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

Old Photo’s and Echoing Dreams

On occasion I write more along the lines of poetic journaling then as an informational blog post. Below is one of my experiences in downsizing our home and the emotional balancing act of choosing what to keep and why.

The large 16×20 photo looks like something out of a 1970’s Home and Gardens magazine. Each child posed perfectly by the unseen photographer. Her in a pale-yellow dress, long hair down her back and a large matching bow atop her head.

His dark hair a contrast to everything light about her. His eyes ebony and his smile a little unsure. These two children loved each other deeply already. Him just 10 months and her almost 5 they had been together for all but the first 4 days of his life.

“How would you like to get a brother today?” the lady on the other end of the phone asked. I’ll never forget that call. So much hope. So many adventures. Such unforeseen heartache.

The photo had been in the garage atop a pile of other things for two weeks. What to do with a photo like that?

Keep it? For what? Who else would want it? No one. Throw it away? Oh Lord, what would our mother say?

I saw it each time I came home from work and each morning as I left. It made my heart hurt a little every time. What am I supposed to do with that big, outdated photo of two kids who haven’t spoken in years?

“You are no longer those children” my heart realized one afternoon. “And that is why you ache at the thought of throwing it away”.

How nice it would be to be those two kids again, loving each other. Playing together. Each liking who the other was.

But that time is past now. And while the memory is sweet, the photo is faded and the two children portrayed no longer exist.

The ache remains after having thrown the photo away. But it had never really been about the picture. It was always about the loss of each to the other and the shattered dreams of the people they had hoped they would be.

Holidays like Halloween (Is it really even a holiday?)

I started writing a post about Christmas and gifts and what our family does (which I’ll post a little later) but while writing I realized we do a pretty cool thing for Halloween as well. And believe it or not, this tradition was started prior to realizing a more minimal way of living.

Each Fall, some of the adults in our family gather the babies (anyone under 16 qualifies) and we go to the pumpkin patch. We go on a Saturday morning and we drink some cider, eat some of those baby donuts, and we wander around looking at all the goats and pigs and ponies. We have been known to take the kids down a slide or take cute photos as they come around in the kids sized train. Whatever we do, it seems to always result is someone covered in hay.

But the real reason for going is for the pumpkins. We get a couple large wagons and we begin the trek through the pumpkin patch looking for the perfect ones to either carve or decorate. We inspect dozens and buy almost as many. Big ones, round ones, tall ones, white ones and of course, baby ones. (And the occasional gourd too!)

The next day, the entire family gets together for carving, painting or decorating along with pizza and football. We’ve been doing this tradition for about 8 years now and it marks one of my favorite times of year and family events.

The reason I wanted to share this is that it is perfect for those of us who have downsized or are choosing a more minimal lifestyle. The pumpkins make great decorations and fun family entertainment, and when the season is over they are bio-degradable and do not need storing! Each person can decorate or carve however they want to, encouraging creativity even with the slimy insides and in the end no closet space will be needed to store it. Win!

For a holiday that I might say I’m not a huge fan of (mostly because the concept of buying candy to give to strangers so my kids can go to a strangers and ask for candy never really made sense to me) I do enjoy this family tradition that not only allows for fun family time, it also affirms our dedication to minimalism.

What does your Halloween look like? Any ghoulish idea’s for fun filled, minimal impact, decorating or dressing up? Please share.

Happy Fall everyone! See you at the pumpkin patch.

~rache

The Rules of Dis-engagement

The very best thing we did as a couple in the process of downsizing was to talk about it before it began. I think it was the vital piece of making this process successful.

MP and I agreed that we wouldn’t give input on what the other chose to keep unless asked. If there was something that held value to one or the other of us, it stayed and needed no explanation. That was a great way to start the process because I knew there would be no pressure from him and no need for me to try to make him understand my choices. And it didn’t leave either of us with feelings of resentment for having been ‘made’ to get rid of things. I would highly recommend that agreement if you’re thinking about downsizing. It takes trust that you’re both on the same page but it alleviates a lot of stress if you can make that commitment to each other.

After we talked, one of the first things we did was rent a small storage unit as a place for the few unknowns to go, like the kayaks. We went through closets and donated clothes that were either out of date or didn’t fit or we no longer liked. I took 20 purses to the Idaho Youth ranch along with 15 pairs of heals I hadn’t worn in years. MP took shirts still in their dry cleaner bags and slacks that had more pleats in the front than a curtain. We took kitchen gadgets and stacks of dinnerware. Somehow I had ended up with 25 champagne glasses…I mean I love a good mimosa, but that is A LOT of champagne glasses.

Then….we had a garage sale. And the deal was, whatever didn’t sell went straight to donation. It motivated us to sell so we didn’t have to haul it!

I’m not going to say it was all easy. I let items go for penny’s on the dollar and for a numbers girl, that can be a tough pill to swallow. But I knew items were going to someone who wanted them or would use them. I had to let go of my emotional attachment to some items that quite frankly, I just liked.

We sold all of our furniture except our bed, my art desk and MP’s work desk. We sold some items that were bought specifically for the house to the new buyer and then we donated some more.

Up until then, it hadn’t been too hard.

The real emotions came when I had to make decisions about sentimental items. My grandmothers china, items made by my kids. Photos.

I did a lot of reading during that time. I found some great articles online about emotional attachments to things and how to live smaller. One of my favorite podcasts about minimalism is The Minimalists and they have a blog that I have mentioned before specifically about sentimental items that really gave me some clarity. My other favorite blog regarding FIRE and downsizing is Middleagemark.com. He has a great perspective on the same journey. 😉

And I made decisions relatively slowly. I rarely decided the very first time I picked precious items up or looked at the really important things. I would spend a few hours or sometimes a few days deciding what stayed and what got donated. I would often pick up the items and hold them in my hands, remembering who gave them to me or a memory of its use. I used Marie Kondo’s approach and thanked each item for the gifts it had given me. And I reminded myself that I was not getting rid of the person or the memories. Just things. I would always have the memories and events with those I love. I even took pictures of a few items.

And then, I let a lot of things go.

Sometimes I drove home very quietly.

And that’s ok.

I knew I was doing the right thing when I had decided to keep an item my grandmother had made for me when I was 6 or 7. I took it to our new place and planned to store it in my closet. I sent her a photo of it, thinking it would be a fun memory for her too. Sadly, at 94, she doesn’t remember it. I was only going to keep it to honor her, when in reality, honoring her is in my heart, not in a wall hanging she doesn’t remember making. It was a good lesson about why we keep things. I donated it so another young girl could have a Holly Hobby on her wall.  Gran will like that when I tell her even if she doesn’t remember making it.

I won’t go into everything we donated or kept, but I will say I opened three boxes I have hauled around for 30 years only to find my report cards from 3rd grade and some hand turkeys I had made around the same age. Sigh…  what a waste of space, time and energy.

Our journey may not be your journey. You may have kept things I didn’t or visa versa. Each person has to be ok with their decisions. I am. I have no regret. I don’t remember people less because I don’t have things they gave me or pictures of them. My love for them is not diminished. Just the stuff that filled my closets and corners.

So, talk to your other before you start and lay the ground rules. Then, just start. Do the easy stuff first and remember there is no right or wrong. Everyone gets to do this their own way. And that means you too.

What is your story of letting sentimental items go? Maybe you’re still working on the smaller stuff. That’s great! I hope these thoughts help you through the process.

Let’s talk again soon.

~rache

My Space

I love art. I love looking at art. I love making art. I love trying new forms of art. Its like therapy for me. Not cheaper by any means, but very, very good for my soul!

At the House of Wales, I had transformed the downstairs living room into an art studio. I had ripped up the carpet and had a cool concrete floor that always felt eclectic to me. I had a painters table, a high top workstation, three book shelves full of ‘stuff’ and two cabinets with paper and die cutting machines.

On a cool, rainy day I could spend 4 hours down there barely stopping for a glass of water. It was my safe, creative, totally mine, space. And I really, really loved it.

When we started looking at downsizing, we only looked at three-bedroom places. One office for MP and one for me and my art. We knew from being at the Baby House, I was going to have to have space to do my craft if it was going to be our home. Pulling everything in and out of tidy bins each time I wanted to work, wasn’t acceptable.

Then, we walked into the two-bedroom condo on the fourth floor and we both knew it was where we were going to live. At first, thinking about it was just fun. Then, we went back to see it again and started asking the tough questions…

  • MP has to have an office, so where does my stuff go?
  • Could we share the space?
  • Is it big enough for two completely different uses?

These may not seem like tough questions, but MP and I do some thing very differently. Like…when he works his office is spotless. Every pen (he only uses one at a time) is at a perfect perpendicular to the desk. He has one pad of paper out with notes neatly scribed on their designated lines. His desk has no scraps of paper or sticky notes or stray paperclips. Just clean, organized work space. It’s one of the things that makes him so great at what he does.

Then there is me when I ‘work’. It brings me great pleasure to be so deeply involved in something that all the scraps of paper end up on the floor or tubes of paint lay open on the table. Who has time to worry about those things when I have a project that is coming together!  When I get halfway through a project and it isn’t coming out quite right, I set it aside and wait for inspiration to come. At the HofW that meant half painted canvases along the walls and cut out dies scattered here and there so they could be added unexpectedly to a project that was then perfect. 

As you can see, the idea of sharing a workspace was…well…worrisome. So, we talked about it. What would sharing look like. He mostly uses his office during the week and I mostly use my studio on the weekends. So, we compromised. He would share his office chair, and I would make sure the top of my workspace was cleaned off before I went to work on Mondays. That way, I had the whole weekend to leave stuff out and he had a tidy workspace Monday-Friday.

The other part of moving was I had to take a whole art studio’s worth of supplies and space and narrow it down to a closet and a workstation. I was more than a little concerned about how to make this work. While I may not be a tidy crafter, I am a LEAN one and I don’t want to have to open a box and rummage every time I need a pair of scissors. That makes the process ugly to me. So, I found a few new ways to store things. I have open shelving in the closet that makes things easy to access. MP has been gracious about allowing me to have the entire closet in the spare room (I think he may have one small box on a top shelf). I have a rolling cart that comes out and stays out all weekend with the things I use most on it. I have organized all my paper by color and put it in hanging folders. I looked at each thing as I packed and decided whether to keep it. Most of my supplies came with me. A few oddities got donated or given to friends.

Its not a whole studio with a cement floor anymore, but it is a wonderful and bright place to work. Sometime MP joins me on the weekends and plays his drums or writes to soft music and we both work on our projects in the same space. I like those times a lot. Something about the independence of working on our own things but being together at the same time, makes those days incredibly intimate.  I always laugh a little when we meet on the patio at the end of one of those days with a cocktail and one of us asked the other…”How was your day”?

Its really important to know what the ‘needs’ in your life are and what the things are that are just nice. I NEED a place to practice art. It brings me a peace and calm like few other things can. I need to have a creative outlet and I need to know the space is mine. I was willing to exchange things that were less important to me for a place to be creative and practice art.

If nothing else, I hope this shows you that everyone can do this their own way. There are no rules. There are some people that might think I am crazy for using so much of our limited space on art. Maybe your thing is cooking (that’s my second by the way) or a musical instrument. You can live minimally and still have the things you love most. That’s the point!  You have more time and space for those things if you weed out all the clutter of the things that are just filler.

What have you made space for in your life that brings you the most joy? I would suggest you always find a way to keep those things regardless of the size of your home. They make you who you are and who others love.

I’m off to paint or cut paper or make cards. Until next time…

~rache

8 Reasons We are Choosing Minimalism

We didn’t set out to live our new life minimally. It started about a year ago when we decided we wanted to be debt free in 22 months. When you have a goal like that you start considering everything you spend money on. It makes it so much easier to say no to something if you know the pay off means no debt! So we stopped accumulating things and started cleaning out about 9 months ago.

Second, we had talked for two years about our house being more than we needed and each time we came home from the Baby House in Mesa it became clearer that we didn’t need that much room. Then, floating in the pool, we decided to sell.

And then it was just time to commit. We were not just downsizing, we were truly minimizing. And with that understanding and commitment we took the leap.

Here are a few of the things we have discovered along the way and reasons why minimalism is appealing to us:

  • We don’t want to leave our kids having to sort through our stuff someday
    MP and I often discuss what aging might look like and what we want it to look like. We’ve both seen people age and continue to gather things along the way, only to pass away and leave the entire clean out process to their children. This seems incredibly unfair since we have a choice to take care of it now. So we started the process early and plan to stay downsized to ensure our children aren’t left the unpleasant task of having to go through and dispose of our stuff. This article, posted by the Minimalists, shines a bright light on this subject.
  • We are frugal and enjoy saving money.
    Ok…I confess. I love a good spread sheet. I’ve been known to play with the monthly budget numbers for hours just to see what tweeking one bill or another would do to the savings. The idea here is pretty simple. If you spend less then you make, you can save more. And saving more means we get to realize our dreams sooner. We have our hearts set on a week on a catamaran. I’d like to do that within the next couple years. Check out MP’s blog for photos of this dream!
  • We eat very healthy and minimizing our shopping saves time, money and energy
    We eat at home most nights. On occasion we have a date night and go to a local place for a cocktail and dinner, but we usually cook at home. Eating healthy is a high priority for us, so we often purchase similar items for meals each week. For more on this topic check out my blog on grocery shopping minimally.
  • We were tired of spending a whole day of each weekend taking care of yards, pool, hot tub and house
    Ok, truth be told MP spent more than one weekend day a week taking care of the House of Wales. Between the pool, hot tub, yards and upkeep he was putting in 20+ hours a week to keep it looking beautiful. That is a great thing if you enjoy it and you want to do it, but when it was just the two of us and we could find all the same amenities without the responsibility, we opted for the Condo! We’re loving our downsized life and can’t wait to see what it affords us in time, dollars and energy.
  • We really like a clean house
    The minimalist lifestyle offers a way to live with less and in so doing it creates a place of peace to come home to every night. Less stuff means less stuff to clean, pick up and keep organized. Since we both really like to live in a picked up and clean home this lifestyle choice just adds to our contentment and peace.
  • We want to travel…a lot of places.
    One way to help make travel more enjoyable is to not have to worry about what’s happening at home while we’re away. By choosing to live in a place without outside doors we know our condo will be safe. By adding the Dwelo feature, we can control lights, heat and locks from where ever we are so not only do we feel secure when were away, we can be frugal with our utilities too.
  • We want more time with our kids and grandkids
    We really like our kids. They are all really cool, adult humans. So hanging out with them is not only fun but very fulfilling. We have soon to be three of our grand children living within just a few miles of us. By downsizing our expenses and needs we hope to have more time to spend with our kids and their adorable teacup humans.
  • Less stuff means less stress.
    We both work high pressure jobs. Our home needs to be our haven of peace and calm. Not having clutter equates to less stress. Not having as many things to maintain, means less stress. Having time and space to do things we care about, like meditating and working out means less stress. As you can see….less stress is VERY important to me and living minimally perpetuates that.

These are some of the reasons we are choosing to live minimally. I’m looking forward to this journey and seeing how these changes effect our future choices and adventures. What area’s of your life have you minimized and how’s it working out for you?

More on our adventure soon. Stay tuned!

~rache

Grocery Shopping Minimally

Years ago, I knew someone who went out every Sunday morning and bought a Sunday paper. Not for the articles or the weather updates, but for the coupons and adds. He would then spend the better part of the morning pouring over those adds and clipping coupons while at the same time making a grocery list for that week.

The list usually had 3-5 stores listed, with that stores sales items and coupons grouped by store to make sure they were used at the right places on the right items. The weeks meals were then planned based primarily on what was on sale or had a coupon.

The shopping would happen on Monday. It would take about 5 hours with each store being mapped so there would be no backtracking and the required cooler in the back to ensure nothing got too warm during the outing.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this is probably an extreme, albeit real, example. I think truth be told most people plan a weekly or bi-weekly trip to the grocery store, buy what looks good and sadly according to CBS news, wastes an average of 30% of what they buy. Groceries account for 71% of all impulse buys.

About a year ago MP and I signed up for Instacart. It’s a grocery delivery program, that lets you choose from the stores nearest you for grocery delivery to your home. The cost is about $100 per year. I won’t go into all the details of the program, but I will say it has cut our grocery bill and allows us to stay out of stores that not only take time but encourage spontaneous and often unhealthy buying.

We no longer get up on Saturday morning and make the run to Winco. We don’t battle crowds to get the crackers we love and we don’t spend time debating new products that are strategically located in the center isles. Instead, I make a menu most weeks, figure out what we need to have for those meals and order just what we need.

No more weird snacks that looked good in the store going to waste on my shelf. No ice cream in the freezer that I don’t want to have to decide every night not to eat. No throwing away veggies found in the bottom of a crisper having gone bad. Instead, we have healthy dinners with lunches made each night and while we do still get a treat now and again, we mostly have healthy options to choose from when a late evening craving wins out.

Lastly, because a personal shopper does all the shopping, I no longer need to keep up my Costco membership just for groceries. Instacart makes sure the shopper has the membership and I can still get the deals and products I’m used to.

Instacart has been a fabulous option for us. We save time, money and energy to use on the things that matter most to us. And for those of you wondering, I do still go to the store for special occasions to buy something specific. Instacart may not be for every day, but it can be for most days.

Minimalism. Its about trading the things that fill our time and space and take our focus off the things that matter for what’s really important. For me, right now, one of my top priorities is time. Time to do the things I love. Time to be with those I love. And I don’t know about you, but grocery shopping doesn’t fall on either list.

Let me know if you’ve used this or another service and how it helped you realize a more stress free or minimalist life.

~rache

Weekend Freedom

Last weekend was the first time it happened
Less stuff (to do) meant more time to be

It was so freeing
We made plans
Just for fun

We started Saturday morning by each doing something that made us happy
I spent two hours in my studio creating, playing, enjoying every minute
MP took a LONG and strenuous bike ride to the gym and back
He came home wrecked and happy

And that launched our weekend 
We filled it with outdoor Art and holding hands
Laughter and lunch with friends
A swim and meeting a new neighbor who is our age alive and vibrant
living a similar minimalist life

And a Nap!
A Sunday nap.
It was heavenly

This was a weekend unheard of a year ago
so much time
so much fun
so much enthusiasm for life and the ability to take in all its offerings

And… no guilt for all the things we ‘should’ have done
This is what we hoped for when we made the big decisions

I think we’ve arrived
at least for a while

And now…I’m off to plan another weekend
Full of all the things I love. 
Which will most definitely include another Sunday nap

~rache