Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Month: September 2014

Minimalism: A Documentary

The Minimalists are coming out with a documentary in 2015 called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.  They’ve leaked four clips and a trailer so far.  It looks good!  I’m prepared to be inspired.

Quick Tip: Clean 10 Minutes a Day

Alison undoes the cleaning.I hate, hate, hate to clean. I also hate to wake up or come home to a hopelessly dirty house. Gretchen Rubin reminded me of a trick in her book, The Happiness Project, that has definitely made our household run more smoothly.

Set a timer for 10 minutes a day and clean.

Try it.  In our home a couple of amazing truths have emerged:

  1. It’s easy to get on board when you know you can quit after 10 minutes.
  2. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you can get done in 10 minutes, especially if you do it every day.
  3. After 10 minutes, I often feel like I’ve accomplished so much that I don’t stop right away.  What?  I’m actually motivated to clean MORE.

It’s also more fun when you get everyone involved.  With the kids, it works best if they do the same tasks every day so they know what to expect, like putting the books back on the shelf and the toys in the toy box.  I also say, “It’s clean-up time!” instead of “10 minutes of clean-up”; they still think 10 minutes sounds like a long time and inevitably will complain.

In 10 minutes, my husband and I can get the kitchen cleaned, the table wiped off, the living room picked up, and the floors swept most nights.  To me, that means the house is practically glowing. Sometimes I can even get to a bonus pile of junk or a bathroom sink.

It’s the perfect way to clean if you’re a non-cleaner!

My Not-So-Minimalist First $60 Dollars

Bellagio Fountain - Vegas

I have good news!  I “earned” my first $60 dollars toward my goal!  The bad news is that I earned it doing one of the most uncharacteristic non-minimalist activities of my life.Last week, my company hosted an Engineering Offsite in Las Vegas.  You can already see where this is going. While I am not a fan of gambling, I am a fan of the “When in Rome…” philosophy.  So, in order to fully experience my first time in Vegas, I spent a little money, BUT with a strict rule: I set aside $30 to gamble, fully expecting to walk away with nothing.  Like spending money on a dinner out, I was willing to give up $30 to experience something new and hopefully enjoyable.

I still to this day don’t know how to play craps, but I found a $10 table at the Aria Hotel, learned about the pass line, bet the minimum and doubled it, then doubled it again.  Then lost it all.  So I bought my last $20 worth of chips and played for about an hour.  I almost lost them, but instead rode a serendipitous wave of amazing dice rolls up to +$50!

So I cashed in.  My new friends at the table begged me to stay.  Part of me thought I should go for $100.  Quitting was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  It felt like I’d just overcome a Jedi mind trick.  I cashed in and left Vegas with a small surplus.I feel like this experience mirrors the decision to live a minimalist lifestyle in America.  Our culture and in some ways our human nature celebrates the ability to gain more.  Once you have enough, your peers and instincts encourage you buy more.  Only by consciously walking away can you free yourself of that influence and explore other ways to live, or in the case of Vegas, other ways to have fun.

At the airport I bought my family some chocolate with $20 of the winnings and left with double my original “investment” for a total of $60.

I probably shouldn’t even count this $60 since it barely fits into the “earning a little extra doing something I love” category.  But I need every cent I can get to reach my $25K goal and I should give myself credit for the constraint to stop when I did.  So, here’s to Vegas, my first $60 and probably the last casino I’ll see for a long, long time.  Thank you, Sin City…for the start-up funding.


Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Although there are many, many things I’d like to work on as part of this minimalist project, I’ve chosen one goal for the next year:

By September 22, 2015, “earn” $25K by reducing spending, getting rid of things we don’t need, or earning a little extra doing something I love.

The $25K is equal to less than 20% of our annual household income.  Right now we save 10-12% for retirement, mostly locked up in retirement accounts, but that’s not enough to give us the opportunities we would have with more savings.  Do we want to travel more?  Yes!  Could I start my own business? Yes!  Should we spend more time with family who live 13 hours away? Yes!  I love the idea of opening up these possibilities.

As a Lean-Agile Coach & Program Manager at a DC start-up called Opower, I help teams work more efficiently toward their goals.  Progress usually comes down to one thing: increasing focus.

If you multi-task you get less done.

My plan is to focus on minimizing our possessions first.  Each week, I’ll post at least two articles: a weekend project and a minimalist tip that I love.  I’ll sprinkle in some bonus topics too.  

I would love new ideas and inspiration in the form of comments and emails along the way.  Do you want to work toward the same goal?  Join me!

I’m excited!  Let’s get this project stated!

Creating Space: The Quest for Less

Washington Monument Cherry TreesWashington, DC is a notoriously expensive, high-stress, Type A, materialistic, appearance-is-important type of a town.  My husband and I moved to a Northern Virginia suburb of DC three years ago after spending most of our lives in the Midwest.  Some initial differences were obvious: more luxury cars, the urban dress code, and the fact that my original housing budget of $1200 a month put us squarely in the tiny-apartment-in-a-crack-house range. We’ve since gotten over our initial sticker shock and have fallen in love with the DC area.  It is a wonderful place to live and the people here are fantastic, but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in myself.  It seems that the longer I’m in DC, amid the politics, high-earners, and go-getters at the center of the capitalistic world, the more  I  feel like my six-figure+ salary isn’t enough.  With work, family and other activities, I feel unbalanced and perpetually behind.

I know I’m not the only one.

I’ve always been hyper-aware that I had the most fun when all of my possessions fit into the back of my parents’ Honda Odyssey.  There’s something exciting about knowing you can pick-up tomorrow and go anywhere without anything holding you back.  When you have less, you spend less, and without the pressure to earn as much, you have more time to explore.

Things have changed a lot for me in the last 10 years.  I have a family, a mortgage, two cars, a job that I enjoy; in short, I have a lot to lose.  What I don’t have is freedom: the ability to structure my days and future the way I really want to.  My husband and I make more money than we ever dreamed possible, but with our move to DC and the births of our two daughters, our ability to build up liquid savings has disappeared.  I aim to change that.

To that end, I’m taking up a minimalist journey with an aggressive goal:

In one year, I want to “earn” $25K by reducing spending, getting rid of things we don’t need, or earning a little extra doing something I love.

Welcome to the Minimalist in DC blog.  I’m writing to share great minimalist ideas and to keep myself honest in my own quest for less.

I’m ready to create space for a better life and have less of everything except time, love, and fun.  Welcome to my blog!

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