Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Fortunate Life

Ian and I have been watching football on Sundays. Actually, just one game every Sunday. We cuddle on the couch and watch the Vikings lose spectacularly. And sometimes we bake bread and eat it with homemade hummus. And Ian throws a fit because my blanket is touching him and why do I need so many blankets anyway?

But that's not what I want to talk to you about. What I've noticed while watching TV for those few short hours is that people love stuff. Or at least, that's what companies want you to believe.

Like, did you know that all ladies want diamonds for christmas? Or that guys want trucks...especially big, manly ones? Or that kids want you to buy them lots of noisy plastic toys this year? And don't forget...if you're too busy to cook a nice family meal, there are millions of places you can go to pick up greasy, fried meat with a side of potatoes covered in meat sauce. No vegetables here, only the best for your precious family!

Even though we mute the commercials, I can't help but watch them and feel sad. Actually, it's more than that...the loud, in your face consumerism turns my stomach. While listening to the news this morning, I learned that a few stores are starting their Black Friday sales at 4am, midnight and...wait for it...10pm on the Thursday before Black Friday (otherwise known as Thanksgiving). You'd better get there early because those waffle-makers aren't going to buy themselves!

A few weeks ago, my parents asked us how we wanted to handle the gift situation this year. Did we want to pick a name out of a hat for a gift exchange? Did we want to spend only $10 per person? My brother and I pushed for no gifts this year. Everyone in my family already has everything they need and we'd rather spend the holidays together for free.

The whole conversation got me thinking. My family and I are so fortunate...we have everything we need. But there are people who don't have what they need. I'm not talking about a Play Station, I'm talking about food, medicine and shelter.

So, after a little bit of thinking (and I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner) instead of giving holiday gifts to my family, I've decided to give gifts for them.

Instead of buying my parents a dinner at Chipotle, a family can feed themselves (and their village) for a year with their new vegetable garden.

Instead of a quilt to keep out the Minnesota cold, these mosquito nets will keep a family safe from malaria.

And a video game becomes books and school supplies for deserving kids.

So, that's what I'm doing for the holidays this year. If you want to do the same, check out Oxfam (or other charitable organizations) and help improve the lives of families less fortunate than your own. Because it is a truth universally acknowledged:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I, Robot

I'm not a great house cleaner. I have a habit of setting stuff where it doesn't belong. Every table has stuff on it, the floor has stuff on it. Stuff piles up because 1) I have too much of it and 2) I hardly ever notice it.

I mean it...even if I put something in my path so I'll remember to take it to the correct room, I just walk over that thing for about a week. I don't notice it, I don't see it. And if I don't notice it for a week, I probably don't actually need it.

Discovering Minimalism allowed me to really see my stuff for the first time. And what I saw was scary! It's taken me almost a year to force myself into the habit of really seeing my possessions. It was hard at first, and it's hard still. It's not something that comes naturally but through lots of practice, it's slowly becoming a habit.

I mentioned cleaning at the start of this post. I'm a terrible cleaner. It's hard to dust when your tables are cluttered by junk. It's hard to vacuum when there are tiny piles of stuff on the floor. And while I'm getting better, I'm still not perfect.

The reason I'm writing this today is to tell you about one thing that's helped me to be a better cleaner, both of stuff and of dust/cat hair. We got a Roomba! Before you think it's not very minimalist of me, just know that 1)vacuums are a necessity when you have three cats and 2)the Roomba takes up a fraction of the space our old vacuum cleaner required. We bought an older model and it works like a dream.

Both Ian and I had forgotten about Roombas until we saw this on our favorite show, Parks & Rec:

We opted to skip the DJ attachment, though.

Anyway, since we don't want the Roomba to get caught on anything, we have to pick up the floor before setting it to run. Consequently, we now try to keep as little on the floor as possible. And while it's vacuuming, we can be doing just about any other thing we want...things that are more important than vacuuming.

Lately, I've been using Roomba time to take a good look around the house and really see my stuff. I've gotten rid of quite a few unnecessary things and have managed to keep our tables and surfaces mostly clutter-free. By the time Roomba is done cleaning, I've managed to pick up pretty much the entire living room and kitchen.

So, to sum it all up:
1) Having fewer possessions makes it easier to keep your house clean and tidy.
2) You can change a bad habit...it will probably be hard but you can do it if you actually want to.
3) Roombas are cool and do the work so you don't have to.
4) DJ-Roomba is flippin' sweet!