Minimalism vs. Convenience

minimalism vs convenience

Minimalism can help you make your life easier because practicing minimalism, in whatever capacity, helps to simplify your life. But there is a distinct difference between making your life easier with modern conveniences and actually simplifying your daily routine, schedule, space and finances.

The difference between making things easy and making things simple is usually just less stuff. This is often the difference between convenience and a practice of minimalism.

More stuff can sometimes make things seem convenient, but it actually complicates and clutters your life.

We could spend days coming up with examples of this in different capacities, but I wanted to share with you 5 ways I have found that minimalism trumps convenience in my own life.

1- French press over Keurig

My morning routine always involves coffee. The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the stove to heat the kettle, which I always fill with enough water the night before. I used to have a Keurig, which was given to me by my grandparents, who upgraded to a larger one, and I totally thought this would be simpler and more “minimal”. Wrong.

While it was super easy to load the pod in and pour a mug of water into the machine, owning a Keurig meant that I had to also buy those little coffee and drink pods, or at least own a reusable one. Then, if I used the individual pods, I had to find a place to store them. I also found that I used way more coffee pods in a day than seemed necessary, since it only made one cup at a time. Also, the amount of waste that created, or work it created to keep cleaning out the reusable one, was tedious and obnoxious. What I thought would make my morning more convenient actually cluttered my time and space with more stuff–stuff to own and stuff to do.

I quickly went back to my French press. It sits on my piano (yes, we have a piano in our kitchen), and it doesn’t need to be plugged in. I usually fill it will coffee the night before so all I have to do in the morning is pour the hot water in, and sometimes I’ll empty it into an insulated carafe to keep it warm for when my husband wakes up. It makes enough coffee for both of us in the mornings, and it creates zero waste, since we don’t use filters and compost the grounds.

Simple. Easy. Efficient. But oddly, few would call a French press a “modern convenience”.

2- Cloth diapers over disposable

So, I am well aware that not everyone who reads this will identify with this one, as not all of you have kiddos, but since this is my personal practice of minimalism, I have to share this way that minimalism beats out convenience in my life. I started cloth diapers when my daughter was 3 months (the first three months I was just trying to figure out my life and try to get some sleep). By then, I felt like I could handle throwing in a new laundry routine into my schedule.

While using disposable diapers is definitely much easier than washing cloth ones, I still think that choosing cloth simplifies my life. I don’t have to buy disposable diapers. Ever. I also don’t have to worry about the size changes either, since I own cloth diapers that adjust to smaller and larger sizes with handy little snaps. I have less waste as well, since we just flush the “stinkies” (as my daughter calls them) down the toilet with the diaper sprayer, and throw the cloth diaper and insert in the diaper pail to be washed.

My laundry routine for diapers is simple, and by now I’m used to it. While washing diapers would hardly be considered “convenient”, I believe it ultimately simplifies my life and helps me embrace minimalism as well as sustainability.

3- Limiting “Monthly Subscriptions”

A few years ago it became very popular to start subscribing to monthly subscription boxes that mailed you all kinds of things you might need or want. These seem to be becoming increasingly popular, and I totally understand why. It’s so easy to sign up, and then all you have to do it wait for the packages to arrive. No going to the store, no searching the aisles, no waiting in check out lines. Many of these subscriptions also make great gifts!

Some of the subscriptions our family has been a part of have included: Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix (get $25 off your first fix), Madison Reed hair color (get $15 off your first order), Amazon Subscribe and Save, Imperfect Produce (get $10 off your first box), FabAthletics, Ipsy, as well as other non-physical subscriptions like Hulu, ESPN plus, Prime Music, Spotify, and Netflix. (Not all at the same time, mind you!)

After evaluating the quality of the items I was purchasing via these monthly subscriptions, as well as the drainage they placed on our bank account, I decided to limit our monthly or bi-monthly subscriptions so that we get quality “stuff” for better prices.

While it’s convenient to get perfectly styled and fitted clothes delivered to my door, I would rather go out in search for the items I really need, even if it takes me longer and is therefore less convenient.

However, I have found it to be worthwhile to have certain cleaning products and non perishable foods that we use consistently delivered to my door each month.

This one is pretty self-explanatory: the less monthly subscriptions I get, the less stuff I own. That always helps on a minimalist’s journey. So even thought it’s “easy” or “convenient” to have things delivered right to me, it’s not always going to simplify life.

4- Secondhand Clothes Only

This one probably exists more so because I’m interested in being sustainable than interested in minimalism. Just read my 10 Hanger Project posts and you will understand the lengths I’ve been to in order to curb my addiction to clothes.

It’s far easier to head to Target or Kohl’s or Anthropologie and purchase new clothing in the style and color pallet I like than it is to hunt for possible gems in my size at thrift stores, consignment shops, or even search online via eBay, ThredUP (get $10 off your purchase), or Posh Mark. However, I personally am tempted to buy less if I decide to only shop for clothing secondhand. If I want something bad enough, I’ll take the time to hunt it down, and I’ll spend less money on it since it’s slightly used.

This simplifies my wardrobe, budget, and time, since I only own a few items of clothing to choose from when get dressed each morning.

While it may be “convenient” to order a dress from Land’s End, or new yoga pants from Lululemon, it’s way more likely that I will end up owning more than I need this way, which doesn’t help me in my practice of minimalism. Buying exclusively secondhand also helps me create less waste in general, and allows me to support local businesses–added bonuses if you ask me.

5- Giving up the gym membership

I used to work at a gym. Actually, I’ve worked at three different gyms in the past few years. I love fitness and working out. So why would I give up a gym membership?

Well, this certainly will not be the case for many people, but for me, owning a gym membership was complicating my life unnecessarily. During this particular season of my life, I don’t have hours to spend at the gym. I have a small child who would need a babysitter, which I would have to arrange for, and I would also have to plan out my schedule around gym hours, or fitness classes, or open lap swim– something that’s hard to do when my life revolves around nap time, dinner prep, and a one-year-old’s intricate bedtime routine. Also, up until just a few months ago, my husband and I shared only one car, which also made it hard to plan for trips to the gym.

On top of the scheduling issues, a gym membership costs money, and so does finding a babysitter.

I have found that giving up the gym membership helped to simplify my budget and schedule tremendously. I still workout almost everyday, but I do so at home or out with my little one.

My workouts are usually pretty simple–running with a jogger stroller at the park, doing an Insanity Max 30 video during nap time, or practicing my favorite yoga poses before my family wakes up on Sunday mornings.

While it used to be convenient to head to a gym that had literally every piece of workout equipment I could want, or to drop into a yoga class on a Saturday morning, my time and budget is limited these days, and so too have my workout options become.

Rather than see this as an annoyance or something that complicates life, I am grateful for the reminder that all I really need to stay healthy is the desire to do so. I can easily stay fit by moving my body and using my own body weight. No special equipment, studio, or even attire is required. Simple and minimal.

Easy vs. Simple

I am all about making life simple and easy with less clutter and more time and space for the stuff that really truly matters. However, it can be very easy to confuse convenience with minimalism in the pursuit to be “more free”.

For me, “more free” doesn’t include the modern convenience of a coffee maker or Keurig, even if I do have to boil my own water for coffee. I does include a pretty intricate laundry routine for my baby’s diapers, even if that might seem like the opposite of simple. It doesn’t include a ton of monthly deliveries, even though not having to shop at stores sounds way more convenient. It does include hunting down necessary clothing at consignment stores as opposed to simply finding my size and color at a retailer. It doesn’t include an easy-to-swipe gym card or fitness classes already scheduled in my day.

These “rejects” might be what make your practice of minimalism easier to embrace. That’s okay. I share my experiences simply to inspire others to evaluate those “conveniences” in life that might actually be complications.

Because minimalism and convenience is not the same thing.

What are your 5 ways minimalism (or simplicity of any kind) trumps convenience in your life? Tell me please, I’d love to know!

(Please note: this post contains referral links but was not written for the purpose of using them. They are there incase you are interested; feel free to ignore them completely.)

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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-Β 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!

$70 Per week Grocery Budget: The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

The month of June is coming to a close, and I have successfully completed my minimalist money challenge to only spend $70 on groceries each week.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- Grocery shopping every week is HARD.Β 

Up until this week, my husband and I only had one car to share between the two of us. His work schedule is different almost every day, and so planning times to go grocery shopping every single week was pretty difficult. It was also tough brining my daughter with, since I had to be very meticulous in calculating the prices and sticking to a list. It was hard to be so distracted while shopping, and I know the trips weren’t quite as enjoyable for her.

I think that sticking to a budget is doable, but I might have to go grocery shopping for two week stints at a time. This way, I’m not having to drag my baby to the store each week, and I can save myself some stress in the meantime.

2- While I’m not a coupon-clipper, shopping the sales is totally worth it.

I usually wouldn’t pay attention to sales at all. I’d just stick to my list or throw whatever looked good in the cart, regardless of the price. But I found that shopping the sales at Aldi was very helpful in allowing me to stick to my budget. It also made me try some things I normally wouldn’t try, and that leads me to my next point…

3- I can form my meal plans around what I can afford, rather than try to afford all I want to meal plan.

I would go to the store with a rough list that was roughly priced out, but if I saw sale items, I would alter my list. In doing this, my meal plans would usually get bungled. But this month I learned that I can create my meal plans around what I can afford within the budget, instead of just buying things I want to make, which may or may not be the best price at the time. This made me go a little out of my comfort zone and try some new recipes and combinations of foods. I think I’ll probably stick to this method of meal planning because it’s helpful to the wallet, and it’s not too much trouble for me to do. It also limits my options so I don’t get too carried away planning out crazy-intricate meals that are probably unrealistic to make anyway.

4- Rationing snacks is very helpful in preserving their “life” forΒ  the week.

I came up with a system to ration snack items so that they lasted more than one week. This way, I wasn’t always having to buy Lara bars, cashews, and veggie straws at every single trip to the store. I packaged the dried fruit and bars so that only what we could eat for the week was set out in the pantry, and I did the same with the chips and crackers and other items that usually go fast. Then I hid the rest in a basket up high on the shelf that was clearly off limits. This way, nothing got devoured in too short a time.

I actually started doing this before this month-long challenge, but I found it to be very helpful for June as well. Some things were still weekly purchases (like OJ and spinach), but this helped me save money and helped get our snacking a little more under control. I’ll be keeping this up for sure.

Here are some pictures of the great deals I found at Hope for Joliet (read more here):

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Here are some of my family’s favorite meals I made this month:

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And there you have it folks! That’s what I learned on my month of strict grocery budgeting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure and have been challenged to save some pennies while you shop for your family’s food.

 

June Minimalist Money Challenge: The first 2 weeks

It’s been two weeks of grocery shopping with a $70 per week limit. If you’re new to my version of this challenge, check out my last post for a quick overview.

My first grocery shopping trip totaled to $69.98. I cut it that close. I am not kidding.

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Reusable grocery bags are a must for trips to Aldi. And no, that blue bottle of window wiper fluid was not included in our trip…

It was a bit longer of a trip than I usually like to take with my 15 month-old daughter, as I had to write down the prices, add up the total, calculate sales tax, and put some items back so as to keep within our budget. But we left the store with four cloth bags full to the brim, and one giant watermelon that was on sale. And Esther still had some of her veggie straws left to munch on during the drive home. I’d say it was a success.

 

You can sort of see some of the sales on the meat are marked (those red stickers in the first photo say “$1 off” or “$2 off”). Watermelon, blueberries, spinach, and asparagus were also on sale.

While I didn’t document my second week of groceries, I did only spend $68.40, and was pretty pleased with how many leftover items we still could use from the first week.

I’ll be sure to snap some photos this week, but some of the meals we made these past 2 weeks were as follows:

For Breakfast: Veggie frittata, peanut butter apple oatmeal, eggs over baked potato and leftover roasted veggies, toast with peanut butter and banana, hard boiled eggs with avacados.

For Lunch: Salami spinach tomato wraps with watermelon, mango chicken panini’s with carrot sticks, ramen noodles with peas, carrots, green beans, and corn, leftover pulled pork on top of sweet potatoes and veggies, apple and swiss curry panini’s.

For Dinner: Blueberry waffles, bacon, and over-easy eggs (yes, breakfast for dinner is amazing), bacon wrapped steaks on the grill with roasted asparagus and macaroni, homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, pulled pork with potato wedges and steamed broccoli, brats with potato wedges and roasted veggies, shepherd’s pie with watermelon, ground turkey tacos with avocado, salsa, black beans, and roasted onions and peppers.

You guys. These are pretty amazing meals right here! I could really get used to this. So far I’m finding that shopping with this type of budget just takes a little more effort, planning, and flexibility in meals.

I’ll share more of the benefits and drawbacks when I can look back on the entire month, but so far so good!

Tomorrow I’m headed with my daughter and best friend to Hope for Joliet, a location where food items that are almost past the sell-by date are sold for a fraction of the price, and ripe produce is literally GIVEN away. I have no idea what things will be there, so I’ll have to be pretty flexible in what I plan for this next week’s meals. But I do still have leftover frozen chicken, ground beef, some cauliflower, and a bunch of other things I can use as a base for a few meals.

Next week I am also cooking for 10 college students, so my shopping may include extra so as to feed those hungry mouths (I will be reimbursed for this, so it will not be included in the $70 budget). I am also going to make a meal for my friend who just had a baby! This will be included in the $70 budget.

I’m excited to do more documenting of meals and of our shopping excursion tomorrow! Stay tuned!