Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We've moved!

Alright, everyone, I took the plunge and bought a domain name. You can now read all new posts at www.minimalistadventures.com Just drop the blogspot! Thanks for your support, and I hope you continue to enjoy your own minimalist adventures.


Dusti Arab
Life is an adventure. Simply live it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The School Supply Sheet on a Shoestring

Many children have started school in the past week, and everyone else will start shortly, including myself. This week, it seemed to be fitting to confront a particular list that is very not minimalist: the school supply sheet

It happens the same every year. The end of summer rolls around, and these giant pamphlets are released "for your convenience,"so your child can have all the same stuff as everybody else. Except they never do, do they? Especially in grade school, whoever has the nicest back-to-school clothes and the fancy school supplies with whatever is in style on it that year always seems to have the easiest time of it. It's times like these where we are trained as children to compete with the Joneses and enter the rat race.

So, what are we to do as parents? This huge list of required items is ridiculous. They always come back home at some point with their things, and half of it is untouched. Not only that, school shopping is expensive. The average amount spent per child on back-to-school shopping is around $400, and the amount goes up as the child gets older. Does that strike anyone else as ludicrous? At the same time, you want your child to be well-prepared for school, and you do want them to be accepted by their peers. Does this mean you cave, spending hundreds of dollars on Hannah Montana themed everything that won't be "in" next year? I don't think so. 

Why not take the list and adapt it a bit? Do they really need the specific brand listed?  Who comes up with these lists anyway? If you really think you child is going to be missing something vitally important on their first day of school, which is highly unlikely, talk to their teacher before the fact. Building a relationship with your child's teacher is important, and they will know exactly what their lesson plans call for during the year. 

When it comes to back-to-school, the best thing you can do is involve your child and get creative. Here are some tips to save you a whole lot of cash and make your child feel like an individual. 

1. Take the school supply list, and see what you have around the house.

Does your child currently have a backpack? I'm sure you have pens and pencils around the house. Old notebooks? Tear out used pages, and it's like new. Binders? The best ones without a doubt are the ones where you can slide pages into the front and back. Crayons, colored pencils, art supplies, scissors, fabric, paper; anything you can think of that you can either send off on the first day, or use to help prepare for it, should be ransacked and brought to the table.

2. What can you remake and reuse?

It's all about letting your little one's personality shine through here. Remember that old backpack? Will it still work for this year? How can you modify it to make it seem like a new thing for your child? I recommend putting patches of their favorite things on there. If your daughter loves dance, find patches with ballet slippers on them! If you want a full-blown change, you can do that, too. The sky is the limit, so let your creativity run wild. Check out this diy job for inspiration!

Why not dress old pencils up a little in a fancy diy pencil case? Here is an easy one older kids could even do themselves.  This one is a little sewing heavy for those non-sewing folks out there, but check out this girl's other ideas! These are fantastic, totally customizable, and have the potential to be totally gorgeous. 

My own idea, which I must say I find pretty damn clever, cost me about four dollars. So, I needed a bulletin board, and I hadn't been able to find a big enough one a Goodwill. Also, I don't sew. This led to a trip into Dollar Tree, where I found foamcore. I got two of them and walked back over to Goodwill, with the intention of fitting them into a frame. I was going to put fabric over the top piece, and voila! Bulletin board! It didn't quite happen that way, though. I looked through the frames, but none of them where the right size. I walked over to find fabric, thinking I'd come back later for the frame, when I was hit on the head by the Inspiration Fairy. I picked up a pretty pillow case and slid both boards in. It was a perfect fit. Try it. You'll like it.

3. What do you still need?

If you've been here before, you know I don't buy things new unless it is entirely unavoidable, and I advocate you adopt the same policy for back-to-school shopping. Thrift it up, ask family members, but avoid at all costs buying brand new stuff. It's bad for the environment, and it will send your kids mixed messages about needing to buy things new for it to be "better." 

Going back to school doesn't have to go against your minimalist principles, and it doesn't have to expensive. Stop listening to those marketing ploys, and start getting creative! You're kids will think it's a blast, and they get a lot more out of the bargain. Instill in them now they don't need everything brand new because they make the old new again!

Stay tuned for tomorrow where we will discuss the back-to-school wardrobe! 

Creativity for Kids Ribbon & Felt Tote   Fashioning Technology: A DIY Intro to Smart Crafting (Craft: Projects)   Craftivity: 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Minimalism: What it is and What it is Not

                   It seems I've been making waves in my group of immediate influence with my seemingly sudden interest in living a minimalist lifestyle. Concern, disbelieve, confusion, and even this odd clinging to a life of materialism have been only a few of the views I've had expressed to me over my new public outpost. This has led me to write a post discussing what minimalism is and what it is not. Hopefully, this will clear up some concerns, as well as open a few minds up to the possibility of perhaps not minimalism, but living a more conscious lifestyle.

1. Minimalism does not mean I live like a hermit. 

The apartment I just moved into it 760 sq. ft. It's a two bedroom one bath with an incredible space for entertaining. Do you know what I plan doing with that space for the next two weeks before I start school? I want to have people over as often as I can. A key point of minimalism is you remove things to create room for people. I remove all of the extra stuff in my life, whether it is items, projects that don't serve me, or people who are unhealthy for me, and in turn, I make room for what matters. Now I have time available for meeting people, hanging out with friends and family, and pursuing the things that are important to me.

2. Minimalism does not mean I have zero possessions. 

Okay, my 100 thing challenge list has my personal items on it, but it doesn't have everything my family shares on it. I have more underwear than hardcore minimalists would think appropriate. I don't count my books. While my furniture is very sparse, because I gave it away before all of our moving this last year, I do plan on having some furniture. I even have a list of items I want in each room! What I'm saying is you need some things to live comfortably, and...

3. Minimalism does not mean you don't live comfortably.

I like being comfortable. There is nothing better than flopping on a comfy couch after a long day. However, instead of getting lots of crappy furniture that isn't going to live through my daughter's toddler years, I'm going to get a few pieces that I really like and will stand the test of time. In my living room, for instance, I plan on having a large couch, folding tables stashed in the closest for when I have company, and probably a small coffee table. While sparsely furnished, everything will be of nice quality and create an environment of welcoming. Isn't that the point of a living room, after all?

4. Minimalism doesn't mean you live in poverty and disregard your finances.

Minimalism is not committing oneself to a life of poverty. In fact, it is far from that. As far as I'm concerned, minimalists do not intend to live the life of someone in a third world country. Perhaps one of their goals could be to raise awareness about such a situation, but that is their personal mission, not mine.  My ideal lifestyle, which includes a fair amount of travel, requires about $34000 a year. That lifestyle also includes a fair amount of travel. Most people will look at that number, look at me, and tell me I'm insane. And, I can look right back at them and inform them it is possible. While the number crunching would take some time to explain, it basically comes down to not needing or wanting a few things. For instance, subscriptions to magazines, insanely expensive phone plans, needing the latest fashions, and monthly pay-to-play fees on games are things I forsake in order to meet my financial goals. Oh, and I do have financial goals. However, I don't measure these goals in a, "How many dollars do I have in my savings account? How will I retire?" Blah, blah, blah. Basically, read The 4-Hour Workweek and The Art of Being Minimalist, and you'll understand. There have been countless studies that all conclude after you reach a certain point of income beyond meeting your basic needs, the marginal benefit of each dollar flat lines. What does that really mean? It means regardless of where you live, who you are, what you do, once you reach that point of income, every dollar past that you earn per year is basically just money. Yes, just money. As in, paper stuff that only has value because we say it does. Thus, one can conclude, maybe life should be spent doing things other than trying to accumulate lots of money.

The nobility in minimalism comes from wanting to leave a smaller footprint on this earth while we are here. The idea that we can each live sustainably on an individual level is a noble idea, and this is why I "preach" minimalist living.

5. Minimalism doesn't mean you stay at home and do nothing.

Read about some other minimalists. See where they are. While some of them stay at home, most are abroad or have plans to go abroad. If you have less expense at home and don't buy everything marketers tell you that you need to be happy, you have a lot more money to travel with.

6. Minimalism doesn't mean you disregard your appearance.

I hope this has alleviated any fears that I live in some sort of awful existence and want others to do the same. I want people to consider how much stuff they have, and ask why they have it. Do you have it because you feel it makes you a better person? Do you have it because you feel obligated to? Do you have it because you actually need it? Seriously consider the answers to these questions. Make sure you control your stuff and your stuff doesn't control you.

The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living   The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life      The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life