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Gifts are for Using

Gifts Are for Using

Gifts Are for Using

I think most of you would agree that life is meant to be used up. Every last ounce can be spent somewhere on purpose. Can the same be said for gifts?

We tend to think that gifts should have permanence. Maybe you want to give an expensive trinket to a loved one for them to think of you each time they see it. (It’s more likely they’ll think of you each time they have to dust it off.)

If you’ve been on my blog more than a few times, chances are high you’ve already downloaded your free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas. If you haven’t please do so! I love hearing back from friends that this little list has given them the jump start needed to creative gift giving that won’t break the bank or lead one to need a storage shed.

You may not know this, but I’m a former collector of things. I used to believe that value came in owning more of nearly anything. But all that changed when our family sold nearly everything we owned to pursue something that matters more to use than stuff. It’s been a journey to say the least, and just recently I’ve had a few special gifting experiences that I’d like to share in an effort to keep this notion of minimalist gift ideas rolling in your mind.

  1. My husband knows my favorite scent is called Volcano. While walking past a store a few weeks back he saw that the scent is available in a room spray and brought it home for me. Years ago, I’d have cherished his thoughtfulness but kept the room spray on a shelf to use only on occasion. Not so, today! I spray it before stepping into a hot shower to steam up the house with this fragrance. I spray it in our living room on a quiet night by the fire while I read a book. This room spray is nearly gone already but it’s serving the purpose Chris intended…to be used up.
  2. While on a date with my daughter a few Sundays back, we sat at a table and asked each other silly questions. (It’s one of my kids’ and my  favorite things to do…“Mom, if TV stopped existing, which show would you miss most?” You get the idea.) I kept noticing a grouping of bright fuchsia gladiolus behind my daughter’s giggling face. After we finished our date, Mackenzie and I bought the flowers. For about $1 a day we enjoyed their brightness in our home during the first week of Spring. I placed them in the middle of our home where we could see them nearly everywhere we walked. I moved them to the room I was reading in in the evening. I put them on the table when we ate a meal together. They were lovely, and they were used up until nearly the last bud fell off.
  3. Just today I asked my friend Erik (who recently had a birthday) what the best gift he received is. His reply? Very telling. “…The time my wife put in to my steak & cake dinner. Flourless (GLUTEN FREE!) cake. Tastes like dark chocolate cheesecake.” You know what? Eric used up his favorite gift. He savored each bite, appreciate the time his wife put into creating the meal for him, and digested every last ounce of it. His best birthday gift is nowhere to be seen.

Which gifts do you place value on? How will you use them up?

The Plan to Counteract a Busy Life

The Plan to Counteract a Busy Life

The Plan to Counteract a Busy Life

Life can be busy when you stop to think about it. My husband and I have very dynamic jobs and he travels several days a week. My kids are active in their school and are each participating in a sport at this time. We have a dog. Some family members live nearby. Every time my son or I open our mouths we have to think twice to avoid consuming gluten. I exercise. Our current home is too big. We have two international trips coming up in the next 3 months. Chris and I are part of a small group of married couples that meets each week. All of these things would make for a busy life if we didn’t edge out what doesn’t matter.

It all (basically) works. HOW does it all work? It’s the combination of three steps.

1) We know what matters most to us. If you identify what you value, say no (most of the time) to the rest. This might sound like over-simplification, but I don’t believe it is. If you say no enough, the opportunity ends. If you don’t, you wind up simply being busy. If it’s truly something you want to do, you’ll make time or save the money to do it.

2) We’ve systematized what doesn’t add purpose to our lives but has to be done.

  • I order groceries to be picked up by Chris on Fridays. Food’s in our fridge when I need to cook in the evenings, but I don’t take precious family time on Saturdays or evenings to browse grocery aisles.
  • Our kids do their fair share of the work around our home. (They’re responsible for cleaning their shared bathroom, doing their laundry, helping put dishes away, and taking the garbage out on a weekly basis. This week my daughter also offered to pull weeds when she noticed it needed to be done. Hooray!)
  • My workout is scheduled at a firm time so it’s part of the routine.
  • Chris does auto-pay on all the bills we are able to.
  • We own as few clothing items as necessary so laundry doesn’t monopolize our time and it’s easy to decide what to wear each morning.
  • Saturday is ‘clean the shower while you’re using it’ day in our home.
  • On the weekend I take a little time to prepare hard boiled eggs, slice veggies, and grill meat to make weekday lunch prep a cinch.

It’s 100% true that, even though we’ve taken time to implement these first two steps, life does still get busy from time to time. One final step is helping us sort out the stress where we can and leave the rest to God.

3) We continue to minimize. I know you’ve been hearing me say that the minimalist life is helpful for ages, but it’s seriously a key way to improve stressful situations. Here are some changes our family is looking into  in an effort to further cut back in some areas of our life at this time:

Live Smaller: We will likely purchase a smaller home in the next 3 months. I don’t want to be busy cleaning extra rooms we don’t need in our home.

Schedule Better: We’re moving my daughter’s karate lessons to a night when my husband is out of town so that we can have family time together when he is here instead of being apart from each other.

Drive Less: At the moment, the kids and I spend up to an hour on the road a day just driving to and from school and work. This is not quality family time, requires a lot of fuel, and is stressful for someone like me who’d prefer to walk everywhere as a primary form of transit. It’s clear to us that our next home needs to be closer to school and work.

Plan Strategically: For the past few years our travel plans have been haphazard. Chris and I took time to outline the places we’d like to go ourselves, take the kids, and whom we want to invite along on these trips for the next few years. Funneling the money and time towards these plans in advance will help us stop letting other things creep into time that will escape if we allow it.

Own Less: Our garage has items in it that we could sell or donate. I set a personal goal of mid-May to get it all out.

Downsize: The vehicle I drive is larger than we need. I will likely keep it for 12-18 more months then pay cash for a smaller one.

Which parts of your life are creating stress right and keeping you busy now that you can counteract with a good plan? 

 

Clutter Kills Freedom

Clutter Kills Freedom

Clutter Kills Freedom

Maybe the life you’ve always wanted to live is just buried underneath everything you own. – @joshua_becker

I believe clutter kills freedom.

Clutter has to be cleaned, stacked, stored, repaired, displayed, and more. It takes time. It takes space. It takes energy to maintain clutter. Clutter is like a giant treadmill that we stay on when we could get out there and run among nature instead. The word “clutter” often relates to objects but is also involved in having a messy schedule or finances.

Why do people keep clutter around?

  • Some people hold on to clutter because it feels safe.
  • Clutter makes others feel comfortable.
  • One might decide clutter is a welcome guest because it’d be too difficult to ask clutter to leave.

If you aren’t motivated to live with less, consider what it could cost you. Imagine one of your lifelong dream opportunities came up today: would you have the freedom to follow it? If not, what would hold you back? I’d venture to predict that any of these three things could get in your way:

  1. Living in a pit of stuff that keeps you busy.
  2. Keeping a schedule that prevents you from enjoying your life.
  3. Worrying about money so much you’ve lost the desire to be generous.

One of our family’s values is freedom. We exercise the freedom to say yes (or no) based upon the margin we leave in our schedules for what matters most to us. Chris and I want to have the freedom of not feeling financial strain, so we buy less than society says we deserve to own. No one could convince us that it’s not important to have the freedom to pursue a dream when the opportunity arises. Following one’s dreams is never easy, but being bogged down by financial stress, over-stretched schedules, and belongings to care for means we’d be unable to dream freely.

What say you?

Will you stay on the treadmill of dust-collecting collections? Will you refuse to believe that memories can survive apart from the objects they’re attached to? Will you hold on to outdated, under-sized items? Will you seek freedom from clutter?

 

The Rich Life

The Rich Life

The Rich Life

Your Twitter feed, the news, and maybe even those closest to you define the rich life as including anything from being single and free to roam, to being married with kids and living in a big home, or even having a trust fund available to you to purchase anything on a whim. You might not think any of those examples define the rich life, but I want to challenge you to stop and ask yourself what truly is of value to you personally.

Here’s a list off the top of my head of things that make my life rich:

* I have a photo taken the day I took my kids to see where Chris and I shared our first dance as husband and wife. This photo reminds me how they hung on every word as I described the reception.
* There’s a memory in my mind of my grandmother’s laugh that I love. I like to think I inherited her sense of humor.
* I don’t pay a dime for hugs in our home, and I live with some great huggers.
* We have a sweet rescue dog who adores me even when I feel grumpy. Spending a cool evening on the couch with Maggie warming my feet is a luxury.
* Being prayed for by my husband comforts me deeply.
* I surround myself with wise people at work and learn from them. Their lives’ experiences and wisdom are priceless.
* Borrowing a free book from the Kindle library is a gift I give myself each month.
* I get to text my mom inside jokes or funny memes and laugh hysterically at her replies.

In my opinion, this is the rich life.

Focus on changing the belief that being rich requires money. Wealth and money don’t have to go hand in hand.

It’s your turn! Identify things – which aren’t items one can buy – that bring you joy. What makes up your rich life?

How to Break the Shopping Habit

How to Break the Shopping Habit

How to Break the Shopping Habit

Unless I have a specific store in the mall I need to go to or am headed to the cinema, I don’t spend much time at the shopping mall. On one recent trip to the shopping mall with my family, where a few of us had gifts to exchange, I was given a distinct reminder as to what the act of shopping represents for many of us.

The Shopping Habit, Explained

As we walked through a department store, my 9 year old son asked me if I’m saving up my money right now to buy anything. I couldn’t think of anything. I asked him the same question and he couldn’t think of anything he wanted or needed, either. The problem? He had cold cash in his hands. And he felt it needed to be exchanged for something…anything. “That’s why I want to look around, Mom, so I can spend it on something I find,” he explained.

At that moment I identified two things:

1) Big Win: He’s picking up on the good habit of using cash and learning to buy what he wants instead of asking us to buy it for him.
2) Room for improvement: He’s observed the principle, “Have money, will spend.”

Have you ever felt the way my son did? I sure have. Let’s be honest…In a giant shopping mall with dozens of stores, there’s bound to be something to catch anyone’s eye. Choosing to go shopping is almost certainly choosing to spend money (or worse, use a credit card).

How You Can Break the Shopping Habit

Here are a few things I’ve used over the years that have kept us living under budget and helps keep excess stuff out of our home.

* Go on a fast from the shopping mall. If you’re used to going each week to browse, take 2 weeks off. If you’re feeling strong (and frustrated by the unending cycle of buying things to make yourself happy then experiencing disappointment) go longer, like a maybe a month, without darkening the shopping mall’s doors. You’re going to show yourself that joy can be found in experiences outside the temporary high you might feel when you purchase something while shopping.

* Give gifts that don’t require a trip to the shopping mall or a superstore. Make something. Shop local. Or try any of these ideas!

* Go online. I recently began using Amazon Prime to order items I’d usually pick up at a superstore. (Superstores present the big temptation to “save” money but walk out with more than was on your shopping list, instead.) Some key household items available for purchase on Amazon Prime offer a 5% discount if you subscribe for them to be delivered with no shipping charge every other month, like laundry detergent or hand soap.

* Create a grocery plan that works. This will allow you to sidestep that stressful Saturday morning trip with the kids to the superstore to fill your cart. I remember rewarding myself with a latte and new workout clothes once just for getting through the weekly grocery trip at the superstore…only to find when I arrived home that I’d missed key items on my list and had to drive back the next day. (Can we say waste of time and money?)

* Start a list of things you’d like to have…but don’t go out and buy them for yourself. You can shop in your imagination this way and still keep your closets in order. Give it a try! As time passes, those items you most want or could use will stay on your list and you’ll come to see that some of the items would not have been much appreciated after all. Before you know it, you’ll become an easy person to by gifts for. (Learn some specific ways to start this habit here.)

* Wait to buy. Our grandparents were masters at this. Our generation? Not so much. Take the control back that you wield in today’s economy by recognizing that the money in your hand does not have to be spent at all. If you do spend it, it can be given to causes instead of contributing to the accumulation of stuff. Or it could be saved for the day that a special opportunity comes along.

For more on the minimalist approach to shopping, read Minimalist Shopping: My Experience.

 

 

2012 in Review…and a Sneak Peek at 2013

2012 in Review: I landed my dream job.

2012 in Review: I landed my dream job.

Recently I was given the wonderful idea from Courtney Carver to write out a love list. The list includes things I’m so glad I did this year and I identified some things on the list which I’d like to give more priority to in 2013. Taking a few minutes to do this helped me gain some clarity on how to reframe a few habits I currently have for better impact in the year to come. It also caused me to recognize activities I want to be sure to include in the next year that might have been forgotten had I not been intentional about them.

I admit that at first I felt as though my answers were pretty common – who doesn’t love hearing their kids laugh or trying a new restaurant? Then the thought occurred to me to scan the photos saved on my phone from the past year. That’s when the light bulb truly came on! I had snapshots of some of the most important moments of my 2012. Some of the best moments couldn’t be captured by camera, of course, but my heart remembered them as I began to list out memories that flooded back to mind. Here are a few things I’m so glad I did in 2012:

  1. Took a vacation alone with my husband
  2. Volunteered in my kids’ classrooms at school
  3. Developed my writing with the help of my friend Ben Stroup
  4. Blogged to help others learn how to simplify their lives
  5. Taught my children how to do their own laundry
  6. Took a risk and landed my dream job
  7. Paid off our credit card
  8. Lost 10 pounds
  9. Began mentoring younger-than-me women
  10. Met Carlos Alberto face to face
  11. Created a grocery plan that works for our family
  12. Made Chris laugh
  13. Showed grace to my kids

As I review this list, it’s helped me identify experiences and values I lived out in 2012 that I want to repeat and do more of in 2013. As we move into the next year…

* You can expect to follow our family through at least one (if not a few) international excursions.
* Anticipate hearing more about adjustments to my gluten free lifestyle that provide results even better than I had 6 months ago.
* Be on the lookout for a book or more downloads from me this year.
* Know that I will continue seeking to simplify my life as God leads, and I will share it all right here.

Thank you for joining me on a wild and fantastic, faith-filled journey this year at DanaByers.com! Do yourself a favor now and sign up in the sidebar to receive these posts via email so you don’t miss out on all that’s to come.

Tell us…what do you want to do more of in 2013? Write your responses in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!

 

The Minimalist Christmas Gift Plan for Kids

The Minimalist Christmas Gift Plan for Kids

The Minimalist Christmas Gift Plan for Kids

I’ve been asked a number of times lately: What do you guys buy your kids for Christmas? Do you have a plan for gifts?

It’s a good thing my kids don’t read my blog…so I’ll tell you.  :)

In the months leading up to Christmas, I keep a running list on my smart phone of items the children mention they’d like to have or need. This list is a great place to include items my kids would consider buying with allowance money but haven’t yet been able to save it all up. When one of these items is given, it’s a double surprise because they also have allowance cash available again. When the holiday shopping season arrives, we choose a few of the items on the running list to provide for our children and share the other ideas with grandparents, uncles and aunts who ask for hints as to what to buy our children. (More on this list idea here.)

I cannot take credit for the plan I’m about to share with you. I’ve heard it from a number of other people and admit I don’t even know where it originated. Just the same, I think it’s quite helpful and makes for a simple experience of buying gifts for our kids.

SOMETHING THEY WANT
SOMETHING THEY NEED
SOMETHING TO WEAR
SOMETHING TO READ

If this plan doesn’t work for you, you might want to change some of your views on giving. Remember that every holiday giving experience can be simple if we remember that not all gifts are tangible and experiences together count for a lot.

This year Chris and I are giving our best gift yet to the kids under the “Something They Need” category…will share more about that after Christmas. (Hint: it requires a passport. Don’t tell my cuties just yet! They’ll find out on Christmas Day.)

Would you like some creative ideas on what to give loved ones on any occasion? Download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Change Your Views on Giving

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Change Your Views on Giving

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Change Your Views on Giving

If you’re struggling to find gift ideas for a person you’d like to give something to, stop and ask yourself what you want the outcome of giving the gift to be:

* If the goal is to remove guilt, wasting time and money on a gift won’t do that for you.
* If your purpose is to appreciate them, give them something you know they value (which might not be an item but an experience or a donation to a cause that matters to them).
* If your purpose is to meet a need, don’t assume you know what they need. Ask them. Then experience the joy of knowing you’re providing something they’ll use, value, and thank God for upon receipt.

Here are some perspectives on giving that, if you adopt them, will make for a better experience:

Define the victory before you begin. What will be a win when 1 January comes around? Will it be the memory of your friend’s expression when she opens your gift or the receipt of a credit card bill you can’t pay in full? Make your decision now and act accordingly. No one you’re gifting would enjoy it so much if they knew you were paying more than you can afford.

Trust that quantity doesn’t trump quality. Similar to the thoughts shared in this peaceful shower post, having a few targeted, intentional, and specifically selected gifts is better than crowding the floor around your recipient with a lot of wrapped items. Just because your friends give their kids many presents doesn’t mean you have to. Ask yourself, “Would I rather have 10 ho-hum trinkets or a few awesome ones?” Your loved ones feel the same way.

Remember that bigger (or more expensive) often isn’t better. While wealth isn’t the minimalist’s goal, remember some of the examples shared in The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy (affiliate link). Appearances don’t count. People who matter don’t place a dollar value on your gift; they know you gave them something you believe they’ll love. Trust that your loved ones value the gift because it’s from you and not because you felt the need to impress them.

Need help with specific gift ideas that bless the recipients and don’t break the bank? Download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Previous posts in this series:

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Introduction

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

 

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

Receiving gifts makes up for about 50% of your minimalist gift experiences in life, therefore a lot is riding on how well you receive gifts. Are you forth-coming about what you’d like or need? Do you refuse to let others give to you out of pride?

Are you like me, appreciative of the experience of receiving a gift of something you can use? When I wear my favorite shoes 3-4 times a week, I think of my sister who bought them for me. I wear the cozy fleece robe my mom bought me nearly every morning. My smart phone was actually provided by a family who donated to our non-profit organization last year and knew I wasn’t receiving a salary at the time. They said the money should specifically provide something to help me do my job better. At that time my old smart phone was on the fritz, and receiving their gift met a practical and fairly immediate need. How cool is that?!

Today I challenge you to not buy what you’d like to simply because you can. Consider that your money might be put to better use and your wants or needs could be met by someone else on a different – though less immediate – time schedule. Start leaving a gap in what you own and what you’d like…to see what could happen in due time. If you’re always providing for yourself, you’re missing out on the joy of receiving gifts.

Need help with specific gift ideas you could ask for next time someone wants to give you a treat? Download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Previous posts in this series:

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Introduction

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Sometimes we have to give way until the time is right for us to own or experience something. Two years ago I saw a purse I really like, and I immediately wanted it. I thought about it regularly, and it seemed everywhere I went I saw an ad for the bag or saw someone carrying it. The price of the purse meant I’d have to save up for a few months straight without really buying anything besides groceries. I chose not to buy the bag even though I was still interested, because the opportunity cost was just too high.

Recently Chris told me we had some extra money at the end of our month (after our tithe, all bills, and savings were accounted for) and he casually said I could buy this purse I’ve wanted so long. It was a great surprise and a gift to me to have waited and been rewarded!

I set out to buy the purse, but my local store didn’t have it in stock and I had to order it online. It’s not a big deal to wait 5 more days for delivery, but I had to laugh at how even though I’ve wanted this purse for 2 years it still ached a little to discover the “immediate” gratification wouldn’t come.

The final (and much better) part of this story is that the bag represents to me so much more than it would have 2 years ago. It represents having paid cash, having waited more than long enough to know it’s of benefit and still liked, and not having come up on the wrong end of an opportunity cost due to giving in to the temptation to buy something the very moment I discovered it. It represents a purchase in favor of quality counts.

Unexpected, undeserved, affordable, useful, and paid for in cash: Now that’s a gift! Is there something you’d like, but don’t need, that you’re willing to wait for? A big part of receiving it as a gift (instead of purchasing it yourself) could be the thrill another has in providing it for you.

Note: This post refers to the definition of an actual object being a gift. As a minimalist, I also classify some experiences or actions as gifts, too. To learn some specific examples of wonderful gifts you could give, download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Previous posts in this series:

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Introduction

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

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