Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Month: January 2015 (page 2 of 2)

Easily Eat Six Veggies and Fruits a Day (Quick Tip)

AppleLast year, I had a one-month resolution to eat seven fruits and vegetables a day. I picked seven because it was right in the middle of the recommended 5-9 servings per day (which actually may not be enough). After a month of extra produce I learned two things. First, ensuring I got more produce made me feel great. Secondly, six fruits and vegetables was about the right number for me. Seven servings and up seemed to produce vastly diminished healthy returns and stressed me out, while five servings and below didn’t give me the same kind of healthy happiness.

This year, I’m doing 100 Days of Real Food’s 14 Week Mini-Pledge Program and last week’s goal was to eat two fruits and veggies with every meal. This forced me to dust off a few ideas I’d used last year and further challenged me because, unlike last year, I wasn’t supposed to take advantage of snack time. Here are some tricks that could help you eat more fruits and veggies too.

Ideas to Help You Eat Six Veggies and Fruits a Day

  1. Add a veggie to your eggs: To me, breakfast and vegetables just doesn’t seem to go together, but I found a few ideas to help sneak a vegetable into the beginning of the day. Now, I add peppers or spinach to my eggs. I keep these in the freezer, already chopped, so I can add them quickly in the morning.
  2. Avocados are great anywhere: My friend, Jossie, who writes My Diabetes Blessing suggested I build an avocado, egg and English muffin sandwich. Guess what? It is AMAZING. In fact, you can add an avocado to almost any dish any time of day. They are great on salads, sandwiches, as a side dish, topping and go well with salsa, too. Plus, they’re quickly turning into a health media darling since they’re high in healthy fats.
  3. Replace your juice with whole fruit: My doctor recently instructed me to equate juice with soda. Since then, I’ve replaced my morning cup with a piece of fruit and have found that I tend to stay full longer. Large pieces of fruit sometimes count as two servings.
  4. Eat a fruit and vegetable with lunch: That takes care of two portions right there and fruit is extremely portable.
  5. Have a salad and a vegetable side dish with dinner: That takes care of two more servings. Add enough tomatoes or avocado to your salad and you’ve just added another serving.
  6. Keep lots of frozen vegetables on hand: You can mix them with stir fries, pasta dishes, and serve dinners with one serving of frozen veggies and one serving of raw veggies like carrots. This tactic makes me feel like I’m eating a greater variety. Frozen veggies are also really easy to make in the microwave.
  7. Have a snack: My single best advice is to replace one of your snacks with a vegetable. If you have a piece of fruit for breakfast, a veggie for a snack, fruit + vegetable for lunch, and salad + veggie for dinner, you’ve got six! I like celery with peanut butter, carrots, or other raw, portable veggies.
  8. Eat fruit for dessert: In college, I studied abroad in Spain and there they eat fruit (with a fork and knife) for dessert! If you can make it a habit to replace over-sweetened desserts with fruit, you’ll kill two bad habits with one stone.

Clutterfree with Kids: A Book Review

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts from it.” – Joshua Becker (Clutterfree with Kids: Change Your Thinking. Discover New Habits. Free Your Life.)

Joshua Becker is one of my favorite online minimalist writers. His blog, has a nice mix of inspirational posts and practical advice. However, the thing that really got me interested in his writing is that he has kids that weren’t much older than mine when his family started their minimalist journey a few years ago.

Our oldest daughter, who is four, says that she loves each and every one of her roughly 50 stuffed animals and can’t part with a single one. She may be one of our biggest obstacles to de-owning all spaces simply because she’s still learning the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ and, unlike her younger sister, she notices when her toys move around. I don’t want to sneak around removing our kids’ stuff without their buy-in, so I was excited to read Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids:  Change Your Thinking. Discover New Habits. Free Your Life.

 Clutterfree with Kids Review

Part I: The Case for Minimalism

If you read the Amazon reviews, you’ll notice that a lot of them say something like, “Not what I was expecting, but just what I needed.” I believe this is because most advice on clutter is simply about how to organize your clutter. Becker spends roughly the first half of the book making the case for why you should remove your clutter by “de-owning” it.

“There is more joy to be found in owning less than can ever be found in organizing more.” – Joshua Becker (Clutterfree with Kids)

Only when you’ve whittled your possessions down to what you really need and love will decluttering and maintaining a decluttered life become sustainable. He gives good advice like “start with the easiest possible place in your home” and put the items you can’t quite part with in a box with a date. If you’re already convinced that de-owning is for you or you’ve already realized that having fewer toys is actually good for your children, you can probably skip Part I.

Part II: Practical Advice Galore

Part II is where the book really takes off as it goes through all kinds of situations you’ll experience when trying to de-own with kids. There is a chapter on toys, clothes, art, sentimental items, collections, screens, photos, gifts, packing, schedules, and preparing for babies. This part is filled with practical ideas and is easy to skim when you have specific problems for which you need advice. We’ve adopted Becker’s advice to develop a confined space for toys and get rid of toys that exceed this space. I also got some great ideas for purging and curating my daughters’ artwork and I actually take and save fewer photos now (yes, that’s right, digital clutter can be just as stressful). This section alone makes the $5 price for the book completely worth it.

Part III: Free Your Life

The final part zooms out and covers a couple more general topics such as how to remain clutterfree, being clutterfree with a reluctant partner, and how to stop comparing your life to others and start living it! These sections are inspirational, but not as practical as Part II. You will still glean some excellent ideas from this section. For example, I wish someone had told me long ago to live off of one salary and save the second.

Overall, I’d give this book four out of five stars, simply because for an existing minimalist, Part I is not as beneficial as Parts II & III. It’s well-worth your money and your time, especially if, like me, you need to convince your family that minimalism is also for them.

Make Your Password Your Goal (Quick Tip)

make your password your goalAre you forced to change your login password at work every 90 days? That annoying password that you dutifully type an average of 8 times a day could help you meet your New Year’s resolution and life goals.

I learned this tip from Mauricio Estrella, who wrote a viral blog post about how he used his passwords to change his life in big ways. He got over an ex-wife, saved for vacation, and quit smoking simply by using passwords that reminded him of his current goals.

Make Your Password Your Goal

Think about it. Each time you type your password, you say it silently in your head. It becomes so automatic that typing it and thinking about it is a semi-subconscious, frequent reminder of that thing that is your password.

In the past, when password change time arrived, I would quickly pick something big going on in my life, shorten it to 8-12 characters and add some numbers and symbols. When my youngest daughter was born, I typed M4d3l1n3 all day long and perhaps that was part of the reason I missed the real Madeline so much! I couldn’t get a break. Use that constant reminder to your advantage!

I’m currently using this trick to help me get to my $25K goal. I can’t say it’s actually pushed me to save the money, but I haven’t forgotten about it. Not one day goes by without me thinking about this project. Who can ignore the thing you type once an hour every single day? It’s a great trick.

Feeling Lighter After Three Months of Minimalism

As I de-owned each room over the last three months, I threw away far more than I donated (who knew we had so much junk). Anything that was remotely useful, I gathered into a haphazard pile, waiting for critical mass before making the first trip to Goodwill. In mid-December, I took my first load. As I shook the volunteer’s hand and drove away, I was struck with the most amazing feeling.

I was lighter.

Good-bye Stuff!

Good-bye stuff!

I will never again have to pick through that stuff. I will never again have to clean it or ponder whether to keep it or rearrange it so that I can reach something that I actually use. My car was lighter and I felt lighter, like the proverbial anchor had been removed.

That feeling was addictive. I went home that same day and cleaned half of the scariest room in the house and quickly amassed a pile bigger than the one I’d just shed. What ELSE could I get rid of? I went upstairs to the closet where I’d turned all my hangers backward in September and grabbed a sweater, eight shirts, and a belt that hadn’t been worn in almost four months. I never really liked them anyway.

I drove back to Goodwill and happened to catch an NPR TED Radio Hour discussing the various perspectives on compassion in today’s world, which made me realize that minimalism, though it many times begins as a self-improvement project, is also an important vehicle to spread compassion. Old belongings – the excess – move on to help someone else. The products that we discovered we don’t need and have stopped buying never make it to the landfill so we save a small corner of the planet for the next generation. The time we save goes directly back to doing something we love or being with someone that we care about. We’re calmer, happier, and that’s contagious.

By changing a small corner of the world – our corner – we can ignite change throughout. Minimalism, so far, has been the Best. Project. Ever.

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