Playa del Carmen 2014

Just a quick thought this afternoon. This afternoon finds me on sitting on my balcony looking at the sunny beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This is my family’s fourth year here and each year has been different. This year, I’m a little busier because I am doing Camp NaNoWiMo, where I am writing the first 50,000 words of my next novel in 31 days. That’s my only planned activity every day. The rest of the day is mine to relax.

This afternoon I am inspired by the people of Playa del Carmen. We see a lot of fellow tourists on the beach but we also see just as many locals on the beach. Their lives aren’t so different from ours. They have to work and go to school just like we do. They have kids to raise and housework to do and meals to cook just like we do. Yet they take time out of their busy schedules to enjoy the beauty that is all around them.

This the opposite of what I do. I live in Chicago but I haven’t taken time to walk or ride my bike along the lakefront in at least two years. I haven’t been to a museum or even on a boat tour in even longer. I live in a popular tourist destination and I don’t even make time to enjoy it.

How many times are we too busy to see and enjoy the beauty around us? How often are we too busy online to be out enjoying life? Shouldn’t we make time to enjoy the people and places around us?

I really like vacation (who doesn’t?) and I will enjoy every moment that I am here. But when I go home I will also make time to enjoy summer in the Windy City. Be sure to take some time to enjoy your summer too.



Shopping Simply

Simplicity changes several aspects of your life: your physical surroundings, your finances, and your schedule. Simplicity has changed so much of what I do, but the biggest change has probably been in the way I shop.

As a minimalist, I try to avoid shopping, but things wear out. I use them up. A new need arises. At some point every minimalist has to go shopping. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when it’s time to buy:

Know what you need. Before heading off to the mall take inventory of what you already have. Know the styles and colors of your shirts in order to determine if a new shirt is really needed. Know what types of shoes you have. The moment you’re standing in front of the dazzling shirt display of many colors is not the time to try to remember which shirts you already have. Know before you go. If you take inventory before you go you may discover that you need less than you originally thought.

Shop for versatility. When choosing an item try to go for versatile pieces that can be worn with several outfits. A white collared shirt will get more use than a silver top with sequins. Focus on the fundamentals and only get the specialized stuff when necessary.

Buy only what you need. Knowing what you need is half the battle. This should eliminate aimless wandering in the store. It will also help you stay on track when that friendly salesperson comes suggesting things for you to buy. There are some stores where I have to go with a detailed list of what I will buy because I get in trouble when I just go in without a strategy (Teavana anyone?). Have a plan and stick to it. Also beware of the group pricing ploy. If you need one then just buy one. So what if you save a dollar by buying three? Is it worth having two more shirts that you have to store and wash? Only take advantage of the group pricing if you need that many of that particular item.

Buy for quality. I wrote about quality here. I believe that if you’re spending your money you should get the best use out of it. I believe in buying high quality items even if that means buying less. Higher quality items will serve you better and last longer.

Use the envelope system. Instead of using the debit card, use cash. Decide how much you will spend and put that amount into an envelope. Use only the cash in the envelope to make your purchases. This should eliminate impulse purchases and help you stay on budget.

Get in and get out. Once you have what you need, make your purchase and get out of the store as soon as possible. Don’t wander around looking in other stores and other departments. Minimize your exposure to the temptation of new, shiny merchandise.

Mindfulness is the key to shopping as a minimalist: being mindful of what you need and being mindful of the tactics stores use to get you to buy more. If you know what you need and buy only the things you need you can avoid the accumulation of clutter and the stress of buyer’s remorse.