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:  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!