Minimalist series- Joshua Becker

A minimalist blogger that I look forward to reading every week is Joshua Becker. I suppose I like him so much because he is a Christian and a family man. He has a spirit about his writing that I really love. I feel at home with his blog. I don’t feel like he is striving to become a minimalist. He has embodied the principles and ideas of minimalism. I appreciate how he looks around the web to find others who are also expounding on the same principles.

Joshua Becker has what he calls weekend reads. I have been continually inspired through reading not only other bloggers, but also major publications, discussing studies on different aspects of living a simpler life. I suppose it is because I am the only minimalist that I know, I need that additional motivation.

I enjoy reading about the humanitarian projects that the Becker family is involved in. I feel strongly about being involved in more than our daily routine. I feel it is necessary to get involved with the community at large. I like to read when others are looking out to see how they can help others in their community and the world at large as well.

I enjoy the guest posts that other bloggers contribute. It makes it unnecessary for me to surf the web looking for other minimalist. I can keep my time intentional. If you have five minutes to spare, take a look at www.becomingminimalist.com and get to know Joshua Becker a little more. You will be glad you did.

Minimalist series= Courtney Carver

I am not sure how I came across this lovely lady. I instantly loved the concept of 333. This is a method of dressing that Courtney Carver has gained much publicity about. It is capsule dressing at its finest. Thirty Three items of clothing worn for three months. It excludes some articles of clothing like underwear, but basically it everything you wear for three months is pared down to thirty three items.

For most of my life, I have dressed pretty much this way, except I have never counted every item. I mostly have a core wardrobe that I wear for six months. I add accessories to it that assures the items remain fashionable. Since discover project 333 though, I have been challenged to going a little further in whittling down my wardrobe. I only wear what I REALLY love. I have gotten rid of everything that I did not truly like or that was not becoming.

This summer I had plans of buying many new tops to wear throughout the summer. I actually decided to keep what I had that I really enjoyed and get rid of the rest and see if I could make it throughout the whole summer. I did! I found out, as have so many others, most people are not looking at the individual pieces that you wear every day. They look at whether you look nice or not. As so many others have noted, people comment on how you look well dressed every day. It is nice, especially since it takes ten minutes to find clothes and get dressed every day.

Thanks to Courtney Carver and www.bemorewithless.com , I am exploring more ways to become freer in my time and thinking through my wardrobe. If you are looking for ways to embrace minimalism, this could be a good place for you to start. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Favorite Minimalist- Series

The Minimalist- Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

I stumbled upon these guys through some blog I happened to be reading one day. I don’t remember the blog, I just know that I was still in research mode learning more about minimalism. The blogger mentioned that she had seen “the boys” in a meetup where they were doing a reading. She mentioned that they were much younger than she was and she could have been their mom. I found that interesting, so I went to see who these young men were.

At first, I couldn’t figure it out. Who indeed were these two guys? I was reading different posts and found the information useful, but who were they? I read more and saw that they were best friends for years. Wow! While my friends find what I do interesting, I haven’t had a friend actually convert to a minimalistic lifestyle as of yet. (My family seems to be paying attention though).

Joshua and Ryan have been blogging about being minimalists for many years. Joshua began when his marriage and his mom around the same time. Ryan began sometime later when he noticed the change that came over Joshua. They both began to embark on the minimalist journey together. In the time since they begun, they have written books, produced a documentary, given TED talks, held meetups and more, all in the effort to provide value to others as they spread the message of minimalism. I appreciate the work that they have done. It reinforces my beliefs that living a life free from an abundance of stuff and rich in experiences shared with people you care about, is the best way to live.

I encourage you to visit their blog at www.themins.com and discover more great minimalists and inspiring ideas.

Favorite Minimalist- Series

Leo Babauta- Zen Habits

I would like to say that this guy is my favorite minimalist, but if I did that, I would have so many favorites. I discovered www.zenhabits.net around the same time I discovered missminimalist. I suppose what drew me to his site the most was his blog. The site is no frills, you can’t leave a comment. There are no ads. It is completely black and white and it fascinated me. I began to read what Leo had to say and it struck a cord in me. Because of the lack of frills, you either get into the message of the blog, or you leave really quickly. I stayed and I return often.

Leo Babauta was an overweight, underpaid, smoking,  father of six living a mediocre life on a small island when he began to question if this was all there was to life. He began to make a series of small changes to his life and they were effective and empowering. He embraced minimalism and as the useless things began to leave his life, meaningful habits and practices began to replace them.

Today, Leo Babauta is nothing like the man he was a few years ago. His blog touches thousands of people lives, including mine. He has a simple message and his ideas are easy to digest and incorporate into our own lives. I recommend stopping by and taking the time to read more. Form your ideas and tell me what you think.

My Five Favorite Minimalist Blogs- Series

Miss Minimalist- Francine Jay

I know that my top five favorite minimalists are THE top five minimalist, but I have followed them consistently in the past year and a half. I have read pretty much all of the information on their blogs and it has helped me to consider the type of minimalist that I am and how I can best share my thoughts on minimalism with the world (or better yet, a few interested people).

I believe that one of the first minimalist that I came across was Miss Minimalist. I don’t recall how I came across her website, but I believe it was sometime after the birth of my daughter. We were living in a super large studio and it was enough for me. I was able to have room for my things, her things and much more besides. We entertained and lived a good life. The love of a small place led me to research more about others living in small spaces. This led to a post that Miss Minimalist did on living in a small space in London.

I was so intrigued that I continued to read more and more about her. I went through most of the posts on her blog. I was also interested in her thoughts on having children and being a minimalist. I enjoyed following her series on Real Life Minimalists every Monday. They did, and still do, give me inspiration to continue on the path that I have found: giving more value to experiences and the people around me than to the things that I own in my life. It is always comforting to know that you are not the only person in the world with “strange” ideas.

Miss Minimalist has written several books on the subject of minimalism and saving money. I recommend anyone who advocates living a simpler life in pursuit of experiences that make you happy and help you live a life that is fulfilled. If you have an interest in minimalism and living a full life, I suggest you check out the blog

www.missminimalist.com . You will be glad you did.

In Search of Enough

I love to learn. I find it exhilarating to find out about something new and unexpected. There is always something else to find out about, people, history, culture, religion. But how much is enough?

Being a minimalist, we tend to get all of the THINGS out of our life that don’t benefit our life and allow the things that we find beneficial. I find learning beneficial. I really feel that it is important to learn more and grow as a person through self education. However, in the past month or so, I have begun to question that about myself. How much learning is too much?

For me, it is very easy to sit around with a stack of books and information and file everything I have learned into a corner of my mind for future use and conversation. I know a little about many things. For what reason? Just because I like to know.

I like to know the pros and cons of something. I like to know the history of other things. I like to see what someone says to prove their way is the best way. I want to know the arguments they use and then what the opposing side has to say about whatever the topic is. Depending on the topic, there is quite a bit of information and it can get to be quite overwhelming listening to what everyone has to say. Your head can start spinning.

For instance, in the last post, I told you a little about how searching for the “right” school can become a nightmare. Right after that, someone posed a question to me about the end of the world and “endtime events”. Then I remembered that I want to travel to Marrakech in December and I don’t much about the city. That has plunged me into another round of research and information that causes my head to spin.

Why do I do this to myself? The thing is, of all of the minimalist that I read or have read in the past, there isn’t much information about my type of over researching. I have seen articles and blog posts which speak to overindulgence in technology and the useless information that comes across from various sources of entertainment news. What about someone like me that keeps on inputting information until I reach information overload?

I am trying to discover how much is too much. I am working on a plan that will save me from future information overloads. Right now, I really don’t have much in the way of a plan, but I am hopeful that I will discover something. Does anyone else have a minimalistic approach to acquiring information in order to answer questions or research a topic? If you do, I would love to hear from you. Maybe your idea is just what I need.

Back to School

When I first moved to Chicago, I heard murmurs of how it was so important for some people to get their child into “The Right” day care program and elementary school that they started when the child was not yet born. I couldn’t understand it as I didn’t have a child at that time. Then Bean was born and I was vaguely aware that I would need to search for an elementary school for her, but I wasn’t too worried. When I wanted her to stay home and when I was ready for her to go to a small  home day care center, they both came to me easily enough. I didn’t really think finding an elementary school would be much different.

Bean turned three before I decided it was about time to start looking for a school. On my job, we have various school groups coming through in order to gain service hours. One of the chaperones recommended that I check out their school. It wasn’t even on my radar of things to do, but when she mentioned financial aid, I considered it. From there began a period I can term CRAZY TIME.

I am a very low-key, low-maintenance person…maybe it is minimalism in my life, maybe it is my personality. Regardless, I was truly shocked at how many options there were outside of strictly public school, private school and home school to choose from.  In the public school system, there were different tier schools, your neighborhood school, charter schools, selection schools, schools specializing in languages or arts or classical education and more. In the private school system, there are Catholic schools, Christian schools, independent catholic schools, Montessori, Waldorf , classical education schools, German, French, and more. In the home school realm, there is unschooling, Christian homeschooling, science based, and various methods.  Once I began looking at all of the education options available, my head began to spin.

Decision paralysis set in for a short while. I had recommendations to a few schools. I came across homeschooling families and groups. I had an idea of what I wanted Bean to learn and where I wanted her to go to school. I visited a few schools and quickly decided where I did not want her to go and the type of people with whom I did not want to be stuck in parent activities. After a few months of intense searching and questioning myself about the level of involvement I wanted to contribute and who I want Bean to ultimately be, I made my decision.

Looking around at the people with whom I work, go to church, have as friends and neighbors, I realized that much of the intensity surrounding choosing the right or best school for my child was unnecessary. Every person that I know, all of the people we enjoy spending time with in our circle have all been educated differently and yet, we all meet on a common plane. There is something that we all share that allows us to enjoy each others company. We can all read well, we can all write, we can often make good decisions, what more is necessary? As long as I do the best that I can to make sure Bean is in a safe environment, learning the basics of education, I am doing my job. If she does the best that she can with the information given to her, is there really anything else that I can ask of her?

Most of us have ideas of who we want our children to be and what we would like for them to do. The best that we can do is give them the tools they need in order that they may be a successful member of society, whatever success means to them. Many of the schools and educational options offer so much more than what we really need to give our children. I am advocating for a minimal approach to educating children. We tend to get carried away and go overboard, choosing schools for prestige and status instead of focusing on providing a simply good education.

As a parent, I have the opportunity give so much more to my child than a formal education system can ever give her. When I take that attitude, I lose the need to blame the school districts for testing poorly, for teachers not catering to the needs of my child, not giving her the education she needs. It is still my responsibility as a parent to educate my child, even if she goes to school outside of my home. I encourage other parents to take that view as well. It is empowering. There is no need to feel like a victim lost in a vast system.

I could have chosen to put Bean in schools that are more competitive, more prestigious or more academically challenging. However, Bean currently goes to a very small private Christian school very much like the one that I went to as a small child. She is on the waiting list for a dual language school that I really want her to go to and we supplement everything else with activities on the weekend, reading at home, interaction with people of other cultures and travel. For us, for now, it is good enough.

If you are a parent, as the children go back to school in the next few weeks, be interested in what they are doing but don’t add additional stress to your life. I recommend taking a minimalistic view of the whole process: Keep what works, get rid of the rest. If there are unnecessary classes, after school activities, parental expectations or more required of you and your children, choose not to do it. Focus instead on the lessons you really want your child to learn about life and education. Everyone will be better for it in the end.

Myspoclife Comparison of Chicago and New York City

There is a saying that Chicago is a second city to NYC. Even though I have been to NYC a few times, this trip was the first time that I could really see how true the statement is.

The first thing I have to say is that even though New York City is so much bigger than Chicago, I feel that they do so many things better. For instance, the subway system is so much larger than what we have in Chicago. However, it was so much cleaner and much nicer to look at and ride. I don’t think we have as much planned work on the weekend, but our system isn’t as old either. The people do not stand up as often for pregnant women and little children, but it could be that they are just tired and unobservant. I did not encounter as many disruptive people on the trains and surprisingly, NO homeless people were sleeping in the seats. That in itself was amazing.

One of the main similarities between New York and Chicago was for me, the neighborhoods and their particular flavors. In Chicago, it is easy to know the types of people and ethnicities represented in different neighborhoods and see how it represents the city as a whole. The same can be said of New York. I absolutely love the difference in each neighborhood and the special flare the people give it. As I stated before, we stayed in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood. It was fascinating to walk down the street and hear all of these “Americans” speaking Spanish and only Spanish.

I am a frequenter of farmer’s markets. I look for them wherever I happen to be. In Chicago, I can find a farmer’s market almost every day of the week, somewhere in between work and home. We first arrived in New York on a Saturday morning and I was a little concerned because even though we were on a tour bus going around the city, I didn’t see any farmer’s markets. I was relieved when later in the week I began to see a few here and there. We actually stumbled upon a farmer’s market at Rockefeller Center. Bean located a stall with honey. She insisted on buying a trial sized honey bear. Once again, she led me to a something great. I bought several trial sized honey bears for souvenirs!

Both Chicago and New York are on a waterfront. Indeed, all of the largest cities in America are. I love to see the panoramic view of a city. I enjoy taking the boat cruises. I was pleased when in New York that they had the free ferry and other water taxis. In Chicago, I have enjoyed taking the water taxis as well. Of course, Ms. Bean feels like she is the queen when she is out on the water. It is one of her favorite things to do as well.

Being a parent with a young child, I tend to look for parks. We can schedule nothing to do in an afternoon, and if Bean is able to go to a park and slide and make new “friends”, she has had a good day. In our neighborhood in Chicago, we have four parks within a couple of blocks from our house. In New York City, we were fortunately to stay across the street from a very nice park. As we went around the city and explored, there was often a park nearby. The difference between the cities seems to be that in New York, it is commonplace to put a water feature in the park. Every one that we visited had some sort of water area for the children. Bean loved it!

There are loads more similarities and differences between the cities of New York and Chicago. I know there are so many restaurants, theaters and museums I haven’t even covered. This is my short list. In the future, I will need to return to New York so that I can make more observations and share them. What other incentive should I need to go back to such an interesting place?

The New York Public Library

It is no secret to those who know me, how much I love the library. I go at least once a week to a library in the neighboring college town because of their extensive collection of foreign and nonfiction DVDs. I can order most of the things I want from my city’s library, but going there, I can get what I want right away.

That said it was a must to visit the New York Public Library. I remember how it was from my first visit. I was awestruck over the beauty of a library building. At that time, I was coming from Texas and had never seen a library that was more than functional. I knew I had to show this lovely place to my mother.

It just happened that the day we chose to go to the library was a rainy day, perfect for a library visit. The place was a beautiful as I remembered. We joined with a tour that takes place every day at 11am and 2pm. The guide began telling us about the history of the library and the land before the library was built. Alas, as she predicted when I walked up, the tour was boring to little children. Since Bean would need to walk with us wherever we chose to go later in the day, I gave her what she wished: a visit to the children’s reading room.

My mother finished the tour while Bean and I went downstairs. The children’s room was much smaller than I expected. There were plenty of books though and Bean grabbed herself a big pile and plopped down on the colorful mats, like the other children. I found a chair and sat in it, like the other parents. We were both content and passed at least an hour that way and would have continued longer except we were hungry.

As we met back up with my mom, she explained a few things about the library that I did not know such as:

The Library’s reading room will be closed for the next year, at least, while they restore the rosettes and other work. The room is the size of a football field.

Many of the periodicals, books, etc. housed in the stacks are actually kept underground in the area under Bryant Park, which is located right next to the library. It was interesting to sit outside and eat lunch and know that there are loads of books and possibly many people going about their business right under you…but I suppose it is that way throughout most of New York.

If you are in New York on a rainy day and you are not sure what to do, stop by the New York Public Library on 5th avenue. You will be glad you did.

The Bronx Zoo

My mom, Bean and I all enjoyed NYC very much. There was so much to see and do, and we just could not do it all. Upon the recommendation of a friend (and because Bean was so keen upon seeing the animals), we went to the Bronx Zoo. I was aware that Central Park had a zoo, but when we were there, Bean was much more interested in exploring all of the 21 play zones that Central Park offered.

Getting to the Bronx Zoo was quite a journey for us. We were staying at an uptown location through Airbnb and that meant we needed to go downtown, choose another line and then go back uptown to the Bronx. It is possible that there was a simpler way, but because I was the new one to town, I don’t know it. One thing that we noticed about the different subway lines is that each one seemed to have something special about it. For instance, line number 1 was characteristic for the tile that decorated each station. Going uptown on the number 2, each station had beautiful stain glass at every stop. It was truly lovely.

Once we made it to our stop, we had about a mile to walk to get to the Zoo. The walk was made pleasant by looking around at the locals and seeing how they were relaxing and taking in the day. We passed through one park’s play area and a kind city worker asked if we would like Bean to have the free lunch being offered by the City. Of course we said “yes!” Bean immediately began to say how hungry she was and that she needed to eat NOW. We convinced her to make it to the zoo and see a few animals first.

Upon reading about the Bronx Zoo, I was interested. I knew I would like it, but upon entering the zoo, I was impressed. I can’t remember going to a zoo where the animals have so much space! and in New York too! I was really amazed that every Wednesday, the day we happened to go, was a free day to all. There were so many people and children EVERYWHERE, but for the price, it was no problem.

Back at home, I occasionally take pictures of the animals at the zoo. They are mildly interesting. Bean likes them, but since we live not too far from the free zoo, there is really no need to take lots of pictures. For some strange reason, while at the Bronx Zoo, I was seized with the desire to take lots of pictures. It was as if there weren’t better wildlife shots available anywhere.

The Zoo is huge! In the paperwork, the brochure tells you that you will not be able to see all of the zoo in one day. We picked the few animals that we thought would be interesting and got walking. We actually did not end up making it to half of the animals on our small list.

We viewed the deer, who were cooling off in the mud in their enclosure. After that, we walked over to the bison and then had lunch. (We had a later start that morning. There is always so much to see that I feel it is important that we don’t rush out at the crack of dawn and stay up until midnight just to see it. It is a vacation after all.)

Everybody had lunch around the same time as us, it seemed. The good thing was that we all brought sack lunches. The zoo may have been free that day, but the food was tremendously expensive. The cost of a hot dog, French fries and a large drink was around $11. I would rather pay that price at a local restaurant.

Since our need to visit a zoo in the first place stemmed from Bean’s love of the movie Madagascar, we went to see the Madagascar house. It was very, very large; just like the rest of the zoo. Just about anything that you wanted to see, it was there right before your eyes. Bean was mildly interested, so we headed outside to see other birds and the sea lions.

We passed through a lovely floral park area of the zoo and took some pictures. It was our intention to keep going and see more of the animals we may not have the opportunity to view at our local small, free zoo. We began to walk around and ran out of steam. Before we completely exhausted ourselves and had no energy for our evening activities, we walked back to the train station.

I must say, I really like visiting zoos in different cities. I must rate the Bronx Zoo as one of my favorites so far. The main reason being the animals have so much room. If we are going to view them in captivity, I would like their enclosures to be as spacious as possible. In the event that Bean and I happen to be back in NYC, we will definitely make a point to visit again. I highly recommend that you put it on your list of things to do as well.