Preparing to Move: Thoughts About Stuff & Consumerism

I’ve been living back in Wisconsin for almost six months now and am finally reaching the point of looking for my own apartment.  I was fortunate enough that when I suddenly decided to leave NYC (after being driven out of my apartment by bed bugs and cockroaches) that my parents allowed me to temporarily move in with them.  Well, I (and I think they) envisioned this temporary arrangement last two or three months.  We are now in month six.

I spent my first two-and-a-half months in Wisconsin figuring out what I wanted to do with this next life chapter, brainstorming what business I could launch, and job hunting, until I was finally hired part-time at a retail job selling jewelry.  Around the same time I took on a temp job for six weeks, as well.  With time (about a month after the temp job ended), the same employer hired me on to a non-temporary position in another program.

So now, with a slightly higher paying job (though it’s only 30-hours a week, so I’m still working retail) that offers a little more job security, I am finally coming to a place where it makes financial sense for me to look for my own place.  Finally.

But as I work on my moving budget, I am reminded that moving entails saving for a lot more than just your first month’s rent and security deposit.  Considering the fact I got rid of pretty much everything I owned during my last two moves, I have nearly nothing to move into a new space with.  This partially makes me very nervous as I picture the price tag that accompanies furnishing an entire apartment, but it also makes me feel excited at the prospect of living a more minimalist lifestyle.

There are basics that I have to get– a bed, dishes, some towels.  But then there are all the “extras” that society makes us all believe are essential– coordinating six-piece bedroom set, enough dishes to have a dinner party of eight people (I never have dinner parties and if I ever did, we’d figure something out), matching embroidered hand towels, a living room set complete with more seating than I have close friends, kitchen gadgets that I don’t know or care to learn how to use, decorative lamps that provide little light, and the list goes on and on.

So as I prepare to move, I am making a realistic list of items that I will actually use on a daily basis and should, therefore, spend money on.  As usual, my preference will be on used items (with the exception of my mattress because I’m scared from my bed bug experience despite having a new mattress then too) to save money, help the environment, and add a bit of personality to my living space.

Basically, I refuse to consume for the sake of consumption.  There are so many more things I could do with my money, such as pay of my student loan debt and start saving to build my Tiny Home.

To help me stick to my plan, I ask: What is on your Essential Living Space list?  I will share mine in a later post after I give it more thought, but share your suggestions in the comments below!

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Debating if I Should Get Rid of My iPhone

After reading the post on The Minimalists about how Joshua Fields Millburn got rid of his phone, the idea of ditching my iPhone has been stuck in my mind. (Here’s the update on his challenge)

I got my first cellphone around the time I got my driver’s license.  It was basic flip, prepaid phone that I was only allowed to use for emergencies or to call my parents if I was coming home late.  My parents paid for the minutes on it and monitored the usage.

I got a real cellphone right before I moved in to my dorm my freshmen year of college.  It was a basic flip phone.  It was part of my parents plan, so I could make calls, but not send texts.  I finally convinced my dad to add a texting plan to our account my senior year of college.  I think it was something like I paid $7 a month for 250 messages.

After graduating college, one of my first “real adult” acts was getting my own cell plan and a Blackberry.  I went all out– unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, data plan, and a cool pink case.  Having a Blackberry equaled adulthood to me.  Never-mind that I didn’t have a job at this point and really couldn’t afford the phone…

After relocating to NYC in August 2011, my Blackberry could not get a signal because (unlike what my regional cell provider told me before moving), it had no service in NYC.  So at that point, I terminated my contract and went with a national carrier, which meant I had to get a new phone.  And in came my iPhone addiction…

the iOS family pile (2012) © blakespot

Luckily, I just have the one iPhone, though the damn Apple-lifestyle has me itching for an iPad and MacBook. Photo © blakespot

I’ve had some great times with my iPhone.  Apps are fun and good time-wasters.  It’s convenient to have all my email inboxes (I have 12.  Maybe more…) feeding into one place.  I love being able to tweet and post every random thought that pops into my brain.  It’s great to check the comments and traffic on my websites I manage while on-the-go.

But the trade-offs are what have me thinking I may be further ahead ditching the smartphone for a “dumb-phone,” where I can just make calls and text.  For starters, my iPhone costs me $110-$130 a month (depending on the minutes plan I’m using that month because I can’t find one that works for me).  A regular “dumb phone” plan with unlimited texting would only cost me about $55 a month, a savings of $55-$75 a month or $660-$900 a year!

Smartphones makes us perpetual consumers.  New phones are constantly coming out promising to be better than all previous phones.  We’re suppose to drop a few hundred (or more) dollars on each new phone every couple years.  How much money in our lifetimes will we spend on phones?  What happens to our old phones?  What impact does this have on our environment?

Also, as my smartphone usage has increased, my ability to focus has decreased.  I can’t carry-on a conversation without checking my phone every 10 minutes.  I’m constantly thinking about the next thing to post online instead of paying attention to what’s happening around me.  I sneak glances at my email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. while driving (terrible habit!).

I recently started working a part-time retail job where I’m not allowed to have my cellphone on the floor.  Though many coworkers break this rule and sneak their phones in their pockets, I see this rule as a much-needed respite from my phone.  An eight-hour shift without my phone is a relief!  The only thing I truly miss during that time is texting because, in the land of technology, it most closely simulates direct communication with another person.

On paper (or blog), I’ve convinced myself to ditch my iPhone and go back to a basic flip with no data plan, but can I really do it?  I’m still mentally preparing myself for this one.

photo credit: blakespot via photo pin cc

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?