5 Ways to Be More Minimalist This Week

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One of the most important skills I’ve learned since spending time overseas is how to let things go. Mostly, I’ve learned to stop worrying about every little thing. Learning a foreign language is tough (few people speak English where I lived in Asia), so one of the first things I had to learn to let go of was my own sense of embarrassment. If it took saying a bunch of words incorrectly and utilizing crazy hand gestures to get what I needed, so be it. That was fine. It doesn’t really matter if people thought I looked silly or stupid. What matters was being able to communicate what I needed.

In minimalist living, a lot of people, especially newbies, tend to focus on impressing the people around them with how little they own. That’s why you have the posts on Facebook talking about how someone only has 12 items in their bedroom or six things in their closet.

Um, who cares?

The goal of minimalism isn’t to impress people. If you’re living your life trying to get people to like you because of stuff you do, you need to seriously reevaluate yourself. The goal of minimalism is to focus on living life more fully and letting go of the things that don’t matter.

This week, try to let the things go. Don’t worry about random irritations or annoyances. Focus on pleasing your family and yourself, rather than impressing people. This does not mean you should go be a wretch. It means you shouldn’t be upset when someone doesn’t like you or isn’t impressed with you.

Here are five things you can do this week to be a little more minimalist and a little less fussy.

1. No complaining about bad drivers

2. Stop getting annoyed with little kids

3. Remember that your day is not ruined

4. Don’t jump to the worst-case scenario

5. Breathe

Seriously. Try these five things this week. You’ll be surprised at how these small, simple things can lift your mood and help you avoid stress. Not every bad thing that happens to you is a big deal and by making small, simple changes to the way you view the world around you, you’ll be able to focus more on the big-picture things that really do matter.

Prepper Travel: Tips and Tricks You Need to Read

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As you can probably guess from my recent overseas adventure, I love to travel and explore the world. Whether it’s a two-hour road trip or a 17-hour flight across the world, I love everything that comes with travel.

I’m also a minimalist and a prepper, so as you can imagine, sometimes traveling can get a bit tricky.

If you’re interested in traveling, it’s important to let the little things go. There are some things you can worry about and some things you just shouldn’t. When it comes to packing, for example, the worst thing that’s going to happen if you forget something is that you pay extra money to get a new one. That’s literally the worst thing. To me, this means you should do your very best job packing and if you forget something, you can simply buy a new one at your destination or learn to manage without it, and everything will be fine.

You’ll be okay.

Ideally, though, you won’t forget anything. You won’t over-pack or under-pack. You’ll be somewhere in the middle, with an appropriate amount of “stuff” necessary for your journey.

Are you getting ready to go on a trip?

Here’s what you need to know.

Research your destination.
Not only can you use guidebooks to research your destination, but you can use YouTube videos and Facebook groups as well. Spend some time reading about your destination. Look at restaurants, pricing, hotels, attractions, and cultural stuff. Read about things you might want to do and things you definitely want to do. Look at lists of “must-see’s” for your destination. The more you read, the more you’re going to know about your destination and the more fun you’ll have. Plus, reading about your destination will help you when it comes to simple things like figuring out how to use the subway and where you can go to exchange your money.

Not sure where to start? You can find incredible books on Amazon or at your local library, but you can also find plenty of free resources on Pinterest and on blogs. Some of the best information I found about Taiwan before we moved was through blogs!

 
Talk to people who have been there.
Note that this doesn’t mean you should randomly choose people off of the Internet and start pestering them with private messages. What it does mean is that you should join Facebook groups or social media apps that enable you to speak with expats who live in an area or travelers who have been there. Talking to locals is also fantastic, but if you have specific questions related to a trip, you may find your fellow travelers are best able to answer your questions.

Where can you find people to talk with? Blogspot or WordPress blogs, city or country-specific Facebook groups. You can also find apps designed for chatting with people in different countries directly on your phone.

Invest in good luggage.
Traveling abroad isn’t the time for shoving stuff in a worn-out bag you got for free ten years ago. While you don’t need to buy anything that’s inherently expensive, it is important to keep in mind that when you’re traveling, especially if you’re traveling abroad, your luggage is going to get beat up. High quality luggage will help protect your belongings and ensure that everything makes it there and back in one piece.



You can get a decent hard shell suitcase for around $50-60 on Amazon. If you’re traveling with multiple people, consider buying a set of luggage, rather than just a single suitcase, because you can usually get a better deal. I’ve seen sets of 3 suitcases for around $100, so don’t be afraid to shop around a bit.

If you’re looking for a carry-on, I’m a huge fan of decent backpacks. If you’re going on a short trip, you may be able to pack everything you need into one carry-on backpack. For example, I spent 10 days in Japan with my family last year and we each brought a backpack – that’s it! If you’re staying at a hotel or apartment with a washing machine, you really only need a couple of outfits and this can easily fit into a carry-on.

Bring more money than you think you’ll need.
Finally, make sure you over-estimate your spending. While there’s nothing wrong with being frugal on vacation (and I firmly believe you can definitely travel on the cheap), it’s important to plan ahead. If food costs more than you think, your shoes tear and you need a new pair, you break your glasses the first day of your trip, or you decide to alter your plans, having extra money on hand or in the bank will protect you. Aim to figure out how much you’ll spend each day on food, drinks, transport, and entertainment, and then bring more than that just to be safe.

Have you traveled lately? Where did you go?

Review: Museum Trees

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Finding the perfect home decor can be tricky. Now that we’re back in America, I’m going crazy decorating my house. Seriously, I love being able to hang things on my wall and create a comfortable atmosphere for my family. For me, having a home isn’t just about a living in a “nice” space. It’s about creating a usable, relaxing environment where my family and I can have a great time, relax together, and enjoy spending time pursuing our hobbies and interests.

This week, we added something new to our home. Museum Trees offers custom artificial trees you can use to spruce up your home or office. As someone who suffers from mold and pollen allergies, this is a dream come true since it means I can have plants in my home without worrying about dosing up on allergy medicine every time I walk by them.

I’m using our plant as a way to decorate my home office. Since I work from home, having decor that helps calm me is very important to me. While I love working from home, it can also be an exhausting experience. Decor helps with this a lot.

Are you thinking about adding an artificial plant to your home? Here are some benefits.

  • No watering required! You can travel the world and your plants won’t miss you or resent you for it.
  • Mess-proof. Whether you have pets or children or you’re just clumsy, knocking your plant down isn’t going to create a huge mess in your home.
  • No pollen or mold! If you have allergies like me, you don’t have to worry about this becoming a breeding ground for allergens. Your plant will just sit there and look pretty!
  • Beautiful. I love my tree and hope to add more to my home in the future. It creates a professional look in my home office that I am really enjoying.

If you think you and your family would enjoy having an artificial tree in your home, you can visit Silk Plants Direct and use promo code BLOGGER10 to save 10% on your order (custom orders excluded).

Do you have an artificial tree or plant in your home? What do you think? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Note: I was provided with a complimentary tree in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed within are my own.

Declutter Tip: Take Pictures!

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Want to declutter?

One way to let go of the sentimental value surrounding items that you own but never use is to take a picture of it. That way, you’ll be able to remember the item without lugging it around or having it take up storage space in your home. You can review your pictures whenever you like and revisit your memories without having to hold onto the item.

My grandmother actually suggested this to me, so I decided to try it.

What are some things I’ve been holding onto that I really don’t need?

1) Thigh-high boots that I bought new, one size too small. Instead of exchanging them, I held onto them. 
2) Birthday cards from years past that don’t contain personal notes.
3) Blankets. I love blankets, but we definitely have too many. 
4) Stuffed animals from when I was a child.

This week, the above things were either tossed or donated to my local thrift shop. The boots I can do without and easily replace if I ever need a pair. The birthday cards that don’t contain personal notes won’t be missed. (The ones that do contain personal notes I organized in a scrapbook.) The blanket collection I decreased. Any blankets with holes or that just rarely get used got tossed. And the stuffed animals? Any ones that were either broken or worn were thrown out.

What about you? Have you ever taken pictures to declutter?

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!

How Prepping And Minimalism Go Hand-In-Hand

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How Prepping And Minimalism Go Hand-In-Hand

Image source: Flickr / Creative Commons

One of the basic tenets of preparing for an unknown future is saving up supplies for when they might be needed. Many preppers have full pantries and garages and basements. Some even have full storage units or bunkers or second homes.

The main idea of minimalism, on the other hand, is—just as the name suggests—owning a minimal amount of stuff.  No extra clothing, no extra toys, no extra electronics. Only what you need, and nothing more.

So how could a person be both a prepper and a minimalist? At first glance, there seems to be no overlap between these ways of life. But if you look below the surface, you’ll see that the two lifestyles which seemed to be polar opposites actually do have some commonality.

Those of us who are serious about any aspect of prepping know that it’s about more than just hoarding stuff. And those of us who embrace minimalism know that its purpose is deeper than simply reducing our volume of belongings.

And if you have tried the combination of the two, you know it’s possible. Furthermore, you may even agree with my theory that practicing both prepping and minimalism together is indeed better than either of them alone.

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The bottom line of both prepping and minimalizing are efficiency and intentionality. When you strip away everything else about these two ideals, they are built around those two key principles—and it turns out that these are the very same components that make them able to be melded into one lifestyle.

Too Wise For Consumerism

Experienced preppers are too wise for all-out consumerism, and avoid grabbing up every sale item in sight and store it for perpetuity for no other real reason than “just in case.” Many of us start out that way, but learn to tighten our focus on supplies for preparedness that we have reason to believe we will actually need. In addition, most of us reject the idea of waste—food, perishable goods, and money—and learn to tailor our prepping in a way that allows us to actually use our preps.

Minimalism is like that, too. Proponents of minimalism do not go without. We don’t live starving unpleasant Spartan lives in a vacuum of belongings. Not at all. Instead, similar to wise preppers, we tighten our focus, make a deliberate choice to own only that which we truly need, and avoid waste.

How Prepping And Minimalism Go Hand-In-HandWhat does the amalgamation of prepping and minimalism look like in real life? Each of these belief systems can look very different from one individual follower to the next, and certainly the two of them together result in wide variety of manifestations. But here are some ideas to help you get started.

First, it is probably a good idea to be fairly well-established in one before taking up the other. Despite there being compelling reasons for both and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to dive in  head-first, I would recommend that you get comfortable with one at a time. For me, it was a gradual progression from one to another—first prepping, then minimalism. Collecting supplies for preparedness necessitates a degree of inventorying, evaluating what makes sense to keep and what doesn’t. That endeavor, along with a nudge from a minimalist page I follow on social media, inspired me to pare down my supplies to only that which is realistic to keep.

Different Lenses?

Next, keep both sets of glasses handy all the time, figuratively speaking. Prepping sees life through different lenses than minimalism does. One places a high value in having the right supplies at the ready for a wide variety of possible scenarios, while the other embraces the freedom that comes with owning fewer supplies. For this reason, it makes sense to evaluate decisions as both a prepper and a minimalist, as in: What is worth more to me, having a closet that I can open without stuff falling out, or having that 17th rain poncho bought on sale just in case something happens to the first 16 in an undefined future disaster? Or, is it more important to have empty space in a room compared with being inadequately prepared for a catastrophic weather event or grid-down situation?

Third, keep your balance. Hang onto the joy and peace you get from not being weighed down by excessive belongings, while maintaining the comfort and confidence you get by knowing you are prepared to be self-sufficient in the event that any ordinary support systems break down. Always evaluate which is more rewarding with every dollar you spend: making sure you have enough supplies, or avoiding the stress that can be caused by overspending.

Lastly, divide and conquer. You can focus more on prepping and less on minimalism in some room and in some situations, and the reverse in others. At my house, some of the rooms are so sparsely furnished they look like a house flip staged for sale. Most of my closets are only half full. But I have a walk-in pantry chock full of canned goods and home food processing equipment, have enough necessities stashed in my car to get me home on foot or keep me comfortable in place in case either ever became necessary, and am equipped for reasonable self-defense.

Probably the best place to practice minimalism without infringing upon preparedness goals is in the area of décor. Knickknacks and mementoes and other decorative items serve little purpose in either lifestyles. Excessive clothing and accessories—especially that which doesn’t fit or is never worn—is another place where streamlining is a good common goal. More toys—for people of any age—and hobby equipment than one needs doesn’t support either prepping or minimalism either.  Anything that’s just clutter, or that has no solid purpose in your life, needs to go.

Owning unnecessary goods does not enhance prepper goals. The money, mental energy and effort it takes to buy, store and organize all that stuff could be better spent on items and space that would make a difference in the event of disaster. And if real trouble should arise, superfluous possessions can weigh you down.

It makes perfect sense to keep belongings pared down to only what we need, but not to less than we need.

The key is to strive for overall simplicity. If you can’t honestly envision a time when your life would not be significantly changed for the better—either now or later—by owning a thing, don’t own it.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

 

Can Prepping & Minimalism Co-Exist? 6 Tips to Make It So!

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prepping-vs-minimalismLast year we added a third child to our 2-bedroom, 800-ish square foot house. Once she started moving around, it felt like our space shrank dramatically. Around the same time, my parents downsized, and I inherited several pieces of family heirloom furniture. At heart, I’m a minimalist, and between these factors, my minimalist side rebelled. I wanted to get rid of everything we owned!

Among other minimalist advice, I familiarized myself with Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. Her ideas are mainly to de-clutter or sort by category, rather than the traditional advice of doing a room or a closet. For example, do all your books at once. She’s also known for getting people to ask if any given item “sparks joy” or makes you happy, or if it detracts from your life because you’re constantly tripping over it (my paraphrase).

NOTE: Get Survival Mom’s free ebook, “Declutter & Organize Your Living Space.”

This may all be very good advice, but along with being a minimalist, I’m also a prepepr. I’m determined to be prepared for everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios, using this handbook as a guide. With the addition of a child and furniture to my household, my prepper self was thinking about the future–both the bigger political and economic picture and our own family’s financial security. There was a good deal of “stuff” that I felt we needed to keep if we were to be prepared for any number of crises, but how could I continue with my commitment to minimalism?

Can prepping & minimalism co-exist?

There are certainly lots of articles out there about decluttering in general, and plenty about finding creative storage for your preps. But what do you decide to keep and store in the first place? For myself, I came up with 6 criteria I used to evaluate what to keep on hand to satisfy the prepper side of me and what to eliminate to keep my minimalist side sane.

Identify your big categories

From previous conversations, I knew that our main prepper categories as a family were generally: Food & Water, Education, Clothes/Warmth/Shelter, Security, Health (including mental/spiritual), and Communication. Whatever I decided to keep should generally fall into one of these categories.

Everything Accessible

In the middle of the exploring toddler and the inherited furniture, we had an incident in which one of the kids got injured while I wasn’t home, and my husband couldn’t find the right box of first aid supplies. We had absolutely everything we needed for the situation, but he had to take all the kids (including the injured one) to the drugstore to buy it all again because he didn’t know where I had stored it. This was a significant learning moment for me, because being prepared and having all the right “stuff” doesn’t matter at all if you can’t find it or get to it when you need it! So one of my goals was to make everything as visible and accessible as possible.

Double duty items

Of course you also want to be familiar with all your tools and equipment before the SHTF. One way to do this is to incorporate as much as you can into your daily life. For example, your cast iron pans can be used now on the stovetop or over a campfire in the zombie apocalypse. And once you’re using those on a regular basis, perhaps you can part with some of your other cookware, freeing up more kitchen space.

Space vs. Value

Throughout this process, I was always asking: does the value of this item justify the space it requires? If not, the item went in the give-away box. One of the tactics I used was to incorporate practical items into my decorating. For example, I mixed lanterns with my prized antique books on the shelves. They fit together perfectly!

Meeting needs, not wants

When evaluating my space, I had to embrace the hard truth that I just wouldn’t be able to keep everything I wanted. Once I accepted that, though, it was easier to make decisions based on my other criteria. For example, it was important to keep books that are reference material, or educational, and less important to keep contemporary fiction. Of course, entertainment and distraction is important in times of stress, so I kept plenty of fiction, too, but evaluated it in terms of quality and our family’s interests. So while I evaluated each reference book (and got rid of a few!), I prioritized those over fiction where space was limited.

Very limited hide-away storage

None of your storage does any good if it’s hidden away and you forget about it. For me, keeping lists was too much hassle for our current schedules, so really limiting unseen storage was my priority. Now I can tell you exactly what I have stored in the far corners of my basement today, and I can count it on one hand!

We have a few tubs of sentimental items and photo albums. There’s a set of collector drinking glasses from my grandma that I cannot safely display in our current space, but definitely want to keep. Our file boxes are clearly labeled by year and can be sorted/shredded as they hit their “keep until” dates. There are 5 pieces of the furniture that I could not incorporate into this space, but are certainly worth keeping in hopes of a larger home someday. And our Christmas decorations (which are definitely minimalist!).

My results, so far

Three months into our newly decluttered–but still prepared–home, here are a few observations:

It’s been easier to identify needs and priorities. We all have limited resources, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to get next. Once you know what you do have, you can easily see what you don’t have and prioritize these needs. For me, one of the items that wasn’t on any wish list, but that jumped out at me as a need was a small household tool kit, which I now have.

My choices are now more obvious. Once you identify your needs, you still have to make a choice about how to fill it. For example, a wheat grinder was on my list. Typing “wheat grinder” into Amazon gave me almost 500 results! But now that I had decluttered the kitchen and kept my Kitchen Aid mixer, my choices for our space and needs seemed obvious: a Kitchen Aid attachment, or the Vittorio Deluxe Manual grinder. Then it was just a matter of evaluating only 2 choices, and making a decision.

I have room for new items. Since I earned my Ham radio license earlier this year, my radio equipment has been cluttering the top of my desk, which was messy to look at and probably not the safest for the radio. After I decluttered, though, I suddenly found I had an entire drawer free just for ham radio equipment.

I have more time and less stress. As someone who reads between the lines of the evening news, there’s enough to worry about already. Reducing our clothes and kitchen items has made a dramatic improvement in maintaining the household. Our laundry and dishes are noticeably less! And now I can spend my newly found free time on developing skills and relationships.

How do you make the most of your space and still stay organized?

prepping-vs-minimalism-2

State of Myself, Preparation and Lastly The Blog

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Hey Folks, I figured it was time to touch bases. I am doing pretty decent. Some time for reflection was good. As to where life is going I have a better idea then before so that is good.

I have been sober for a minute now. Won’t say that has been a magical solution to all of my problems but it certainly helps. If nothing else I am creating life problems at a much more sustainable pace. Figuring out what makes me happy now has been interesting. I like live music and ice cream a lot.

Some of my time and energy is going towards getting my body back to where I would like it to be. That mean weights and running, also eating better. Working on my skills also. Regular dry fire and after my time with the kids is done I will get back to combatives and a regular shooting regimen.

Most of my preparations and energy towards that is the stuff listed above. The rest of the energy is really going to solidifying my systems. In an incremental way I am working on setting up EDC (light and heavy) then my fighting load, get home bag, heavy bug out set up etc. This is moving pretty quickly as I am really just rounding things out, not totally reinventing them. My EDC is done and the fighting load only needs a couple things (I think a single double taco and the belt that will come from replacing the EDC one). The GHB can use a phone charger and I think that is it. Beyond that the issue is mostly organization. Small holes will likely come up when things are organized but the right stuff is generally around.

I am also working on organizing normal life stuff and getting rid of excess. I hesitate to use the word minimalism as it doesn’t exactly apply. Maybe getting rid of excess stuff is a better way to put it. This applies to all sorts of stuff that is not regularly used without a valid purpose as a back up or contingency. I have considered some alternate housing options and to make that kind of thing work I would need to have a lot less stuff.

As to the blog. Consistently posting a couple times a week is the plan for now. As to focus I want to catalog my efforts to focus on realistic preparations for likely survival related events. I think we can get too focused on very unlikely events at the expense of much more likely ones which is a big mistake. I hope to get people thinking in the right direction.

The commercial side of the blog is in limbo. I am toying with setting up a much more automated model. This way I can eliminate or at least minimize administrative hassles. Also I won’t feel like I owe an advertiser something as much as I did in the past. If I get busy and blog a bit less it is fine.

So anyway that is where things are. Your input is always appreciated.

How I read for free

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Let me preface this by saying I don’t only read for free. On average, I spend about $25 per month on Audible ($15 for a membership, plus two extra Boxcar Children mysteries with the membership discount) and at least $40 on eBooks through Amazon. While this might seem like a ton to some people and nothing at all to others, I would absolutely be spending much more if I didn’t take advantage of free ways to read.

It’s simple to get books for free if you’re willing to do one little thing: write a review.

Reviews are not everything to writers, but they are important. Reviews are one of the best ways people discover new books. For indie authors, this is even more important since writers who independently publish through Amazon or Kobo don’t have the power and money behind them that a large publishing house offers.

So what makes a good review?

Saying what you think about the book.

Your review does not have to be:
long
in-depth
a book report
something that took you an hour to write

Honestly, it just doesn’t. And there are some authors who would protest this, but to be honest, just a brief “I loved the characters in this” or “this book really helped me to declutter” can mean the world to a writer.

And they’ll let other readers know that the book is good (or not), which can translate into more sales for the author.

So as long as you’re willing to write a review, you can get freebie books on just about any topic imaginable. While review copies are almost always digital, you can get print copies, too.

Here’s how.

Pitch authors directly
The fastest way to get a copy of a book you really want is to contact the author directly. You can usually do this through an author’s social media account: Facebook or Twitter. Let them know you want to review your book and ask if they would provide a copy for review. Not all writers do this, but most indie writers do and are happy to send you a copy. If an author has a publishing contract, they may not be permitted to give out copies, so don’t be too upset if they turn you down.

Also, to increase your chances of a “yes,” send a link where you have already reviewed a book, whether this be on Amazon or your own blog. Many writers, myself included, are nervous when it comes to new reviewers we haven’t worked for. Why? Some reviewers promise to review a book and never do! Unfortunately, this can ruin it for the rest of us! If you have already reviewed a book, send the link to the author so they can get an idea of what to expect.

Most of all, remember that you are never obligated to leave a 5-star review. Never. Just because you get a review copy does not mean you should lie in your review.

As a side note, if you have any interest in reading one of my prepper or minimalism books and you’re willing to leave me a review, please shoot me an email at thenerdysurvivalist(at)gmail.com. I am always looking for new reviewers for any of my published works and am happy to send you a copy if you’ll post your thoughts on Amazon!

Join NetGalley
Netgalley.com is a great resource if you like fiction books. I joined this site a few months ago and it’s very easy to use, but you do need to have an eReader app on your phone or tablet. I use the Kindle app on my phone and this interface is very simple. You request the book you want, and when the publisher or author approves you, they’ll send the book to your device. This helps reduce pirating (since you can’t share the file with your friends), but it also makes reading really simple. When you’re finished, you post your review on the site and anywhere else you like.

Book Look Bloggers
This is a Christian organization, which makes it perfect if you want to review Bibles (yes, that’s a thing), Christian literature, or homeschool materials. Unlike many websites, Book Look will send hardcover and paperback copies of some books. You have to apply and need to have at least 30 subscribers to your blog. (This can be Twitter followers or Facebook fans.) Apply at booklookbloggers.com.

Kindle Free Books
Finally, the simplest way to get books for free – that you don’t have to review! – if through Amazon Kindle’s top 100 free books each day. The top 100 books that are free change hourly! Additionally, you can browse individual categories to find free books on prepping, minimalism, or parenting. I check this regularly and have found some great books by my favorite authors on their freebie days.

Do you read for free? What’s your favorite way to find free books?

5 Ways to Save Money This Week

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Whether you live on a single income or you and your spouse both work, saving money can be tricky. Finding ways to minimize your spending isn’t always simple and learning to cut corners can honestly kinda suck, but there are many ways you can reduce your spending and start saving.

Remember that even if you only save $5 a week, that’s an extra $20 per month you didn’t have before. Yeah, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up over time. No matter what your personal goals might be for saving, take some time this week to consider how you can save money and start to reduce your overall expenses.

Right now, my husband and I both work, but we still look for ways to reduce our spending. We primarily want to save so we can travel. Even abroad, traveling isn’t always cheap, especially when you have kids! (Many backpackers stay in hostels or crash on couches while they travel the world. This isn’t an option when you have two children!)

If you’re looking for simple ways to save this week that don’t involve a lot of stress or work, here are five easy ways you can cut costs.

1. Stop drinking
Whether your vice is coffee, alcohol, or soda, stop! Save those pennies this week. Even if you’re making vending machine purchases at work, those can quickly add up.

2. Plan ahead
What are you going to eat each day? Plan ahead and either bring snacks or coupons to minimize what you’re spending on lunch.

3. Walk instead
Save that gas and walk to nearby places like the grocery store or convenience store.

4. Wait on the purchases
Do you really need to buy that today? This week? Why not wait a few weeks? Sometimes when you postpone a purchase, you find that you don’t really need it or miss it.

5. Quit shopping online 
For me, shopping online is addictive. Take a break this week! You might be surprised at how many impulse purchases you make when you take just a short break from Internet shopping.

What other steps are you taking to save money this week? Leave me a comment or drop by my Facebook page to let me know!

New Release: Going Minimal

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It’s been awhile since I put out a minimalism book, and this one was especially fun to write.

Going Minimal: Tips and Tricks for the Military Spouse is a brief minimalism book designed to help minimalist military spouses get started before a PCS. If you’ve been thinking about downsizing before your next move, but you aren’t really sure where to start, this is the book for you.

You can buy a copy of Going Minimal on Amazon for $3.99 or read with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

If you are a blogger or reviewer and would like to read this for free in exchange for a fair and honest review, I am always looking for reviewers and am happy to give out a review copy! Shoot me an email at thenerdysurvivalist@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

Best Minimalism Posts You Should Be Reading

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Want to learn more about minimalism?
This week, check out these fantastic posts and resources for minimalists! Whether you’re looking for ways to downsize or you just want to get organized, these posts will guide you on your journey.

1. Minimalism YouTubers
YouTube is an amazing resource that a lot of minimalists overlook. Check out these channels for tips on simplifying your life.

2. Why do we buy it?
If you’re stuck in the rut of buying things you don’t really need, check out Simplicity Relished. This post explains some of the most common reasons we buy when we don’t need something.

3.Minimalist pantries
Do you love to cook, but want to pare back? Check out this guide to stocking a minimalist pantry. Remember: simple living doesn’t mean boring living.

4. Letting go
Finally, if you’ve been having a hard time letting go of things you don’t need, you should read this Sometimes a little push is all you need to motivate you and help you start letting go of the past and moving forward.

I love reading minimalist blogs and books because there is always something new to learn or embrace. Letting go really can be freeing, but we have to get to that point of realizing we don’t “need” everything in order to achieve that peace.

What the hell is a capsule wardrobe? (And other things I wish they taught us at minimalism school.)

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I’ve been into living cheaply forever because I grew up poor and there was no other option. As a military wife, my husband made good money, but we still lived within our means and didn’t go into debt on things like furniture, clothes, or toys. When he got out of the military, I made enough for us to live on – but just barely – and living simply became a necessity.

Now that we are financially in a place where we can spend more, we still don’t, instead choosing to buy what we need and only what we need. While we don’t have a fancy life, we are comfortable, and we want for nothing. (Except maybe a couch. It’s been 7 months and we’re both kind of wanting a couch.)

So while living simply and minimally tends to be a natural part of my daily life, I keep reading about this thing called a capsule wardrobe.

And I’m mostly thinking, “What the hell is this?”

If you’re clueless, like me, there are several variations, but tend to mean you have a certain number of clothing items (10, 15, 37 etc.) and you wear only those for a single season. At the end of the season, you switch your clothing out. (Tanktops for jackets, for example, although you keep most of your clothing the same.)

For minimalist moms, the idea of a capsule is a bit silly. And yes, this is just my opinion. And yes, it’s fine if you disagree with me. There is no right or wrong number of clothing, but if you have little boys or girls who love to be messy and crazy and play at the park, the idea of a specific number of clothing is a bit trite. When your kids wear out their clothes or grow, buy new ones. End of story. At least, that’s what I think, and that’s what works for my family.

I realized, though, that my wardrobe is probably way too minimalist for even the minimalists, and that’s saying something. I basically wear the same thing every day, and perhaps it’s because I’m living in a country where everything comes in very different sizes than what works on my body, or perhaps it’s because I’m not fancy enough, but here’s what I wear every day:

Black skirt
Black shoes
Black shirt
Black jacket

Can you tell what my favorite color is?

Now, if I was living in a permanent home, I would have more clothing. I just would. Most people do, and that’s fine. If you’re a traveling expat, you pack what fits in your suitcase, and as it is, I have no closet to store things. There is no storage space in our apartment. There is not a single cupboard or closet. There are no shelves. I have a clothes rack that has to cover me, my husband, and two kids.

That’s it.

My kids each have five shirts and five pairs of pants or shorts, along with a sweatshirt and a jacket. Clothing wears out much faster in Taiwan and I’m not sure if it’s because of the pollution and dirt everywhere or because the water is bad or just because the washing machines are really, really rough on clothes, but my kids’ clothing has already been replaced, which is annoying because I bought them new clothes before we moved, and shouldn’t their clothes last all year?

What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter. If you want a capsule wardrobe, do it. There is no right-or-wrong when it comes to simple living. If you want to have 20 pairs of shoes, but you have a huge closet to organize them, go for it. If you want to be like me and have two pairs (a pair of flats and a pair of boots), then go for it. Do what works and own your decision.

If you’re a minimalist, how do you balance your clothing choices? Do you go threadbare, like me, or do you follow a capsule wardrobe plan?

How to totally own being weird

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Preppers and minimalists alike get a bad rap.

They’re weird.

Trendy.

Silly.

Paranoid.

Reclusive.

Unrealistic.

Strange.

They’re nerds, goofy, insane, creepy, and bizarre.

They have weird views.

They’re into conspiracy theories.

They’re always religious and always conservative and always, always, uptight.

Only, if you’re reading my blog, you know this isn’t true. I don’t know that it’s ever been true. Yes, there are weird preppers. Yes, there are being going minimal to impress their friends. That’s not most of us, though. That’s not all of us.

I had a friend years ago who was the coolest. Rockin’ Air Force chick who kept her hair long and her eyes bright. We used to scour thrift shops for picture frames because she would use them for paintings she did herself. We once argued over an old quilt we found at a thrift shop and I won, but she found a playpen for her baby and I was jealous, so we were even.

It was fun.

And it was simple.

She made being a minimalist seem normal because she only lived with what she needed. She never called herself a minimalist. She was just her. She was just herself.

A lot of people thought she was weird, but she didn’t care because she was happy with herself. I’ve never forgotten her fun attitude or her carefree demeanor. Whenever I get in a spot where I begin to worry about other people, I think of her and the fact that she was so centered on her goals. She didn’t lose focus because that would have detracted from what she really wanted to accomplish.

Whether people think you’re weird because you don’t have very many belongings or they think you’re weird because you prep for earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, or power outages, the only thing that matters is you. The only thing that matters is that you’re happy with who you are. Do you look in the mirror and feel great about what you’re accomplishing? Do you feel satisfied with what you’ve been doing? Are you happy with what you’re working toward?

There will always be people who think you’re weird, but it doesn’t really matter. There’s nothing wrong with being weird or different. Isn’t that what we’re always trying to teach our kids? Friends will come and go, but you have to live with yourself forever.

This week, I want to encourage you to stay focused on your goals, no matter what they might be.

Try not to worry about what other people think. You can’t spend your life worrying about that, and when you choose to focus on things like minimalist living, prepping, or homeschooling, you’ll find you have too little energy and too little time to waste on people whose opinions don’t matter.

5 Simple Ways to Spend Less This Year

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Last year, we moved overseas. “Saving” didn’t happen. We actually thought we were doing well. We managed to sell or give away all of our stuff, bought plane tickets, and managed to have a little bit of savings in our bank accounts when we arrived in Taiwan.
Then we had to stay in a hotel longer than we expected.
Then my son got sick.
Then our insurance didn’t kick in (and still hasn’t).
One thing I’ve learned is that even if you can’t actively save a lot of money, you can reduce your expenses. There is almost always something you can do to minimize the amount you spend. Whether you try to reduce your expenses per week, per month, or per year is up to you. Both my husband and I get paid once a month, so for me, planning to save per month makes the most sense.
If you’re like me and want to save more money this year, here are five sure-fire ways you can reduce the amount of money you spend overall.
1) Cut out the big vacations
We all love traveling. There’s nothing quite as exciting as packing your back, jumping on a plane, and heading off for a world of adventure. Unfortunately, traveling is rarely cheap, and even if you find a cheap destination, multiplying the cost by four (or however big your family is) can make “affordable” become very, very, unaffordable. This year, consider cutting out your big family vacation. I’m not going to suggest you take a smaller, crappier trip. Instead, why not save and then next year, take a huge vacation?
2) Wait before you buy
You don’t need to buy that today. You probably don’t even need it this week. I think for many of us, the hardest part about saving money is that things tend to break. Maybe your microwave went out or your tablet died. Do you really need a new one today? Do you? Can you really not wait a week or two or five? Before you buy something new, ask yourself if you really need it. You might be surprised that while you’re dependent on things, you might not actually need them.

3) Cancel, cancel, cancel
Magazines, subscription boxes, cable, Netflix, whatever. Just cancel.
4) Stop trying to impress
If you’ve been spending money to impress your friends, you need to stop. You also need better friends, but that’s a post for another day. Whether you’ve been buying your kids piano lessons they hate or joining clubs you can’t afford, you need to just stop. The only person you need to impress is your spouse.

5) Consider your goals
The simplest way to save money, for me, has always been to focus on my goals. What do I want this year? What do I need? What do I hope for? Personally, I want to publish more books, help other moms learn to downsize, and help my kids improve their language abilities. I want to learn Chinese, finish a few novels, and explore my new city. Before I spend money, I ask if this is something that will help me with my goals. For example, will buying a new book help me become a better writer? Absolutely. It’s money well spent, at least for me. Will buying a new pair of jeans help me become better at speaking Chinese? Um, not so much. That’s probably something I don’t need right now.
Remember that no matter what your goals, hopes, and dreams are for this year, you can reach them! Most importantly, you can save money while you pursue your goals. You just have to be conscious and willing to make a few sacrifices along the way.

5 Things You Can Get Rid of TODAY

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When you’re reading blogs or guides on minimalism, you’re probably thinking, “These are great ideas, but I just don’t have the time.” Maybe you’re planning to declutter over spring break or when you have a weekend to yourself, but the truth is that you don’t have to wait to declutter. You can get started right away, right now, today.

Here are five things you can get rid of without waiting.
1. Worn-out shoes
Did you buy new running shoes but keep your old ones “just in case” you want them? Did you get a new pair of heels but keep your extras because they’re so comfy? There’s no reason to keep worn-out shoes that are either unwearable or unstylish. Unless you’re planning to bedazzle them tomorrow, you can get rid of them.
2. Food you don’t like
Did you buy a bunch of boxed pasta on sale only to discover that it tastes like…boxed pasta that was on sale? Give it away. Pack up any nonperishables you have, but don’t like, and give them away. You can donate these to your church’s food pantry, your local thrift shop (check to see if they accept food donations first), or just give them your neighbors.
3. Old magazines
Unless you’re a professional librarian who runs a library out of her house, you don’t need to save old magazines. If you have a cop of Declutterbugs Unite that’s more than three months old, you aren’t going to read it, so recycle it or donate it now.
4. That kitchen appliance you never use
Maybe a well-meaning relative gave you a juicer or your mom got you a crock pot on sale, but you already have one or you just really hate crock pot cooking. Either way, today is the day you should get rid of that kitchen appliance you have, but never use. It’s taking up valuable kitchen space so just get rid of it.

5. Extra sheets
Do you have an entire linen closet full of sheet sets? Do you really need twelve? Pick out two sets of sheets for each bed in your house (keep an extra if you have a couch or trundle bed you only use occasionally) and get rid of the rest. This will give you one set of sheets for each bed during the week and one to use when it’s laundry day. You won’t miss the extra sheets you’re getting rid of and, most importantly, your linen closet will suddenly have a lot more free space.
Remember that decluttering is something you can start right away. You don’t have to wait for extra cash or extra free time to actually start getting rid of stuff in your home. There’s no reason you can’t slowly start getting rid of one item at a time to create a cleaner, more clutter-free life.

Traveling Simply

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One of the most difficult aspects of traveling with kids is learning to pack simply. I’ve been traveling solo with my boys since they were infants, so I’ve learned quickly that there’s a fine line between packing too much and too little. When you have a newborn, especially, learning to pack just the right amount of diapers can be insanely tough, but it possible to be a simple traveler.

Here’s how.
Bring Money!
When you get ready for your trip, always plan to bring extra money. Always. You never know when something will go awry and you’ll need extra cash. Maybe your hotel lost your reservation and you’re stuck at a more expensive one. Maybe you forgot to pack your medication and you have to get a new prescription at your destination. Maybe meals at your chosen travel site are more expensive than you planned for.
No matter what, bring extra cash. 
Also consider this: is it easier to buy something new at your destination than to haul something from home? Diapers, for example, can pretty much be purchased anywhere. Unless you’re traveling to a remote location, you can probably go to Wal-Mart or Carrefour, if you’re in Asia, and pick up a box of diapers. Why not pack enough for the plane and first day, then head to the store to buy diapers? This will save valuable suitcase space during your trip.
Dress for Comfort
It’s understandable that you want to look your best while traveling, but dressing for comfort, rather than for looks, can be beneficial while you travel. Consider packing jeans and shorts instead of a fancy outfit for each day of your trip. They’re less likely to get wrinkled than dress pants and dresses and you can usually re-wear jeans a couple of times before they need to be washed. Similarly, packing a pair of sturdy walking shoes is going to save a lot of space if you normally pack a different pair of shoes for each day.
Consider Souvenirs
If you’re reading my blog, you probably know that I’m not really into “stuff.” Needless to say, souvenirs aren’t big on my priority list. If you do like souvenirs, though, you can easily use this to your advantage when it comes to packing simply. Instead of packing a jacket, for example, you can buy a sweatshirt at your destination with the name of your resort or chosen city. Instead of bringing a bunch of t-shirts, you can pick some up at a tourist shop.
A few weeks ago, my family and I traveled to Taipei. For a weekend trip, we brought two backpacks. One held clothes and one held toys and snacks. We had just enough stuff to make the train trip interesting, but not so much that it was difficult to carry our belongings around while we explored. We all obviously looked like tourists, but we had an amazing time and didn’t need to bring a lot of “stuff” to do it.

Do I really need that?

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The simplest way to start living a minimal life is to ask yourself, “Do I really need that?”

Honestly, this can be used in any number of ways each day.

“Do I really need that extra slice of pie?”

“Do I really need the large size?”

“Do I really need this box of books I’ve never read?”

“Do I really need to buy another blanket?”

This week, consider asking yourself, “Do I really need that?” When you focus on this idea, you’ll find that you’re more conscious of what you’re consuming and what you’re bringing into your house. Even if you’re a prepper – which I highly encourage – you can still ask yourself if you need things. The best way to prep is to do so within reason. You probably don’t need 370 jars of green beans for your pantry. You might need 50. You decide. Just remember that sometimes, we think we need things that we really don’t and a bit of self-evaluation can go a long way.

5 Tips for Being More Minimalist This Week

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One of the most important things I’ve learned since moving overseas is to let the big things go. Mostly, I’ve learned to stop worrying about every little thing. Learning a foreign language is tough (few people speak English where I live), so one of the first things I’ve had to learn to let go of is my own sense of embarrassment. If it takes saying a bunch of words incorrectly and utilizing crazy hand gestures to get what I need, so be it. It doesn’t really matter if people think I look silly or stupid. What matters is being able to communicate what I need.

In minimalist living, a lot of people, especially newbies, tend to focus on impressing the people around them with how little they own. That’s why you have the posts on Facebook talking about how someone only has 12 items in their bedroom or six things in their closet.

Um, who cares?

The goal of minimalism isn’t to impress people. If you’re living your life trying to get people to like you because of stuff you do, you need to seriously reevaluate yourself. The goal of minimalism is to focus on living life more fully and letting go of the things that don’t matter.

This week, try to let the things go. Don’t worry about random irritations or annoyances. Focus on pleasing your family and yourself, rather than impressing people. This does not mean you should go be a wretch. It means you shouldn’t be upset when someone doesn’t like you or isn’t impressed with you.

Here are five things you can do this week to be a little more minimalist and a little less fussy.

1. No complaining about bad drivers

2. Stop getting annoyed with little kids

3. Remember that your day is not ruined

4. Don’t jump to the worst-case scenario

5. Breathe

Seriously. Try these five things this week. You’ll be surprised at how these small, simple things can lift your mood and help you avoid stress. Not every bad thing that happens to you is a big deal and by making small, simple changes to the way you view the world around you, you’ll be able to focus more on the big-picture things that really do matter.

Goals for the New Year

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Happy New Year!

If you’re anything like me, your Facebook feed has been flooded with posts of people sharing new goals and resolutions for the year, or, if they’re trendy, sharing a special word or mantra for 2016. While there’s nothing wrong with any of this, I always take these posts with a grain of salt since by the time January 15th comes around, most people will be returning to work or school after holiday break and fall back into old patterns.

Don’t go crazy!
If you’re serious about your goals, though, make sure you focus on them moderately so you don’t burn yourself out too quickly. You don’t need to rearrange your entire house this week, for example. If your goal for the year is to become more minimalist, you have 12 months. It’s much more effective to spread out your minimalist chores and activities over the course of the entire year, rather than to try to do everything right freaking now and burn out.

Remember: you don’t have to be perfect. Your friends sure aren’t, and if they pretend to be, well, they’re full of it. It’s okay if you don’t reach your goals or if you don’t reach them right away. (Oppositely, there’s nothing wrong if you do reach your goals pretty fast. More power to you!)

Goal Setting for Nerdy Survivalists
I tend to set casual goals for myself. I lost 20 lbs last year and want to lose 60 this year. I’d like to reach my goal by Thanksgiving, but it’s not really a big deal if I don’t. My goal is to be healthy and while I’d like to be much thinner than I am, I won’t freak out if it takes longer than I plan for it to. Life happens and it’s important to be flexible.

Aside from that, I plan to continue to live simply this year. After our huge move in July (if you missed it, my family moved from the U.S. to Asia and brought only 4 suitcases), we’ve managed to keep things very simple at home. We do have a few pieces of furniture (a table, chairs, beds, one small bookshelf), but for the most part, we spend our money and time doing things instead of collecting things.

I’ll be the first to admit that the temptation to collect things even overseas is tough. There are so many times when I see something on sale or something I really like and I just want to buy it. That’s where the other goals come in. I want to travel around. Do I really want a bunch of crap holding me to one place? I want to explore the world. Do I really need to spend money on a bookshelf when I could spend it on plane tickets?

Don’t be afraid to set goals this year. Whether or not you tell people is up to you. Some people like to keep their goals a secret in case they fail. Others like to share with the world. In the end, just remember that everyone is so focused on themselves that they really don’t care if you succeed or not. There will always be haters, so you might as well share your dreams and hopes with the people around you so you can get support and encouragement from the people you do like.

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?