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

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

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

Grateful

When the dust starts to settle the view becomes crystal clear. I’m not going to fib …the last few months have been a whirl wind.

A new job, a sold house, a move, downsizing and the wonder filled news of a new grand baby. Whew… that was quite a run.

The ironic part is, I don’t think its quite over. We’ll see, but for now things have settled a bit and it feels like it would be a good time to just sit back quietly for a minute and be grateful.

Gratitude. Taking a moment or many moments in a row to just reflect on life and all the things that have gone so well. From the deck of our new place, as the sun starts to peek over the foothills my heart fills with love and peace and gratitude for so many things.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary recently and I was reminded of how grateful I am that he is in my life and even more so that we are sharing this life together. All the cliche’s seem…well cliche’ but what a gift to be married to someone you respect, someone who challenges you and the one who will forever be the best friend. We laugh together and still talk for hours every week. We share idea’s and thoughts and this journey to who knows where! And, there is no one else on the planet I’d rather do that with.

I’m grateful for change and for the beautiful places I get to enjoy living. I never dreamed this would be my life. Just a girl from a very small town in Oregon, living a dream she didn’t even know she had. Oh the adventure we’re on.

I could list the things my heart is grateful for today and none of it would be a surprise:

Kids and their kids. I’m so proud of all of them and how hard they work and how well they love. Its a great blessing to like your adult children.

Hope for the future and a contentment that I have rarely known in my life. Being loved and loving. People in my life who pour in to me simply because they love me.

Sunrises and sunsets. Breakfast with new friends and lunch with old ones. Giggles of the young and deep sighs of contentment as those around me age. And the knowledge that this life is a grand adventure that I am blessed to be on.

Oh what a life. I am incredibly grateful.

What have you noticed lately that you’re grateful for? I look forward to hearing your gratitude’s.

~rache

Kayaks

Since the very first time I met him I have known that MP enjoys the outdoors, specifically camping, hiking and kayaking.
One of our first over-nighters was a run to Stanley where we spent both mornings on the water and both evenings near the camp fire.

We’ve kayaked all the local ponds and many of the lakes and he once went to Glacier park with a friend and spent a couple days on the icy water there. We’ve had lots of good talks in them, one pretty good argument and lots of memories of the stillness of mornings as the sun started over snow capped mountains.

Once, on a cold May morning I dumped my kayak in a icy cold lake in northern Idaho and MP still gives me grief about that now and again. Man was I cold.

We’ve taken great adventures and made great memories in those kayaks.

Part of downsizing has been having to make choices about what we are keeping and what we are parting with. MP has blogged about our journey at MiddleAgeMark.com too, but all along we have both had to make decisions about what is important to us.

We decided the kayaks needed to be sold about a month ago. They were taking up a lot of room in the storage unit which we had agreed to get rid of by months end and last weekend we spent most of a day cleaning it out and making decisions about the rest of what was in it. The kayaks were bulky and took up too much room and we hadn’t used them in two seasons.

With plans to spend as much time as possible in our baby house in Mesa and lots of our future summers in Florida on a catamaran, it seemed like time to let the kayaks go. So MP posted them and they sold within days.

Just another of our adventures in downsizing and minimizing. MP said the guy who bought them had plans for he and his wife to use them locally. Kayaks should be used, often. I’m glad they will be in the water again soon, and I’m also glad we aren’t storing them any longer. Sometimes the hardest part is just making a decision. After that, acting on it comes easily.

Next weekend we will finish cleaning out the storage unit and cancel it. That is going to feel amazing and also mean that that part of the journey is finished. It means the process of moving is officially over.

Bring on the next adventure.

~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.