Welcome

More is not better… better is better.

Welcome to Middle Age Minimalism. I’m glad you’ve taken a few minutes to stop by and I hope you find useful and enjoyable information as we take this journey together.

My name is Rachel and my husband Mark and I are what we like to call Middle Age. Somewhere between having kids at home and approaching retirement. We have made some really big and unique choices as we prepare and plan for what we hope will be the best years of our lives.

A few of the ways we’ve done things differently is that 2 years ago we bought a small (baby house) in Mesa, Az, with plans of spending most of our winters there in the future and we get there as often as we can now. We recently minimized our life by selling our large, 4 bedroom home and moving into a 1000 sq. foot condo. And with our current jobs we plan to be debt very soon and have the ability to start making some of our grand plans become reality.

My husband has a great blog that details our experiences through middle age from his perspective at MiddleAgeMark.com. He is a great writer and I think you’ll enjoy his take on this adventure too.

So much of this journey is about minimizing our stuff and our commitments so we free up the time, space and money to do the things we really love. I hope to share some of the things we are learning along the way, how we are minimizing 109 years worth of stuff, not just tangibly but emotionally as well and what kinds of adventures we are taking because of those choices.

I’ll share more about us along the way, but for now, thanks for visiting. I’m excited about the journey and look forward to your comments as we go.

~rache

the Hustle

Today marks two weeks since I left my corporate job and all that came with it. Hours, salary, people, identity, title and stress. I’m proud of how I have spent these two weeks, taking my daughter to her doctor’s appointments for a grandson that is due any minute, studying, meditating, working out and incorporating Yoga into my daily routine. I’ve made a new meal every night and I’m enjoying the planning and prep like I used to.

Before I quit I made a list of things I’d like to explore while I have this year off and I continue to add to it as new things either come to mind or I see something and wonder about it. Some of those include more time to paint, make cards, send cards, learn macrame, work out daily and spend time in a new devotional. What was not on my list is the time I’ve had with my daughter as she puts the final touches on the nursery for her upcoming son. We spent one day this week touching up the crib and creating a wall in his room with a beautiful saying about changing his world, that my daughter hand wrote, on the wall!! Its so personal and beautiful and I feel blessed to have been part.

I’ve been invited to her appointments and yesterday got to see and feel his sweet little foot while hearing his heartbeat. All of these wonderful adventures were not things that I had planned. They were spontaneous and delightful as they played themselves out in the most perfect ways.

I had lunch with a friend who shared some very enlightened thoughts on acceptance and expectations. I have thought on our conversation and her words so many times since we met and know that they are a launching spot for growth this year. I look forward to seeing where they lead and who I become based on the time we spend together.

And I’ve cried every day.

For over a year I’ve been reading about and trying to practice being present. I’ve been meditating when I could find time and spending time trying to be silent all in the hopes it would ‘help’ and this week, so much of that study has started to show itself as benefit. I’ve had quiet moments of clarity that I have not before experienced in my life, and overwhelming gratitude. Hence the crying.

I can’t believe this is my life. Every moment choosing how to spend my time and my energy. Where to focus thought and the ability to spend time doing things I know are helping make me healthy. Not once have I felt rushed or pushed or had anxiety about how to get it all done and yet at the end of each day I still have things I look forward to doing tomorrow, things I didn’t get to today. I make a list every day of things I’d like to accomplish, marking them off as I go and forwarding any undone to the next day, and my soul is at peace.

I’ve had two occasions this week to be in a craft store (don’t worry MP!) and each time I was drawn to the planners. I like planners. I like tablets and binder and notebooks. Truth be told, I just really love any kind of paper. As I perused each book, looking for the details that made each of them different, I had the thought that maybe I ‘needed’ one. After all, I do have appointments to keep track of, things I am doing that are scheduled. I thought I could put my daily list in it and grocery needs and you know… have a planner. The last one I opened had each day scheduled by the half hour. A slot every thirty minutes. I immediately said, out loud, “I do not want to be that scheduled”. It actually gave me angst to think about having things so rigid. My daughter later commented that she was surprised by the comment because she has always known me to be a planner. Someone who found value in being busy because busy meant successful.

She was right. As I’m contemplating why I burned out of corporate America, part of it was my need to be seen as and to be busy. After all, busy is the outward way we know we are progressing and accomplishing, right? It was the way I knew I was climbing, growing, becoming ….something. But sadly, I believe that was part of what makes many of us slowly die inside. We give up the things that fill our time, the things that help us stay healthy and alive, for the busyness of meetings and demands that are pitched as urgent or vital. It happens slowly. First I gave up just one work out a week. Then I remember having the conversation with MP about what the minimum amount of workouts I’d need to do to maintain where I was at that point would be. It happened slowly but I traded, little by little, all the things that made me alive and happy for the things that kept me busy. The hustle was addicting and I was a junkie in the darkest sense of the word.

Hustle, Rest, Repeat
Hustle Hard
Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t Hustle
Some days I’m humble, some days I struggle, but I always Hustle

Its cool to be a hustler! Even cooler to be labeled or seen as a hustler. I’m not saying that working hard is bad by any means, and I know that hustling is a catchphrase at the moment that encompasses pouring yourself into your dreams and I’m all for that. I also believe its worth considering the cost of the hustle with a measurement larger then the corporate ladder and to not buy into the idea that hustle for hustling sake is healthy for everyone.

This is the first of a few things I’m realizing just two weeks into my journey. For me, the manic hustle, the busy for busyness sake was my enemy. There is always going to be more, always going to be another meeting, another crisis, another need and I let those things wiggle their way into first place, before my health, my fitness and my family. Its easy to see from this side looking back the quiet progression and how I got caught up in believing I was just doing what needed to be done.

As I contemplate that progression and the opportunity to re-evaluate things, I hope to continue to cry every day. Tears of gratitude. Tears of becoming.

I’m going to live my life without a day planner for a while. I’m going to live outside my norm of filling ever minute and consciously continue to minimize in my life. I’m learning about me and I don’t need time slots all filled in to do that. I’m choosing who I want to be and I’m getting ready to meet the newest member of this amazing family. While my days are full, I am far from busy. Each thing I do is a choice and I am enjoying every thirty minutes of it !

This is my year of Discovery and I am more excited every day as I experience new things about myself, my life, my family and my world. My path to and with minimalism is taking me down this very unique road and for that my heart is overflowing with gratitude.
Thanks for coming along with me on the journey.

Until next time…

-rache

The Leaving

I gave my notice through email because I had been waiting for a call back for days
So…I sent my resignation letter through email and didn’t like doing it that way one bit
But it was time.

Three days later, with no acknowledgment of having received it, I sent it again asking if it had been received
(Looking back, I should have sent it with a return receipt, I know)
The next day I got the following email with its one word answer

“Received”

And then they went silent for the next two weeks
No emails
No exit strategy discussions
No questions
Just silence from their corporate office half way across the US

And….I was confirmed
This is the company that I couldn’t quite figure out for the six months I was there
Why don’t people answer my questions or emails?
Why are all the processes set up as if to make things more difficult then they need to be?

The job turned out to be totally different then what they told me when I took it
But it was exactly what I needed to make the change

And so…. I left corporate America
I think for good

I plan to take a year off
Really think about what I’d like to do
No more management
No more trying to tell people who have an MD or a PHD behind their name what to do

And here is the blessing and really what made this choice even optional….
We’ve been preparing for this for months
Years really
And didn’t even know it
Well, not specifically anyway

We became debt free earlier this year and since then we have been saving 90% of my paycheck and donating the other 10%
So we already know how to live on the Cowboys salary

We downsized our living space and our ‘things’ and started living a minimalistic lifestyle almost a year ago
There will not be big adjustments to make there either

I don’t know a lot of people my age, 51, who get an opportunity like this
I feel so blessed and excited and hopeful

Not everyday has been blissful while making this decision
One day I was so overcome by fear as my inner voice started to wonder what the hell I was doing…that I had to pull my car over

“If there is a recession, you’ll never work again”
“You’re too old, you’ll never be hired again”
“You’re going to ruin all your retirement plans”
“All you know is the medical field, you’ll never get into something else”
“You’re so selfish, broken, unable ……..”

I realized it was fear talking to me
None of those things were real, none of those things were true
And once I acknowledged that fear, and where it was coming from, I found a beautiful peace wash over me
A feeling I’ve gone back to whenever I start to feel anxious since then

And, so I jumped.
I left the job one week ago
Its was really hard to not be able to pass off the tasks in a professional way
To at least talk someone through where different projects are at or things to be watchful for
Actually, talk to anyone at all
I did not do the transition like I’d have liked to
But that wasn’t my choice
I wish them well

This week I have started a list of things I want to do with this time
I want to look back at it and know I shook this gift for all it was worth
I want to get fit and healthy again, read daily, mediate, worship, incorporate yoga into my weekly workouts, send notes weekly to those I love, journal, walk, swim, create
I have so many plans
and I’m so excited for this adventure.

One last note….
I know there is something I can’t even imagine coming
I’ve felt it for a while now and for the first time in my life I’m totally ok waiting to see what that is….
I’m not looking yet
I’m not trying to figure out what it might be or how it will work
I am not going to create it
I’m just going to work on me and wait to see what God has waiting for me
Because…its going to be great!

I plan to write more about leaving Corporate America too, but for now….I can hardly wait for this next Grand Adventure!

And…(drum roll please) ….

Minimalism is taking on a new form in my life very soon
I’ve talked about it for a while now
Thought about it for even longer
Read articles about those who’ve made adjustments like this
All to minimize their lives and lifestyles

We sold our home a few months ago
Our big house
Downsized to half the square footage
Got rid of SO much stuff
And decorated the new place very minimally

We’ve gotten debt free
paying off all our bills and living small
We’ve either saved or donated 100% of my income for months
and really scrutinized where we spend our other money

I didn’t know it when we started this journey
but its all been leading to this moment
Or rather the one that will happen just 8 days from now

After years of living each day on the bubble of negative anticipation
Wondering how every day will be and how people will act
Being responsible for those actions whether I agreed with them or not
And rarely being able to leave those issues where they belonged
We’re about to make a change

A big change
A change longed for
And one I approach with great and positive excitement

I am leaving Corporate America
I’m leaving my full time, six figure, 50+ hours a week job

And my plan, you ask?
well, let me see…
I plan to read, sleep, exercise, practice yoga, paint, journal, cook, get healthy, write and participate in anything that looks fun along the way. I’ve started a list of all the things I want to do and spending time with the grand babies and under the beautiful palm trees in Arizona tops it.
For now, the plan is to take a year off, maybe more
We’ll see
And currently, I think if or when I do ‘go back to work’ I’d like to stay out of this field… forever

I have all my reasons
And maybe I’ll share some of them at some point
But now, I’m basking in the knowledge that I have just hours left in this life of medical and corporate management

So, join me on my journey! I look forward to your thoughts along the way. I’d love to hear from those of you who have made a similar choice. I bet I learn a lot of things I hadn’t even thought about.
I can hardly wait for this grand adventure to begin.

Here I go!

~rache

Surfacing

This is a different post than I usually write on this blog. It is about my journey through the last few years in a toxic corporate job, my battle with depression and my belief that amazing things are coming.

Have you ever been scuba diving? If so then you know that when you are submerged deep in the water you don’t really realize it. You know you’re swimming and you might be aware you are underwater, but you can’t really tell if you’re 5 feet under or 50 feet deep.

I feel like this has been my life for the past few years. I knew I was under water, and I would have told you I was just a little under, but what I hadn’t realized is that I was in deep. Way, way under.

I didn’t really know I wasn’t breathing at all. I was holding my breath to see if I could survive another day, thinking that everyone in corporate America ‘worked’ like that. I believed that it was acceptable to live in a toxic environment because it was a career and work is never all that fun. I was just living for Friday at 4pm and slipping down past whatever progress had been made over the weekend on Sunday at 9pm, dreading the next morning. People around me were worried. I was getting physically sicker by the month. But, I kept telling myself that this was life in the fast lane. This was what was required to get the paycheck and have the title.

But I was cracking. Or maybe I cracked. I was losing myself and those who loved me.

Until earlier this summer, when I left my ‘big, corporate job’ and we went away for 16 days. I cried almost every day we were gone. I was broken and sad and wondering how I let myself be sad and broken for so long. Wondering who I was now that I didn’t have the corporate title.

We downsized our home in order to live the dream we had been dreaming. I took a job with a smaller, more personal company and we started living our weekends, instead of just trying to make them last longer.

That was almost 6 months ago. To be honest, at first I thought I had made a terrible mistake. I thought maybe this new job was just like that last one. Or maybe the benefits would have been worth staying for. When I realized that wasn’t the case I started to wonder if I was broken. Maybe I didn’t know how to be a good employee or manager. I questioned myself, my decisions and my wants.

But something else started to happen too, slowly. I started to not dread Mondays. I got control of my anxiety with some help from my physician and from a counselor. I started to look again for the things I really enjoyed and I made plans to incorporate more of those things into my life.

And, I got brave. Braver then I think I have ever been before and more brave then I thought I could be. I went to my new employer (only 5 months in) and I told them what I wanted. It was completely different then the job I had been hired for. But I pitched it. I told them exactly how I wanted my work life to look.

And they said yes!

Not just yes, but a resounding yes. I was initially afraid to even ask, but once I did something great started to happen. I started bobbing above the water I hadn’t even realized I was under. Just a couple bobs at first but as the days went by I spent more and more time breathing in the sunshine that floating on top the water gave me access to. Day after day I felt myself coming up and out of the darkness. I felt myself smiling. Really smiling and laughing and enjoying everything.

Its been a journey. Not always an easy or fun one, especially for those closest to me. They saw me losing myself and could do very little to help. I knew I was breaking me, but I didn’t have the courage to change it.

I’m not going to tell you I’m totally fine quite yet. Years of living in harsh environments takes time to heal from. I talk to my counselor a few times a month and on occasion I find myself worried if this will last, but I wake up most mornings and I am amazed at the sunrise. I stop each evening on my walk into our condo and watch as the moon rises in the sky and the sun casts brilliant orange shadows over the western mountains. I breathe. Deeply. I praise because I’m thankful and I incorporate gratitude into my daily routine. I am deeply grateful for those who stood by me. Who loved me. Whose life this experience altered too.

I’m glad to know you can have a career and be happy. I’m happy to know that Sundays can be days that are filled with fun things and I can go to bed without dread.

I share my story in hopes that maybe someone else will read this and know they too can be happy. I hope that person doesn’t stay in a place that makes them less. I hope that you will never be in a place that makes you stop breathing.

Look for the sun. Never let the darkness hold you under. And if you find yourself in that place, reach for the surface with everything that is left in you. Because the sun is shining. There is warm air waiting for you to breathe deeply into your soul. Be braver then you ever thought you could be. Because, you are worth the effort.

-rache

12.20.19 Update : The new job mentioned above turned out to be much different then planned and while I agree with this writing and hope it helps someone else understand that a job can be good and happy and freeing, this job did not turn out to be that for me. I still think this is worth keeping posted.

What to do with Christmas

Christmas is one of the holidays that can create some apprehension about minimalism. I was listening to some podcasts recently and one perspective was to make sure you tell all of your family about your decision to be a minimalist and give them a list of things they could get you, and your kids if you have them, for gifts. The second idea was to just quietly live your life, accept any gifts that are given and make decisions maybe a few weeks or months down the road as they come up about what things you keep like you would any other day with items in your home.

I thought about these two options off and on for a few days and found that neither of them sat well with me. I don’t want to tell people what to get me for Christmas. That feels wrong on a number of levels. I also, don’t want people to waste money on things that may not be kept for very long or buy gifts just because they feel like they should.

I believe there is a happy medium between these two options and its the one our family has been doing for years, not under the umbrella of minimalism, but as a way to really spend quality time together.

Our adult children and their spouses and myself and MP share an outing every year as our Christmas gift to each other. We come together and bring ideas of things we can DO together instead of buy each other. One year we rented a beautiful mountain ‘cabin’ (that slept 15) and spent a weekend in a resort town. Another time we went to a hockey game and once we went on a reindeer drawn sleigh ride and dinner.

One of the things I love about these gifts is that I still remember them. Unlike the sweatshirt or socks I may have received and not ever worn, these gifts create long lasting memories and build on our love for each other. I always remember the laughter, the food, the games and the quiet breakfasts.

We usually do the event in January or February so we have something to look forward to and to lighten the load for other engagements around the holidays. It makes the perfect ‘get-together’ again when winter is really starting to set in.

The other great thing about this gift is I don’t have to store it. I don’t have to find a place for it. I don’t have to wonder how long to keep it. I don’t have to feel bad if I didn’t like it or never wear it. Its a win-win all the way around!

MP and I still buy gifts for the ‘babies’ as I like to call them and a few for each other. One of the grand kids is 7 and the other 2 1/2 but they are still ‘the’ babies. With another on the way this winter I’m sure our Christmases are about to be even more fun filled and I can imagine that as the kids grow, we will incorporate them into our outings as well.

What are your Christmas traditions and how does a minimalist lifestyle play into those events?

And with that….here comes Fall, and Thanksgiving, my very favorite holiday!

-Rache

My “I Want” Exercise

I was listening to a podcast earlier this week and the presenter asked the question, “What do you want?” In this context he was asking the listener to actually list out on paper things they wanted. I thought about it while I drove and decided to take the challenge, so this week I wrote out a list of things I ‘want’.

I started every sentence with the words “I want…” and just wrote until I felt like there wasn’t much else to say.

This was one of those experiments where I decided not to think too hard about what I was writing, to not judge myself, to write whatever I thought and to not edit along the way. Just write. Much like Julia Cameron’s suggestion when doing “Morning Pages ” from her book The Artists Way.

Julia asks people to hand write their thoughts first thing in the morning each day. She suggests at least three pages of free flowing, non-edited conscious stream of thought on a page. I look forward to the time when I can start most days with this journaling habit. For now, I used this technique for my “I want…” list.

At the end of my 4-5 minutes of typing, it was almost surreal to reread what I had typed. My list lacked things like a new car, or the latest Coach cross-body bag. It didn’t have a trip listed or new clothes. There were no household items or dreams of meeting someone specific.

Instead my list consisted of a lot of non-tangibles. Things like peace, time with my grand babies, quiet mornings and big holiday meals with my family topped my wants. As I read down through what I had just let myself write, I saw that the things I want most in life aren’t things at all. They have to do with heart and love and people. And about who I want to become.

This would not always have been the case. There was definitely a time in my life where my list would have looked much different. I am a recovering purse addict, so Coach bags used to be my want all the time! (At one point in time I had over 50 purses!) And I’m not saying I’ll never want or buy something just for fun again. But my list fleshed out the things that are most important to me.

In his blog, Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker writes “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing everything that distracts us from it.”

We have definitely minimized our life by downsizing, being intentional about purchases and how we spend our time and it was evident to me that my want list is full of the things I really do want most… people that I love, things that I enjoy doing and time focused on becoming the me I was destined to be.

It was a fun assignment to participate in. I would highly recommend it. Just remember, let yourself write whatever comes to mind. There are no wrong answers. Don’t edit and don’t judge yourself. Just let yourself be free to write.

Once you have your list, chase those things. Create the story of your life that highlights all the things you love most. That’s what I plan to do with my list. Chase and work for all the things that I want.

Everyone’s list is going to look different. That is a beautiful part of this exercise. Just like minimalism or any thing in life, each of us will have our own interpretation of how this will look. There is no right and there is no wrong. There is just you and what is important to you.

Try it and let me know what you learn about yourself. Until then, choose things that make you happy!

~rache

Pecked to Death…by a Duck

Do not let yourself be surrounded by people who will peck you to death like a duck. If you allow yourself to be around people and they show you who they are and you refuse to believe it, they will each time they enter into your space, take a little piece of your soul. By the end of your encounter with them you are less then who you were meant to be. -Maya Angelo

I used to find myself in these types of ‘relationships’. People in my life, that after spending any amount of time with them, always left me drained, sometimes angry and all too often frustrated at the time I had given to a relationship that somehow left me… less.

Sometimes those people were my closest friends, or a family member, making saying no to their invite of time together incredibly hard. And yet, each time I was with them, I came away with a little less of my soul.

I would find myself replaying the conversation, wondering if I had somehow fed into how I felt. Maybe I had helped create the storm. But as I have aged, and hopefully gotten a little wiser, I have begun to realize that there were some people in my life, that took much more from me then they ever gave back, sometimes at the cost of who I was meant to be.

No one else could be blamed for me feeling that way. There was no person “making” me feel those feelings. As Maya stated, they had shown me who they were over and over and yet I continued to give them space in my life and my heart.

Minimalism doesn’t just have to do with the clutter of stuff. It can be about things, people, time, energy and head space. And sometimes the hardest things to ‘downsize’ are the cluttered relationships we find ourselves in. We know they aren’t healthy for us. We know the person can’t be trusted so we spend our time with them guarding our words and our stories. We leave feeling diminished, sad and hurt, having hoped this time would be different. We have memories of how things used to be and a dream that person might return.

Evaluating all the aspects of your life can be challenging. Much more difficult then deciding to minimize your closet or your kitchen gadgets, minimizing time spent with a long time friend because they are not good for your soul, can take effort and can be heart wrenching. “Unfriending” a family member can create lasting ripples. Saying no to the invite for coffee can be sad and create anger in others.

So, here is what I have learned about minimalism as it pertains to the clutter in some relationships. The people I want to have in my life build me up. They hold my hand when I cry or when I’m scared or on a roller coaster ride! When I see their name come up on my cell, I smile as I answer and I feel blessed and loved when they choose to spend their precious time with me. I leave time with them feeling as if I have learned, grown and given equally back to the friendship I have received.

We all have limited hours. I want mine to be filled with the people and the things I love. Not things that just fill space or have little meaning. And I definitely don’t want things or people in my life who in the end, make me less that I was destined to be.

I am so grateful to have my best friend as my husband, grown children that I adore as adults, friends that make time for me on a rainy Saturday afternoon and family that has stood by me and made me feel more loved than I ever dreamed possible. These are those that at the end of the day, always feed my soul. Sadly, I have lost some people along the way. And while I sometimes remember the good times and wish things had been different, I want to be all I was intended to be. My whole soul intact, living my best life every day.

Let me know what you think about minimalism as it pertains to relationships or share a story of one that you enjoy and helps you be who you were destined to be.

Thanks for reading.

~rache