Clothing, the Drug of Choice

Clothing is a brain-numbing, mind-inducing drug. And I am hooked.

I am thrilled by the styles. Hippie, Bohemian, cowgirl. Relaxed, formal. Intoxicated by the colors, an artist’s palette, a dizzying array of washes and tints swirling around my feet.

I enter a store, and my mind goes blank, and I can no longer think, and I forget what I own. I sometimes even forget what I like.

In a trance, I try clothes on, buy them and bring them home. Place in a closet over-flowing with items I don’t need.
I am an addict.

Like an addict, when my head is clear, I regret the decisions I made. I know I didn’t need my recent purchases, and yet I can’t stop.

But clothing defines me, or so they say. It says I am good or bad, rich or poor, that I have a certain style, and a particular personality. Clothing is my label. I must buy more.

Recently, I threw six shirts away, and still have plenty to get through a summer, with shirts that will never see the sun, which makes me think I have too many, though I don’t know what that number is. I don’t want to count. I am afraid. Afraid of the truth.

I wish I could be like others with small closets. I wish I could own less clothing. I wondered if it was possible. Recently, I found out it was.

I was at my son and daughter-in-law’s house, and stepped into their bedroom. In the corner was a closet, a normal five-foot long closet (approximately), every piece of clothing neatly hung-up. I was shocked, amazed, impressed. I wanted a closet like that. In another corner sat their dresser.

I asked my daughter-in-law about their closet, and how many pieces of clothing they owned. This is what she told me:

They each have twelve bottoms, including work and casual pants, shorts, and work-out pants.

They each own twenty tops, including sweaters.

She has two skirts and seven dresses (my son has none – thankfully), plus she has a few scarves.

She has six pair of shoes, he has ten. (He may have received the shoe-gene from me.)

She said, “It feels like we have a lot sometimes because we both still have things we never wear, and sometimes it feels like we don’t have much because we have things we never wear.” I love that.

It’s amazing how I’ve never noticed them wearing the same thing twice, which just goes to show how unimportant clothing really is. It really doesn’t define us.

They are my inspiration, what I aspire to be. They don’t shop unless necessary, wear an item until its life is over, and don’t feel a need to fill their closet.

We have this illusion that closets must be full, and once they get there, they need to stay that way. We are told to stuff our lives, our homes, our closets, with shoes and boots, skirts and shirts, jeans, capris, shorts. And even when we have too much, we shop some more.

I’ve known people whose tags never come off the clothes they purchase. They hang in their closets like idols, rubbed like genies as they wish for more.

It’s an obsession. A drug.

Clothing hasn’t always been a big priority in our lives.

In 1930, the average woman owned nine outfits. Today, she owns thirty.

In 1950, there were four fashion seasons a year. In some stores, only two: Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter. Today, fast fashion gives us 52 seasons, one for every week of the year.

The U.S. fashion industry has become a 12-billion-dollar business, with eight billion new garments produced in a single year. It is a crazy, over-done, addictive habit, one we have to give-up. One I have to give-up.

There is a simple solution to this problem. We simply need to shop less. Buy only what we need. Use what we have. Mend and repair. Stop going to stores that tempt us, that pull us in and drug us, that captivate us with lies, telling us to buy more, that we need it, even though we don’t.

The truth is, clothes are merely pieces of cloth that serve a purpose. They are for function, to cover and protect. Maybe if we see them for what they are, we can stop this drug, before it stops us.

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Living an Authentic Life

I am sitting in my favorite armchair, a purchase recently made after the recliner in our home (finally) started to show its age. (I thought that thing would never die.)

I love my Pottery Barn chair, the cool leather against my skin, the little brass tacks placed in even arrangement around the arms. I love the way it looks in my home – simple, rustic, with just a touch of class.

I know, materialistic. Consumeristic. Completely un-simple-hippie-like. But honestly, I don’t care. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned about minimalism, it is this – it isn’t about what I don’t own, it’s about what I do. It’s about what makes me happy.

And this chair, it makes me so very happy. As does my lamp, my side tables, and my candle holder. My chipped white candle holder. Just thinking about that stubby little holder makes me smile.

These items are a symbol of who I am. Simple and rustic. A bit of a lost era, a time I wish I’d known. The life I long for, everything I strive to be.

But it wasn’t always that way. My life hasn’t always been this authentic.

I once bought into a lie, the lie many of us are fed, the lie that says that to be an adult one must fill their home with adult furniture, expensive pieces from expensive stores.

When my husband and I had our first grown-up jobs and moved into our first grown-up apartment, we did what the lie told us. We bought furniture, furniture that shouldn’t be used, especially with two little boys. A gray sofa with a matching loveseat, a table, a lamp, and a few pictures. Beautiful pictures. Pricey pictures. Too pricey for me. Too ornate. Too sophisticated. Pictures that shouldn’t have been on our walls.

Not long after those purchases, we bought a house. A simple house. We filled it with sturdy furniture meant for children, but kept the sophisticated pieces as well.

But corners remained empty, and well-meaning people brought us pieces, like clocks, curios, chairs with slender legs. More pictures.

My home became a scattered array of furniture, from French to country, contemporary to traditional, with a few Southwestern pieces mixed in. A mish-mash. A mess.

I was living a lie. A façade. A life someone else had made-up for me.

Thirteen years later, our home was sold, nearly all our furniture (except for a few pieces my husband couldn’t part with) was gone.

Many miles away, in a brand-new place, we began again. Bought furniture. Decorated. But this time, we bought only what we needed, and only what we loved. Casual. Relaxed. Simple.

I am finally in a home that I am comfortable in. A place I love to be. A place that represents me. That represents my family.

When you enter our home, you will hear a whisper, walls that tell the story of a family with somewhat rustic ways. A quiet family. Simple. Serene.

It took me years to figure out who I was, but I have no regrets. The destination was well worth the journey. It brought me to the place I was always meant to be.

Many of the pieces first bought when we moved to the Pacific Northwest are gone, worn by time, graced with age. Time takes away our favorites. But what remains is their memory, and how they helped me, find me.

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Shooting for the Moon-Setting Goals Today, and Beyond

“Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale

I’m sitting at my desk sipping on a barely warm cup of hibiscus tea, looking at the gray skies beyond, and pondering life. Nothing dramatic, more of a cerebral thought process. The cold hard facts, where I’ve been, where I am going.

I do this often, look back at the last month (or two, if I’m behind), and reassess my work. Readjust my goals. It keeps me on track, kind of like balancing a checkbook. If we wait too long, it just gets messy, right? Complicated. But stay on top of it, and it’s easier to catch mistakes.

An assessment is simple. All it requires is a few moments of time, and the willingness to be honest about life. I discovered this approach after one more time of trying to make resolutions.

Resolutions never worked for me. I’d write them down with determined fervor at the end of each year, waiting for the tick of the clock, that turn of the calendar that said it was time to begin.

When the new year came, I was off. Excited. Invigorated. But you know what happened? Within a week, or two, I lost focus. Lost steam. My resolutions, my goals, my dreams, they vanished. Because goals don’t work without a plan, or a way of tracking accomplishments.

It was then that I began a process I call Monthly Goal Planning, and since I’ve started, I’m seeing my goals completed.

It goes like this:

First: I ask myself, “What did I accomplish last month?” I look over my daily achievements, recorded on a simple Word document with two columns: Date, and Work Accomplished.

The idea of this is that I can see continuous motion towards my goal, even if some of my daily activities are small.

Next: I ask myself, “Am I where I want to be? Did I accomplish what I wanted? If not, why?”

Honestly, I’m never where I want to be. That little perfectionist that sits on my shoulder is always striving for more. I need to look at this question objectively. Am I not where I want to be because I didn’t do enough, or is it because I expected too much?

If it’s not because I didn’t do enough, I need to figure out why. Were there commitments that prevented me from working? Was I sick? Or just plain lazy?

Last: “What are my goals for next month? What do I need to do to get there?”

It may be that I need to work an extra hour each day, or take more time getting to know others in my field. I write down my goals, and my plans to achieve them.

Let’s try this with a few example goals:

Say you want to lose twenty pounds and write a novel. Two admirable, and doable, goals.

First: “What did you accomplish last month?”

For the first month, you will write, “Set Goal.” (Hey, it’s a start!)

Each time you achieve something, write it down. It can be as little as, “Drank a glass of water in place of soda,” or as big as, “Wrote 2000 words.” Anything, and everything, should be written down.

This is your diary. Your path to the future. Your key to your past. It is your goal-maker, and life-changer. Use it. Big or small, every achievement is one step closer to your goal.

Accomplishments can be recorded in multiple ways: The Word document I mentioned above, in a FB group, with an accountability partner, on a calendar, a sheet of paper laying on your desk, a small notebook, or even on your phone. Make it simple, and keep it in a place you can easily access.

Next: “Am I where I want to be? If not, why?”

Be easy on yourself, especially the first month – you’ve just begun.

I tend to aim high. I’ve found that the higher I aim, the more I accomplish. Even if I don’t reach my goal, I’m still closer than I would have been if I’d never set one.

For instance, at the beginning of this year, I set a goal of reading one book per week, fifty-two books in a year, an insane goal for me. I am on book eighteen, behind where I wanted to be, but further than I would have been without any goals.

Last: “What are your goals for the next month? What do you need to do to get there?”

What can be done to get you closer to your final goal?

Will you write daily? Get up early and work-out? Bring healthy meals from home? Join a writing group? Write it down.

It doesn’t take much planning or preparing to achieve a goal. It only takes dreams, a vision, and a way of recording it all, be it big or small.

I would love to hear how this works for you. Drop me a line, or comment below.

These are your goals, and yours alone. They belong to no one. Dream big. Aim high. And always shoot for that moon.

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Shopping Stats

As a society, we love to shop. I know I’ve done my fair share. Because I have a curious mind, I decided to do a little research on how much we, as Americans, spend on shopping, in both time and money.

Here are some shopping stats that will blow you away:

On average, a single adult spends approximately $65 per week on food. (choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com)

25% of our grocery dollars are spent on processed foods and sweets. (creditdonkey.com)

The average American spends $454 dollars per year on alcohol. Upper income (over $150,000 per year) spends nearly three times as much. (bevrage.com)

Clothing was difficult. It seems there are those who spend a lot, and those who spend very little. Some people prefer purchasing many items, while others would rather buy one quality piece. But this is what I found (from August 2011): In a survey by corporette.com, over 40% of people spent between $500 and $1000 in the first half of the year, 27% spent less than $500, and 22% between $1000 and $2500. According to Forbes, Americans spend $1700 per family per year. The answers seem to be all over the place. I think what it really comes down to is this, we spend a lot of money on clothing.

How long do people spend shopping? Women spend the most time in a physical store, 399 hours per year to be exact. To be fair, those hours include shopping for the family – for clothing, food, and toiletries. (nydailynews.com)

Men and women both spend five hours each week shopping online, with men spending 28% more money than women. (bigcommerce.com)

We spend:

$1600 per household per year on electronics. (gorave.com)

$1100 on coffee. (2012 business.time.com)

$2482 per household on entertainment. (bls.gov)

$1641 per year on a dog, and $1125 caring for a cat. (fortune.com)

$371 per child per year is spent on toys. (worldatlas.com)

$1500 per year is spent by the average American smoker. (aol.com, June 20111) For those who smoke one pack per day, the cost is $9200 per year. (smokefree.org)

$608 is spent on personal care. (valuepenguin.com)

$1345 on manicures. (wisebread.com)

$2041 are spent on vacations each year. (latinpost.com)

We have an expensive society, no doubt. Looking at these numbers makes me seriously ill. I often wonder if we don’t overspend on things that don’t matter, like junk food that doesn’t nourish us, clothing that sits idle in our closets, coffee we could make at home, and toys our children don’t play with.

We overspend, and overspend, and wonder where our money went. And then we look around our homes, and there it sits, inside magazine subscriptions we never read, and in chairs that never get used.

My home, my life, they are far from perfect. I am far from perfect. I still make purchasing mistakes, and spend my money on things I don’t need (like the three bottles of nail polish I recently bought). But I am trying. Trying to spend less, to be a conscious consumer, and purchase only what I need. Trying to live a simpler life, with less focus on stuff, and more on what matters.

Like vacations with my husband, events with family, and a solid retirement plan.

Which brings me to this: 26% of adults have zero savings. Nothing to fall back on in case of an emergency. 36% haven’t begun to save for retirement. (creditdonkey.com)

What does this have to do with minimalism? Everything. We are a consumeristic society, fed commercials since birth. Told to buy and buy and buy. We aren’t taught to save, aren’t told that we really don’t need toys and extra clothes or three bottles of polish to survive.

It takes much less to live on than we think. Click To Tweet

Maybe it’s time to rethink where we spend our money and time. Maybe it’s time to place it in what matters.

It’s simple, when you think about it. Give up coffee at the shop, even once a week. Stop needless subscriptions, and extra trips to the grocery store. Put the dollars away, in the bank, or a retirement account. Watch your money grow.

What do you spend your money on that you could be saving? Where will you put it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As for me, I’m putting an end to nail polish.

Have a simply beautiful day.

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Letting go of Collections, to Make Room for What Matters

Don’t hate me, but I can’t stand collections. Multiple pieces of the same item lined on a shelf, like dusty soldiers waiting to attack, give me the heebie-jeebies. I hate clutter, in both my house, and in my mind.

I blame this hatred of collections on all the collectors I’ve known in my life.

My mom was a collector, albeit not an extreme one. Still, she owned thimbles, vases, cups and saucers, and tiny spoons from each state she visited. I wrote a story about her here.

My dad was a collector, too. In fact, his collections multiplied like evil bunnies. If there was anything to collect, my dad found it. He collected keys (here is a story about my dad), half-used paper, little nibs of crayons, and even old Pringles containers.

My dad’s brother was a collector, and so was his wife. Together, their home was piled with toys, books, stuffed animals, those weird little ceramics found at card stores and tucked in the back of thrift stores, brass elephants, and old papers and magazines they piled high in their living room, hoping to one day read. Their house, quite literally, was a hoarder’s house.

My husband was a collector, for a while. Though if you asked me what he collected, I couldn’t tell you. It seems anything, and everything, made its way into our garage, shop, and outdoor shed. Maybe he wasn’t a collector, as much as he was a non-tosser. (Thankfully, he’s changed.)

I once knew a woman who collected Beanie Babies. (Remember those?) She was obsessed, as many collectors are. She’d call every store in town until she found the Beanie Baby she thought she needed. During work one day, she spent an hour on the phone, then took off in the early morning for another hour to pick up said Beanie Baby. If the boss would have known, she would have lost her job. I wonder if it would have been worth it.

I look around my own home, which some might consider bare, and am thankful for all the collectors in my life. My home is simple and neat, and quite easy to clean. Just the way I like it.

But it makes me wonder, why do people collect? What is that makes them fill empty spaces in their homes with needless items?

For some, collecting fills a void, like mindless shopping. An emptiness that won’t go away. A hole… Click To Tweet

For others, it is boredom. Without knowing how to spend their time, they spend it shopping, collecting that which isn’t needed.

For many, it is a demonstration, to the world, and to themselves, that they are rich.

Most of us collect something, knick-knacks, dishes, shoes, clothing. I’ve even known people who have collected cars.

I have had my own set of collections in the past, like old Christmas ornaments, cookbooks, and I still own plenty of novels. Craft items once filled an entire room, paints, clay, beads, and leather goods. Hobbies once provided hours of joy, and perhaps then, they were collections that were worth my time and money. But one day, it was taken away, and I could no longer do that which I loved. That part of my life is over, and all my collections are gone, something I never regret.

Because it seems, when I let go of my collections, when I stopped buying and spending time on needless activities, I found something greater. I found Moments.

Moments walking, meditating, practicing yoga, and reading. Moments with my husband, and my family. Moments I will never forget. Moments that matter.

I can’t say collections are always bad. They can preserve memories, or provide a way for us to escape after a long day of work. Collections, for some, are dreams in the making. And if collections truly make us happy, perhaps we should keep them.

But often, collections gather dust and dirt, sit tirelessly on an old shelf in the corner, and take away time and space from what really matters.

I wonder if it’s time to let go of too many collections, to reduce our lives to the important stuff. I wonder if it’s time to stop collecting needless things, and start collecting Moments.

Do you collect? What? And why?

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