Saturday, October 30, 2010
I recently wrote about what our family eats - saying that I stay away from the sugar packed stuff. I was concentrating on trying Indiana to eat very healthy. Lots of fruit and veggies and stuff, you know. A warm meal twice a day. She has gotten cookies from the health food store.
But I've been thinking about my approach and I've realized I've let personal issues
affect my decisions. I have Crohn's disease and I became very ill in my early twenties, after years of living on a "poor student diet". I was a vegetarian who rarely ate vegetables. My diet mostly consisted of diet pepsi and refined carbohydrates. Yikes!
Combine that with hereditary predisposition, personality type and what have you - the result was full blown illness. (To those of you who don't know what Crohn's disease means, it's an inflammatory bowel disease that can be fatal at worst.)
I've thought about it, and it seems that the kids who rarely get anything sugary, feel deprived and easily eat too much on the rare occasion they can do so. It can lead to them always choosing the sweets over other food when they a have choice in the matter.
I've decided to treat all foods and sweets equally. I make sure there is always healthy snacks like raw carrots and apples at hand. I cook healthy home made meals. I make smoothies and green drinks. But I also let her eat cookies and cake and chocolate. I like to bake a lot myself so we don't have to eat lots of additives, preservatives and hydrogenated vegetable fats. I can substitute white sugar with raw sugar, margarine with real butter and white wheat flour with spelt flour. But it's okay to buy cookies from the store -regular store even :) But eating store bought "junk food" occasionally isn't dangerous.
I've looked at how she eats and her relationship with food is so uncomplicated and healthy. She will eat what she wants and leave the rest, no matter if it's tuna pasta or chocolate cookies. So it doesn't make sense for me to arbitrarily give her five chocolates and say "that's enough" because then she will always feel like the good stuff is restricted. If she eats five and wants more, I can give her some and she will eat one or two more and give the rest back to me. I can trust her to self-regulate. I want to encourage this self-regulating (by staying out of it!) and hope that it will carry on to adulthood.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
One of my very favorite bloggers, Francine Jay of missminimalist.com, recetly wrote a guest post on another great blog, zenhabits, about traveling lightly through life: http://zenhabits.net/light-life/
I was instantly reminded of a recurring dream I used to have.
I was traveling or about to go somewhere and I was packing. But I couldn't get stuff to fit in the allowed containers, no matter what. It was nightmareish. I was in a hurry and getting desperate. Finally, when awake, I decided to try the next time in that dream, to just leave everything! Why couldn't I just leave everything? Even just the stuff that didn't fit?
I always thought it was a metaphor of dragging my past with me, which it may very well have been been. But just now I was reminded that the dreams stopped a few years ago - around the time I started my minimizing journey!
Take what it most important and just leave the rest. The baggage is heavy and worthless.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Would you like to take care of your own children, but don't think it's possible? Do you feel pressured by the society to return to work soon after having children? Do you think it would be a waste of your education to stay at home with your child? Do you think your friends would think you are a loser?
I urge you to think again. Financial issues can almost always be solved if you sit down and really think about it. You will have to make changes to your lifestyle for sure. Your education is not wasted, it won't go anywhere. You are still educated. Doesn't your child deserve a smart, loving person to take care of her and teach her things? And as far as the rest of the society goes, well who gives a crap.
I bet you can do it if you really want to!
Everybody is saying that they have to work for money and in order to do that they have to take their kids to day care. They absolutely need the money. They'd stay at home if it was possible but it's not.
When I hear this, I always think: "How poor is EVERYBODY that nobody can afford to stay at home?" I mean, in this country we even get a certain amount of money from the government if we stay at home (for the first three years -though I think it should be for longer!). I realize that single parents probably really have no other choice, but when there are two parents, how come it's not possible to arrange one's life so that the family can live on one income? We live on one 4-day income and we don't even live paycheck to paycheck. I feel rich. You won't hear me complaining about lack of money.
So just maybe, if one stops buying so much stuff, cool gadgets, new home decor, a second car, yearly vacations abroad, big house, and so forth, it would be possible for more people to live with less money? I certainly know I could easily be spending a lot less than I'm spending now, and I'm working on that :) And if you need extra money for that trip to Thailand, you can always sell your excess stuff. I recently made well over 3300 euros selling my stuff that I didn't need.
But after this always comes the second argument, which is that even if you don't absolutely NEED all the money, you have the right to work because you will lose your value in the job market if you don't go back to work soon after having a baby, and you will go bonkers staying home anyway. A happy parent is a good parent. Your children will actually benefit from two working, happy parents.
And you know, the younger the baby is when (s)he starts day care, the easier it is for the baby to adapt. And they do adapt, don't they. Kids are wired like that, it's a survival skill, so that they can live anywhere, in any culture, with any parents.
That doesn't mean going to day care for 8+ hours every day when they can't speak or walk is good for them. The consensus among children's psychiatrists these days is that the best place for children under three years old is at home. But you aren't allowed to say this out loud. You can't "blame" mothers and make them feel bad. But if they feel so bad, maybe that's their conscience telling them they could have made another choice? I feel good about my choice and I'm not afraid to say it.
Then there is the argument that women are oppressed if they stay at home. Well, it doesn't have to be the mother, dads can stay at home too. Is it so horrible spending time with your own child, that you have to fight about who HAS to do it?
It's only for a few years, folks.
I'm not saying that I don't ever have bad days and I'm never tired. I am. But I choose this.
Then there are people who actually would like to stay at home, but give in the pressure of the society, that says "work work, work, buy, buy, work". The society that gives out a message that your worth is measured in years of employment, money made, taxes paid. Sometimes there is also fear of losing a social status and future possibilities in the job market. Even if they really hate their job! Why would you do this to yourself? You don't owe your life to the money making machine. You are not your job status. Possibilities will always be there, new and exciting ones, open for you when you are ready.
It sucks that staying at home with your kids is so under-rated it's beyond comprehension. The parents who stay at home have to start valuing it themselves first. If you stay at home, be proud of it!
What is important for you? For me it's not a career. It's not making money. I don't care if I'm unhip or a loser in somebody's mind. I'd even be willing to give up painting altogether (as opposed to just drastically reducing the time I spend painting or doing other personal stuff). I have the rest of my life, but my daughter is only small once. All the material stuff won't make up for the lost time, time spent acquiring money and junk, while taking the kids to daycare every day. And you know what? Your work colleagues won't be there to visit you and hold your hand when you are old and demented. Your family just may be. But are you there for them now, when they need you the most?
I want to be there to hear all the cool stuff my daughter says, to explain the world to her, to comfort her when she is hurt or sad or just wants to cuddle. I want to teach her values and raise her. To look at the stars and moon with her. (Yes, we have done that- since we can sleep in the morning she doesn't need to be in bed at 7PM.)
But that's just me. I'm crazy like that.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
My back hurts and my hands are raw and cut.
I spent hours today at my studio, removing 12 large 2-meter canvases from the stretcher bars, and cleaning up junk.
I'm going to move to a smaller and cheaper studio. On monday I'll go see a place in a large shared factory space. I have been putting off de-cluttering my studio, I've tried to keep it in a separate compartment in my head, thinking vaguely that I will get to it once everything else is perfectly de-cluttered and minimalistic.
But I can't put it off anymore. Not if I'm going to fit in a much smaller place. And also because, at this point, our home is very pared down and after moving it will be even more so. So the junk in my studio has started to weigh on me more and more...
De-cluttering at home has been easy lately, as I have been paring down one thing here and another there, there isn't a lot of useless stuff around anymore. But I was sorely (literally, since my hands really hurt!)reminded today of what a drag de-cluttering is. I hate it. Yet there is great satisfaction and lightness after I've made considerable progress.
Of course, today I was also literally trashing my work. Old work, but nevertheless, I created it with all my heart at one point. I can hear my old principal at art school screaming at me for not respecting my own work. She's right, I don't respect it enough to continue spending an extra 200 euros a month just so I can keep storing it -indefinitely. This is stuff I will never show again, and my current painting style is different. And at the end of the day, it's just stuff too. Even art is not sacred and untouchable.
The good news is that I got two people to take the stretcher bars off my hands, and they are even paying me for them.
I also trashed some awkward junk that was just wasting away there. I'll try to give away some very useful materials that I just haven't touched in the two and half years that I've rented my current studio.
I even made a decision to sell off materials and tools for a hobby I was nuts over for a while. (Like, manic nuts, which explains how I ended up with piles and piles of materials.. my only serious relapse from years of paring down.) Again, I found a person to buy all of it from me for a good price. So I get to move on and not even feel guilty about it.
I like making lists, and I've written down everything I've sold. So far I've made over 3300 euros selling stuff I no longer need or want. I'm telling you this as an example that you should not hold on to stuff of value, if you don't really use and need them. If it has value, someone else will want it, and pay you for it. If nobody wants it, clearly it's not so valuable, and maybe you shouldn't be clinging to it either. Selling the stuff is a bit of a hassle, but if you bunch things up that go together, and only sell stuff over a certain value so that it makes it worth your while, it's not so bad.
There is more in my flea market pile that is going to be sold this month, and everything that doesn't sell gets donated straight away.
Once my work space is de-cluttered and stripped down to the essentials, the materials I actually use RIGHT NOW for my art, it will be a huge accomplishment.
I really, REALLY want to live with minimal stuff in every regard.
And if I ever start to really sell my work (or actually, if my gallerist starts to sell them, which she tells she is going to do...) it will be much easier to maintain my studio as all of the work isn't accumulating there and demanding precious storage space.
The junky studio's days are numbered!
I love my life. I really do.
I get to spend my days with my daughter, and in the evening my husband plays with her and I get to do my own things.
My husband works 4 days a week and always comes home at a reasonable hour, not working overtime. He cherishes his free time, and the time spent with Indiana and myself.
I get to paint or do whatever. I don't have to paint if I don't feel like it. I'm under no pressure to sell or succeed or whatever. Because I release myself from that pressure.
I'm not here on earth to make tons of money, or to be admired for what I do. I want the respect of the people that are close to me. I want to help out in small ways people who need it, and I want to "tread lightly" on this earth.
I'm not here to accumulate tons of crap and status symbols. I'm not here to chase a career. I don't need to be "cool" or necessarily travel to every continent (though I do like traveling and enjoy visiting new places. It's just that I want to settle for less traveling to be more environmentally friendly).
What I need is to cherish every moment, this day, doing everyday things, because that's what life consists of most of the time. If I can't find joy and happiness in that, I'm doomed for unhappiness.
I'm here to draw my daughter a raccoon.
And to make us fruit smoothies.
I'm here to make my life count and be meaningful by being honest to myself, by being present to the people who need me, and by opting out of the rat race that we call western civilization.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
What am I doing talking about Christmas in October?
Well, the Christmas shopping extravaganza is upon us soon anyway, so we should get a head start! Because we want a different Christmas this year! At least I do.
Gift giving and receiving can turn on it's head and become burdensome. What to buy Dad or Brother who really do not care for any Thing? Where to put all the blankets / socks / decorative pillows you will receive this year?
We made a suggestion to all the participants of the usual gift giving, that gifts would be given to children only. If someone really wants to get us something, consumables and immaterial gifts are preferred - our current apartment being so small and all. (Now that we are about to move and should live in a bigger home this Christmas, I wonder how that'll work..)
We ourselves have gotten in the habit of giving charity gifts - buying a flock of chicks, a goat, a toilet, can of worms, art class for kids... in a "developing" country. We researched different organizations and found one that actually gives those things to actual people, so that the money doesn't just end up in some general charity work supporting the organization. Because we thought it was much more fun to give that actual goat, just that someone else would be receiving it instead of mother-in-law. (Who actually got a bit scared the first year we did these charity gifts, that we really had bought her a goat that would soon arrive in her back yard!)
I have another idea for this Christmas. We could give micro loans through kiva.org, one in behalf of each family member. It's quite fun to choose which endeavors to support (my husband has been doing this for a while and sometimes I help choose the businesses, which have been around the world, including Cambodia, Mongolia and South America...) And it can be an ongoing gift, since you can re-lend the money when the recipient has paid back the debt. What could be a better gift than to help another person set up a business to support themselves and their family!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Choosing a minimalist lifestyle will undoubtedly simplify your life. And simple living will help you with achieving a minimalist lifestyle!
With having 50 pieces of clothing, one bag, a few pairs of shoes, two sets of bed linens, one set of china, and so forth, will make choosing what to use a no-brainer. You don't have to use mental energy on what to put in your bed when you only have one set of clean sheets in the cabinet. Getting dressed is super easy when all your clothes are favorites, and everything goes together. You can just pull out a top and a bottom and then throw on a cardigan or coat.
You can wear the same jewelry and make-up every day with everything, if you keep it simple and minimal!
Minimalism takes away the difficulty of choosing by simply limiting choices.
Minimalism eradicates worry about money. It's obvious, as you are not constantly buying things, you spend way less money and it starts to actually accumulate in your bank account. You can feel financially more secure, knowing that a sudden unexpected expense will not make your finances crumble.
You will feel more relaxed in your home and save a lot of time on cleaning and organizing. "Minimalism is the end of organizing" they say! When there is nothing to get out of place, there is nothing to organize. Or dust, move around, vacuum under and behind, wipe, store, fix, find a place for..
Shopping becomes something you do out of necessity rather than as a hobby! If you have figured out your own style and found a place where you will easily find new clothing as you need to replace old ones, it takes out of the frustration of trying to find things, and eliminates buying things you will never wear, thus becoming wardrobe clutter.
All of this time and mental energy can be geared towards anything you wish. I am using it to be fully present with my daughter, I feel more calm and serene and in the moment as I don't have tons of stuff trying to grab my attention. There are no piles and undone things demanding to be taken care of. Chores are easy and there is an immediate sense of accomplishment as it only takes a few minutes to do whatever needs to be done. Making a mess doesn't make me anxious because it's easy and fast to clean up.
Minimalism is definitely not only for single people or couples without children. It can make living with kids, well, a lot simpler. The easier cleaning is an obvious bonus. Limiting the amount of toys (no need to go Spartan there, but they really do not need hundreds of toys..) and hobbies is not going to hurt your child and it might just keep you a little saner.
Living minimally might enable one of the parents to stay at home with the kids. You don't need to make all that money if you are not buying all those things, and that big house, and two cars, a boat and...