Tag Archives: Minimalism

2016 – An Illustrated Year in Review (Top 10 Edition)

In roughly chronological order, here are the top 10 highlights from our 2016:

1) Visiting the US for the first time in (almost for Sarah, over for David) two years

We were blessed to make it home twice in 2016, both for the Christmas holidays (2015-2016) and over our summer break.  We loved introducing Clementine to her extended family and reuniting with old friends. Other than time with family and friends, we probably enjoyed food the most.

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2) Continuing on a minimalism journey

I wrote about this one extensively in the last post, so I won’t say much about it here.  I’ll just share a quote that pretty much sums up our feelings toward this pursuit: “Owning less is merely a means to an end, it is not the end itself.  Minimalism removes the physical distractions so my greatest priorities can be elevated.  It allows my life to be defined by eternal, lasting pursuits, not the temporal possessions contained in my home.”  – Joshua Becker

3) Participating in Bible Study Fellowship

In the fall of 2015 I (Sarah) joined the Jakarta chapter of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).  We studied the book of Revelation, and while the reading and homework commitment was significant, I was glad to have an outside the home outlet for community and spiritual growth.  I carpooled with our pastor’s wife and usually ate lunch with her and a few friends afterwards. My small group consisted of women from Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, India, Venezuela, Norway, and the US.  What a privilege it was to study Scripture alongside these women, knowing that many others were studying the same book all over the world.

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4) Teaching Sunday school and hosting a small group

David and I have taught youth Sunday school for almost three years now, but Clementine’s birth has certainly changed the way that works.  As she’s gotten older and more active/vocal, David has taken the lead in teaching, while I care for Clementine.  We miss teaching together but know this is only for a season.  We also began hosting a small group in our home that thankfully allows us to study together without the distraction of childcare.  (We meet just after C’s bedtime.)

5) JD’s visit and subsequent move to Jakarta

Over the Chinese New Year holiday my cousin, who was teaching in Taiwan at the time, came to visit us.  We were able to visit a small island just north of Java, and we tried to convince JD to come teach in Jakarta the next year.  He wasn’t really interested at first until our small group friends came over for dinner and made a more convincing argument, apparently. 😉

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6) David turning 30

He finally made it!  Considering I turned 30 two days before we got married, I’ve been waiting the entire span of our marriage for him to catch up.  We had a great day celebrating all the things that make him wonderful, complete with 30 letters from family and friends and 30 reasons I was glad he was born.

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7) Clementine learning to walk

Or better yet, Clementine’s development in general.  She turned one and then nine days later took her first steps.  While we had heard some “mamamama” and “dadadada” babbling for the past few months, her official first word coincided with our summer visit to David’s parents house.  Upon meeting Cato, Clementine excitedly exclaimed, “Dawg, dawg, dawg, dawg!”  It’s still her favorite animal, although her vocabulary has expanded to include a few more (thanks to Dear Zoo).

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8) Sarah returning to work

When we made the decision for me to stay home after Clementine’s birth, we committed to at least one year and would discuss future plans as the time came.  As the 2016-2017 school year approached, we decided that I would again stay home for at least one more year.  However, one of the principals approached David late in the spring asking if we’d be willing to consider my coming back to work part time (teaching two English classes, grades 11 and 12).  Our initial thought was no, but after praying and discussing with the school further what that might look like practically, we felt confident moving forward.  This year has very much been the best of both worlds for me.  I love that I still get to spend so much time with Clementine and yet also have an outlet for creative work.  We were able to extend the arrangement for another year, so our family is looking forward to our time here in 2017 and beyond.

9) Sarah (re)learning to drive a manual transmission … in Jakarta traffic

We got our car just before Clementine was born, and while most people in Jakarta hire drivers to tote them around in Jakarta traffic, we’ve been lucky that David is willing to brave it himself.  However, my returning to work has necessitated that I take on a bit of that responsibility as well.  My first car was a standard (that lacked reverse, but that’s a story for another day), so I wasn’t learning from square one.  It had been many years, however, and driving here can just be scary, y’all.  It’s worked well for us, and I am fairly comfortable/confident with the 1-2 km stretch I drive each day.

10) Book Club and #DaSHbookdates

I would split this in two, but I’m a sucker for top 10 lists.  A friend started a book club at the end of last spring, and it has been such a blast to read and discuss alongside some really smart women.  In 2016 we read All the Light We Cannot See, State of Wonder, The Alchemist, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, and Call the Midwife.  This November marked three years of book dates for David and me.  These continue to be such a nourishment to our marriage; I only wish we’d been doing them from the start!  2016’s books were Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Princess Bride, The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Bell Jar, Bleak House, The World According to Garp (A couple friend book date … a first for us!), No Country for Old Men, Persepolis, Ethan Frome, It, East of Eden, and Anna Karenina (still working on this one …).

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We have richly experienced the goodness of God in 2016 and hope and pray the same for your 2017!

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.

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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?