2017: Our Year of Living Minimally

I almost titled this blog, “2017: Our Buy Nothing* Year,” but then admitted that was a bit misleading.  A few things fall under that asterisked “nothing.”  We (of course) will buy things over the course of the next year.  Food, for example.  Clothing for our child.  However, when it comes to the nonessentials, our goal is next to nothing.

A little over a year ago I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  While the author can be a bit particular and extreme, I loved the basic concept of keeping only things that are truly meaningful (that “spark joy”) and discarding the rest.  She advocates huge purges in a very systematic way.  We didn’t completely follow her method (except for folding clothes!), but the book provided a good foundation for our future decluttering efforts.

Around this same time I noticed friends posting articles from the blog Becoming Minimalist, many of which resonated with me deeply.  We needed to simplify.  To live with less.  Declutter.  Define priorities and live with intentionality.  Last spring, in an effort to promote his new book, the author of the blog ran a special on an online course called “Uncluttered.”  By preordering the book, you got access to the class for free (normally $90).  We figured a $12 book that intrigued us anyway was worth access to a 12 week course that would hopefully support us as we sought to make some significant changes to our lifestyle and habits.

While in the first go-round we made minimal (no pun intended) progress due to the end of school and summer travel, this fall we were able to repeat the course and actually complete it thanks to the extra time over our Christmas holiday.  As of New Year’s Eve, with the last of our “excess stuff” donated/sold and out the door, our home is completely clutter free.  Every closet, every drawer, every cabinet and folder has been thoroughly considered and purged of uneccessary clutter.  We have gone through every item of clothing, every pen, every spice jar.

Everything that remains is either something we know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

But back to the title of this post.  We have made real strides on our “minimalist journey” and have settled into the rhythms that work for us.  Looking into 2017, however, we have a new goal.  Inspired by a few others on a similar minimalism journey, we’ve decided to implement our own “Buy Nothing Year.”  Just like minimalism looks different for different people, the guidelines we’ve decided on are unique to us and our situation.  I am sharing our guidelines (or goals, as I prefer to call them) because 1) I want the accountability and 2) I want to record our experiences here on the blog.  When I decided to train for and run a marathon, I wrote a blog about it for the same reasons.  I was inspired by the quote, “The difference between a dream and a goal is the written word.”  Here I put fingers to keyboard and spill digital ink because this is one of the most significant goals I’ve ever undertaken.

Our overarching goal is to limit purchases to needs based items for an entire year.

However, I suppose there’s a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the definition of “need.”  I know I for one can talk myself into many a purchase based on some gymnastic-esque parsing of that word.  If needs based purchasing is our goal, here are our specific guidelines (and pre-planned exceptions) for accomplishing it:

1) Limiting eating out to book dates only.  I’m starting with the hardest.  I love eating out.  Love, love, love it.  I love not having to plan, buy, prep, cook, and clean.  If Gary Chapman ever decided to add a sixth love language, eating out should be it.  However, it is SUCH a drain on our finances.  And (especially in Indonesia), it’s not healthy.  So, while at home in Jakarta, we will limit our eating out to once or at most twice a month, depending on when we finish our planned #DaSHbookdates reading for the month.

Exception A: This summer.  I’m sorry, I just can’t do without Ted’s, Chuy’s, Taco Bueno, La Popular (notice a trend here?), etc. while we’re home over break.  We’re not going to go crazy, but considering we go without for 11 months of the year, a visit or two (in the case of La Popular) to some of our favorite restaurants this summer is just going to happen.

Exception B: Invites from friends.  We won’t turn down opportunities to build relationships because of some silly rule we made up.  However, as we progress into the year, we hope to host more friends in our own home.

Our last breakfast out at one of our favorite spots

2) Not purchasing new clothes.  This hasn’t been as much of a struggle for us over here, but this summer could be tough.  As we’ve gone through our wardrobes in the process of decluttering, however, we’ve realized that we already have so much, plenty to last us a year.

Exception A: Clementine.  She obviously won’t be able to wear her 12-18 month clothes for the next 12 months.  I plan to buy her a limited number of items over the summer.

Exception B: Workout socks and sports bras.  These are a legitimate need in my wardrobe right now, and I can’t buy ones I really like over here (or I would have bought them prior to 1/1).

3) Gifts (for others, not me and David) are okay.  We also plan to buy a few books/toys for Clementine’s birthday this summer.

4) Very, very limited hobby related purchases are okay.  Most books we choose for book dates are available through digital libraries we’re members of.  However, if a chosen book (either for a book date or Sarah’s book club) is unavailable, we will purchase it for the same reasons we’ll go out to eat with friends if asked.  Relationships are more important than our own self-imposed rules.  As Oscar season draws near, we may also make some Indonesian “rental” purchases (which are super cheap anyway).

5) We are each allowed a birthday dinner out at a restaurant of our choice, and we can take a one night trip while home this summer to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary.  

That’s it!  Can you think of anything I’ve forgotten?  Obviously we can’t anticipate every scenario that may arise over the course of the next year, but we hope these guidelines will provide good boundaries that will allow us to 1) pay off debt more quickly and 2) learn what we really can do without.  Another goal of mine is to blog about our “experiment” each month of 2017.

What about you?  What are your goals for 2017?


8 thoughts on “2017: Our Year of Living Minimally

  1. I like the thought behind this idea, those seem like very good goals. I also love eating out so that would be a hard one for me as well – I totally understand that struggle! One are to look at (if this applies to you) would be any monthly expenses, such as cable TV or Netflix, magazine or book subscriptions, etc. Sometimes the monthly things are paid automatically and not given much thought.

  2. This is truly brilliant. Since being back in Canada, it has amazed (and scared) me to see how my ‘needs’ have changed after leaving Jakarta. You have inspited me. God bless you on this journey and in the new year.

    1. Thanks, Mark! Yes, I imagine that things might be a bit more difficult if we were back in the States. We’re definitely trying to take advantage of this season of fewer temptations and distractions!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s