Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Here's a Re-post on Simplicity

and why I'm a minimalist in progress.

Originally written for and posted on Be More With Less. Thank you for allowing me to share, Courtney.


I stood in my mom’s closet, her flashy clothes and fun shoes stuffed on the hangers and shelves around me. She had died two days earlier, and now I was struggling to pick an outfit that would best represent her one last time before we laid her to rest. I had a lifetime of memories with her, yet couldn’t find the clothes that encompassed her vivaciousness, passion, and kindness. I was in too much shock to cherish memories and “fondly look back at the good times,” as many friends and family members urged me to do. I clung to the things she last used, grasping for anything to keep her close.
The next spring, we finally hosted a garage sale of most of her things, with the family keeping our favorite mementos to bring us comfort. Sorting through someone’s stuff after they’ve died is a traumatic experience you cannot describe without having been through it. Yet with each item I passed along to its new owner, I was able to feel my pain and process it. It began to sink in that while these things and this stuff felt like my mom, they weren’t her. Overcoming that mental hurdle was the biggest challenge, but coming to that realization is what started me down the path to simplicity.
During college and as a young graduate, I moved six times in seven years. Each move was in July, with temperatures in the triple digits. Even after suffering through these tough moves in the hot and humid Texas summer, I still never cut down the amount of stuff I owned. Jewelry, clothes, bags, shoes, things, stuff…everywhere. I strived to be organized and clean, but I wanted all these things. The juxtaposition of my feelings often overwhelmed me, but I realized that what I had learned about my mom’s stuff applied to my own as well.
I began purging the clothes, shoes, and tchotckes that I had clung to for some reason and didn’t care for anymore. I took my favorite old t-shirts and had them made into a t-shirt quilt. It keeps me warmer than 25 individual t-shirts ever would. For every thing that I give away, I think of all the people who will use it more than me. I think of what my family would have to deal with if I died suddenly. I take a deep breath and enjoy the space that I create.
During this new simplicity era, my dad caught the bug. We never needed to vocalize it, but it’s clear that the trauma of my mom’s death and the garage sale pushed us both to get rid of what didn’t matter anymore to make room for what does. Additionally, my dad has a chance to process his memories as well. He finds old pictures and texts them to me, and we have a good laugh. By having less, we’re able to highlight those few cherished possessions that bring us joy every time we see them. By having less, we’re able to enjoy our time together even more–although I still haven’t gotten him to take a yoga class with me.
I’m still a simple living work-in-progress. I still love shoes and clothes; however, I buy far less than I used to, and I make sure everything fits well and is made well. When I bring something new into my closet, I get rid of one (or more!) things. Learning about simple living and putting my knowledge into practice has given me the tools to continue living a life of purpose.
Even though it’s been five years since her death, I still think of all the memories we have: all our inside jokes, the way she taught me to speak my mind and my heart with poise and grace, and how important it is to give to others. I know she would be proud of the life I’m creating for myself. And I know she would tell me to continue enjoying the simple things, and always look for the fun shapes when you look at clouds.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

You Want a Physicist to Speak at Your Funeral

I saw this circulating a popular facebook page espousing love of science. Apparently, the original text comes from Aaron Freeman during an NPR bit. It's the most comforting thing I've read about death since Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.

"You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Travel vs. Minimalist Lifestyle

The path to minimalism is filled with struggles. Not because being a minimalist is punishment, but because this path to "enlightenment" requires letting go of your subconscious death grip on previously understood ideas. I'm seeing minimalism work its way more and more into culture, and seeing more and more people unsatisfied and disillusioned with our nation's (and many parts of the world's) consumerism.

For many people, minimalism is just practical. Everyday Minimalist* comes to mind when I think of the practicality. She travels a ton, so minimalism just makes sense. She can't afford to take everything and the kitchen sink with her. However, for others, it's a long process of realizing we have way too much Stuff. I fall somewhere in between the two. The closer you arrive towards a comfortable minimalist lifestyle yourself, the more it becomes practical.

A minimalist lifestyle is perfect for traveling. However, in reducing the consumerist and wasteful lifestyle, we're met with a challenge: the cost of travel on our world. Yes, we may get rid of everything and carry our life's belongings in a backpack, but what's the cost of flying around the country? Around the world? What's the cost of our privilege?

I know flying has a tremendous impact on our environment. However, we are able to see so many parts of the world that were untouchable even as recent as 50 years ago. I hear so many people return from traveling with a huge shift in perspective. Their ingrained Western-centric mindset has been adjusted. There is a world outside of our bubble. That kind of perspective is invaluable. I try to retain perspective, but I haven't seen these things myself. One day.

By reducing our consumerism, we can reduce the huge impacts on the environment that all our plastic crap and disposable stuff have. Purchasing carbon offsets may not eliminate this effect, but it's a good start.

Some may argue that with the internet, we're connected throughout the whole world and can see many things we've been shielded from. That is true. However, experiencing the world in person just isn't the same. You can look at pictures of the beaches and ocean in Hawaii, but until you've heard the ocean, smelled it, listened to it, you can't truly grasp it. Our privilege means we have a duty to embrace it and protect it. We're lucky that we live somewhere where we have the freedom to travel. We should take advantage of it.

*Everyday Minimalist is now over at Save. Spend. Splurge. where she continues to post matter-of-fact manifestos on life and consumerism. Love her posts!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Regaining Your Voice

I've always been a writer. I grew up solving puzzles while listening to my mom click away on her old Mac. She would shake her head back and forth, much like Stevie Wonder does when he's really into a song (I mean that as the best compliment to both my mom and Mr. Wonder, who are both inspirational and vibrant). She instilled her love of the written word, both in reading it and creating it, in me.

It's been years since I completed my English degree, and I have not written for fun nearly as much as I should. I write a lot at my job, but it's a very specific style. Great for factual analysis and professionalism, but not nearly as juicy or decadent. But writing, much like reading, quenches a thirst you didn't even know you had. In rebooting this blog, I feel like someone clearing their throat after not having spoken in so long. I'm finding my place and regaining voice.

So, I appreciate you sticking with me while I clear my throat. I may jump around from minimalism and consumerism talks to travel to crafting (both Pinterest successes and pinstrosities). As we go along for this ride together, I promise that while it may be random, disjointed, and foggy, it will never be boring.