The Batts Motel: Minimalists Without the Label

Oh Yes They Did!

I would like to introduce you to my friends, The Batts Family: Wendy, Howie, Helena and Georgia-Belle.

After Wendy’s father passed away, she inherited 6 acres of land in “the nature,” as I say.  They were renting a 1800SF home in Killearn and weren’t sure where they wanted to plant their roots. They did however know that they intended to save money while thinking about their next move.  SO, they sold/donated/eliminated 90% of their possessions (My heros!), to move into a 100SF camper on the land they now owned. They kept their washer/dryer and yard clearing tools–THAT’S IT. Five outfits for each adult (it’s all the camper closet would hold) and maybe 8-10 outfits for their teenage daughter.

This is where they lived for 8 months-Husband, wife, teenage daughter and dog.

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They eventually decided to plant roots on this land and were able to build a home with all of the money they saved.  I knew Wendy before I knew Minimalism.  I was one of the few (two) people she told that wouldn’t “judge her.”  They knew what they were doing wasn’t “normal” to most people and just didn’t want to answer a lot of questions.  Or the same question over and over again. I think being debt-free and building a house you can afford should be everybody’s normal.

Howie moved a lot growing up so neither he nor Wendy ever really accumulated a lot of stuff, nor did they hold sentimental attachments to things.  Emotionally speaking, minimizing the stuff (down to their beds and furniture) was easy for them.  They are an extremely tight-knit family who, not knowing anything about Minimalism, naturally valued family relationships and love over things. Wendy and I worked together during this time, and it wasn’t until she got a new job and left that I discovered Minimalism.  I was crazy excited with my new discovery but I was just preaching to the choir with her!

Even now they don’t fill their house with anything they don’t need or that doesn’t add value.  They said that moving into 1300SF felt like living in a mansion to them, amplified by the fact that they had no furniture!  They take nothing for granted in that house, but they also don’t try to fill with anything other than love and necessities.  I was curious what they appreciated the most about the house after camper-life. Was it all the space and room? No. They would willingly live in a small space again….just not a camper.  It was the plumbing and central heat and air! Evidently, the camper had no insulation ergo when it was hot outside it was REALLY hot inside-same with cold. I’m still forbidden to talk about the plumbing issues.

[Insert sub-story about Uncle Robert later]

When I visited them at home and asked them what they value most aside from family, Wendy said “This! This is our paradise.” The land from her father and the house they built and turned into a home by moving in and being a family.  The family bond was strengthened by their willingness to challenging the norm and do something different….living with less, but living more.

Paradise. Found…….and Appreciated.

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Minimalism: Kids

Evan (3YOA): Minimalist in Training

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This is probably the second most asked about subject after my closet.  First let me say, it is possible. And the sooner you start shifting focus away from the material things onto experiences, the easier (I suspect). I don’t have a teenager, but I was one once so I can imagine it would be a bit more challenging to do this transition with them, than a 3 year old.

We really underestimate our kids.  Evan already has this innate desire for happiness and wants everyone to feel it.  He already values love and experiences over the stuff.  He is very empathetic. I’m quite impressed and so very proud of him. Everyday.

Strategy: Toys

Now, that being said,  I’m not going to deny my child toys. I just want to instill in him a sense of gratitude and joyful contribution over accumulation. Usually, after Christmas or his birthday (or any time his toy box starts to get full), I open it up and say: “You just got some really nice toys.  There are a lot of kids who don’t have toys.  What should we give them that you don’t play with anymore?”

Honestly, he gives-a lot-freely and effortlessly.  When he got his bike for Christmas he willingly donated his tricycle (previously, the love of his life-and it was second-hand.).  Again I let this be his choice.  I never give any of his things away without his approval.

Anytime there is a charity drive, I let him be apart of the giving.  Recently we just donated underpants and PJs to the local foster child organization. He went with me to shop and select the items and helped me deliver them to the drop-off location. Every year we do Operation Christmas Child together. We go to the Dollar Tree and he picks the toys for the kids and we pack those shoeboxes tight!

Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist  has a family and I’ve  found his website to be quite helpful. Anytime I get stumped, I go there for reference.  So far, so good.  I think Evan is better at this than me!

Strategy: The Baby Toy/Equipment Rotation

I used this technique before becoming a Minimalist.  It was birthed (haha) more out of a financial strategy.

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Babies grow out of the clothes and toys very quickly. Hand me downs are awesome, but my friends and I also started what I referred to as a toy rotation. We all had kids at different times within a 5 year span so instead of buying the big ticket baby items individually, we shared.   We shared the swing, travel system-car seat-stroller thing, and of course toys (i.e. floor gyms, bouncys).  When one kid grew out of them (typically within 3 months), another was usually born. This solved 2 problems:

  1. Money-No joke, we probably saved a couple thousand dollars.
  2. Space-We cleared space in our own homes until it was time to use, or re-use in their case, certain items.  Nobody had to house or store a big huge baby swing for more than 3 months.

Strategy: Kid Artwork

My personal strategy is to digitize the important pieces that you really like and recycle the rest. The only pieces I keep in hard copy form are those that include hand and foot prints (for size reference).

 

Minimalism: Gifts

Giving:

Lead by example and always choose experiences over things.  This is the first year when Eric and I finally came out of the Minimalist closet to our friends and family for the Holidays.  They probably thought they were getting nothing-LOL! Surprise this has been the best most STRESS-FREE Christmas we’ve ever had.

  • My Mom-a gift card to Bonefish–she’s always wanted to go.  Now my Dad has to take her. Lol…
  • My Dad-A Netflix subscription. Remember how I said they don’t have cable?  Both of my parents LOVE this gift.
  • Friends-They all get Chick-fil-a calendars which gives you one free menu item a month. They can recycle the calendar itself immediately but now once a month we can meet at Chick-fil-A for lunch! Seriously, the calendars are like $6. I ended up giving them a gas cards too.
  • Eric’s Parents-A membership to the Tallahassee Museum (Zoo). Now they can take Evan to see the animals for free anytime they like.
  • Eric and I gave each other 1 surprise thing that we need and then we get something nice together that we both use. (i.e. next year it might be a new mattress! fingers crossed!)
  • My Brother-Any variation of Walmart, Target or Gas Cards. perfect.

Here is the link I used to help people with gifting around Christmas. 

Receiving:

We let people know well enough in advance that we didn’t want things for Christmas. Everyone did so great. We got cash. PERFECT. No stress on their behalf and cash is always in my size.

My Birthday really took me by surprise. By this time my friends were starting to get the hang of it and the result was an emotional tidal wave of gratitude and love that I wasn’t expecting. Here are some gifts that made me scream excitedly:

We saved an otter and then got drunk! The world is truly a better place. 

 

When you remove the option of things as gifts, what you do receive becomes more creative and heartfelt.  This is one of my favorite songs, played by one of my favorite people. And is one of my most favorite gifts from a friend.  It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. And now I share this gift with you.

The Stuff: Buh-Bye Now

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“Owning less is far more beneficial than organizing more.”- Joshua Becker, becoming minimalist.com

STRATEGEY: CLOTHES

As a chick when talking to chicks, my closet and wardrobe are what I am most frequently asked about.  I only use a 3′ wide rod in my closet and two dresser drawers for all of my clothes-that’s it.  I pack away my “winter” and summer clothes which alternately hang on the rod at different times of the year.  I make the seasonal switch twice a year and naturally, purge my wardrobe at that time. If ever my clothes start to expand past the 3′ rod, something is going.  Knowing me, a LOT of somethings are going.  The benefit:  Last time I did the seasonal switch it took 20 minutes. The hardest part is deciding when to do the seasonal switch in north Florida. Cold? Hot? Rain? Hurricane? Who knows….

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The struggle is minimal.

  • Clothes-Use the 90/90 rule.
  • Shoes-I have no right to make any recommendations to you-I have weaknesses too.
  • Everyone has a favorite color. You don’t have to wear all black or grey (unless you listen to The Cure all day and that is your favorite color). Choose essential pieces that include or coordinate with the color you most love to wear.

 

 

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STRATEGY: EVERYTHING ELSE

  • Actually 90/90 rule works for most anything.  You can also switch it to the 180/180 or whatever works best for you.
  • Towels and linens-If they are old and holy (cue angelic harp music!) and there is no fitted sheet/flat sheet match trash them. Or if you’re a real man who works on cars and stuff frequently, save a few for garage rags. Hell-donate them to a body shop!
  • Furniture that is never used, especially if it causes frustration or annoyance–Sell, donate, eliminate. Do not re-purpose, that’s one more thing on your to-do list that will take away from you doing something meaningful.
  • Newspapers, magazines and mail-Recycle, shred ASAP.
  • Knick knacks and doilies-If you find them and didn’t know you had them, you don’t need them! Not on display? Not useful? Don’t like them?  You have my permission to give them to someone who will or toss them.
  • Books and Music (CDs and cassettes)-Let the library store them for you.  If you want them, you know where they are.  I just went and counted.  We, as a family, now own 7 hard copy books. One of which I reference frequently, one is the Bible (I need Jesus!), the other ironically is the book Essential Essays by The Minimalists and is autographed. The other books are not mine.
  •  Junk Drawer? Allow me to introduce the 20/20 rule!
  • Old Photos-Digitize them, toss the photo albums. Nobody looks through them anyway.  Get a digital photo frame if you must.  People will enjoy seeing the pictures flip by passively than hauling out that 20 lb., now off-white, photo album with the peel-up plastic on a sticky-back discolored page full of polaroids.   But for real, if your house catches fire, at least the irreplaceable is in the cloud.
  • Important Documents-see above.
  • Eliminate Duplicate Tools-Unless cooking is your passion, why do you need more than one spatula? Or even a mixer for that matter? 90/90 your kitchen baby! Thanks to my Dad, I found about 13 Dollar Tree flashlights received as gifts (that’s right, gifts)  while minimizing.  There was about a 30% success rate on their ability to illuminate. goodbye
  • Eliminate what you can borrow or share-We don’t own a chainsaw. My Dad has two (My parents live in a field-I’m not even sure why he has one!) and lives 3 miles away.  We don’t need to house a chainsaw of our own.  My mother-in-law makes furniture (among other amazing things) as a hobby.  Her wood-working tools add value to her life, but they are unnecessary for us to own.  Eric just borrows some wood cutting, sanding contraption for a day or so if need be. Perfect.
  • Kid Stuff-Go Here.

 

 

The Stuff: What You Need is a Plan!

The title of this article is a quote from my father that was part of a lecture I received when I was 26 and my life was in shambles and my husband and I had to move back home to Tallahassee.  Actually the quote went more like “What you need is a plan, Dammit! Are you listening to me?!”  My Dad, the angry motivator.  That line kind of became a joke between me and my brother and now anytime we have a problem we tell each other that what we need is a plan.  And it’s actually true!

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There is no one way to be a Minimalist and there is no one way to Minimize.  I will give you some strategies that others recommend and tell you the plan I came up with.

First let me say, that setting a precise time goal is lofty.  You won’t believe how much stuff you have accumulated until you start purging, therefore it is impossible to estimate the time it will take to purge.  Not to mention, life happens, kids happen, friends happen and you don’t want to forego certain experiences for purging efforts.  Going to your kid’s recital is time better spent than deciding which pair of shoes add more value to your life.

My Plan:

  • Room by Room for however long it took.  Sometimes even parts of room by parts of rooms. If I had 20 minutes to spare waiting on someone, I’d clean out a bathroom drawer. I actually re-accumulated and just did one (again) today waiting on my coffee to finish. This eliminates the pressure to meet self-imposed deadlines. Do what you can when you can.  It took me a year and a half to do a complete home sweep.  Now I will go back through and minimize deeper.
  • Schedule a Day of Purging and Send the Kid(s) Away. I found that I could get a lot more done without a 2/3 year old following me.  Imagine that.  Plus, knowing that we had to pick him up at a certain time meant that we would have to hit the gas on whatever area we were tackling that day.  The big chunks of my minimizing occurred on these days.
  • The Tools (See Below).  I found the bucket Idea on Pinterest (a digital hoarders paradise).  Actually it was boxes with more categories but I modified it to meet my needs.  The buckets were AWESOME because they have handles and they were easy to drag from room to room.  Best part? They stack inside of each other and I housed them under my dining room table.  It felt weird to buy something when trying to get rid of things but I figured when I finished, I could give the buckets away too.  That’s never going to happen.  They are far too valuable now.  Since they stack I put the Give-Away bucket on top so that when I run across something in my daily life that I no longer need, I immediately just toss it in.  Once it gets full off it goes to be donated or eliminated.
  • Pinterest and the Interwebs are full of strategies on how to de-clutter and get rid of items.  Even how to deal with odd items. You can always visit my Pinterest page for strategies I’ve found useful.
  • Just Start Somewhere. Eliminating the stuff is the first part of the journey, what you discover during the process is the real reward.

 

Mindfulness: Consumerism

Making Decisions.  Lost in the infinite or lost in the finite? Either way a decision will be made. Either by you or on your behalf.

A crowded fish tank and a solo fish in another tank

If you are not mindful of your decision to purchase and more importantly your MOTIVATION to purchase, you will not find lasting joy in the thing you bought.  Or worse-now said thing requires maintenance and space and actually detracts from your life joy.  The time spent maintaining possessions could be spent on experiences, making family memories or societal contribution.  In short, if you aren’t consciously making an intentionally well-motivated decision, one will be made for you.  And I promise it will be made by someone who probably wants your money has very little regard for your happiness.

Minimalism is the only life-philosophy that will teach you what you already know. All it does is clean the lenses through which you view your world. The hardest part is no longer being able to ignore and justify what you see. Your reward is autonomy. Guess who’s driving your life bus now? YOU.

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It really is simple: Don’t buy what you don’t need or does not add value to your life.  Live within your means.  Ta-DA!  I would also add reject impulse buying.  There is no issue of scarcity in this country, so wait. If it is something that you continue to want and it passes the “Can I afford it?” and “Does this add value to my life?” questions, then go for it.

The problem is not consumerism. It’s compulsory consumerism.

-Joshua Fields Millburn, The Minimalists

The proverbial Jones’ have robbed you! They lied to you and and the companies they work for preyed on your insecurity.  They took your money, your time (which is far more precious than your money), and your joy. But they just got busted by the knowledge po-po.   You can’t get your money or time back, but sure can take back your joy and peace of mind ……today.

“Self-doubters evaluate themselves from the perspective of others,” explains Arkin. “So, the pleasure one of them would take from having a possession might not be defined so much by how much they enjoy it, but by how much others covet it.”

-American Psychological Association; Those who doubt themselves buy the most, study finds.; October 2002, Vol 33, No. 9; Print version: page 13

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I had a professor tell me the following phrase and it has stuck with me for over 10 years now.  I don’t know how, considering my memory is faulty, so I assume it’s God and the universe highlighting something important for me on my brain:

“Never confuse Standard of Living with Quality of Life.”