Be More. Have Less.

2017-07-24T03:05:05+00:00

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On the eve of Christmas Eve, at a time when my home was full of people, food, and stuff-more stuff than the eye could see-my husband and I were enjoying a brief respite from the typical chaos of life with three young children and browsing through Netflix. We enjoy watching documentaries, but we rarely get the time to find new ones these days. He selected a film entitled “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”. I was, as always, doing many things at once, trying to maximize my productivity during nap time, so I was only partially watching at first. By the end of the documentary, I was a captive audience. How ironic that we saw this film at a time of such abundance, both seasonally and in our particular stage of life.

 

We love our children immensely, but sometimes I think we choose to express that in material ways more than we should. Like most Americans, my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of middle class. On paper, we look pretty successful, but we have a lot of financial obligation–a mortgage, student loans, two car notes, more credit card debt than we would like to admit. And unfortunately, neither of us are very good savers. We enable each other in the worst (but most fun) ways. And while we are certainly not living in the lap of luxury, we tend to do and spend what we want and when we want.

We are consumers in every sense of the word. We consume things, food, media, and we consume all of it all of the time. And we are tired. I am tired. And this year I will try and change that. Resolutions are trite, almost doomed to fail, but I still make them every year, 2017 being no exception. But this year, instead of my typical list of lose weight, no really lose weight, come on just lose weight already…I will try and keep it simple…Be More, Have Less. This year I wish to slow my consumption in all aspects of my life. I will buy less, eat less, check Facebook on my phone less, but I hope to have more. More time doing what I truly love and what feeds my soul. More of what enriches me and less of what distracts me. More of what matters and less of the rest.

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Change is difficult, even when you know that change will improve your quality of life. It is in my nature to resist change. Tell myself to watch what I eat, and the next thing you know I’m elbow deep in a bag of Lindt truffles. Vow to only check social media once a day, and every ding of my phone seems to taunt me more than the last. It’s what I’m used to, what we are all used to, the never-ending, always-on culture of consumption.

I like making lists. It soothes me. So when I began to think about how to start making real change in my life, I naturally grabbed a pen and paper and just started writing down all the ways I could incrementally become more minimal and more mindful. I thought, what if every week for a year I did one little thing that moved me in the right direction? I didn’t get too tied to the theme, as you will see that some weeks can seem rather arbitrary, but I tried to make every week an opportunity to be more, and have less.

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So, if you are looking for me in 2017, here’s how I plan on spending the first half of the year…

  1. Cancel Cable. It is time to cut the cord. I’m not quite ready to eliminate television, entirely. Hello, a new season of Scandal is about to start, but I can stop the stream of entertainment that is so readily available with cable. I will save money, and I will be more selective about what I watch. And I will stop the influx of advertising that is attempting to turn my children into little consumers in-training.

  2. Donate one box of toys per child.

  3. Clean out the collection of cheap, plastic children’s cups. And stop buying more. That’s right Target dollar aisle, it’s time to talk.

  4. No cell phones in bed. We have never put a television in our bedroom in an effort to “keep the romance alive,” but let’s be real; now we just have two mini-televisions, and they aren’t doing us any favors.

  5. Donate one box of clothes per adult.

  6. Clean out coffee mugs. I know, I’m also heartbroken that I will force myself to part with the mug that lists out my high school graduating class, but cluttered cabinets lead to a cluttered mind. And my mind can’t withstand any more clutter. So long class of 2001.

  7. Send a friendly letter or write someone a handwritten note.

  8. Five minutes of meditation every day. This will be tough for me. I don’t sit still well; hence the challenge.

  9. Family Screen-Free Time for at least 20 minutes every single day. Let’s hope we all survive. I have been known to hurl Candy Land across the room when things aren’t going my way.

  10. Have friends over for dinner. Quit worrying about my place settings, or lack thereof, my imperfect and messy house, and my too small table, and focus instead on breaking bread with friends.

  11. Visit a new state park.

  12. Write and illustrate a book with the kids. Our daughter especially loves telling stories and narrating her artwork, so we are really trying to foster this creativity.

  13. Donate unused cold weather gear.

  14. Do a random act of kindness for a stranger. Pay for a parking meter. Buy a cup of coffee. Do something nice for someone, and don’t post about it on Facebook. #blessed #imsuchagoodperson #humble

  15. Clean out our garage.

  16. Clean out our storage shed. Nobody needs as many strollers as we are currently hoarding.

  17. Visit another new state park. Original, no. Spiritually and physically beneficial, hell yes.

  18. Allow time each day for a personal hobby. Be it writing, photography, or banjo playing (my husband), make it a priority.

  19. Connect with our neighbors.

  20. Plant a tree for each member of our family.

  21. Take a creative class. Pottery, painting, sewing. Just for fun.

  22. Start a vegetable garden with the kids.

  23. Family road trip for one day. No phones, tablets, or other electronic devices allowed, including the camera, which is insanely tough for me, but I worry that sometimes I get so caught up in documenting the moment for posterity that I forget to experience it. When your children say, “cheese” automatically when you grab your phone, you might have a problem.

  24. Pay off a debt.

  25. Volunteer as a family at a local non-profit.

  26. Reflect. This list is by no means comprehensive, and there is a great chance that some of the items will fail epically, but others might work so well that they become part of our everyday routine. My hope is that we experience more of the latter.

I realize that this is only half of the year. I’m hoping that my more mindful, enlightened self will help me figure out what to do with the second half. Here’s to a year full of more moments and free of clutter of the mental and material variety. Wish us luck!

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