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conscious living mindfulness minimalism

Living on a Minimalist’s Budget

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Every January I tell myself, “this is the year I will stick to a budget.” While my intentions are good, my track record has been less than superb.

To illustrate, I looked at my calendar and realized that 2017 marks ten years since I graduated college. Ten years. Boy, do I wish someone would have taught me then what I know now.

In an effort to live as minimally and stress free as possible, I have begun focusing on quality over quantity, purging what I don’t need and only buying things when I need them, yet I still have failed sticking to a budget.

My Expenses

Since I have minimal bills, there is little to no reason I should go over my budget every month. First, I listed all of the expenses I know I will have and came up with a rough estimate.

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Cell phone
  • CharlieCard (train / bus)
  • Student loan

That’s right- no car payment, no credit cards, no mortgage or gas costs. Yes, this is called city life for a single woman who has little to no attachment to things. Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like today had I settled in one place, lived minimally and invested in things like a home, but the good news is that I still have time. Although I may have spent my money a bit carelessly, I’m beginning to make an effort to spend less, save more and avoid excess clutter in my life.

Need vs. Want

I could definitely use a new Henri Bendel bag for my laptop. However, this purchase can wait considering I don’t even carry my laptop to work. In fact, it barely leaves the house these days. My point is, there are many things I can trick myself into “needing,” but then I ask myself:

1) Could I get this for less?

2) Do I need this immediately?

3) Do I need this at all?

Usually my purchase can wait (also giving me time to think it over), or I can find an alternative if there’s something I can’t wait to buy- for example, buying a drugstore brand instead of splurging at Sephora. I also trick myself into thinking I have more money than I do, so a $20 lipstick doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time- but it adds up quick.

Trading Things for Freedom

I like to think of my purchases this way: “would I rather have this item or the freedom to do what I want?” Time is money, and it takes time to work for a paycheck, so I’ve been much more conscious of each dollar I spend. Sure, marketers do an amazing job fooling me into thinking my life will ultimately be better with their products, but on those days I’m waiting for my paycheck I think, “I wish I wouldn’t have gotten takeout so many times last week.” Living paycheck to paycheck is never fun, so it’s rewarding to finally have the freedom to be able to do what you want when you’re more mindful of your budget.

More Experiences

Instead of relying on money to have fun, I’ve gotten creative. One of my favorite things to do is explore the city… I love to look at architecture, go out in nature, find free days at museums, take photos and window shop. Practicing mindfulness, enjoying each moment and taking in your surroundings is far more gratifying than having a bunch of “stuff” to sort through.

I’m a firm believer that everyone needs to live in moderation; it’s important to keep a balance and not to go too extreme with your saving or spending- after all, no matter how tight the budget, I’ll never give up my coffee.

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Categories
conscious living mindfulness minimalism

Packing Light

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2016 began in a small apartment outside of Manhattan in Astoria, Queens. Although I had a large room, it came without one important thing- a closet. I improvised and managed to find a standing wardrobe that successfully stored everything I immediately needed- or so I thought.

Initially it was fun having everything I owned in sight; kind of like a store! Each morning I got to shop my own closet! The fun, however, wore off when that dreaded day came.

Moving day.

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Dresses and skirts and shoes, oh my. This doesn’t even appropriately depict the unmanageably of my “stuff;” the other half of my wardrobe was hidden in a hall closet and under the bed.

I moved to a smaller, more expensive apartment in June… I purged, I donated, I left behind. At that point I had packed everything I owned and headed down the street (three trips in an SUV, to be exact) to a space conveniently located two blocks from the NQ line. Proximity to the subway is crucial when living in NYC; however,”space” took a backseat in my priorities and I was hit hard with reality once my move was complete.

My stuff didn’t fit.

Life really does throw you curveballs. Just when I managed to find a place for everything and was finally feeling settled, I received some bad news. July wasn’t even half way over and I found out I lost my marketing gig on Fifth Avenue… just a couple of days before I was told I needed to find a new apartment.

Back to the drawing board.  

So, what does a girl do after riding a New York rollercoaster for over two years? One might tell her to “pick yourself up and keep going!” My wise mind told me to leave… that there had to be something better, more fitting for me just around the corner.

Unfortunately, leaving meant packing. Packing everything I had collected, everything I brought with me, everything my family sent me from home. Sigh.

So, here’s what I did.

  • I carried three pieces of luggage home to Michigan with me- only with the summer clothes and things I would immediately need.
  • I shipped several- and I mean SEVERAL- boxes home to my mom’s house. I’d worry about those later.
  • About those boxes… each had a method behind the madness. Winter coats in one, miscellaneous shoes I never wear in another, work clothes, random clothes, house crap… but mainly clothes.
  • I gave a lot of things away. I had purses that were great, kitchenware I had never used, and bulky things I just couldn’t take with me. I left my brand new leather chair with my roommate as a token of appreciation for dealing with me. More on that later.
  • I threw a lot of things away. Towels, sheets, socks, toiletries. Goodbye.
  • Someone on the sidewalk must have had fun, too- I left a variety of odds and ends, storage compartments, books and jewelry organizers on the curb. Come and get it.

I did a lot of organizing and additional purging when I returned to Michigan, and did even more of it this past month before heading to Boston.

Once again, I got on a flight with three pieces of luggage. I had searched high and low for a temporary apartment outside the city, and in the end found a cute Airbnb while I interviewed for jobs.

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An organized, manageable amount of clothes.

For the time being I’m content in my temporary Medford home. It’s organized, cozy, and has space for everything I need- not everything I own. In a week I’ll have a better idea of where I want to live and what my rent budget is, but I’ll tell you one thing:

Even if I had all the space in the world, I wouldn’t want to fill it.

There is something serene about knowing exactly what you own, where it is and how it fits in your life. My old habits of being a packrat have diminished with each move, and now I value organization, piece of mind and decluttering more than the American dream of consumerism and “stuff.” Ugh, stuff.

This is what brings me to the “mindful” theme of my blog- in being present and content with where you are in life, what you have and what you want, you can also live minimally, stylishly, happy and content. These things are on your terms- no one else’s. I came to a crossroads where I had to decide what I valued- it wasn’t “keeping up with the Joneses” or buying the latest pair of heels- it’s about quality over quantity. Quality in people, places and things- not living a life of excess.

Although I have made some mistakes along the way, I’ve gotten the chance to learn about myself, declutter my room, and ultimately, declutter my life.

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While I used to own dozens of purses, now I only keep what I use- and love.