Let the necessary speak

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One thing I’ve been working on this year is paring away the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. I think that was a quote I showed my students one time about what it means to revise writing, but I also like to apply it to my life. It’s the philosophy of the minimalism movement.

For starters, I think I have donated or sold or tossed at least half my wardrobe. I still have more clothes than I want or need, so my goal for December when the semester ends is to get serious about keeping only what brings me joy.

I have eliminated a lot of junk food from my diet, such as soda, chips, processed lunch meats, and random processed snacks. For breakfast now, I might have oats with some kind of fruit and flax seed, a chocolate protein shake, or honey Greek yogurt with fruit and chia seeds. For lunch, I like to mash up an avocado and spread that delicious goodness on a slice of toasted rye bread, then dash a little olive oil and lemon juice on there and add just a sprinkle of salt. I might also have some fruit and a little string cheese (I have a whole ritual around sharing a few strings with my sweet pup). Instead of a Dr. Pepper at lunch, I’ll have water, and then make green tea or matcha in the afternoon. And for dinner, I’ve been focusing more on the veggies.

I’ve reduced the number of books I own by at least a quarter over the years, but I still have a lot and keep acquiring more. This is probably the nature of working on a PhD in literature.

I declutter my beauty cabinet routinely, throwing away all old and typically unused products. At my age, I pretty much know what works for me and what doesn’t, what makeup I like and what I don’t. There’s no point in experimenting and buying weird stuff anymore. Simply eating well and drinking water keeps my skin clear and my hair healthy. I also have a pretty minimal beauty routine. I cut my hair short, which I am loving, and I don’t wear much makeup, so my hair and makeup take less than 20 minutes most days. With my pared down wardrobe (not quite a capsule but close), I have no problem picking out clothes in the morning because all I see in my closet are items I love that coordinate with each other. (This clothing journey started with my best friend standing in my bedroom several years ago and walking me through what to toss and keep–more on that here.)

And this morning, I woke up with renewed energy and interest in getting my budget under control. It’s really difficult to make a budget when you’re living on a $15,000 annual stipend, with a little extra income from a side job tutoring and some family help. I need to get real about where my money is going and where I actually want it to go. I want an emergency fund, I want to be making small contributions to a retirement fund, I want to pay down my credit card (as for student loans–forget it, for now), and I want to be able to take trips without putting everything on the credit card.

I think I will make my budget my next big focus for paring away the unnecessary. I will probably have to start with my feelings around money, and then move to a spending plan and see where I can make cuts. I’ve finally reached a place where my physical health is where I want it, my eating habits are healthy, my life is becoming more and more minimalist (i.e. when we love ourselves, we don’t need things to make us feel better), and my emotional health is at an all-time high. This combination of wellness has allowed me to see my spending habits with so much clarity, since now I am coming from a place of love and not fear when I think about changing those habits.

Once I actually figure out what I am going to do and make the changes, I will report back on what’s happening. And of course, I need to consult with the boyfriend. We live together, so I can’t just cancel the cable out of the blue right in the middle of football season. Still, I’m feeling really good about this!

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