimalism you embrace, can be just as rut-producing or life- draining as all the stuff we have or constant hours we work to pay for all this stuff.

For me, looking at my bucket list was overwhelming.  Maybe that is where I am at right now.  Starting over and no money and no time and two young children makes my bucket list look daunting.  In many ways, I am now looking at a lot of things in my life through a new lens and have come to feel that so many things that were important…is really no longer important.  

For most of us, our bucket lists have probably changed…..add something here, take something off here…not as important and bucket lists change obviously, as you accomplish your goals.  

I plan on revamping my bucket list.  Minimalizing it.  The purpose behind that is to take some of the pressure off me to get so many things done or accomplish all these tasks and the work that it takes to accomplish all these tasks. That somehow by attaining certain fitness levels or looking a certain way or having traveled to numerous places will make me happier so I can show people how well traveled I am or how fit I am or how well rounded I am, so how happy I am.  Perhaps by minimizing my bucket list, I can learn to better enjoy the moment I am in…find some sense of peace or joy in what I am currently doing.  Make my home, my kids, my place in the world, a place I want to be….savor the moments.  Live in the moment.  Live in the now. 

 

Look at me! Pay attention to me!

I was married for 17 years.  It was during this time that I started becoming interested in minimalism.  It was at this time that I started giving stuff away.  I would give away dishes.  I would give away curtains.  Pillows.  Throws.  Christmas decorations.  Rugs.  Dining room sets.  I even gave away my mom and dad’s couches.  

I threw away clothes and shoes and belts and purses.  I tossed all my high school dance pictures.  I chucked all my yearbooks.  In childhood and throughout those years, I often would write in a journal.  Those are gone too.  I tore them up and dumped them into the garbage.  In fact even today…I will write in my journal…get all my thoughts out.  Then….a few days later, I will tear those pages out and get rid of them.

It is very possible that this blog will cease to exist in about 3 months.  

Why?

Whenever I look back on what I wrote…I am always embarrassed.  I am embarrassed that I cared about this thing or fretted over that thing.  I am embarrassed to have felt this way or that way…to have been excited about something or the other.   I am embarrassed and ashamed of me. 

So, I toss things that are…..part of….created by…..purchased by…..written by….me. 

I don’t have yearbooks because I am a minimalist.  I am a minimalist because I get rid of things because I am ashamed.  

So during my 17 years of marriage.  I changed my rooms around weekly.  I tossed out things and gave things away.  

My husband, on the other hand, would buy things.  He accumulated stuff.  Not hoarding, not even clutter, but stuff that took all his time to maintain and care for them.

A boat

A sailboat

4 wheelers

Dirt bike

Dirt bikes for the kids

Snowmobile

A big yard for his riding mower…a riding mower that had snow blowing attachments.  A riding mower/snowblower that he loved to use to help all 10 houses on our street with their grass/driveways each weekend. 

A big garden with lots of fresh vegetables that he was constantly weeding

Tools (he bought some new tool almost every week) to maintain all the aforementioned stuf and putter around our big yard and garden and the yards and gardens of our neighbors. 

All this time, I would ask my husband to stop buying stuff.  I would ask him to stop fixing stuff.  I would ask him to stop puttering.  I would ask him to come inside and sit down and talk to me.  Just visit.  Current events, debate, people, plan vacations…anything.  Talk about anything.  

But he was always too busy with his stuff.

So…I started getting rid of stuff. 

Mind you…I never got rid of his stuff.  It was his…it belonged to him.

I got rid of “my” stuff.  

I started changing rooms around every week.  Always trying to make the room look better.  Different.  Because it wasn’t right.  Then I started taking away accessories.  Who needs a vase?  Or moss balls in a bowl?  Just more stuff to dust.  Then I started taking away lamps.  There was an overhead light and a window.  That was enough light.  Then rugs.  There was a floor underneath that I had to keep clean too.

I started getting rid of stuff.  All this stuff until all the rooms of my house had just the bare basics.  A bed to sleep on in the bedroom and maybe an end table.

A couch and chair in the living room

A dining table.

I kept getting rid of stuff.

Do you know why I kept getting rid of stuff? 

Because if everything was gone, the only thing left in the room would be me.  

He would have to notice me then, wouldn’t he?

He would have to pay attention to me then. 

If there is no chair, at least he would ask me where he was going to sit. 

If there is nothing in the room….then he would look at me.  He would pay attention to me. 

So am I truly a minimalist?  Did I find the minimalist lifestyle because it is the lifestyle that spoke most to my soul?

Probably not.  It is the lifestyle that found me…it is probably the only way I feel I can exist…be seen….if there is absolutely nothing else around me.

 

Maybe Minimalism Isn’t Such a Good Idea….???

So….I am buying a house.

Not a house, a townhouse. 

It has 3 bedrooms and 1.5 baths.  Get that!!  Not 2 baths, but 1.5.   That means no master bath.  Myself and my two kids will share a bathroom and the half bath is downstairs.  That is going to be the poop bathroom.

The townhouse is 1330 square feet.  I had read somewhere that you could figure 400 square feet per person and then 200 square feet per pet.  Something like that.

So with me and the two munchkins plus pooch….we are following those “rules”.

Want to see some pictures?

End unit.  Yes it is.  I have a “side yard” that I don’t care for and maintain.  However….no garage.   But what did I use a garage for?  Well, to keep my car in and out of the elements.  I do have a carport that will cover my car so it will be protected from snow and sun.  A garage never really protects cars from the temperatures so…..a carport should be sufficient.  

What else did I use a garage for.  Oh that is right!  To keep my garden tools and lawnmower in there.  

Well…no need for that.  No yard.  Well…kind of have a “side yard” but the HOA takes care of that.  

Cool.  I do need a garage for the bikes and scooters and balls and rollerblades and….and….and….

Hmm, well the town house has a little enclosed patio with shed!

The shed can hold the toys and balls and rollerblades and sleds and tubes, etc.  

But what about bikes?  

It turns out, I need a garage unless I can compromise on bikes. 

Here is the compromise:

Cover that with a tarp and put it next to the shed.  Problem solved.  

No need for a garage!

But what about a backyard?  

Did I mention that my townhouse has a park behind my patio?

I don’t have to maintain it.  The neighborhood is full of kids for my kids, we are a couple blocks from a grocery store and the movies.  We are also a couple blocks from other parks and the middle school.  

So far, so good.  The best part is that my mortgage and insurance is $380 for a unit in a nice neighborhood built in 2003.  (I used the equity from the house from my divorce for a nice down payment)  I really minimalized my potential expenditures.  

I’m very excited.  

I hope my kids will like it.  They lived in a 3500 square feet house with their mom and dad together.  It had a couple family rooms, a huge TV and air hockey table.  It had an office and a large kitchen.  It had a master bath attached to the master bedroom…..

I hope they can be happy in this smaller home…..without a garage.  Without their own bathroom.  Without a full time dad.  With just a mom.

We have minimalized our family in some ways, I guess.  

Not what I wanted.  Not what minimalism is about.  This isn’t how I wanted my life to be.  This isn’t what I wanted my kids life to be.  The stuff….that is easy.  Or is it? If you minimalize the stuff, do you minimalize all the memories?   The family….we have minimalized that…that is not so easy.  Not so good….

Maybe minimalism isn’t such a good idea….???

Unless we can find a way to minimalize my pain.

 

 

 

Hard parts and easy parts….

It has been a few days since I last posted….

A lot has happened……

A LOT!

I found a townhouse for me and the two munchkins and pooch.  Made an offer, made a counter offer, and went under contract.  I will do a post on that, I think.

I also took a small road trip by myself….minimalist style….I think.

I also finished and turned in my application for nursing school.

But the thing I have done the past three days that is most relevant to minimalism is……

Drum roll please

 

 

My ex and I have been squabbling and haggling over the division of assets.

What, from the marital home, will I take with me and what will he keep?

I have a 1300 square foot townhouse I am purchasing for 3 people and a dog.

It is empty and I will be filling it up.

Reverse minimalism….amirite???

So, the question is………….what do I choose to fill my home with?  What do I need?  What do I want?  What will I use?  What won’t I use?

Isn’t this a minimalist’s dream come true?!?

Isn’t this the best way to jumpstart your minimalist beginnings?  Instead of clearing out and junking and decluttering, I have an empty canvas with which to work.

So, let’s get to work:

So the Tornado (this is what I call my ex….do you want to guess why?) and I had 4 couches in our 3500 square foot home.  For the family room, the living room, and the office.

I get two.  But do I need two?

We have two beds.  The king in our bedroom and the queen in the guest room.

I opted for the queen….but do I need a bed?

I will take the dining set while he keeps the office shelving and desk units

But….will the dining table even fit in the eating space of my condo?  Can I make the dining space serve multiple functions?

Then there is the issue of the piano.

Will that fit?  Do I want it?  Should I bring it?  My munchkins hate their piano lessons and I haven’t played in ages.  Do I sell?  Or do I persist in lessons and try and reengage in playing myself?

WWTMD?  (What would The Minimalists Do?)

This is what I have spent the past three days doing…haggling and arguing and negotiating and whining and crying and bickering about stuff and why I should have that and why he should have this.  Each conversation about assets becomes a conversation on who’s fault the destruction of our marriage it is.  Who is to blame?  Who was the worst spouse?  Who deserves to suffer the most…rot in hell for the pain the other has caused.

Not only that, everyone I know and speak with has an opinion on what I should get….

“Listen honey, you need to be sure you get all your Christmas decorations.  That new wife of his will have her own….”

“If I were you, I would take him for all he has got!  Get the boat!  Get the 4-wheelers.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you are moving into a condo, but don’t let him get away with what he did to you!”

“Don’t get even; get everything!”

 

I have come to this conclusion:  it is so much easier to be in your home, look at all your stuff and determine what you use and don’t use and get rid accordingly.   Sitting eyeball high in stuff that you are going to clean out is so much more appealing than being stuffed to the gills with painful, emotional drama that you have to deal with and process.

To start your life over after nearly 2 years of intense and mind-cluttering drama filled with pain, betrayal, crying, agony, anxiety, fights, therapy, fear, uncertainty, sadness….every minute consumed with putting out the emotional fires all around you…your ex, your kids, your parents, your family and friends, yourself!! as everyone processes the cheating, the separation, the divorce.

I am wondering if it isn’t just easier to bring all the my stuff….my half of the stuff….. into my new home.  Nevermind what I will use or not use or worrying about whether this is minimalist or not, whether it will fit or not, whether we will use it or not….

I am thinking the first priority is to minimalize the drama, the anxiety, the fires, the pain.  It is time to emotionally minimalize.   It is time to be happy again.  It is time to be free and at peace.

Then..I can do the easy part, getting rid of/selling  the stuff I don’t need or use, decluttering, minimalizing….

Baby steps….

“Basic principles of design state that there should be an absolute minimum of 200 sqft per human occupant, this is also used to establish legal housing  implications in custodial hearings.  Ideally a minimum square footage of a residence will be set at 800 sqft for two persons and 200 sqft per additional human occupant.  Occupancy of pets would be at the discretion of the owner/local health department, but 50 sqft/pet is suggested.”

– Wiki Answers

 

Because Wiki Answers has the answer for everything, right?

I, my two munchkins, and beloved pooch need to find a place to live.  First thing on my to-do list for starting my new life.

Having a blank slate on where we can live, what are our options?  What do we need?  What don’t we need?

Munchkin #1 is 10 and he is really into hockey and hyperactivity.  Favorite pastimes include bouncing off the walls and placing feet on every surface but the floor.

Munchkin #2 is 6 and she loves princesses and make up and animals and arts and crafts and glitter and sparkles and jewelry and purses and shoes and dress up and dolls and Legos and books and her bike and her scooter and balloons and games and….I think you get the idea.

So, Wiki Answers says that for the 4 of us, a home of 1050 square feet is sufficient for our needs.

Here is the house we used to live in:

OK, not literally.  But it was big and white.  Total square footage was about 3500 sqft.  The garage had three bays (extra deep) plus we had a shed in the back.  Well, it wasn’t so much a shed, but another 2 car garage.

My little family and I are currently living in my parents basement.  Their house looks like this:

OK, it really doesn’t.  But it is white too and only a two car garage.  It has a greenhouse and shed too.  The square footage of their house is just over 3000 sqft spread on 3 levels.

So……we need to find a place that is about 1050 sqft.

What do various minimalists say?

Some articles I have perused:

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/125-square-feet-kristens-minim-131800

http://www.missminimalist.com/2010/08/400-square-feet-is-the-new-black/

http://www.theminimalistmom.com/2013/02/families-in-small-homes-880-square-feet-for-kathryns-family-of-5/

 

Whoa!  125 square foot apartment?!?

400 square feet??

880 square feet feels a little better.  I think I like Wiki Answers recommendation the best.

Like Bob’s psychiatrist suggests:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncFCdCjBqcE

 

Baby steps to 2500 square feet….baby steps to 2000 square feet…..baby steps down to 1050 square feet.

I got this….I totally got this…..