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

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

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

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