Alicia Does a Spending Freeze: Day 37

I’ve been going through my Facebook feed, trying to snooze all of the shopping pages that I follow or that have somehow gotten me on their list. I bought quite a bit of LulaRoe last year, so it took some doing. I even posted my first Spending Freeze post on my timeline because I was added to three shopping groups in one day, and I wanted people to know why I was blocking them.

But Facebook in their marketing genius, still tries to sell me things from larger retailers that they think I’ll like. I see a lot of “Shop Now” ads for places like Wayfair and Ikea, which I nearly always scroll through because they catch my eye. I even click through on the Target and Modcloth ads nearly every time.

I have gone through the nightstand section of the Target site multiple times adding things to my “loved” list. Today I actually sent J links to two Modcloth skirts that I liked, because I’m guessing I’m going to need them in the office this summer.

I also have a pretty significant Amazon wish list going, with items like glass food prep containers and books on minimalism that I want to read.

When you take each item individually, none is a bad purchase. None of the things I have mentioned here are actually frivolous or unjustifiable, which is why these sorts of things added up to a problem in previous years. We’d get 3 or 4 reasonable items in one month, completely miss our budgetary goals, and I’d have more stuff to move around, dust, and generally deal with.

Here at Day 37, we’re still doing pretty well. We have already made an extra payment on our first debt (a series of emergency dental procedures from the end of last year). We are spending more time at home, rather than walking around shopping malls, which we used to do often. I am taking the time to not only evaluate our actual purchasing habits, but also the seemingly harmless proclivities that lead us to them.


Alicia Does Clarification

I’ve done a lot of reading on Minimalism. A lot.

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to actually take the first steps toward this ideal I’ve been enamored with for years is that I research all sides of just about everything. In my head, I’m like Rory Gilmore with her pro-con lists about multiple potentialities on any given day.

Nearly every article brings up how expensive it is to have only the best, multi-purpose items. One article I read said that only rich white guys can really pull it off because no one else can replace all of their furniture with the most perfect, clean, white-on-white-on-white onmi-functional pieces and upgrade all of their shirts to cashmere.

If you’re insistent on a very specific, very sterile-looking aesthetic, and determined to do it all at once, then of course you’ll end up dumping a bunch of money into it all at once. If you carefully consider the things you already have, pare them down, and stop buying new things that aren’t absolutely necessary, you’ll be able to make an incremental upgrade when you need to replace things that wear out.

So here is what we are NOT doing as my husband I seek to be less owned by our stuff:

  1. We are NOT going to move out of our condo and into a tiny home or RV. While that sounds like a cool adventure, it’s not on our radar as a goal right now. We are much more likely to move into a house that is only slightly smaller than this current space.
  2. We are NOT seeking to quit our jobs. We both basically like our jobs, enjoy working, and don’t intend to give up the investments we have made and will continue to make in our future by continuing to work.
  3. We are NOT replacing any functional or regularly used items until they are legitimately worn out. I am much less interested in any particular aesthetic than I am with frequency of use. When items DO become unusable, I will first see if other items can serve its function before I seek a replacement.
  4. We are NOT letting go sentimental items. I would estimate that about 60% of our furniture, home decor, and kitchen items are either gifts or heirloom items. My parents and grandparents have been very generous to us, and we appreciate a great-great-grandmother’s hand-knitted blanket much more than one we picked up from Wal-Mart because we thought we needed it. My grandfather’s medals from his time in the Navy will make a much better wall decoration in the home office than something I picked up on clearance at Target, no matter how good the deal was.
  5. We are NOT getting rid of ALL of the clothes that don’t fit us right now. Most articles recommend starting with everything that doesn’t fit when you purge your closet. But we don’t make enough money to go and buy a couple new pairs of pants every time we go up or down a little in weight or change jobs. So I keep a small selection of clothes that are a little too fancy for my current job or just a little too snug for regular rotation, mostly pants and structured dresses, since shirts aren’t as much of an issue.
  6. We are NOT limiting ourselves to a specific number of anything. I used to think I needed to have a 50-piece year-round wardrobe to really be “finished” culling. Those lists of people who live with less than 100 things are really interesting and inspiring. But we don’t need to be able to stay on the road for months. We just want to make the best use of the space we have and keep like items together. For us, then, it’s more about only keeping the amount of candles that easily fit on that one shelf, or sheets and blankets that comfortably go in my grandmother’s cedar chest in the guest room, or books that can be neatly arranged on the bookcase.
  7. We are NOT removing our personalities from our home. We are nerdy folks. We like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter quite a bit. I’m not giving up the fun little reminders of that quirkiness (like our glow-in-the-dark custom Doors of Durin mat or my Ravenclaw cardigan or my wand!) for anything. I’m also NOT going to buy and display a bunch of Funko Pop! figures, either. There’s a difference between nerdy clutter and having something nerdy displayed on things you would probably have anyway. Maybe my wand is an exception, but just try and convince me to ditch it, I dare you!

Minimalism looks different for everyone. That’s another recurring mantra among the articles I have read. For my husband and me, it looks like being much more intentional about how we use what we already have, including our time.

When you add this post to my first post on Minimalism and my WHY post, I hope it’s pretty clear that we’re not incredibly rich folks who want to project a certain image to anyone. We’re just a regular couple who recognize that we’ve held onto too much stuff for too long without any good reason, and we want to set ourselves up to act differently moving forward.


Alicia Does a Spending Freeze: Day 24

I may not have written about our Spending Freeze until Jan. 16, but we started at the beginning of the month. We have done quite well so far.

We haven’t spent any money on clothes, shoes, or clothing accessories. In fact, I’ve been mending and making minor alterations on some of our best things to make them perfect things.

We have spent our Sunday afternoons at friends’ houses, and Sunday lunch is really the only time I would have allowed eating out with a tip. It’s been much more relaxing and easier to get to know people anyway.

I’ve been rearranging the furniture and decor we have from one room to another to make each room serve a single purpose, and it’s showing me how many things we can actually put in a Spring yard sale.

I’ve been making all of our coffee at home. We have been using iPods and Spotify’s Web Player for music. We’ve been watching movies and shows on Hulu, which we already budget in as a utility since we don’t get cable.

The one spot where we had a bit of a struggle was with books. J got a $25 Amazon gift card for Christmas. He started a new job where he is expected to study and buy textbooks for a pretty grueling exam, and he also wants to replace his leather-bound study Bible from legitimate wear. We ended up deciding that the next textbook he needs is an acceptable work-related purchase, but that we have other Bibles he can use until his 90-day portion of the freeze is over.

I am a bit concerned that, in some ways, we’re just making a list of what to purchase at the end of this. So far that list is 2 matching night stands for the master bedroom and a new ESV leather-bound study Bible, and we still have 66 days to go…

Alicia Does Wardrobe Wednesday: January

By this point, most of what I’m wearing are just variations on last month’s favorites. Here are some highlights of this month, for the sake of continuing to nail down the best Minimalist Gold winter wardrobe.

I think the only items in this set that weren’t in the last are the taupe TOMS ankle boots and the navy long-sleeved tee. Both are incredibly comfortable, fit right, and made of natural materials that are easy to care for and will last a long time. So they are now permanently on the Minimalist Gold Winter Wardrobe list.

Fun related story: I have lots of laundry, mostly my husband’s, piled up to be done today. I ended up wearing my only nice button-up blouse (the teal one shown here under the gray sweater and in the last set tucked into a black skirt), the gray pants and wedge heels (shown here with the navy cardigan), and my black blazer. I felt a little overdressed, but completely professional. Around noon, my direct supervisor who comes by from another location about once a month and the owner of our company came in together. Oh, no, I thought, I’m about to get it for something. I’m about to lose my job. How am I going to tell J? Turns out, they were just there to take one of my coworkers out to lunch. After the panic subsided and I was able to go back to my world of invoices and inventory, I was quite glad that they popped in on a day that I was wearing my absolute best. In fact, it’s probably the outfit I would have chosen if I had known they were coming.

Alicia Does Snow Days and a Home Library

photo 2 (2)

It finally decided to be winter in Tennessee about a week ago. My husband and I have been stuck in the house for 4 of the last 5 days.

Disclaimer: I realize that we only got about 3 inches of snow. If you don’t know about winter in the Southern United States, we are notorious for shutting down over one inch. We don’t get snow very often, so when we do, our infrastructure isn’t really set up to handle it. For example, they were only able to salt the main roads and interstates, and the temperatures rendered the salt ineffective overnight. More often than not, the temperatures drop so quickly that there’s a layer of ice under everything. People can’t drive up our many hills, so they abandon their cars on the side of the road. It’s a mess to be avoided at all costs, so we all grab milk and bread as soon as we know it’s coming and just hunker down.

Mercifully, my husband and I both have the ability to work from home when we need to, so we haven’t lost much income. (Hooray!)

What we have been able to do is get a lot of projects done around the house. I cleaned up my dining room. I did lots of laundry, still not understanding how two people go through so much clothing in a week. I did some mending and minor alterations of clothing and household items.

And I finished THIS home library (before and after):

All of these items were moved from other areas of the house. The bottom bookcase came from our bedroom, the rug and chairs were taken out of the living room when I redid it last month, and the table came from the guest room. There are no longer any storage cubes or plastic drawers in these shelves, only books. And the shelves can hold ALL of our books, which were previously spread out all over the house.

I feel like even though this space has more in it, it serves a clearer function. Maybe next time we have a snow day I’ll be able to sit in there and read, rather than moving furniture and rearranging small items.

Alicia Does a Spending Freeze

One of the first things I did this year was evaluate last year’s budget at its end. As a list-maker, note-taker and general nerdy-nerd, I love to make spreadsheets and analyze data. I drew up what I believed to be a realistic goal for each month using a weighted average of our actual spending. I made a plan for snowballing our debts away.

So since we’ve started this Minimalism thing, I thought why not try and make these goals work together by instituting a spending freeze?

We already clearly have more than we actually need or even regularly use. We haven’t properly utilized the resources we already have available to us.

A spending freeze will help us to (1) put the money we would have spent in certain categories toward the first debt and (2) evaluate what we already have to (3) pare down to our best and favorite things and (4) learn to take care of the Minimalist Gold items.

I was hoping to convince my husband to go in for a 6-month freeze of a few budget categories, but he agreed to 90 days. I am still going to try for at least 6 months.

We still have to spend money on rent, utilities, insurance, gas, food, cat food and litter (it is not cheap to have a cat). We will still give to our church make payments on our student loans. Those are all givens in our budget that we can’t escape.

Everything that’s flexible is frozen for 90 days: clothes, shoes, accessories, home decor, furniture, books, music, movies, sit-down restaurants, Starbucks.

When I did our budget analysis, I was shocked by how much we had spent on these things. In 90 days, we should be able to redirect enough money to pay off the first of our debts completely. And the stuff we were spending that money on was just stuff. Maybe 4 or 5 items were really necessary or particularly special.

My hope is that this exercise will teach us better habits in these categories as we seek to simplify our home and our lives.

Alicia Does the Living Room: Update

I wrote about my living room not too long ago. I shared its evolution and my plans for it, as the first impression space of our home.

Here is what my living room looked like before:

I liked the space generally, but it was a little too ecclectic, visually distracting, and had entirely too many surfaces to collect dust and clutter. All the carpets were not as pretty as when these pictures were taken, thanks to the redecorating efforts of Bryan the Cat.

The bold stripes on the got-at-a-steal triptych on the other side of the room from all of those variations on teal diamond trellis AND the extra textures were just too much for me. I’m not sure how other people felt entering the space, but for me living in it was a lot for my brain to process in a room where it should be able to relax and unwind.

And this is what my living room looks like now:

We did end up buying the rug ($200) from Target after we looked at discount places a few times for one that would actually fill the space so the little metal side tables weren’t on the wood floors. We also picked a carpet that would be more difficult for the cat to destroy. Otherwise, the goal was just to get things out of the room until there was really nothing left to remove.

The console table that is now the dominant piece in the nook by the stairs was previously behind the couch where you couldn’t even see it. I’m glad it is now more of a focal point. Taking out the rug on that side also allowed me room to do my workouts in that space, which is why the bin at the bottom has my weights and yoga mat. The coat rack belonged to my mother’s parents and sat in their entry way as long as I can remember.

This is a work in progress, and I’m sure we will continue to edit and perfect. We tried taking some things off of the walls, but ended up putting them right back. I decided to keep my clothespin display and make a point to use it now that it’s more visible. I still have the same number of pillows.

We were able to move the gray couch back a good foot or so, and between that and the tables we removed altogether, the entire space feels SO MUCH BIGGER and calmer. I highly recommend taking out everything you don’t use every day in just one room and see how it feels.

What do you guys think?