Minimalizing Made Easy: Here’s What You Need to Know

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It’s no secret that I’m a firm believer in minimalism. In fact, I’ve written a couple of books about simple living and the value of living with less. I love the concept of simple living and minimalism in general. While there’s nothing wrong with having belongings, there’s a certain freedom in simplifying what you have and not hanging onto items out of emotional guilt or childhood trauma.

For me, simple living means I can be in a calm space without a lot of clutter and just have room to be. Instead of focusing on buying stuff and accumulating knick-knacks, I can focus on making memories and spending time with my family.

If you’ve been thinking about taking the leap, so to speak, and starting to live a simpler life by decluttering your home and moving to a more minimalistic approach, there are a few things you need to know before you begin.

First off, start slow. No one is saying you need to sell all of your stuff and buy a tiny home. A few years ago, my husband and I gave away almost all of our belongings (we stored a few boxes with my parents), sold our cars, and moved overseas. The experience was incredible, and getting rid of things wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. We both have a flair for the dramatic, though, so don’t think you need to do anything this crazy. For you, perhaps decluttering your junk drawer will be a good place to start. Maybe simplifying your dining room is what matters most. Never think that just because you read stories about people who live with one piece of furniture that you need to be that person. You don’t. You just need to be you.

It’s also important that you be realistic and respectful of your family. If you live alone, you can skip this part, but for minimalists with spouses and kids, make sure you aren’t decluttering to the point of stressing out your family. Here’s what I mean: I have a girlfriend who wanted to do the whole minimalist-living thing. Her husband didn’t. She got rid of almost everything in the house except for a box of his VHS tapes he was saving. She was trying to decide whether she should get rid of these when he wasn’t looking because he never used them. See the problem? To her, these VHS tapes just took up space. For him, they were a collection of favorite movies he’d taken years to accumulate. I don’t know what ended up happening in this particular situation, but I hope that they were able to communicate openly and honestly and come up with some sort of solution that worked for both of them. If you live with other people, don’t declutter their stuff. Instead, focus on yourself.

It’s also a good idea to set realistic goals. What is it you hope to accomplish by decluttering your house? Some possible goals could include:

  • Having a more relaxing living space
  • Not having piles of books or papers on the kitchen table
  • Reducing the number of boxes in the garage
  • Keeping the space beneath the beds clear
  • Minimizing the amount of clean-up and dusting you have to do
  • Having a tidy living room so unexpected guests don’t cause stress or hasty cleaning
Each person seeks minimalism for a different reason. Understand that no matter what your goals are, there will always be exceptions and there will always be things you can’t declutter. For example, my husband and I both love to study languages. We will never not have books in our house. To some people, the idea of having shelves and shelves of books is a dust bunny invasion waiting to happen. For us, it’s a haven. While it’s pretty difficult not to compare yourself to others, make a conscious effort to focus on yourself and your own goals, rather than what other people are doing.

Are you a minimalist? What are your personal minimalism goals? Leave me a comment and let me know! You can also check out one of my minimalism books, such as Minimalism Made Easy: What it Really Takes to Live With Less, for more ideas!

Prepping Without Clutter: Can it Be Done?

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When my husband was in the military (which feels like many moons ago, though in reality, it was just a few years), we lived in a medium-sized townhouse. We had a little pantry and a garage and more cupboards than I knew what to do with. It was easy to convert our upstairs walk-in closet into a survival room, complete with food storage, extra clothes, and emergency supplies. I had shelves and books and first aid kits and flashlights. I had food and laundry detergent and candles and all sorts of amazing, wonderful prepping things.

Then he got out of the military and we moved to a little 2-bedroom apartment halfway across the country.

Suddenly, we were pressed for space and couldn’t store as much as we used to.

This raised the question, “How can we prep without clutter?”

When you’re living in a small space, you can certainly still prep. You’ll have to be creative, though, and you may not be able to store as much as your prepping-counterparts who have large houses or land. There’s nothing wrong with prepping in small spaces. You can absolutely still do it. You will have to think outside of the box though and you’ll have to make some tough choices.

For example, how much of a food storage do you need? At one point, we had enough food to last a few months. When we moved, we were lucky to be able to store three weeks’ worth of food. Consider sitting down with your spouse or partner and talking about how much you actually want and need to store. In reality, most families will be fine with a one-month food storage. If you’re planning to be without power or access to a store for longer than that, you may need to start thinking about getting out of dodge, to be honest.

In addition to storing less, you can also store smarter. Remember: you don’t need an extra room for prepping. You can easily store gallons of water in a linen closet or extra flashlights under the bed. You can get a hurricane or tornado box and fill that up with supplies, then store it in your child’s closet behind the pile of toys.

The biggest thing to remember when you’re trying to do no-clutter prepping is that you can’t compare yourself to other people. There will always be someone better, more prepared, or more organized than you. So what? Good for them! Worry about making your own house perfect for you and your spouse and forget what anyone else thinks. What matters is that you prep in a way that makes sense for your family.

2016 and Beyond

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Did you make a list of resolutions or goals for the year?

What does your list look like?

How do you stay on track for your goals?

In 2016, I’ll be doing a lot more blogging and even more writing. You can expect several new books from me this year, including one on life in Taiwan called Ni Hao, Taiwan. I’ll also have a few new minimalism books out later in the year, as well. Release dates will be posted later – I’m currently working on a few other projects, but there will be books! Make sure you join my email list for the earliest updates!

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking on what I hope to accomplish with The Nerdy Survivalist. This blog was started a few years ago as a way to connect with other survivalists and like-minded people who love to prep and who love to live simply. This year, I’d like to grow and expand while continuing to help others on their journeys to simple living. I’ll continue to have prepper posts, but I’ll also have more of a focus on simple and minimalist living.

Happy New Year!

Dealing With Holiday Stress

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Each year the holidays come. I say “the holidays,” but really I mean “Christmas,” because let’s be honest: most people celebrate Christmas in some form. It’s now mid-December, which means my Facebook feed is full of people arguing about:

1) How many gifts to get each child
2) How much to spend on each child
3) How it’s mean to buy gifts for your children because some families are poor
4) What recipes to cook for Christmas
5) Whether or not it’s okay to say “X-Mas”
6) Advent and what it really means
7) How you should be nice to people even if they aren’t Christian because Christmas is for everyone

Now, my husband and I stopped celebrating “Christmas” awhile ago. I grew up in a conservative Christian household and I have no beefs with celebrating the birth of Christ. None. What I do have a problem with is that “the holiday season” tends to be a really great time for people to be general jerkfaces to one another without cause. Whether it’s fighting on Facebook or just being pushy and rude at the store, Christmastime, to me, is one of the worst times of the year.

It’s also one of the most stressful.

But there are ways you can deal with the stress that often accompanies Christmas.

First off, learn to say “no.” No, you do not have to participate in every secret Santa gift exchange. If you’re a minimalist, this idea is horrifying, anyway. No one wants a bunch of cheap, stupid gifts sitting around their house. No one wants someone else to buy them random books they’ll never read or ugly sweaters that will sit in a box. If you don’t want to spend money on people you don’t like, then don’t. Say no. You can be honest or you can be polite in your refusal. You do not have to get political. Remember that you also don’t need to offer people a reason you aren’t doing something. You don’t know anyone an explanation. “I won’t be able to make it” or “We already have plans” are fine. “It’s not in the budget this year” is also fine.

Next, remember that your lifestyle is between you and your spouse. You answer to your husband or wife and the rest of the world doesn’t matter. If you don’t want to go to 30 holiday parties, then don’t go to 30 holiday parties. If you want to spend $1,000 on Christmas gifts, then spend it. If you want to go on vacation at Christmastime because you both have breaks from work and you can afford it, then do it. You do not have to participate in conventional Christmas activities. You do not have to buy a tree. You do not have to go to Christmas Eve church. Choosing not to celebrate Christmas the way other people want you to does not mean you don’t love Jesus.

If you do decide to celebrate Christmas, prepare as much as possible ahead of time. If you plan to cook, decide on your menu now. Stock up on your nonperishables so you’ll have them when it’s time for your party. Don’t wait until the last minute and then scramble around from store to store trying to find the food you need. If you want to order pies from a restaurant, get your order in now. Today. Don’t wait until five days before. They’ll be sold out. Buy your gifts early and put them away so you won’t be worried about shopping at the last second.

Finally, don’t celebrate with people you can’t stand. I’m constantly reading articles on “how to deal with relatives you hate” or “how to avoid talking about politics at Christmas.” Really? Why would you celebrate with people you hate? You know there are plenty of other days in the year you can see your Grandma, right? You don’t have to go visit at Christmastime when there are going to be people you hate hanging around. If Christmas is that big of a burden, just skip it. Skip the drama, skip the stress, and do something different. Visit your grandmother another day. I promise: she’ll be okay.

How do you avoid stress during the holiday season? Do you celebrate Christmas?

How to Start Prepping When Your Spouse Thinks You’re Crazy

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One of the biggest questions people have about prepping is, “How do I get my spouse on board?”

Hopefully, if you’re thinking of prepping for any type of emergency situation, you have a supportive spouse. Ideally, your spouse is someone who will prep with you, who will help you, and who will come up with a plan that works for your family.

If your spouse thinks you’re crazy, though, prepping will be a little tougher.

It won’t be impossible.

If you have a partner who thinks prepping is silly, a waste of money, or useless, you do not need to ridicule them. You don’t need to make fun of them. You don’t need to bombard them with links to your favorite prepper sites. If you do, you’re simply going to alienate them and demonstrate that your spouse’s opinion doesn’t matter. This is basically the worst thing you could possibly do.

Instead, consider your spouse’s concerns and try to work in a way that demonstrates respect of their opinion.

For example, maybe your wife thinks prepping is a waste of money. Maybe she’s worried that if you spend a lot of money on guns, ammo, food, or supplies that you won’t have enough money to make your car payment. Instead of ignoring her wishes and buying all the supplies you want, consider clipping coupons, looking for sales, or finding non-expensive things you can prep with. You could also look for ways to reduce your household spending to increase your “play money.” By doing this, you’ll show your spouse that you care about her opinion and that you’re willing to work hard to make prepping work for your family.

If you have a husband who thinks prepping is faddish or silly, you can begin prepping slowly. One way to do this is to focus on skills, rather than accumulating “stuff.” For example, you could start running each day to increase your physical fitness and endurance. You could sign up for a free online class at Coursera to learn how to survive in the wilderness. You could watch YouTube videos on gardening. You could get an eBook on prepping. The possibilities are endless.

When it comes to prepping, you shouldn’t do anything that’s going to push away or alienate your partner. Try to include them as much as possible so you can grow together as a couple, rather than letting this get between you.

How to Get Rid of All of Your Stuff and Move Overseas

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Step 1: Get rid of all of your stuff.
Step 2: Buy plane tickets

Yes, it really is that simple.

I’d read about minimalist living for years, practiced it for several, and penned several books on the subject, but moving overseas was definitely a challenge.

The truth is, though, that you can spend all of your time reading books on minimalist lifestyles or you can just do it.

The goal, for me, wasn’t to live with 12 items or whatever. The goal was just to live a life I wanted.

My husband and I talked for years about living abroad. I know it’s a popular topic. It’s one of those things that everyone says they want to do, but that few people actually do.

Why?

Laziness.

Fear.

Guilt.

People are emotionally connected to their stuff and afraid to give it up. They’re scared of trying something new. They’re nervous they might make someone mad. They feel guilty about living a life that’s out of the ordinary. They’re afraid they’re going to mess up their kids. They’re too lazy to try.

If you want to live overseas, just do it. Seriously. That’s really all there is to it.

We made our final decision to move overseas about three years ago. We knew it would be a long process and there were a few things we had to do first. Because we started planning so soon before the move, we made careful choices in how we lived. Namely, we didn’t buy furniture or spend a lot of money on going out. We saved what we could. We practiced studying the language of our new country.

Shortly before we moved, I began getting rid of our things. I gave away almost everything. I did sell our television and my keyboard, as well as our cars. Everything else we either gave away or threw away. Some people want to make money off of their belongings. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it will take more time than just giving things to people. For me, it’s more important to be generous than to make a few dollars. Other people have different priorities and that’s fine. If you choose to sell your stuff, you can easily use the money you make to pay for your plane tickets.

When it was time to move, we bought our plane tickets, cleaned our apartment, checked out with our landlord, and drove to the airport.

Yes, it was really that simple.

We landed in our new country, my husband found a job 2 days later, and we found an apartment to live in by the end of that week.

Do I regret moving?

No.

Do I think most people can do it?

No.

Why not?

Fear.

If you want to move overseas, you don’t need to read a bunch of blogs or books on how to make it happen. You just have to take the leap and do it. Living abroad can be overwhelming and tricky, but it’s also a ton of fun. Seriously, more fun than you can possibly imagine. We get to spend more time together as a family, meet cool people every day, and try more food than I ever thought possible.

The problem is that people don’t really want to live abroad, they just like to talk about it, so they come up with a list of reasons why they can’t do it. The same is true of bloggers, writers, artists, or linguists. “I wish I could learn another language” is simply code for “I’m too lazy to spend three years learning.”

If you want to do something, do it.

This has been your motivational post for the day.

Good luck.

Prepping Your Home for the Holidays

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photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Not all prepping is about emergency survival. Sometimes prepping is just about being ready for what happens next.

It’s October, which means the next thing that’s gonna happen is Thanksgiving.

Then Christmas.

Then New Year’s.

Then you’re probably going to crash super hard and not want to look at another cookie, glass of milk, or credit card bill for the rest of your life.

Or, you know, until next October.

One of the best things you can do now, in October, before the holidays even begin, is to start prepping your home. This applies whether or not you have kids and whether or not you plan to host guests.

If you can get your house clean and organized before the holidays arrive, you’ll be able to run everything without exerting all of your energy. What I mean is that by organizing ahead of time, you won’t be stuck with your regular last-minute chores.

For example, if you usually wait until your guests are pulling into the driveway to start baking cookies or cleaning up the living room, you’re probably used to stressing out at the last second. Cleaning ahead of time, decluttering, and getting organized can help you prevent this stress. Prepping ahead of time means you won’t be rushing around because you’ll already be prepared for anything that might happen.

Instead of busting your buns and trying to scramble to get ready the night before Thanksgiving, consider prepping your home, wardrobe, and menu ahead of time, starting now.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Nobody cares that you’re still fat. Let’s just get this out of the way. Nobody cares. Everyone is so worried about what they look like that they really don’t care about you. Sorry. They just don’t. So before you even start stressing about your holiday wardrobe, go ahead and stop. It doesn’t matter what you wear. You’ll look fine. 
  • Your kids should have comfortable holiday clothes – not fancy ones. Seriously, don’t try to dress up your kids in clothes that are so fancy they can’t spill on them. Do you want your kids to remember the holiday because it was so awful they couldn’t stand it? Or do you want them to remember the fun times?
  • Get rid of all of your old magazines. There’s no reason you need magazines around that are more than three months old. If you haven’t read them yet, you aren’t going to. Trash or recycle.
  • Buy a basket for your entryway. Leave it there. You can let your kids or guests throw shoes in it when they come inside. This will prevent anyone from tripping when they first walk in.
  • Clean your oven really, really well. Do it now. When it’s time to cook for the holidays, you won’t be wasting time cleaning your oven.
  • Hire someone to help you if you need it. Whether this is a babysitter so you can have time to really scrub your bathrooms or someone to scrub them for you, consider investing a small amount of money in getting the help you need. If you can’t afford it, just clean when the kids are in bed at night. Yes, I know this is easier said than done.
  • Set a budget with your spouse. Don’t worry about what other people are buying. The holidays are about spending time with the people you love – not about gifts. If you can’t afford something big, don’t buy something big.
  • Do a major declutter. Walk through each room of your house and get rid of five things you don’t use or like. Make sure you choose items that are yours and not your spouse’s.
What other holiday-prepping tips do you have? Leave them in the comments!

Traveling For Minimalists

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This post should probably be called, “How to travel if you aren’t a minimalist.” Let’s be honest: traveling is easiest when you don’t bring much with you. About six years ago, my husband and I decided that we would like to live abroad. Specifically, we wanted to live in Asia. About a month ago, that dream became a reality when we got rid of almost everything we own, packed four suitcases, and boarded a plane for Taipei, Taiwan.

While I thought I did a great job condensing our entire lives into four suitcases, the reality is that there are things I should have left behind. There are very few things I didn’t bring, but wish I had. After hauling our bags across an airport, then across another airport, then in and out of taxis, then in and out of a train, then in and out of taxis again, I was ready to give up on our belongings. Just saying. (How difficult would it be, really, to just throw away everything and start fresh?)

Unfortunately for everyone, I have a few health problems that require medication, so all that stuff had to come. I also happen to have a very not-Asian body shape, so the clothes and shoes had to come. Finally, I didn’t want to traumatize my sons, so their toys had to come.

My husband’s carry-on bag held only 5 books, so I’d say his packing was just fine.

What I learned from our little adventure was that while choosing which items to ditch can be difficult, it’s an import part of the process. No traveler wants to haul their crap across the globe. More importantly, when you’re forced to haul your junk around, you quickly realize that’s what it is: junk.

Prior to leaving Colorado, I packed and repacked my bag. I was working up until the day we left, so I was exhausted mentally. We got rid of 70 bags of “stuff” in the week prior to our move, so I was physicallyexhausted, as well. Still, I thought I did a good job handling the packing, but the night before the move, I ended up throwing away a lot of clothes I didn’t really need to bring. (In hindsight, I wish I had packed jeans for myself. Luckily, my mother is awesome and is going to be mailing me a pair.)

When it comes to minimalist travel, everyone knows the basics: pick things you can wear again and again. Pick things you enjoy wearing. Pick things that are comfortable. Pick things you can mix and match. I would add to that and say pick clothes that are lightweight because even if it’s cool outside, walking 6 miles in a day is going to make anyone sweat. Pick clothes that aren’t going to wear out quickly because sometimes using Laundromat washing machines can damage your stuff. Pick clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or seeing again and again in your photographs because chances are, you’ll be wearing the same thing every third day.

While I’m not an expert at minimalist travel, I will say that I learned a lot this trip. For example, I brought only two paperbacks with me and neither one has been read yet. Why? I have my Kindle and everything I want to read is on there. I brought the books thinking I’d need them at some point when my Kindle died, but it’s really just been annoying to cart them around. Next time, I probably won’t bring a book with me. I’ll just bring a notebook and a pen so I can work on creating a new book for all of my wonderful readers.