Saturday, December 29, 2012

Living Car-Free

Back in the states I was lucky enough to have my own car.  I loved my little car.  We got it second hand, and it never let me down in the 5 years I had it.  I thoroughly enjoyed being able to go anywhere, whenever I wanted.  Grocery shopping was a cinch, movie in 20 minutes? No problem! An impromptu road trip to go exploring, easy! Let’s go!

Then we planned our move.  Should the car sit in my parents driveway when we don’t know when/if we will return?  My parents would have to make sure to drive it once a week and maintain it while the value would continue to go down.  In the end, we decided to sell it.  And I was devastated.  I equated my independence with that car and being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

In our new home, a car is not possible financially, and before I knew it, a car-free life was upon me.  At first I viewed this as a horrible thing.  How would I possibly go grocery shopping?  I would always need to wait for my husband to go with to help me schlep it all home! How could I be independent?  The commute to work would be awful!  In the end, it actually is not the nightmare scenario I had once envisioned, and we are saving a lot of money and being kinder to the environment in the process.

My husband helped me find this nifty cart for my grocery shopping and other errands so I can feel more independent (and don't worry, he uses it plenty!).  I also signed up for this fast-pass so I don’t have to worry about having small change all the time for the local buses and we get discounts for using it as well!  The public transport here is fairly good, with plenty of buses and ways to get home, to work and to go out.  We of course appreciate whenever friends and family offer us rides or their cars, but most of the time we are able to be quite independent.  While we may want to get a car in the future when we start a family or have a change in living situation, being car-free suits us quite well at this point in our lives. 

I do wish something like Zipcar was available in our area so we could be even more independent when we are in need of a vehicle.  But it is a great option for those of you in the states looking to go car-free!

What are your thoughts on car ownership?  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Minimalism and my Closet

When I first started reading up on minimalism, what struck me was the concept of the minimalist wardrobe.  Miss Minimalist has her post on her unbelievable 10-item wardrobe, Everyday Minimalist posted about the 30 and extreme 15 piece wardrobe.  I was fascinated by this concept.  I've read on many minimalist websites that on average we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time.  This made total sense to me.  There are plenty of items in my collection that I rarely reach for, and a select few I gravitate towards constantly.  Why should I even be keeping the pieces I never seem to choose to wear?  Should I keep a piece just because I spent money on it, even if I don’t enjoy it? Since the big move, I have gone through my wardrobe piece by piece 3 times and used the following criteria:

·         If I haven’t worn it in the past year – donate
·         If it no longer fits and cannot be altered – donate
·         If it does not fit my current style – donate
·         If it has holes or stains – throw or donate

Both times I gave away between 1-2 shopping bags worth of clothing to charity.  And I can’t say I have missed those pieces, and I can’t even remember what most of them even were. 

I set two goals for myself:
  1.  Reduce my clothing so it fits into ONE suitcase.
  2. Try not to purchase any new clothing items for an entire year.
To achieve goal one I instituted a process I read about on multiple blog sites.  I placed a shopping bag in the back of the closet.  Anytime I try on an item and don’t LOVE it, I put it in the bag.  If after a month or so, if I have not thought about it or wanted to wear it, I donate it to charity.  This trick has worked very well for me, and I can confidently say that since the move I have scaled down on my wardrobe by about 40%.

Goal number two has been very difficult, and I broke after 4 months of no purchases.  The break was also not because I NEEDED something.  I had had a horrible day at my job and was feeling sad, homesick, lonely and was low in the self-esteem department.  So I did the worst thing anyone trying to live minimally could do; I went to the mall.  At the mall I feel most at home because it is the most ‘American’ thing I can find in my current country of residence.  And I bought…cute pjs…  Not a proud moment in my new minimalist life style.  Even as I waited for the bus outside the mall, buyer’s remorse set in…  As I admitted my folly to my husband, he reminded me that it is ok to buy new, as long as something old goes out.  So I chose a pj shirt and pants that I wear less often, and put it in the donation bag at the back of the closet.  I have since thoroughly enjoyed my new items and have not thought about retrieving my old ones at all.  I did learn from this experience though.  Shopping when I’m having a bad day is NOT the answer.  And I have found other ways to treat myself instead of accumulating THINGS.

What are your thoughts on retail therapy?  Have you found other ways to turn a bad day around?  What about wardrobe maintenance and control?  As always, would love to know your thoughts!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Furnishing an Apartment - My Minimalist Style

While moving is one of most stressful life events one can go through, it is also an amazing opportunity to start over!  When we finally found an apartment in a cute neighborhood, for a decent rent, with public transportation that suited both of our commutes, it had one down side; it was unfurnished.  This meant we needed to spend the money to furnish it, not knowing how long we would be here for.  This further challenged us to think in a minimalist way and figure out what we really needed and find budget friendly, green ways in which to acquire the furniture.

We did thorough research to figure out what would be worth buying new versus second hand.  We agreed that for our comfort level, anything heavily upholstered we would want to buy new (the last thing I wanted to deal with were fleas, mites or lice!).  That would include the couch and our mattress.  We ended up getting a couch set that both would fold down to beds, as we love hosting and entertaining friends and family.  We found these sleek, "minimalist" couches that were exactly what we were looking for.  We have since hosted a handful of friends as well as my parents and one of my brothers comfortably on these fold outs.  I also very much enjoy the long sofa and spend most of my ‘me’ time curled up there reading my fave blogs, eBooks, and of course blogging myself!

We also ended up getting our dining table and bed frame from IKEA.  We found that the costs were about equal, but we would need to rent a van to transport them if we bought second hand.  We chose a table that pulls out for when we entertain, and we chose a bed frame with a headboard that included shelving units and shelf at the back so we could forgo the side tables in our already small bedroom. 

Friends donated our one bookshelf, and my brother in law found us our coffee table and desk for the spare room for free online.  In the U.S. you too can find perfectly usable furniture for FREE on  We also found our dining chairs second hand (for only $20 a chair) on the equivalent of

We acquired two more pieces that we found on the street! More on that to come!

It was tough deciding what to get and what not to get.  We wanted to use minimalist and eco-friendly principles while still making our home feel like a home.  We chose to buy as few ‘new’ items as possible and acquire the rest second hand.  While we may end up moving in the future, we were still able to set up a functional, minimalist space that feels good to live in without hurting our wallets.

Some minimalists may have chosen fewer pieces of furniture.  Many feel that a couch or a dining table are not necessities.  But I believe that minimalism is flexible and should fit your lifestyle.  We love to entertain and host people for meals, so having fold out couches and a dining table were essential for us to have.  We chose pieces that were versatile and budget friendly and in the handful of months we have had them, they have gotten a lot of use!

What have your moving experiences been like?  How did you go about making decisions of what to buy and how?  I’d love to hear your stories! Please feel free to comment below!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Becoming Minimalist – and not even knowing it!

After living with my then fiance, now husband, for a year and receiving nearly every gift on our registry from our wedding, we realized we were in a dilemma!  We were about to move overseas for an unknown period of time having no idea if we would be back to live in the states.  What should we take with us? What should we buy there? What should we store? Where will we store it? Should we store anything?  The journey to minimalist living had begun!  The thing was, I did not realize it. I was trying to be practical and subconsciously was on my way to simpler life style.

We had a lot of stuff that had accumulated.  A lot of clothing, kitchen items/gadgets, toiletries, you name it, we had it!  So we started going through everything and ended up giving away at least 4 garbage bags of clothes to charity.  As much as I tried to use up our food before moving I realized it was not going to be easy.  So I packaged up all the unopened, nonperishables and took them to the food pantry, then loaded up my kitchen table with all our opened but perfectly edible food and invited friends to come on over and take what they like!  This ended up being a perfect solution, as I did not want anything to go to waste.  As a couple, we had always cared about recycling and not wasting, but this exercise got my brain jogging about green living and being as resourceful as possible.

Of course, I still had not read up on Minimalism, I still did not know that it existed, so instead of limiting myself to our 4 suitcases and 2 carry-ons, I started sending clothing with friends who were making trips to our destination that summer.  I also had anxiety about being able to find toiletries and other products that I love in our new home, so I sent supplies with friends and family as well.

We were also fortunate that my husband’s employer was allowing us to ship 300 pounds of stuff to our new home, and we took advantage of that as well.  Our shipment contained: shoes, winter clothing and jackets, towels, blankets, books, dishes, toiletries and other household objects.  In the end it consisted of the 6 boxes below.

We looked through all the amazing gifts we received from our registry and decided to choose the items we knew we would never ever purchase for ourselves in the future and store those at my wonderful parents’ house.  The rest we ended up returning and used the money to finish out our china set, something that was very important for us to have for the future, also stored at my parents’ house.  Until we know more about our future plans, we decided this was the best decision, and luckily, my parents were understanding and willing to assist us.

Most people would consider the amount we moved with internationally was quite minimal.  But shortly after our arrival, I started realizing how little we actually need, how little we actually use, and that dealing with less ‘stuff’ would have made that move less stressful. 

During the 7 weeks we lived with my in-laws I discovered a few minimalist blogs that inspired me to look at this move as a fresh start for a simpler life with less things, less stress and more meaning.  I encourage you to visit my three go-to blogs that I visit every Saturday:

miss minimalist
The Everyday Minimalist
The Minimalist Woman

This was my chance to start over and make new life style choices.  I am hoping that sharing my story, my discoveries, and my thoughts on these subjects can help those of you out there who are also on a journey of your own!  I want this to be an interactive blog, so please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!  Subscribe to my RSS blog feed and feel free to contact me with questions, suggestions, or future topic ideas!