Another item scratched off the bucket list!

Your money is only as valuable as what you choose to spend it on. ~Joshua Becker

I can’t remember when, exactly, I first started seeing people standing on the ocean…I was probably sitting on my towel at Long Beach, and perhaps briefly looked up from my magazine, and glimpsed a person standing upright on a surfboard with a long paddle in their hand. It was a few years ago, at least, and I have been fascinated with the concept of stand-up paddle boarding ever since. I have always wanted to try surfing, but not being particularly balanced or athletic, I’ve been too intimidated to try. But this seemed almost doable. Since I first took notice of this phenomenon, it seems that SUP has exploded in popularity. Every time I look out over the water on a calm day, there are folks paddling by. And I just watch them and say to myself, “one day…”.

Well, that day was Friday. Hubby and I have talked, and talked and talked, about trying paddle boarding for ages. He even tried, rather ambitiously, to build a couple of them. But, as can often happen with projects like this, it proved to be a bit more complicated and time-consuming than anticipated. And our time, like everyone else’s, is quite valuable. So, after doing a quick cost-benefit analysis in my head, I calculated that spending the money and purchasing a couple of boards would prove a wise long-term investment. Fortunately, our local surf shop was having an incredible Memorial Day Weekend sale, so it was the perfect time to buy. Curtis did not need much convincing. We went to Surfari as soon as he got out of work on Friday, and picked up everything we needed to get paddling.

Naturally, this was followed by one of the worst Memorial Day weekends ever, weather-wise. But on Monday, the skies cleared and we geared up and headed out, steeling ourselves for some seriously cold water (about 49 degrees). I found a great little beach that was perfect for our maiden voyage…a protected inlet with shallow, clear water, with parking close by so we wouldn’t have to haul our boards very far. Curtis jumped right in and prone-paddled out to deeper water, while I gingerly tried to kneel on top of the board while it was barely deep enough to float freely. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t going anywhere until Curtis gently reminded me about the fins on the bottom of my board. Doh!

After a few fits and starts, I got going and paddled around on my knees for a while. Curtis bravely attempted to stand up, and ended up going in the drink. After a couple of attempts, he was able to stand up and paddle rather confidently, so I gave it a go. I felt rather like a newborn giraffe…wobbly and not quite sure what to do with my limbs. It wasn’t a matter of if I was going to fall in, but when. So I played it very conservatively. I would stand and paddle for a short while, then get back down and either sit or kneel on the board once I lost my nerve. I found sitting on the board quite pleasant – sort of like kayaking, but completely unrestricted.

I followed Curtis out toward Ten Pound Island, but the water was much choppier out in the open harbor. He fell in again, at which point we retreated to the safety of our little cove. He did a few “tricks” on the way back in, ducking under the ramps that ran from the private residences down to their docks…really wish I’d been able to get some pictures, but until I can figure out a waterproof solution, these will just be moments captured on my mental film reel.

So, yes…an expensive weekend, for sure. But I think we are going to get a lot of mileage out of these boards, and hopefully it’s an activity that we can turn to instead of going out for an expensive meal and drinking our paychecks away, which is one of our usual summer pastimes. And if we can sell our kayak, that would cover the cost of one of the boards and free up some storage space. Win-win! 🙂

My SUP

My new baby, getting all finned-up and affixed with fancy bungee cord.

The adventuremobile, ready for action!

The adventuremobile is ready for action, and quite happy to be put to use!

Where does the time go?

 Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

I haven’t had much to write about the past month or so…so I didn’t. I guess that’s sort of what this is all about, right? I suppose I could have thrown together a post about one thing or another, but I just didn’t feel compelled to force it. Besides, I don’t exactly have a huge readership, so nobody’s been pestering me to post an update. The main reason I started this blog was just to have an outlet, where I could put all of my thoughts and ramblings out there…and if someone stumbled across it and found it to be of any value, all the better.

Since early April, I’ve donated quite a few things, and purchased some new items…spring, for me, has always been a time of renewing and reinventing. I am inspired by the shift in weather and foliage and often find myself changing up my style to match the person I’ve grown into over the long winter. No major shopping sprees, though…I am trying to show some restraint. I’m finding that since I began doing CrossFit last summer, the majority of my purchases are of the yoga pants/hoodie/sneaker variety. At least these items are getting lots of use!

Curtis and I have been taking advantage of the warmer weather to get outside more often, playing disc golf on the weekends and doing some hiking. Last Saturday, we hiked Mt Monadnock, which is the first of many mountains we intend to climb this year. We’d definitely like to do the entire Presidential Range, and perhaps complete some other notable peaks in New England. This weekend, due to multiple engagements, we might just do some local trail hiking, but we intend to tackle Mt Eisenhower and Mt Pierce (and possibly Mt Jackson) one day very soon.

Disc golfing fun

Successfully avoided the water hazard and made the putt.

Summit of Mt Monadnock

At the summit of Mt Monadnock, feeling like I’m on top of the world.

As far as our apartment goes, we’ve been in the new place for over two months now, and I’ve yet to hang any artwork or pictures on the wall. Perhaps I could make time for that this weekend. It’s funny how time just slips away…I went to grab a pair of socks this morning and noticed all of the decor sitting in the corner against the wall. As much as I’ve embraced this whole minimalist thing, our walls look rather spartan without anything on them. The place still feels a bit incomplete. Next time it rains, looks like I’ll be doing some decorating!

Till next time, folks…whenever that may be! 🙂

Two steps back, two steps forward…

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. ~John Maeda, The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life

I bought my mom a pair of Toms for her birthday, right after Christmas. I had sent an email out to the family before the holidays, saying that I would be donating to charity in lieu of gifts (except for the kids…I am not yet willing to be the evil aunt just to maintain my minimalist “cred”). But these were perfect for her – fuzzy, soft, and red, with small white polka-dots. They were fun, just like she is, and too perfect to pass up.

Naturally, I’ve been admiring them every time I see her. I would never buy anything for my mom that I wouldn’t wear myself, and I remembered how comfy they were when I tried them on in the store. I began to have the familiar feeling of rationalizing the purchase of a pair for myself.

My office is in Boston’s Financial District, just steps away from Downtown Crossing – a shopper’s paradise. On my lunch break, I escaped to one of my favorite stores, City Sports. They have a good selection of Toms, and I found a nice Army-green pair that I knew I could wear with almost everything in my closet. I tried them on, and they were exactly as cozy as I had remembered. Toms donates a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair they sell, which further justified my purchase.

I walked toward the register with my Toms, and ran right into a display of Reef shoes. Hanging next to the flip-flops were a gorgeous pair of flats, covered in a beautiful, rainbow-striped cotton canvas. I stopped to inspect the tag attached to the heel, and was intrigued by what I read. The shoes were made through a collaboration with Nest, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to work with master artisans around the globe, “alleviating poverty, empowering women, and promoting peace.” The fabric was woven by a women’s cooperative in Guatemala that was formed as a result of the civil war in the 1980s, when many of the men were killed, and their widows had to find a way to earn a living.

Long story short, I now have two new pairs of shoes. One might call this a “relapse”, and I do feel a significant amount of guilt for having spent money that I had intended to use for other purposes. But I am determined to continue decreasing my total number of possessions, and so I immediately parted with two pairs of shoes to make up the difference. I also filled a large box with decor and other items that will be heading to our nearby charity thrift shop.

This has made me think a bit more about being a “conscious consumer”…if I do feel the need to go out and buy something, I should at least be seeking out sustainable, earth-friendly, and charitable options like these. Being a bit of a compulsive shopper, I know that I am going to have setbacks like this occasionally, but at least I can be more mindful about where my money is going.

Traveling light

He who would travel happily must travel light. ~Antoine de St. Exupery

A few days ago, I switched to a much smaller handbag. It has been working out incredibly well. It’s so light, yet I’ve got everything I need in there. It got me to thinking about how I might apply some of the things I’ve learned when packing my bags for our trip to Sweden in a couple of months. My husband and I have done well the past few times we’ve taken plane trips, and have avoided checking baggage altogether. This has saved us not only money, but also precious vacation time that we would have spent waiting for our bags to appear (and worrying that they might not appear at all).

I would love to continue this practice when we head to Europe, especially since we will be stopping over in Zurich and that will only increase the odds of our belongings not making it to our destination safely. I realize, however, that a two-week trip to Sweden is a bit tougher to pack for than a 5-day stint in Aruba, or so one would likely believe. For Aruba, I packed mainly swimsuits and sundresses, some shorts, t-shirts, sandals, and one pair of jeans. What more could you possibly need for a beautiful Caribbean getaway?

Fortunately, we have a few things going for us that may help us to pack less than we normally would. For one, we will be going during midsummer, when the days are longest and the weather will be pretty nice. We don’t have to worry about bundling up for an icy cold Scandinavian winter. Also, we will be staying with family, so we will likely have some access to washing machines when the need is dire. Staying with family also means I might be able to borrow an item or two of clothing should an occasion arise that I didn’t adequately plan for, though I’m hoping I can make do with what I have.

I figure the earlier I start planning, the less likely I am to over-pack at the last minute, when I’m prone to panicking about leaving something vital at home. I’ve never been one to write up packing lists or really think too hard about what items truly deserve a spot in my suitcase, but perhaps it’s time I started.

Right off the top of my head, I know I’m going to bring the following:

  • White sundresses (one short, one full-length)
  • A couple of my favorite super-thin, soft T-shirts
  • A couple tank tops
  • One pair of jeans
  • One or two pairs of shorts
  • Yoga pants
  • A long linen skirt
  • A cardigan or thin sweater
  • One pair of sandals
  • One pair of walking shoes

We are planning on trying to visit a Crossfit box in Stockholm while we’re there, so I’ll need to bring at least one workout-appropriate outfit. If I bring my Chucks, those will do fine for that, and for wearing when we’re out and about. All of that should fit comfortably in a carry-on sized suitcase. I will probably bring some very basic toiletries, toothbrush, hairbrush, and makeup (thank goodness for my travel-friendly Bare Minerals!), but will be leaving out stuff like shampoo, body wash, and moisturizers…these are things I can pick up easily and cheaply once we arrive. I won’t be bringing a blow drier, especially since I’d need a special adapter to use it overseas. Besides, I can’t even imagine spending an hour blowing hot air at my head when I could be enjoying my vacation!

I’m really looking forward to visiting my family, and meeting some of them for the first time. It’s been 18 years since my last trip to Sweden, and I have been trying to get back there for a very long time. I can’t wait to enjoy all of the simple pleasures my mother’s home country has to offer…Swedes really have the minimalist thing down, and I intend to absorb as much as I can while I’m there. Perhaps, instead of souvenirs, I will return home with a better understanding of what I really need in order to live a happy life.

With mom in Dalarna.

Mom and me in Dalarna. Simpler times, for sure!

Bag lady

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. ~Hans Hofmann

I have to give myself just a little bit of a break here, because I truly am not that big of a purse girl, despite my lifelong obsession with shoes. If I could apply the same principles I use when selecting a handbag to every other part of my life, I would have been a minimalist of the highest order a long time ago. I am extremely discriminating when it comes to buying bags. The bag needs to be high quality – usually leather – and must go with the majority of my clothes. It can’t have crazy logos all over it, and it must only have one strap, since any bag with two will slip right off my shoulder. It has to be large enough to hold the “essentials” (hair brush, wallet, makeup, keys, etc.), but not so large that it will be cumbersome to carry (since I realize fully that no matter how large it is, I will fill it to capacity).

I generally buy a new handbag about every 3-4 years. For a girl who is barely in her thirties, I think that shows quite a bit of restraint. I consider handbags to be a long-term investment – something that I’m willing to spend a few hundred dollars on, as long as it meets ALL the criteria. In the end, I think the cost-per-use is pretty reasonable, even if I purchase something high-end. The bag that I’ve owned and (mostly) loved for the past 4 years has been my black leather Dooney and Bourke hobo. It was the perfect size and color, and was suitable for almost any occasion. Unfortunately, it was also a catch-all, and could also be considered by some to be a deadly weapon.

Handbag, or deadly weapon?

Bonus: handbag doubles as wrecking ball.

I have nearly screamed in frustration when trying to find my car keys, which always manage to shimmy themselves to the very bottom of the bag, underneath all of the other items that I deemed too important to go without for even just a few hours. Most of the time, wading through receipts, gum wrappers, hair ties, hand sanitizer, and nail polish produces nothing, and so I slam my bag down, inadvertently scraping the hood of my car with the metal clasp, yanking out as many items as necessary before seeing the glint of those familiar keys…and only then, does my heart rate return to normal. The whole situation has become a source of stress for me, and so I decided to do something about it.

I have a pretty fabric wristlet that I received as a gift from the woman I purchased all my bridesmaids’ wristlets from (check her Etsy shop out – such cool stuff!). I love it, but haven’t used it very often since it’s so much smaller than what I’m used to. I never thought I could fit everything I needed into it. But yesterday, I decided to try. I pulled all of the stuff out of my purse that I knew I truly couldn’t live without. Cash, phone, keys, chapstick, one hair tie, and gum. To my amazement, my hairbrush actually fit, too. I really don’t need anything else! It was so nice to not have to lug my heavy bag around when we went out to dinner. And I know that when I return to my car in the parking garage tomorrow after work, I won’t be panicking looking for my keys. And no more scratches on my car!

I might not match everything in your closet, but I'm fabulous.

I might not match everything in your closet, but I’m fabulous.

Bumps in the road.

The intention of voluntary simplicity is not to dogmatically live with less. It’s a more demanding intention of living with balance. This is a middle way that moves between the extremes of poverty and indulgence. ~Duane Elgin

I’ve only just begun this minimalist journey, but have already encountered a number of roadblocks. It’s a bit discouraging, but I’m doing my best to get past these and forge ahead, since I’m sure my situation is not that unique. Judging by my last couple of posts, it’s obvious that I have been focusing largely on my wardrobe as a starting place to eliminate excess belongings. This just made sense, since clothes have been a major issue for me for as long as I can recall. Unfortunately, as cathartic as it has been to get rid of ill-fitting, unflattering, worn-out clothes, I am also coming to the realization that I have very few items that fit me well.

I started doing CrossFit late last summer. CrossFit is an exercise program focused on strength and conditioning, and their prescription for fitness is  “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement”. On their Getting Started page, they state: “We are a ‘minimalist program’ and this is reflected by the functionality and limited number of our exercises and the simplicity of the equipment we use compared to most commercial gyms.” How ironic that I would have chosen this particular program over all others, just months before having a minimalist epiphany.

Since I started CrossFit, I have noticed some changes in how my clothes fit. What were once tiny chicken legs can now barely squeeze into my skinny jeans, since my thighs have grown in size from so many squats. I have yet other pairs that used to be snug, but are now sagging due to sitting much lower on my shrinking waist. Sweaters and other long-sleeved shirts are becoming increasingly tight around my upper arms. While I welcome these changes, for someone who is trying to avoid purchasing new things, they are making this minimalist lifestyle a bit difficult. I have one pair of jeans that fit relatively well, though only when fresh out of the dryer. I live in jeans on the weekends (don’t we all?), so this is a sad state of affairs. I fear that I may have to give in and purchase a new pair.

Moving into a new apartment necessitated picking up a couple of items. Our dilapidated TV stand, which we were only able to use for the past two years thanks to some reinforcement from my handyman father-in-law, did not survive the journey and so a more robust one was purchased from IKEA. Our couch (also from IKEA) was torn to shreds by our mischievous furball, Seamus, so I purchased a new set of covers for it. The new TV stand is solid wood, and I know we will use it for many years to come. The new couch cover, while certainly not cheap, was a far better deal than replacing the couch altogether, and since one of our main wishes was to have an apartment large enough to have company, I wanted the living room to be somewhat presentable.

Sleepy Pixie

Pixie approves of the new cover.

Naughty boy

Seamus isn’t sold on his new “scratch lounge”…

I feel that these purchases fall under the umbrella of “minsumerism”…don’t mindlessly consume; buy only what you need. “Need” is certainly a subjective term, and I think each individual needs to determine for themselves what is necessary, and what is excessive. This paring-down of possessions is an ongoing process for me, and I think that as time goes on, I will be able to part with more items and learn to live more simply in many other areas of life.

Imelda’s revenge…

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less. ~Socrates

I promised myself last week that I would take a day this weekend to assess my shoe collection, and get rid of as many pairs as possible, no matter how long it took. I can’t remember when my dad started calling me “Imelda” (after Imelda Marcos, the notorious shoe hoarder), but it was a well-deserved jab. Shoes have always been a weakness of mine, and I knew this would be quite the task.

So, I spent a good 4-5 hours of my Saturday with 50 of my oldest, dearest friends, and managed to give about 15 pairs their walking papers. I should mention that I donated at least a dozen pairs prior to moving into the new place a couple weeks ago, so cutting even deeper into the collection was a painful process.

Ducks in a row

Breaking up is hard to do…

I lined them all up so I could see every pair at once, and tried to put similar pairs together to make any “overlap” more obvious, figuring this would make faster work of the initial rejections. I saw right away that I had two pairs of red patent-leather flats with bows, so I plucked the less-loved pair out immediately. I was able to part with another 6 pairs rather quickly, simply because they had been worn into the ground or had been used as a scratching post by my leather-loving kitty, Pixie (my favorite cowboy boots – noooo!).

The rest of the task was painfully slow-going. I decided that it made sense to try every pair on to make sure they fit well, and also to ensure I owned something that I could wear them with. This resulted in an unintended purge of a number of pants, as I had to try all of those on as well and realized that quite a few of them no longer fit me. I even discarded a few tops, since I ended up putting together entire outfits to be certain I didn’t have any items in my closet that had survived this long only because they looked good on the hanger.

It was the best kind of ripple effect, and by the time I was finished, I’d filled a few large shopping bags full of clothes and shoes. I can now fit all of my shoes on a rack on the floor of my closet, and I placed my boots in a row behind it. Being able to see them all simultaneously when I open my closet will make my daily outfit selection process much smoother. I have some shoes that are practically brand-new that I’d nearly forgotten about – it was almost as good as going out and buying new ones!

My project for the next few days will be to attack all of the random containers – plastic totes, bags, and an assortment of boxes – that I have been stashing junk in for years without giving it a second thought. While I now have plenty of room for these things, I am fairly certain that I will be able to dispose of a vast majority of the contents of these containers, and will have that much less junk in my life. Hooray!