Thank you for all the emails of concern over my blogging break this summer and fall. It was very nice to be missed. I’m happy to be back.
Over 6 years ago, when I ended my 7 year run with a Minimed insulin pump and switched to “the poor man’s” vial and syringes, I discovered something interesting about myself. I functioned better when I practiced minimalism. Not having so many balls in the air at once just feels easier. I don’t even replace my syringes or lancets but once every week and several months, respectively. I’ve never had an infection or any other problem as a result-at least not one I’m aware of. And this makes me feel a bit more streamlined in my diabetes management. I’m not saying I recommend being lazy about changing needles but practicing overall minimalism in my diabetes management works for me at the present time.
In the past, all my constant logging, pumping, and the checks and balances that goes along with that overwhelmed me into not doing anything well. Whereas now, I do the few essential things as well as possible, with A1c results I’m happy about. It may be my personality type or my lifelong struggle with anxiety but either way it’s true for me and we all need to work with what is true for each of us.
I’ve been travelling a lot lately and I’ve been amazed at how I can go days with just a small carry on bag and my purse and not even need all that I packed. And that includes carrying all my back up diabetes supplies which take up a good bit of room. The experience has taken away this fear I’ve always had where I ask my anxiety ridden self, “but what if I need it?!” Now I just think of how much nicer it is to get around the airport with a small bag and how quick and easy packing is. I’m less likely to forget something crucial, as well.
True and lasting change takes time and my moving towards minimalism has been a slow and deep process. For the first time I’m truly aware of how ridiculous our consumer culture is. I hate what we’re doing to the environment and ourselves. I notice my sense of calm when I go somewhere that is totally uncluttered. I can think and focus better in that environment. I also have learned that more stuff does in no way translate to more happiness. Though I can admit that being above the poverty level and therefore having sufficient safety and health affirming opportunities is important and absolutely impacts happiness levels. But if we only refer to extras, I just spent the summer in a huge house at a lake paying zero in rent and I felt depressed the whole time.
My favorite thing since childhood has been the computer. I don’t know how many kids had a computer at home in 1993 but I did. I saw the potential of this great mysterious box and as they took off better and better every minute, I became only more grateful that I had been born at a time when the world was at our fingertips. Not to mention accessing information that was more real time than a book was super exciting. Like most people, I love learning and the age of the internet has been my greatest ally, especially as a drop out college student married to a drop out college student. We haven’t been hindered by our drop out status in terms of knowledge (unless you beg to differ) and that’s a righteous equalizing factor. (Though in job searching we all know a degree still outweighs so many other valuable assets and qualities but that is a discussion for another day).
Part of what being globally connected has done for me is give me a very real view of how others think and live. And it’s been impossible for me to ignore the fact that we have enough resources for all humans to have all they need. We just don’t have enough for all of our wants. Suddenly I feel greedy and I welcome that feeling because I don’t want to be talked about by my great grandchildren as the stubborn old woman that was gratuitously a part of a careless, destructive, insensitive, and idiotic generation that put greed before humanity. I want them to know I was doing my tiny part to mitigate damage in my own home, community, and country. I want them to know that I didn’t carry the attitude of a victim, of someone who says, “well, what do ya do” or “if you can’t beat em’, join em’”. Bull. Bull! I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to know that I felt guilty about how I was living and motivated and inspired by others to act and make any change I could to make something, anything, better.
And that leads me to where I feel I’m now more quickly headed. The movement of minimalism is becoming more popular. Now there are those who criticize minimalists for being trendy. But I’m glad it’s catching on and truthfully, it’s being criticized because every time someone talks about it we are basically causing others to self reflect and to feel that we are rejecting much of society. It’s not like my life’s goal was to reject much of society. It’s actually in my nature to agree with you as much as possible. But self reflection and awareness has put me here.
Anyway, what’s great is that there is no right way to practice minimalism The key is to be aware, to be conscious of how we live and to make changes where we can. To reject it is fine. But there are consequences. That’s just a fact. I no longer feel comfortable living the way most do in the US. That doesn’t mean I judge you for not feeling the same way. It just means that we should all be discussing this and supporting each other. In other words, I tell you about my minimalism journey and stop right there and you tell me about all your shopping trips and stop right there. I don’t tell you you’re doing something wrong and you certainly don’t tell me I’m nuts for trying to live with a lot less. This has been a very recent change for me and even now I still waste paper towels like nobody’s business so I don’t have room to judge. I do like talking about it because that’s how I got introduced-by others talking about it with me or writing about their experiences with it. I am so thankful for their time and willingness to share how and why they do what they do.
So what is my family doing now?
Well, first of all, I’ve been getting rid of a lot of material goods this year. It stung for a second and then I forgot I ever owned any of it.
I also grabbed a few items by the dumpster and refurbished them with my husband. He fixed them up and I painted them-which turned out to be some of the best meaningful fun I’ve had all year.
Our cheap dining room table set broke years ago and we couldn’t afford to replace it so Alex (my husband) made a farmhouse style table with simple benches and together we stained it teak and Caribbean blue. The entire project cost less than $100 and we are so proud of our table. Our children loved witnessing planks of wood turn into something so useful.
I’ve been scanning and backing up documents in order to free ourselves of paper weight.
We sold our second car super cheap in an act of charity and just go everywhere together. This works well for us because Alex drives a company truck to and from work.
My brother in law gave us his TV but we still don’t pay for cable TV, instead we use Netflix or Hulu to watch TV using the WII my husband received as a gift. It’s cheaper and we spend a lot less time in front of the TV.
We just bought a 900 square ft house with no basement or functional attic. My son and daughter will share a bedroom, which is going against the norm unless you go to other parts of the world where entire families eat, sleep, and entertain in one room. We hope to have a smaller footprint that way and to be forced into not buying so much stuff because, “where on earth would we be able to put it?”
Alex and I have never had credit cards. And when there is extra money, we’ve paid off tuition, medical debt, whatever we can, instead of taking a vacation. We haven’t had a vacation since our honeymoon 5 years ago but there is definitely less stress in paying things off when possible. When people say “you can afford that” we say, “no we can’t” And it’s a dignified, “no, really, we can’t and don’t want to be burdened with debt, be irresponsible with money, or give in to the seductive pleasure of mindless shopping and imaginary needs.” And I am just like anyone else. I get cheered up by buying things. I love clothes. I love books. I love STUFF. I have fooled myself into believing I can heal my anxiety with a shopping trip. But, what I’ve learned is it’s a temporary fix. And then I’m back to where I started, only, with less money.
We try to eat very simple whole foods with few ingredients just to make preparation and clean up that much easier. We are slowly getting rid of kitchen supplies. It’s a little scary but eventually we want to just have a bowl, spoon, fork, and mug for each of us and just wash after every use. No more piles of dishes! I know that sounds crazy but if you come over I will have delectable finger foods for you, great wine that we’ll drink out of, I dunno, something, and fun conversation-all to distract you from our primitive approach. I’m trying to make my new mantra, “people, not things”.
We plan on growing some of our own food. There will be a major learning curve but, we are committed to giving it a good shot.
We plan on homeschooling the kids which will help us with having a more pleasant schedule and less hectic times throughout the day. Less stress is always a plus. Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that right now, the greatest indicator of a child’s outcome in school is their family income and not their performance or work ethic or testing ability. I’m not playing that game. If we can manage and meet everyone’s needs then we’ll do it, if not, then we’ll try something else.
I have been slowly getting rid of clothes. I noticed a while back that my husband is always better dressed than me and I think it’s because he sticks with a simple routine: button up shirt or polo, khakis or jeans, leather shoes-and done. He gets colors that he likes and he gets high quality so he can use his clothes for years. So I’m trying to simplify my dressing by getting rid of everything that isn’t awesome on me (because, really, why do I want to wear anything that looks less than awesome on me?) As a result, I’ve gotten rid of 75% of my closet! But, it feels great and laundry is sooo much easier! I’ve heard of people who own two pairs of pants and two t-shirts and that’s all they wear and it sounds amazing but I’m definitely not there, yet.
I’ve discovered the magic of Goodwill. It’s hit and miss and I’ve learned you have to be picky, but people have been amazed by what I get from there which cost next to nothing. The key is to make sure it serves a strong purpose and doesn’t add to clutter, something I should write on my hand before my trips there.
Well that’s it, I think. Again, these aren’t things anyone else should do, this is just what we feel we can do and we have a long way to go but it’s a process. We’re just going to do what feels right.
A part of me does feel like I’m making a statement with my minimalist diabetes management approach. I want to be an example to those with limited resources and say, “you can do it with the basics, and do it well.” A lack of money absolutely harms health but just enough money is another story. I have just enough money for the basics which does include sufficient test strips for each day-excellent blood sugar control is not up for discussion. I don’t need a pump or continuous glucose monitor, though it’s relative isn’t it? If I die tomorrow of a middle of the night low blood sugar everyone will say I did need it. But, if I die tomorrow in a car accident, you could say that I needed perhaps a different car or that I needed to have taken a better route or skipped a dumb errand. If I die from a stroke, you could say I needed to have changed some part of my lifestyle or taken some type of medication. The point is with so many variables each day affecting our well being it’s just not cut and dry. I feel that my very simple approach forces me to maintain an important discipline that extends into all parts of my life. That discipline is ultimately responsible for my diabetes management and how well it goes. And that’s what I really wanted to share today
Do you practice any kind of minimalism? If so, I’m interested in learning more, please share in comments.