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

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happiness in Minimalism: Words of hope

                      I woke up this morning looking for the first time at the ceiling of my new apartment. I felt this overwhelming calm for a moment, my partner lying still asleep breathing deeply. The sound made me smile. For the first time in a year, I could walk into the kitchen in my underwear to get my coffee, if I wanted. Hell, I could make pancakes in the nude if I felt so inclined - probably not a good option since I always make messes when I cook. There were no other people to tip toe around, and that had an uncanny feel to it. 

                    And, the location! I wasn't 200 feet from one of my favorite coffee shops of all time. Across the street from a secondhand shop, where just the night before, I had purchased the black IKEA desk I was now using. The home office I was coming to realize I needed in order to be a more effective writer has already come to fruition. 

                    It comes to mind I can finally practice minimalism to the fullest extent I want to and that puts me at an ease I haven't felt in ages. It has been a long year, full of struggles, and I feel I have arrived. For the first time ever, I believe I actually know something about who I am. 

                   I finally have my sanctuary, and I am finally home.

I felt it relevant to share this stream of consciousness with my blog readers, because this is how I have wanted to live. Our apartment is simple, close to locally owned businesses and small for most people, though huge for us after living in a tiny room for a year. This was posted as a means to give hope to those in dire straits, to encourage minimalist thought and action because of the results. I probably wouldn't be happy or even remotely content with my new home if I weren't devoted to simplicity. I hope it gives those in difficult places a renewed strength to continue pursuing their dreams of small living in the name of living to the fullest.

Monday, September 6, 2010

4 Ways to Reduce Your Fashion Footprint

Marisa from newdressaday.wordpress.com
in a converted muumuu!!!

There seems to be a rather poignant discrepancy in the fashion community. For instance, when I Google sustainable fashion, I came up with some fashion school websites sponsored by Wal-mart. (Can you say ultra turn-off?) However, after some serious digging, there are only a very few well written articles out there on what sustainable fashion is and ought to be. I have been researching sustainable fashion for some time now, and there seem to be two schools of thought on what constitutes sustainable fashion

The first school believes sustainable fashion is possible through organic textiles, cruelty-free clothing, and products that are Fair Trade. These are all very valid ideas, and the brands that utilize these to the fullest extent are to be commended for taking steps forward for the future of the industry. However, these ideas aren't necessarily sustainable. Cotton is still a very high impact crop, with a single t-shirt requiring 400 gallons of water to produce. Is there a better way?

The second school of thought focuses on sustainability as the way, and fashion as the means. They focus on reusing the old to create the new, like Marisa with her blog at www.newdressaday.wordpress.com. They shop thrift stores, because there are zero carbon emissions with buying used. They create beauty out chaos, by eliminating one more person's consumption habits in a world obsessed with the latest craze.

So what's a fashion loving girl to do? More than that even, what is a minimalist to do?! I claim to be a minimalist, but I love clothing. Are these things entirely contradictory? I don't believe so. To prove it, I'm going to tell you about what I'm doing to further eliminate my own fashion footprint and why it matters. If you haven't been here previously, you may not know I'm participating in the 100 thing challenge, and I don't think I should have to look like a bum in order to be a minimalist. Listed below are the clothing items of my 100 possessions. 

Bike pants
Bike top
Black cardigan
Black hoodie
Black lacy top
Black leggings
Black Long sleeve top
Black Pants
Black shorts
Black skirt
Black skirt
Black t shirt
Black tank
Black yoga pants
Blue half shirt
Blue tank
Bras (4)
Brown shirt
Cut shirt - as in one I cut up and personalized!
Cut shirt
Green tank
Grey cardigan
Jean Jacket
Jean shorts
Leather Jacket
Long black dress
Pajama bottoms
Plaid button up top
Puffy skirt
Red dress
Socks (10)
Stockings (4)
Strapless Dress
Strapless red top
T shirt
T shirt
T shirt
Tank top
Tank top
Tank top
Tank top
Thermal bottom
Thermal top
Thermal top
Underwear (20)
White button up top
White button up top
White hoodie
White long sleeve top
White sweater

Yes, clothing constitutes most of my 100 items, and I am okay with that. I've never really been all about the stuff, but I've always loved playing dress up. And I do play! I play dress up almost every time I leave the house. It makes me feel good, and it is fun! Not everyone feels the same way about fashion, but it has always been a returning passion for me. So, here is my solution to limiting the fashion footprint.

Reduce - Stop buying stuff. Especially stop buying clothing new. It's bad for the environment and your bank account. So many resources are wasted so we can have the latest trends; make a real statement by not following what every fashion marketer on the planet wants you to believe. 

Reuse - Don't totally forsake your wardrobe, unless you want to. Thrift store shop! You get the thrill of the hunt, especially if you go in with a general list of what you need. You'll be amazed at the incredible finds that exist out there, style-wise and price-wise. Or maybe join a clothing swap. They are fantastic. So, reuse! Embrace your hunter-gatherer instincts.

Remake - Turn something awful into something fabulous ala Marisa. Or, turn something that doesn't fit into something that is tailor made. Learn to sew, pick up a DIY t-shirt manual, or start hunting the internet. My only advice here: measure thrice, cut once. 

Recycle - When you're done with clothing you used to think was awesome, pass it on. Unless the piece is totally FUBAR, give it to your little sister or Goodwill or something. Sell it at a garage sale. Pass your love of fashion on!

I promise it really is that easy. Sustainable fashion doesn't have to be hard, it just means you have to learn some of those long forgotten hunting skills. Buy at Crazy's Sam's flea market and remake his grandma's old ballerina costume into your completely original prom dress. The sky is the limit, and creativity is your means to create beauty out of chaos.

How Big Is Your Clothing Footprint? (Environmental Footprints)       DIY Fashion: Customize and Personlize    Sew Subversive: Down & Dirty DIY for the Fabulous Fashionista

Friday, September 3, 2010

6 Steps to Life Change through Minimalism

September has always been my favorite month of the year.  I absolutely love fall, and it's not just for all of the reasons about how beautiful it is, even though the colors make my heart sing. It is a month I have always associated with new beginnings. The beginning of the school year always brought me so much hope when I was younger. The idea of new subjects, new friends, and new experiences was thrilling, but most of all, having a new chance to be the person I wanted to be was like a gift from above. While I was in high school, I was far too concerned with how others perceived me, and I never rose above what was out of my comfort zone. Not so anymore.
Since I started college, autumn still has that flavor, but now it is a much more focused feeling. College has been nothing but a time of change for me, and this year, I want to take that a step further and outline those changes I've always wanted but have never been brave enough to make happen. 
Why does any of this matter to you? Because I want you to do it, too. Why wait for the New Year when you've probably forgotten all of your old goals anyhow? The entire point of minimalism is to reduce the amount of stuff so we have room for the amount of experiences we want. What if we focused on using minimalism as a tool to achieve our goals, as well as express our desire for social change? That is a powerful idea. Where do we begin on this road to life change through minimalism? Here is an outline to get you started. 

1. Make a list of all the things you have ever wanted to do. 

Don't leave anything off, no matter how crazy it sounds to you right now. Places you want to go, things you want to learn, etc. Let the list get as big as you need it to to list every single one.

2. Make a list of everything that is bothering you right now. 

List everything. This may be very uncomfortable, but it is vital for the maximum amount of change to be realized. You may even find yourself writing things down things that don't make any sense. That is just fine. Keep writing.

3. Make a list of what matters to you.

People, possessions, causes, etc. Don't worry about being judged. No one ever has to see these lists.

4. List your top five values.

This was the hardest one for me by far. It takes some serious soul searching; don't merely write what looks good on the page. Think for yourself. This can mean thinking outside your religious and social circles, outside of your family, and outside of your culture. Allow yourself transcend all of these potential obstacles, and let your true values to shine through. 

5. List all of your commitments.

This can be tricky because it can sometimes be difficult to identify what counts as a commitment. Here is what my list looks like to help you out.

Dusti's Current Commitments
101 in 1001
Mom - teach Evie to read, potty training, etc.
Being a bike commuter
Home - cleaning
Keeping connected with those I care about

6. Catalog all of your possessions.

This may be a long one for some of you who are new to minimalism, but this is crucial. Until you realize how much stuff you have that you probably don't need, it will be very difficult for you to let go of it. I'll even give you the liberty of taking one hour right now and speeding through your house with a Goodwill box. Seriously. You have one hour. Go!

Now, take all of your lists and sit down. This is where we hack away at what is in your life taking up space now in order to make room for that which you truly desire. First, we'll start with your values. Think about them carefully, finalize the list, and put it up somewhere conspicuous until you are sure you won't forget them. 
Next, look at what matters to you. Does everything fit within the context of your values? If not, you need to figure out why. For instance, if you find that you really value a particular object that doesn't seem in line with your values, find out why you value it. Is it because it is a social status symbol? A thought you have attached to it? Be harsh when it comes to determining what matters to you, because we are trained from birth in this culture to value things that really don't matter.
You've probably hacked away at a few things already, and that is very good. You should be starting to understand that possessions are not what matters, if you didn't see it coming from the beginning. Now, we'll consider your current commitments. Do they fit into the scheme of your values? Do they all matter to you? If they don't meet this criteria, get rid of them as fast and as painlessly as you can. 
Take the list of everything that is bothering you right now, even the ones that may not have made sense earlier. How many of them are tied in with unwanted commitments? What about the others? Do they involve individuals? Can you find a solution to the problem with the person? If not, can you eliminate that person's presence or influence in your life? Come up with micro-actions (an action you can take right now) to get these bothersome problems solve. Let go of what is bothering you, and I guarantee you are going to feel a huge weight lift from your shoulders.
Remember that list of everything you wanted to do? Go over it, and make everything on it is in line with your values. Make sure everything matters to you. Make a list of micro-actions with something to do for every single item. Now, post this list right next to your values list. This just turned into to your new goal/to-do list. This is what you will have time and energy and space for after everything else is out of the way. 
Now, for the part those of you still holding on to all of that stuff are going to sigh over, it's time to make a list of all of your possessions. I personally have chosen Excel to make lists and categorize everything, but do whatever will be easiest for you. In addition to your list of possessions, start making a list of items that need replaced due to wear or whatever else. Most of all, as you catalog everything, start getting rid of what you don't need or doesn't serve your purposes any longer! Be honest. If you haven't worn or used it in the past 60 days, it's gone. Give it away, post it on Craigslist and earn some money, eBay; it doesn't matter what you do with it, just get it out of there! 
One month ago, my list of commitments and my list list of stuff were a few items longer than they are now. I was working at Starbucks, trying to make someone who wasn't important in my life happy to my own demise, and I was considering participating in something that would have only stressed me out and doesn't really fit with who I am trying to become. Once I determined my values and realized none of these things mattered to me, I tossed them out with the recycling, and I began writing, a choice I am very happy with. 
Don't let society dictate your commitments. You have full control over them, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Make your lists and start making it happen.

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Minimalist Transportation Options: Part II

Everett Bogue advocates using free transportation, and I think he has a great idea. What is free that you only need yourself for? You got it.

Running - I have been walking to get where I needed to go for the last 8 years or so. While it takes more time, I now have significant memories attached to those places I was walking through, and I wouldn't trade those for the time I would have saved in a car. When it comes to running, however, I feel like it just a way to get into shape instead of transportation.
Many environmentalists are advocates of walking wherever you can, and I think that is great. However, what if we ran instead? Imagine the implications of that for a moment. I walk a mile in 20 minutes, on average. How fast do I run a mile? About 8 minutes. Granted this information, how then shall we live? There are a few great places on the web to read about making running a part of your daily commute, such as this Google group, and why not give it shot? And, don't forget about the new craze with barefoot running. You'll even be trendy! Running will certainly take some preparation to make it work, but it is possible. Do you have items you have to take to work with you? Drop them at the office Monday morning, bring running clothes with you, and run home! I highly recommend reading about the experiences of others to get started, as well as keep you motivated.
Other choices you make also contribute to how likely you are to be successful in your newly mode of transportation. 

Live in a place with good mass transit.
Live in place that encourages bicycle riding.

Do you see a pattern here? Where you live has a very strong affect on how you commute. There is a very poignant article regarding where you live and your weight, hilariously titled, Cul-de-sacs and 11 other unexpected things that make you fat.
This hopefully has been useful to those of you debating whether or not to try an alternative form of transportation. If you need more convincing, check out this article by Tammy Strobel.

The Barefoot Running Book: A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running   FiveFingers KSO - Men's Black/Black 43 by Vibram USA    Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen