Tuesday, December 31, 2013

International Green Minimalist - Best of 2013

New Year's Eve is one of those times of reflection as well as excitement for a fresh start.  Since January 1st, 2013 my husband and I adopted a simpler lifestyle, traveled, completed our masters degrees, moved across the ocean for a 2nd time and started our careers.  All these things came with challenges, but we cannot wait to see where 2014 takes us.  I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts on minimalism, green living and travel with all of you and I look forward to continuing this amazing journey.

In this spirit of reflection I would like to feature the top 5 most popular posts from 2013:

Moving Overseas - The Minimalist Attempt


I hope this helps energize and motivate you as you enter the new year!  Happy 2014! I will see you there!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Paper Clutter Solution - 2nd try

Finding an effective paper filing system that works is tough.  Before our second move this year we did an overhaul of our paper clutter in Paper Clutter - It happens to us all.  After 5 months living in our new home back in the US, we found that the paper clutter was out of control once again!

 "Enough!" I declared! Time to try something different.

First steps:

1) Identify the problem:

Flat surfaces in the house were becoming a dumping ground for paper clutter and going unchecked for too long.
Unsorted piles made it difficult to determine what needed filing.
We were losing track of important documents.

2) Create categories of paper that come through the home:

Bills to be paid
Other documents needing attention
Junk Mail
Paid bills, pay stubs

3) Create a filing system:

I had files and bought a simple and cheap file stand for the desk.  I labeled each file according to our categories.

4) Create rules:

No papers are allowed to be put on a flat surface in the house, all papers when brought in need to be filed in the appropriate file folder.  Once a week we will go through the folders for documents needing attention and then will file documents that must be kept in an accordion binder.  This way, the folders will not overflow, we will know where to find the documents we need, and Junk Mail will be tossed once a week into the recycling.

As with all decluttering solutions, it is important to find one that works for you and your family's lifestyle.  The best way is to keep trying new ways if old ways are not working, be honest with yourself about why something isn't working, and make sure your solutions play to your strengths.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Revising a Minimalist Wardrobe

I ran into a dilemma recently as a minimalist.  I needed new clothes.  And I mean it, I actually NEEDED new clothing.  Entering a professional full time job, I needed to have appropriate clothing to actually look and feel...well...professional.  Most of my adult life has been spent in the military, college or abroad in countries where the culture is much more casual than here in the US.  But with my goal of fitting all my clothing into ONE suitcase, how could I possibly go buy more clothing?

After standing in front of my minimal wardrobe for a while, I came up with a plan. I do need to buy some key items to fit my new role in the workplace, however, I do not need to double my wardrobe in the process. So here are the steps I took:

1) I made a definition of what I want my wardrobe to look like:  I want to have a mature, stylish and professional wardrobe that can easily go from the office to hanging out with friends with minimal changes.  

2) I donated anything in my wardrobe that does not fit that definition.

3) I started shopping with purpose. I made a short list of items that I needed and stuck to the list. I needed dress pants, dress flats, a pencil skirt and a few button down shirts.  Anything extra I wanted to buy I had to think of an item I could give away in exchange.

So far this method has been working for me and my wardrobe is not growing, just changing to better fit a new phase in life.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Mental Clutter

Searching for a job is not easy.  When we moved back to the states in July I gave myself 4 days to get organized and then dove head first into job applications.  I had started the search while abroad, but orchestrating the move took most of my time and energy.  By September I was getting frustrated and a bit down on myself but I also enjoyed the flexibility of time and the ability to take on different projects.  I worked on my blog, created a small business, Your Simple Home and volunteered my time at a local elementary school and programming on the college campus where we live.  But as they say, when it rains, it pours, and soon I found myself with two part time jobs.  I was elated to start working and thoroughly enjoyed both workplaces.  However, I found that my mind couldn't stop working.  I tried to create a schedule between the two jobs and to focus on each one individually, but it was difficult!  To feel on top of things at both places I would check email at home and even work on projects.  My blog fell by the way side, as did my business and had no time to volunteer.  I was overwhelmed, stressed and felt like I was constantly running a marathon.  Luckily, I will be starting full time with one of the jobs this Monday and this should help me clear some of my mental clutter and my hectic schedule.  While going full time will increase my projects and responsibilities at work, I will have one office to go to, one supervisor and one set of staff with which to work.  I will be able to have a more steady schedule and focus more and relax more while at work and not be as worried about forgetting or missing a critical detail.

While I have focused a lot on minimizing my things, I now will be able to turn to simplifying my schedule and my mind.  I am hoping that I can move forward with my blog, and pick up a few new clients with Your Simple Home as well as get re-involved with volunteering in the community.  But, moving forward, I will choose more carefully which extracurriculars to take on and make sure I leave time for family, friends and myself.  My goal is to feel calm, serene and simplified from within.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Minimalist in Black Friday Madness

There is nothing like Black Friday to bring a minimalist back to her blog! It has been a while since my last post as I found myself in the midst of 3 jobs and a very cluttered schedule, more on that soon!  

My husband and I made it home for a long weekend full of get-together-s and meals with family and friends.  I had no intention of setting foot in a store at any point during the weekend, let alone Black Friday.  There was nothing that I really wanted, and nothing that we really needed.  Little did I realize, however, that a restaurant that a friend asked us to meet her at that Friday morning was at a...dum dum duuuuuuummmmmm........MALL.  

While the crowd wasn't rowdy, the parking situation was horrendous and we ended up resorting to valet parking for $4 (normally would never do this, but it saved us a BIG headache).  We ate brunch, the company was amazing, and then we walked around with our friends for an hour.  In each store I found my eyes drifting to slashed prices and an abundance of merchandise.  I picked up many items and highly considered purchasing.  But, something stopped me each time.  Something didn't feel right.  The crowds of people, the anxiousness in the air, the extremely long lines....this wasn't the way I wanted to shop.  I didn't want to buy things just because they were on sale, I have all I need.  I have plenty of clothes, I haven't been restricted in what I can make in my kitchen, and my home is simply decorated and doesn't need anything more.  I managed each time I got sucked into the Black Friday Madness, to pull myself back out again.  At the end of the day, my Black Friday was extremely successful: I celebrated a friend's engagement, saw two childhood friends and their growing families and had a wonderful dinner with family and friends and celebrated Hannukah.  Any deal I would have found that day would not have compared to that!

I hope all my readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday weekend filled with good food, friends and family.  Please share your memories from the past weekend in the comments! I want to hear all the fun stories!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Plastic Bags - The Never Ending Pile

   I'm not sure how, and I'm not sure when, but somehow I ended up with this many plastic shopping bags which I corralled from around the apartment:

This made me feel a little sick to my stomach.  While having a few on hand for trash and such is useful, there is no way that I would use up THIS many bags...ever.  What is more frustrating is that, unlike in our prior country of residence, the local recycling program does not take plastic bags (Reduce Reuse Recycle - Green Minimalism!).  So what is a green-minimalist supposed to do?!

Well luckily I have noticed that a few big chain stores like Target and Meijer have plastic shopping bag recycling programs!  I stuck these babies in my trunk and the next time I was at one of these stores I did a big drop off.  While that felt amazing I still wanted to make sure I was not in this situation ever again (or at least try my best!).  So I obtained a number of cloth reusable bags to keep in my car for future shopping trips.  Other ways to avoid plastic build up is to simply say 'no thank you' to clerks in stores if you are just buying one or two items, and of course, we can cut down on the number of shopping trips we take in any given week or month altogether! 

Do you have a shelf/bag/drawer/or corner of your house overflowing with plastic bags that you can't bear to throw away and can't seem to keep from growing?  Just follow these easy steps:

1) Find a store that has a shopping bag recycling program and take a trip to drop them off!
2) Invest in some cloth reusable bags and keep them in your car or in a convenient place for when you do go shopping.
3) Cut down on the amount of times you shop and the items themselves and you will have less bags coming into the house.

Any other tips or tricks out there?! You know I love hearing from you! Please share in the comments!

Monday, October 14, 2013

International Minimalism & Other Changes

Old City of Jerusalem, 2012

So I am in a bit of a dilemma.  I originally started this blog when my husband and I moved overseas and I discovered the simple living concept/community and wanted to share with my friends and family.  Since then, we have moved back stateside so I feel I am not living up to my blogs' name anymore!  Well, I decided to make a few changes to stay true to my original concept for this blog and take it to the next level.  My plan is to write a post once a week and post on Saturday mornings for your weekend reading pleasure.  Each week I am going to focus on a different Simple Living topic:

1) International Minimalism:  These posts will focus on the minimalist style of traveling, both from my own experiences and others.  I will also do some research about minimalist styles of living around the world and hopefully connect with other minimalist bloggers to share their stories with us!

2) Green Living: These posts will focus on different lifestyle choices my husband and I are making to live a greener/simpler/ and more sustainable lifestyle.  I will share our attempts, our ideas and ask to hear about yours as well!

3) Clutter: These posts will chronicle our progress on simplifying our possessions and the systems we will try out to prevent clutter build up.  I will be sure to not only share our success but our struggles with this as well!

4) Thoughts on Simple Living:  I also want to share my thoughts and feelings on this lifestyle choice.  It is so much more than just trying to donate clothing or recycle paper and plastic.  This change has brought many challenges and also enhanced our life in so many ways.  I hope to focus on different aspects of Simple Living and hopefully inspire some of you to journey down your own minimalist path!

I may come up with some other topics along the way and am open to hearing from all of you!  The growth in readership over the past year has been amazing and I'm so happy that people across the blog-o-sphere have been tuning in, commenting and giving such supportive feedback!  Special thanks to minimalist bloggers from Minimalism Is Simple for featuring me in their Share Your Story series, as well as to Simple White Rabbit for sharing some posts on Twitter and offering comments and feedback!  Your support has been amazing and I encourage all my readers to check out their inspiring blogs as well!  Cheers to the next chapter!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Couch or No Couch: The Decision!

Two months and opinions from family, friends and readers alike helped us make a big decision.  We weighed the pros and the cons of purchasing another large piece of furniture.  We tested what life was like without it, and thought about how this piece would add to the value of our every day lives.  In the end, we did decide to go ahead and purchase a couch!

This was not a light decision, and we took everything into account.  After 2 months of trying the 'no couch' lifestyle, we decided that having a comfy area for ourselves to rest and to entertain guests was something we truly wanted.  Then..... we entered the furniture store....LOTS of options!  There were futons, sleeper sofas, sectionals, and sofa + love seat combos.  I was first drawn to a sofa that our friends had in their home that was initially what I had envisioned for our home, but with all the options and price ranges I felt the need to browse.  In the end, we made a decision based in what I like to think, are minimalist principles:

1) Make purchases that fit your lifestyle the way it actually is, NOT what you think it COULD be.

As we browsed the store and looked at huge sectionals and combos we realized we were starting to base a decision based on maximum seating potential for the 'just in case' we have a large amount of people over for a dinner or party.  When on a regular basis it's usually just the two of us, or just a few friends over at a time.

2) Spending less on more is NOT always the best thing.

We highly considered a sectional that was on clearance, but wasn't comfortable and we weren't thrilled with the fabric, but were considering it on price alone.  If we had gone with this item, we would have gotten a piece that was too large for our space or our lifestyle and we would not have been comfortable!

3) If you are going to spend money on an item, make sure you love it, it is useful and will bring you joy.

What we ended up taking was exactly that.  We went back to the item we initially came in for.  It has all the characteristics we were looking for, fits our current lifestyle and we are SO happy to have a new place to chill out at the end of a long day!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Couch Or Not To Couch?

We have been in our new space for 2 months now! My husband dove head first into his new job and is rocking it.  I am still on the job search myself and am attempting to stay patient and sane in the meantime. Putting together the apartment in a simple and meaningful way has been my project.  We chose to live in a two bedroom/two bathroom with a nice sized living room, small kitchen and dining nook.  Due to the fact that we have very little clothing and large closet space we did not have to buy dressers! We only have one bookcase that is barely filled, and 2 comfy chairs which we were gifted.  The one thing we have held off getting is a couch.

At first we held off for financial reasons, since moving is an expensive endeavor and we wanted to only spend money on more essential items.  After a month of no couch, we have been wondering if we should get one at all. We have had friends over for meals and afterwards brought out pillows and a few blankets and everyone got cozy on the carpet.  We don't have a TV and don't plan to get one, so we don't really need a viewing area.

That being said, we have had many situations where I found myself wishing we had a couch.  To me, a couch makes a living room feel more inviting and more like a home.  It would be more comfortable for guests and to host parties and such.  But is it something we actually need, or will it turn into another big item that will weigh us down?  I would love to know what you all think: Couch or Not To Couch? That is the question!!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Up-cycling Project

Upon arriving in the US our wonderful family friends offered us to look through some old furniture and take whatever we wanted!  While it was tempting to take everything, we stayed focussed and took a set of 4 dining chairs, which were free but needed reupholstering.  With only a day left before leaving my parents house and heading to Central Illinois to our new apartment I recruited my dad to help with the project. I went to a fabric store (50% off coupon in hand of course!) and bought new foam and a pretty fabric I fell head over heals for!  The project was relatively easy and only resulted in one minor injury (a big splinter in my nail! ouch!).

The steps included:
1) Remove the cushions from the frame of the chair
2) Remove the staples, old foam and fabric
3) Place the wooden base on the foam and new fabric and cutting out the appropriate size
4) Work around the base stretching and stapling the foam and fabric to the wooden base
5) Re-attach the base to the frame


A new set of dining chairs for our new place.  Not only was this a fun project, but I feel good about up-cycling existing furniture to meet our needs instead of buying new.  This was a cost effective and creative way to make our home more functional and our style without breaking the bank!  Please share your DIY projects with me and I will feature them in a future post!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A New Trick To STOP Impulse Buying

Upon arriving in Champaign, IL we had to do some shopping.  We needed some food to eat, some toiletries, cleaning supplies and such, so I took a trip to Meijer.  Back in Israel, there were zero mega/box stores with everything you could possible need or want in a lifetime under one roof.  I took a shopping cart and with list in hand started marching up and down the aisles.  I was determined NOT to stray from the list. But then out of the corner of my eye, a cute vase, a salt and pepper shaker set, dishes, side tables, a cute top, etc.  It got to the point that I actually muttered under my breath, "Sometimes I hate America".  Now, don't get me wrong, I love America.  I love my country dearly and it does feel good to be back after a year abroad.  What I meant by the comment was, "I hate American consumerism".  I hate that they know how to make me WANT everything, even though I don't actually need it.  With an empty apartment awaiting me, and all my belongings in boxes and in disarray, of course I wanted new, shiny, pretty things that I was under the impression would make me feel better, more at home and more stable.

So as I stood there in the middle of Meijer I remembered something.  I have a smartphone.  I pulled it out and started taking pictures of all the items that interested me.  I would go home, finish unpacking, organizing and settling in with the items I already own and take some time to see if I would have use for any of the items at the store.  It's been a week and a day and I have been back to Meijer to get a few more food items, but I have not felt the need to purchase any of those extras.  I was able to take the images home with me, show them to my husband and my friends and took the time to process and think about if those things would make my home a better place to live or not.

Some example shots of what I thought I wanted:

The next time you go shopping and find your eyes starting to wander go ahead and pull out your phone or a camera and snap a photo of the things that strike your fancy.  Take a few days to mull it over and only then go back to retrieve it if you still cannot stop thinking about it!  Shopping consciously and deliberately is key to achieving a more simplified and clutter free home.

I hope this tip is helpful!  If you have other ideas please share in the comments!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Moving Overseas - The Minimalist Attempt

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been! I apologize for not writing, I started to write some posts about the moving process, but I became too overwhelmed to continue.  It is amazing how much stuff can induce stress.  Going through this second move made me thankful that we had been simplifying our possessions all year, but also made me determined to cut down even more.  My goal with this post is to give a recap of how we went about downsizing, packing and moving over to the U.S. and in future posts I will highlight some of my strategies to remain and work on becoming even more minimalist as we set up our new home!

Back in Israel we managed to sell/donate/give away all of our furniture and housewares.  In a matter of 1 week we donated 7 bags of clothes and linens to charity.  We had trouble finding charities that would take our housewares and we had very limited time, so I created a facebook page and posted pictures for friends and family to view and claim items.  We made deliveries and gave our things new homes.  We were encouraged to leave the remaining items outside the apartment building, and sure enough our things were scooped up incredibly fast by neighbors and passer-bys.  One woman who took many of our kitchen supplies had been through an apartment fire the week before and lost everything, we were thrilled to be able to give her our things.

Even after my past post: "Paper Clutter - It Happens To Us All", I still found we had way too much paper to attempt to take to the U.S.  I spent 2 hours sifting through our paper, we made one binder of things to leave at my inlaws, one binder to take with us, and a stack of papers to scan and keep digital copies.

After all the sorting, purging, organizing and packing, all our items fit into 4 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 1 purse and 1 computer bag.  We shipped 1 large and 1 medium box of items to our new place.

The contents of our suitcases included clothes and shoes, but also a Queen sized down comforter, 2 pillows, duvet set and 8 place-settings of dishes.  Items we shipped included 2 robes, 4 sweatshirts, long sleeves shirts, 2 light coats and some smaller housewares we love and wanted in our new home.  Overall I feel good about the amount we traveled with.  We were able to condense and fit everything into a sedan once we reached stateside.  We do need furniture and other home supplies in our new place, and I will report on those decisions in a future post.

In conclusion: everything arrived safe and sound and we are setting up quite fast in our new space since we do not have a ton to put away, but more on that later!  The 2nd international move in 1 year is officially complete! Phew! We made it! Cheers to that!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

T-Shirt Experiment Results

After a few weeks (I didn't really keep count) of hiding my husband's 7 t-shirts he only remembered and wanted to keep one of them.  After reviewing the others that he had forgotten, he agreed to let them go to charity!  In that very moment he also agreed to go through his dress shirts and ended up tossing 5 of them!  We also took this opportunity to start packing up our clothes which is proving to be much easier than last time.  Let me know if you embark on your own T-Shirt experiment and I will feature you in a future post!

Hubby saying goodbye to his T-Shirts!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Green Discovery: Glass Recycling!

So I LOVE being proved wrong when it comes to recycling limitations. In past post "Reduce-Reuse-Recycle - Green Minimalism!" I stated that Israel does not recycle glass.  Well, on a bus ride recently we discovered that the neighboring suburb started a glass-recycling program!  This is pretty big and could not have come at a better time.  With our upcoming move we were going to have to throw away the collection of glass jars we have used for storage.  We were more than happy to load up our nifty little cart and took a short 10 minute walk to recycle our glass.

While it took a little more effort, we were excited that we could recycle the jars instead of throwing them in the trash, making our move a little more environmentally friendly.  What recycling programs do your communities offer? Any exciting and innovating programs?  What do you do to live a greener and simpler life at home?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Gallery of Misc Stuff

As we prep to move out of our apartment in ONE week I have gone through all of our stuff and decided what to keep, what to sell, what to donate and what to toss into the garbage.  Even though we have done a great job this year at simplifying our possessions we still amassed quite the pile. I collected all the miscellaneous stuff that we do not plan to keep, or have not used or really enjoy and made a gallery on our coffee table:

Some of these things like the picture frames and vases we greatly enjoyed, but are not going with us to the states.  Others were gifts from friends over the years that gave us joy but are now ready to move on. As we went through our things we asked ourselves the following questions:

1) Is this item useful? - And not theoretically useful, but have we actually used the item?
2) Does this item bring me joy? - Does the item bring back good memories and do we love having it in our lives?
3) Is it replaceable? - Sometimes the answer to 1 & 2 are yes, but it may still not be worth it to try and pack it up and take it back overseas.  Some items I decided were not replaceable were our dishes that we LOVE and received as wedding gifts.  I think of the people who gifted us these dishes every day and it brings me joy.  Even if the actual dishes are physically replaceable, I know it would pain me to know they weren't the items gifted by my beloved friends and family.

We will keep the gallery open for friends and family to look through and at the end of the week we will throw or donate the rest.  I have been hunting for organizations that do pick-ups from private homes, and hope to find one this week and save a few trips by car since we need to borrow each time.  Wish me luck as we near the finish line!

Do you have any moving tips and tricks?  Good moving stories for inspiration and motivation?  Please share in the comments!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

For the Love of Shoes

Like any good girly girl, I love my shoes!  I will suffer through blisters just to rock an awesome pair of heels. I would tell myself that I wasn't a shoe hoarder, and I'm not THAT bad.  Then I lined up my shoes:

This line up is only what I currently have here in Israel at 16 pairs, last week I had already donated 2 pairs, meaning I had 18 pairs.  My mom back in the states graciously agreed to count the pairs I have in my closet at home at 9 pairs adding up to a total of 27 pairs of shoes.  Now, some people may find this number low, I find it entirely too high.  Especially considering the fact that I want to simplify my things and only keep what I love and enjoy and actually wear.  So here are the criteria I set for myself to cull my shoe collection:

1) Is the shoe broken/over worn/ in disrepair?:  Examples are that the soles are entirely worn down or the lining is ripping out.  I had a pair of sandals I loved but had lost the strap to one of them 3 years ago.  I had tried to replace the strap, having contacted the company multiple times, but decided that the time had come to toss them.

2) Is the shoe uncomfortable?:  The day has come that I do not want to suffer through blisters time and again.  I have found lately that I will avoid wearing those shoes that end up injuring me, and will gladly start investing in shoes that are better quality and won't hurt me anymore.

3) Do I wear the shoe?: This part was tricky.  I have shoes that I used to wear quite a lot, or that are useful for certain activities like my rain boots or Teva sandals.  I also have heels that pass the last two criteria, but this year were not worn much but have worn them a lot in the past.  Because I am in a transition and do not yet know what my future job will entail in the states, I was a bit more lenient in this category.

I ended up tossing 4 pairs of shoes, bringing my total down to 12 pairs:  

This includes: Rainboots, 4 pairs of fun heels, 2 pairs of comfy sneakers, flipflops, fave slippers, and my 3 'recreational' shoes for hiking and working out.

For me, this was good progress, and I will tackle the shoes stored in the states when I return.  My goal is to eventually own a small collection that I wear frequently and comfortably while still being stylish and fun.  What does your shoe collection look like?  Any shoe woes or difficulties in letting go? I want to hear your thoughts! Please share in the comments!

Friday, June 28, 2013

T-Shirt Experiment

After purging 3 shopping bags of my own clothes in the past two weeks, my husband sat me down and asked me to do something for him. "I want you to go through my t-shirts and put aside anything you don't see me wear and then I'll go through them."  I took it a step further and asked him to NOT go through the shirts I take out, and instead I would hide them in the back of the closet and see if he would even know or remember which t-shirts were missing after a few weeks.  I reduced his t-shirt stock from 24 to 17.  The 7 shirts have now been in hiding for over a week. The remaining 17 are a mix of casual and polo shirts that he wears on a daily basis, a few of them are work-specific that he should keep.  The deal is that if he can't even remember what shirts are in hiding, he will consider letting them go to charity.

My own summer wardrobe has been reducing nicely.  I currently have a total of 16 tops, 5 pairs of shorts, and 7 dresses.  This has been a year long process, and I'm very happy with the results so far.  My winter wardrobe is already stateside from my trip in May, so this will definitely make moving next month all the easier and hopefully once I go through another Illinois winter I'll have a better idea of how to reduce my wardrobe even farther.  I have been culling my shoes as well, but I will leave that journey for a future post as well as the results of the T-Shirt experiment, so stay tuned!

Has anyone else been working on reducing their wardrobes?  How is it going for you?  Please share in the comments and get a good discussion going!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Produce on the Corner!

One thing (of many) I'm going to miss is the easy access to cheap, local produce available at my doorstep.  In Israel nearly all produce is locally grown and it is rare to have any produce imported.  This forces us to eat what is in season and plan meals accordingly!  This was a huge shift from living in the US where you can buy nearly any type of produce at any time of year.  I'm lucky enough that I have a produce stand right on the corner about a 30 second walk from my apartment building and it is one of 3 such produce stands in our area in addition to our local supermarket.  Prices vary per vendor but in general the price is very low.  I bought all the produce seen in the pictures below for only $10, including the fresh eggs.

Eating fresh, in season food is part of my minimalist lifestyle and one that I hope to keep up after our move to the states.  Here are some tips I will be following to make sure fresh produce stays a part of my lifestyle in the states:

Farmers Markets: Where we are moving there are five fabulous farmers markets that gather every summer and well into the fall!  Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois and Farmers Market at Country Fair and 3 others in Champaign, Illinois.  Just search on the internet to find a variety of farmers markets near you!

Community Supported Agriculture: Another way to get in-season produce is by finding local farms near you who have programs you can sign up for to receive weekly to monthly produce boxes delivered to your door!  Illinois has a wonderful site helping connect people with farmers in their area who provide this service: http://www.value-added.org/communityCoop/csa.asp.  Search the internet for similar programs in your area!

Menu Planning:  A sure fire way to make sure you are eating fresh produce is to know what is in season where you live!  After a quick internet search I found MANY sites, but this one has a directory for each state called Field to Plate.  Usually produce found at the grocery store will be cheapest when it is in season and locally grown, so know what to look for and plan your meals accordingly!

Sales:  Make note of when produce goes on sale at your local supermarket and plan your shopping trips accordingly!  When we were living in the states we noticed that our local store had major sales every Sunday with many produce items being 10 items for $10.  Take advantage of the sales and promotions your local stores have so you have have healthy, fresh produce all year long!

I hope these tips and tricks will inspire you to look for ways to eat local, fresh produce in your area!  Please share with me your own ideas, inspirations and resources for clean and healthy eating in the comments!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Year without TV or Cable

That's right, you read correctly, we have gone an entire year without cable or a TV.  The initial decision came as an economic one.  Israel charges each household the equivalent of $125 per year (500 NIS) to own a television regardless if you subscribe to cable, in order to fund the public broadcasting stations.  This, plus the high cost of  electronics and cable in general, we decided to forgo this luxury.

This was a huge decision as TV had always been something VERY important to me.  In college, I lived in a teeny tiny apartment with a roommate and we had a total of 3 TVs all hooked up to cable (living room and each bedroom).  I would often fall asleep with the TV on.  When I moved in with my husband, he previously had not had cable, but I insisted that we get it because, for me, it made home feel like home.

Now, after a year of TV rehab, I have no desire to get cable at all.  I realized how much time was actually spent channel surfing instead of doing things that I really wanted or needed to do.  I was using the television as a stress reliever, almost like a drug.  This year I was able to turn to other things such as reading, writing, or getting together with friends instead of searching for the latest reality show episode to watch for the 3rd or 4th time.  Don't get me wrong, we still watch the shows we want to watch, but instead of channel surfing for hours on end, we make time to sit down and watch an episode or two on the computer and then move on with the day.  Getting rid of the TV watching has helped me simplify my life and has given me back hours and hours in to my days and weeks. After our next move we don't plan to get cable and I am interested to see how it will fit in our lifestyle in the U.S.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Paper Clutter - It happens to us all!

My biggest challenge when it comes to minimalism is keep paper clutter at bay.  It seems that no matter what I do our desk in our office always turns into this:

And with a big move coming up we need to reduce our paper to the essentials.  So I decided to start a personal challenge to minimize paper clutter and I encourage you to come along for the ride with me!  The steps I took were as follows:

1. Sort through the paper and determine what you have (yes we used our floor and any available space during the process!)

In my sorting I came across # of categories
a) receipts
b) husbands materials for school
c) old mail
d) bank statements and bills
e) misc cards, letters, newspaper clippings etc.

2. Discard anything we do not need.

I ended up shredding most receipts and only kept the ones for our big purchases such as furniture and appliances.  All old mail got thrown.  The more sentimental items such as cards and letters and newspaper clipping we took photos of or scanned to keep digitally and then threw away.  This was emotionally difficult, but we have photos of every card and the messages contained in them and can more easily look through them on our computer and phones than in a pile on the desk.

3. Create an easy and organized filing system.

We already have two small binders to keep important documents in.  We added just a few more plastic sleeves in order to keep the bank-statements and bills organized as well as a section for important receipts with any warranties or manuals.

4. Any non-paper items dumped on the desk should either be put back in their proper place or discarded.

I found cds, pens, tape, boxes, bottles, etc. around the desk as well.  Most of these I returned to their 'homes' or I put in a donation pile or into the garbage/recycling.

And the final result looks like this:

Our goal was to have a clean and clear workable surface.  The only things remaining at the desk are our computers, and the library books and school papers my husband needs as he works on finishing his masters degree in the next few months.  All important documents have been filed away into the two binders that now sit in our book shelf.  All discarded paper has been taken to our community recycling bins.

In order to prevent this situation from happening again we are committing ourselves to dump all junk mail and envelopes directly into the paper recycling bag by our waste bin. Bills and bank statements are to go directly into the respective plastic folder, and to keep these from piling up, for every new statement we will throw away the oldest one in the pile.  Cards and sentimental items are to go on our refrigerator for a specified period of time, after which we will digitally store them and discard the paper item.

We will see how this system serves us as we prepare for our move.  In our new location we will need to see how this system works for us and what to tweak to make it easier.

Let me know if you embark on your own paper de-cluttering challenge and share your tips and tricks and systems that work for you!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

An Un-busy Day at the Beach

I am in a transition period in my life.  As of a few weeks ago I graduated with my MSW, completed my internship and am preparing to move back to the US next month.  This leaves very little time to find a job here and so I decided to take this time to apply for jobs in our new location, study for the licensing exam in Illinois, and prep us for the move.  But even with these goals, I still find myself with a lot of free time, and instead of enjoying it, I was feeling uneasy and even guilty about it.

Being busy is often misconstrued as evidence that we are successful, that we are doing the right things, that we are important or worthy.  To be anything but busy, often makes us feel that we have failed.  I came across an amazing blog post by one of my favorite Minimalist Bloggers: Joshua Becker, A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy and I encourage you to take a look!

After reading his post and making a million to-do lists, I decided to put the chores aside and to go join a friend at the beach.  I sat, I read, I swam, and looked at this view for a whole afternoon:

In my quest to live a more minimalist lifestyle, it is not just about minimizing my things, but simplifying my lifestyle.  This year has been a crazy one with my husband working and studying full time, and myself commuting 3 hours a day for an internship and taking online classes for my Masters Degree.  Taking this time during a transition to go to the beach for a handful of hours, isn't only a treat, it's taking the time to slow down, to appreciate what I have and to practice living simplicity.

What are your thoughts on having a more simple schedule?

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle - Green Minimalism!

So it has been a while since I did a "green" post, so I thought I would share a little bit about The 3 "R"s here in Israel and a few personal choices we made to be green minimalists.

I was thrilled to learn that Israel has a country wide publicly funded recycling program for paper and ALL types of plastic (including the horrid plastic shopping bags), as well as drop offs for batteries and cd's.  While we lose the luxury of not needing to sort and having private bins in every building/household back in Illinois, here you can find paper and plastic drop off bins on every other corner.  The blue bin is for the paper and the green decorative cage is for the plastic (don't worry, they fill up quickly!).

Unfortunately Israel does not recycle glass or aluminum/tin due to the amount of energy and water it takes for the process.  And in this region water is a very precious resource.  So in order to reduce the amount of glass we throw away we try to reuse our glass jars as much as possible by using them as storage for our dry-goods such as dry beans, quinoa, rice and even tea and spice blends.

Recycling is very much in sync with minimalism.  It is important to be aware of our consumption and how it effects our environment and our society.  We try to use the things that we already have instead of going out and buying more storage items.  I find it refreshing to go out and participate in recycling as a community rather than only in private bins and it actually encourages me to make sure I am recycling every plastic and paper item I can along with my neighbors.

What recycling efforts do your communities offer?  Do you have any unique and creative ways to reuse?  I'd love to hear your ideas!! Please send them along!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2 International Moves in 1 Year

We had so much fun the first time, we thought we'd do it again! That's right, we are moving back state-side as my husband was offered an amazing job.  I recently completed my Masters degree in Social Work and am also on the job hunt.  In the meantime I am 'in charge' of organizing this move as my husband still has a few months left to complete his Masters degree and is working full time.  This has included finding an apartment, a car, phone plans, and of course finding out how best to move our STUFF.

We agreed that our appliances and furniture would be sold and are hoping to find a renter who will want to buy those things off of us to reduce the stress of selling off our items piece by piece.  Most of our kitchenware will be sold as well, but there are items I would like to bring back (aside from clothing) such as Books and Dishes.

We have managed to pare down our books to only 48 in different sizes and take up less than 2 shelves in our bookcase.  Our dishes were wedding gifts and I LOVE them and want to keep them very badly.  I thought at first that two boxes worth of shipping might be the way to go, as the main issue with these items are weight rather than space.  But after contacting 5 different shipping companies I realized it is going to cost between 400-500 dollars to ship, which is too much.

So that leaves us only a few options:

1) Give away/Sell/Buy New in the US
2) Ask friends for help who are visiting this summer
3) Pay $60-$70 for the extra bags at the airport
4) Leave a few things in Israel with family until we can bring them over

At this moment I'm leaning towards a mix of numbers 2-4 with a few fabulous friends having already offered to help out.  As you can see, it's not that these items take up a lot of space but they add up in weight and with a 50 lb weight limit at the airport, it could be an issue.  Any thoughts, tips, tricks or advice on moving internationally?!  Please let me know!  I need all the help I can get!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One Suitcase Challenge - Update

Well folks, I am proud to announce that I am NEARLY at my goal of being able to fit my wardrobe into ONE suitcase.  With a another big move happening this summer (more on this later) and a short trip home for graduation between now and then I thought this would be a great time to see how much I could fit into our biggest suitcase while starting to pack.  As you can see below, without any real folding/rolling/or other space saving techniques, I was able to fit all my tops and bottoms for warm and cold weather into the suitcase.

The items I was not able to fit included my hanging items and pajama shelf.  This also did not include coats, shoes, undergarments or accessories (jewelry, hats, gloves, purses, belts).  This is a work in progress and I even started yet another small pile of give-away's which I am sure will grow as we progress with plans for another move overseas.

Luckily I will be able to move our cold weather clothes, shoes and coats over during my short trip home which will leave us a lot of wiggle room this summer.  My hope is to fit all our summer clothes into one suitcase and have the other three for linens, coats and shoes.  Any advice?!!