Why do we conserve only when we’ve over-consumed?

Whenever we’re about to run out of something, that’s when we decide that it’s time to conserve it.

At one of my jobs today, I was shredding documents.  Before starting, I was told that we were out of the plastic liner bags for the machine, so I should manually stuff the contents from the bin into a previously “full” bag to make sure there was a enough space to finish shredding my pile of papers.

When they thought there were more bags, they deemed the bag full.  When it turns out there were no more bags, we suddenly had to conserve space and cram more paper in.

I do it when I’m almost out of minutes on my cellphone plan (usually while swearing at the companies who put me on hold for 30 minutes at a time!).  I have friends who do it when they went out partying one night and over-spent, so they conserve their cash by eating Ramen for week.  Many believe that the only shot we have at our government seriously investing in alternative energy sources will be when we run out of fossil fuels.

But why do we do this?

Why don’t we live like we’re almost out of bags/minutes/cash/energy? 

Because, in all reality, we are almost out.

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Pondering: Can I Embrace Minimalism?

A friend sent me a link to a blogger she thought was a “hottie,” so I searched around his site looking for a picture of him (obviously). While searching, I came across a post that linked to The Minimalists,  a site about how two best friends (Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus) in Dayton, OH began living a minimalist lifestyle.  The site sucked me in and before I knew it I read about 15 or so posts.

Though they do share some practical advice for embracing a minimalist lifestyle (including a 21-day journey you can take), the real gift of the site is their willingness to tackle the difficult topics that go along with it.  When you’re living a minimalist life, what do you do about gifts?  What do you do about sentimental items?  What about when minimalism scares you?

As I’ve mentioned before, I sold most of my belongings when I moved to NYC in August 2011 and then threw most of my belongings away after getting bedbugs in May 2012.  After theses experiences, I’ve felt a decreased attachment to material stuff.  This is why The Minimalists site, and minimalism in general, intrigues me.

The site BecomingMinimalist.com has a great post the defines what minimalism is.  It explains:

“MINIMALISM IS INTENTIONALITY.

MINIMALISM IS FREEDOM FROM THE PASSION TO POSSESS.

MINIMALISM IS FREEDOM FROM MODERN MANIA.

MINIMALISM IS FREEDOM FROM DUPLICITY.

MINIMALISM IS COUNTER-CULTURAL.

MINIMALISM IS NOT EXTERNAL, BUT INTERNAL.

MINIMALISM IS COMPLETELY ACHIEVABLE.”

The explanation under “Minimalism is Intentionality,” offers a simple, yet powerful definition of minimalism:

It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.

Hearing minimalism explained in this way makes it obvious that its about more than stuff, it’s about our values and living authentically.  So now I sit here pondering, can I live a minimalist lifestyle?

In one light, it seems overwhelming and terrifying, but in another it seems liberating.  Yes, the thought of getting rid of more items makes me feel uneasy, but the prospect of not wasting time sorting and organizing stuff I’m not using feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, as does the thought of moving around my living space without tripping over anything or rummaging through piles of stuff looking for something I need.

But beyond the stuff, there’s a part of me that is scared of doing the internal work necessary to embrace minimalism.  Can I really work through the part of my brain that believes stuff = security?  Can I really figure out how to be comfortable enough with myself that I don’t try to silence my authentic-self with makeup, clothes, jewelry, and gadgets?  Can I get over the judgements that will surely fall my way as I step further into non-conformity?

Still pondering…

Are you living a minimalist lifestyle?  Do you have any advice to offer?

The Beginning of the Homesteading Daughter

Traditional knowledge-sources struggle to define the term “homesteading.”  The best one Google and I can find comes from Wikipedia, which broadly defines it as “a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency.”

But looking outside of traditional knowledge-sources is our best bet to truly understand what we mean by “homesteading” in a modern-sense.

Mother Earth News offers a great look into the various definitions of “homesteading” over the years.  They offer a great definition with the phrase “21st Century Homesteading,” which they define as:

The phrase 21stcentury homesteading, which is all about self sufficiency — wherever you live. It’s about using less energy, eating wholesome local food, involving your family in the life of the community and making wiser choices that will improve the quality of life for your family, your community and the environment around you.

Why do I care about homesteading?

After spending the first 23-years of my life in Wisconsin, I moved to New York City in August 2011.  During my time there, I began thinking more critically about issues of sustainability, consumption, emergency preparedness, and the (lack of) sense of community among individuals.

I lasted ten months in The Big Apple before deciding to return home to Wisconsin.  During those ten months, I got a crash course in Urban Living 101.  The pros: mass transit and a multitude of small businesses.  The cons: vermin, cockroaches, bedbugs (overall too many people in too small of a space with poor cleanliness routines), reliance on external food supply, lack of green space, and lack of individual emergency preparedness.

Though it turned out NYC was not where I wanted to live long-term, spending those ten months allowed me to reexamine how I had been living my life and how my lifestyle choices were impacting my personal wellness, and that of my community and the environment.

Upon returning back to Wisconsin, I moved in with my parents temporarily to give me time to figure out what I want to do next with my life.  My parents live on a couple acre lot in rural Wisconsin.   Over the years since I moved out, my parents have developed/strengthened their commitment to self-sufficiency, frugal living, and a plant-strong lifestyle.  Their commitment has exposed me to more information about ways of living and consumer values that are outside of the American “norm.”  This, coupled with my time in NYC, has brought me to a place where I want to change my lifestyle to be one that is more green and self-sufficient, and less dependent on chemicals and big corporations.

So why the Homesteading Daughter?

Despite my desire to change my lifestyle, I know very little about how to go about doing it.  When I told my parents about my desire to become self-sufficient and live on a homestead, they reminded me that I hate bugs, heat, sweating, lifting heavy things, and manual labor–all parts of the self-sufficient life.  So, yes, I have a long way to go; but I have a great sense-of-humor, personal incentive to change (I’m lactose intolerant and have a skin sensitivity to most chemicals, dyes, and fragrances), and am a quick-learner.

My journey to self-sufficiency and eventual full-out homesteading promises to be a humorous adventure, so I decided to document it on this site.  My hope is that I will be able to share my newly-acquired knowledge with other homesteading newbies and make you laugh.

The site is a work-in-progress.  I will post content as I discover new resources, try new projects, and learn new things.  I plan on posting written content for you, as well as pictures, video, and audio as they’re useful.

I look forward to connecting with you!  Please share your thoughts, opinions, ideas, and suggestions in the comment section on any page!

My Newest Obsession: Tiny Houses

As I continue to research and learn more about the self-sufficiency and homesteading, I stumble across new concepts that capture my attention for longer than the usual two-seconds.  With some concepts, I become obsessed.

My latest obsession? Tiny Houses.

Harbinger from Tumbleweed Houses

The Tumbleweed Houses design that I’m in love with! It’s called “Harbinger” and is 404 sq ft. © Tumbleweed Houses

TheTinyLife.com shares more about the Tiny House Movement:

Simply put it is a social movement where people are downsizing the space that they live in. The typical American home is around 2600 square feet, while the typical small or tiny house is around 400 square feet. Tiny Houses come in all shapes, sizes and forms but they focus on smaller spaces, simplified living.

Before moving to NYC last August, I was a bit of a hoarder.  Not the kind that has her entire living space stuffed full from floor to ceiling with unworn clothes or newspapers from 1987, but the kind that has way too many goods for personal use and has no logical explanation as to why.

So before moving, I sold most of what I owned so that I could start over.  Though I was initially very emotional about parting with some of my belongings (it’s weird how we can get so attached to STUFF), I felt so liberated when I was able to board my flight to NYC with only a few pieces of luggage and a handful of boxes being shipped to me.  I started accumulating things once I moved to NYC and got my own apartment, but my “hoarding” feelings were no longer there.  I had less furniture and didn’t want an over-stuffed apartment.  I thought more before I bought things (and my bank account thanked me for it).

But apparently I wasn’t done learning my life lessons about “stuffitis” and the absurdity of emotional attachment to material goods because in May 2012 my Brooklyn apartment became infested with bed bugs.

I was a bit naive about the critters, so it wasn’t until I had 60 bites covering my body and a coworker gently told me they weren’t from mosquitoes, that I decided to see a doctor.  I didn’t even get my sweater sleeve all the way off during the exam before the doctor and nurse looked at each other and said, “Bed bugs.”  After going five-rounds with my landlord, exterminator, and NYC’s housing authority, my apartment was finally treated for the bed bugs (and army of cockroaches that used my apartment as a highway).

But by the time the exterminator made it to my apartment, I had thrown about 25 garbage bags of stuff away*** and decided it was time to head back to home Wisconsin.

So for the second time in less than a year, I had to get rid of the majority of my worldly possessions.  The second time around didn’t impact me as much.  I knew I could still be Chynna without all my stuff.  Yes, there were still some items I couldn’t part withs so I worked with the exterminator to figure out how to treat them.  But overall, I learned I could live with less.

The first time I saw a Tiny House was on a design show last fall.  I saw it and immediately thought, “I could NEVER live in one of those!”  It literally made my chest feel tight, as I started to feel anxious.  But experiencing moving cross-country and then a bedbug infestation, really makes me feel that I could downsize my life and live in a Tiny House.

I’m attracted to Tiny Houses for a variety of reasons– they’re more cost effective, so it would be more realistic/economical for me to purchase a Tiny House than a regular one (and the long-term mortgage that comes with it); they are more energy efficient, so they are cheaper to maintain; they are small(or smaller) than an apartment, but I could put it on some land allowing me to have more space to garden; and they’re just plain adorable!

More Reading About Tiny Houses:

What do you think about Tiny Houses?  If you’re obsessed share why in the comments below.  Do you live in one?  Share your experiences in the comments!

***Yes, I know that items should be donated instead of thrown away.  But I didn’t have the funds to treat every item I owned for bed bugs and didn’t want to risk infesting the recipients of my items.  Knowing I was sending my stuff to landfill bothered me more than getting rid of it.