Waking up to Rainbows

I woke up this morning to the sight of a gorgeous double rainbow. It was so big that I couldn’t help but see it as soon as I stepped outside my door and something about it immediately lifted my foggy, anti-Monday morning mood. The placement of it, the way it bent just behind the trees – it was as if it was telling me that endless possibilities were waiting just outside my front door.

Now I’m a big believer in signs. I might not always know what they mean but this time it seemed pretty clear. “Stop overthinking. Enjoy this and every moment.”

Despite my best attempts to always keep life simple, I don’t always succeed. This morning, this weekend, and sometimes during vacations, I let worried thoughts slip into my mind.

I think about my mom. At 66, she’s not old by any stretch of the imagination but she is beginning to see herself that way. Perhaps it’s the mound of Medicare, retirement, and insurance paperwork she has to sift through or the numerous things that keep breaking on her 30 year old house that have her feeling old. Regardless, it bothers me to see her so burdened.

I think about my job. I love my work as a writer but even working remotely, I find that I can’t escape the stresses of an office environment. Sometimes I leave my desk not feeling as if I’ve accomplished anything beyond answering the phone or attending a meeting.

I think about money and my relationship with it. For some reason, when I start to accumulate money, regardless of the intention (savings, retirement, vacation, etc.), I feel that it gains the upper hand in my life. I start to obsess over how it gets spent, whether it really will be “enough”, and what would happen if suddenly I didn’t have it anymore.

Sometimes I find myself contemplating what might be more than enjoying what is. The rainbow this morning put that into perspective. I can’t stop my mom from aging but I can help her with the things that she needs help with. I can’t change the fact that I have to earn a living but I can change how I approach doing it. I can’t live without money (though believe me I’d try!) but I can learn to think of it less as a possession and more as a tool.

Thanks, Rainbow, for the wake up call. It was just what I needed today!

5 Rewards of Being Minimalist

itty bitty houseOur weekly staff meeting was about to start but the chatter had yet to die down. The topic – tiny houses. “I can’t even turn on HGTV anymore on Fridays,” Kathy said. “It’s all tiny houses and I just don’t get it.” I smiled to myself, that smile of knowing oh-so-well just what Kathy didn’t get. Living in a tiny home is an exercise in minimalism and minimalism is a hard concept for a lot of folks to grasp. It is after all, the antithesis of the American Dream. Instead of bigger and more, you have to embrace smaller and less. To confirm my thoughts, Kathy added in an exasperated voice (as if the mere thought of tiny houses might drive her to drink), “Just where would I put all my stuff?”

Tiny house or no tiny house, minimalism is not without its own rewards. We’ve found that being a minimalist has given us:

More freedom. For a long time I bought into the American Dream. I owned a house. I had a good corporate job with benefits and a career ladder. I had cars with car payments and toys with toy payments. And the whole time I felt trapped. I couldn’t play with the toys because I was too busy keeping them up. Today, we rent an apartment. We own one car. Our toys are bicycles, kayaks, and Kindles. We’ve lived in 3 states in 5 years; traveled to 6 countries and 13 states. We’ve had big adventures and small ones, but the best part of having freedom is knowing that we own every day of our lives and we can decide at any time how we want to spend them.

Less stress. Admittedly, last summer’s misadventure was one of the most stressful experiences we’ve had in recent years. That aside, having fewer responsibilities makes for a far less stressful environment. Getting rid of debt got rid of our money stress. Committing to live life on our own terms alleviated the stress of keeping up with the neighbors, as did deciding to buy only what we needed. There are still stressors in our lives but we approach them differently now, knowing that nearly everything in life is temporary and usually pales in comparison to the goals and dreams we have set for ourselves.

Greater resourcefulness. It is super easy these days to run to the store and buy whatever you need. It’s more difficult to figure out how to fill a need with what you already have. Minimalism forces you to think through problems to find creative solutions rather than buy more stuff. I think the few months we spent in the RV, fixing everything from wiring to rotted flooring, helped us reconnect with our “can do” spirit.

Increased clarity. Clearing mental clutter is equally as important as clearing physical clutter. When there’s space in the mind, an amazing thing happens – ideas begin to flow, goals and dreams take shape, and imagination blooms. I see it happening with us every day. Decisions come easier because we have a clear defining line.

Gratitude. It’s hard to be thankful when you’re not satisfied with your life or when you’re pulled in a dozen different directions by stressful obligations. Like clarity, gratitude increases when you cut the clutter. I might not always like what the day brings my way but I’m always grateful for the day itself. Lately, I also find myself being more grateful for things I once took for granted – time with my family, a good night’s sleep, and having plenty to eat.