Friday, November 3, 2017

What I Have Learned While Walking my Son to School

The drop-off and pick-up line at my son's school is a winding nightmare of tired parents and car exhaust. I get that some don't live a comfortable walking distance and some are in a rush to or from work. For some, it may be physically impossible for them to walk their kids to and/or from school. But even those that live a reasonable walking distance to the school seem to drive instead. I pass the same two or three parents on foot every morning when I walk my son to school.

I've gained a lot from walking my son to school. Not only do we get to spend precious time together, but we are also moving our bodies. It sets a positive tone for our day. We talk about things he's interested in. We act silly We observe what's going on around us. He holds my hand, a precious act I know he may soon grow out of. And when we get to the school I can give him an unhurried goodbye because I don't have a line of cars behind me, impatiently waiting to drop their kids off. I think it's very important to set a positive tone for the day for our kids to help them succeed, and taking the time to walk him to school does just that.

I stop and get to know the crossing guards on the way back home. Now that my schedule has changed and I mostly work from home, having that adult contact is awesome. But even when I was walking back home to hop in the car and drive to work, I enjoyed slowing down and talking to these very important people keeping our children safe. I wouldn't want their job. People driving through stop signs, on their cell phones, just totally unaware of their surroundings, driving too fast. They put up with a lot.

Walking him to school allows me to observe our neighborhood in a way I don't have time for when I am driving. I can pick up on which kids are struggling at home. I get to see the delight in the kids walking home when the unharvested kumquat tree is full of ripe fruit. I can actually look into the eyes of other walking parents and give them a warm greeting. Occasionally we may get chased by the chihuahua that regularly escapes her backyard. She's an annoying little ankle biter. We get to really know our neighborhood.

I see a lot of newer neighborhoods building schools where it is just plain unsafe for kids to walk to school. The schools are built around buses and cars. This, to me, is sad. It's a missed opportunity for community and parent/child connections, for slowing down and really seeing your neighborhood.

If you have the opportunity, walk your kid to school. Slow down your mornings. Bond with your child. Get some exercise. Observe your neighborhood with fresh eyes. Not to mention the environmental impact that you will be making by not starting up your car.

Friday, October 13, 2017

12 Things You Can do Today to Minimize Your Life

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Minimalism is a lifelong journey. It doesn't happen overnight and it requires a change in mindset. Deciding to downsize your life can be overwhelming. The process of eliminating those things burdening you can be outright maddening if attempted all at once. It's an ongoing process with ups and downs just like anything else in life. Right now my upside is that the inside of my home is nearly where I want it and it brings me much more peace. The big downside is that my garage is full of everything I cleaned out of my living space and I either need to hold a garage sale or haul it off before it drives me crazy.

That said, there are simple things you can do, small steps to get you started. The following list is meant to help anyone in the beginning stages of minimalism build momentum and make those first baby steps toward a simpler life.

  1. Delete all social media from your phone. Yes, you read that right. We all know it's tempting to take a peek at Facebook while you've got your phone in your hand or upload your lunch to Instagram. Deleting social media will help you focus on the present moment and become more conscious of how you spend your time.
  2. Clean out your email inbox. Don't just delete messages, but unsubscribe from all those newsletters that pile up and never get read. If you are like me, you will need to do this in chunks, not all in one day, because I tend to allow my inbox to get overwhelmingly full. 
  3. Pick one room to start downsizing. I started with my bedroom. The kitchen is also a good place to start. Break it up even smaller and pick one drawer or one cabinet to clean out. The next day pick another one until you are done and ready to move on to the next room. 
  4. Be honest with yourself. I mean, come on, why are you really keeping that thing you don't use or care for? Is it out of guilt? Get rid of it! Especially if it has a bad feeling attached to it.
  5. Have a clear vision of the life you want to be living in your head. Do you want to move to a smaller home? Do you want to travel more? What is the end goal or goals? How minimal do you want to go?
  6. If possible, get your extended family on the same page. This can be especially hard if you have kids with well-meaning grandparents, or like me, have an ex who inundates his child with toys even though I've talked to him about it. If you can't get them on the same page, you'll just have to resort to occasional purges to get rid of things that the kids are no longer interested in. Luckily, I have a kid open to minimalism as long as I don't touch his Legos.
  7. With that in mind, respect the boundaries of the other members of your household. Don't be a jerk and secretly toss your partner's ugly sweater with holes that he really loves. This can be especially hard if you live with someone who leans more toward hoarding. I'm no expert there so I can't offer any advise, but if it's a normal situation and you want to get rid of it because YOU don't like it, just remember it's not yours to decide. My only exception to this rule is broken toys or other items that have become dangerous and/or irreparable.
  8. Practice the 24-hour rule when tempted to purchase something you see that you want but don't need. Wait 24 hours, then come back to it. Usually, by then the excitement over the thing has diminished and you will no longer want it. I do this all the time on Amazon. I'll save it to my wishlist and go back to it later to discover I'm just not interested in it anymore.
  9. When you do purchase things, buy them to last. It's not only better for your wallet, but also the environment. When you get to that point you no longer need or want it, it will still be in good enough shape to pass on to someone else or donate. 
  10. Find like-minded people to support your goals. Follow The Minimalists, No Sidebar, or other minimalist bloggers.  Join minimalist groups. Sometimes embracing minimalism can feel like a lonely journey when the world around you seems lost in over-consumerism. 
  11. Learn from my mistakes and don't fill your garage with all the stuff you cleaned out of your living space. Either hold that garage sale or donate it as you clear. If you have lots of stuff, most thrift stores have trucks that will come pick it up free of charge. You truly haven't let it go if it's still sitting around in your garage, even if you don't have to look at it every day. 
  12. Finally, don't compare yourself with other minimalists. There is no set number of things you must whittle down to or specific house you must live in. Minimalism is about simplifying YOUR life to make room for the things YOU enjoy, so it's going to be a very individualistic journey.