Minimalism and Frugality: A Match Made in Heaven!

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You’ve probably read a lot about minimalism recently, and I’m sure you’ve been hearing about the benefits of frugality basically your whole life. Minimalism and frugality are separate philosophies, but they can work together well in order to help you live your best life. (Zero waste can be a nice addition to this mix, but that’s another post!)

But first – what is minimalism?

Minimalism is the practice of ensuring you don’t have excess stuff in your life. The core idea is that you keep the things that you love in your life and eliminate the rest. While this mostly applies to the physical objects we surround ourselves with, it can also be a helpful tool for really focusing your attention on what matters to you in your life and what you really need to achieve your goals.

And what’s frugality?

Frugality is all about living on the cheap while still living well. It means something a little different for everyone. For some people, frugality is all about pinching every last penny. (The Tightwad Gazette is a really famous example of this kind of lifestyle.) For others, it’s about saving on the little things so that there’s money to enjoy the big things.

Living frugally is a necessity for many people, but it is also a helpful way of thinking about making purchases and living life. Frugality isn’t necessarily about deprivation. It’s meant to help you stay in control of your finances so that you can live the life you want without the stress of debt or living paycheck-to-paycheck.

So, how do they work together?

Both minimalism and frugality force you to think about things a little differently. Our current culture is fast-paced and we’re often under pressure to make decisions quickly, especially when it comes to making purchases. Minimalism and frugality both emphasize slowing down and really thinking about how you’re spending your time, energy, and money.

I talked a bit about the beginnings of my minimalism journey here. I have always been a frugal person by nature, as I just don’t find it logical to spend extra money on things I don’t need to, but minimalism is sort of new to me. I’m a total collector who is slowly trying to get out of a book hoarding habit. But I have realized that most of the stuff I have is just… there. Gathering dust. Making it harder to focus and clean and live. So I’ve stopped bringing stuff into my life that I know I’m not going to use or that won’t improve my life, while also slowly getting rid of the things that are filling up my apartment. It’s completely changed the way that I make purchasing decisions, even when I’m buying things for other people.

For example, I’ve gotten great at regifting things. A well-chosen book makes an excellent gift. Those piles and piles of yarn I have that I’m not currently using for a knitting project? I can use them to fill up the rest of a gift bag for a friend who likes to crochet. If I do need to purchase a gift, I focus on buying consumable gifts like food, wine, soap, or a bath bomb. When I’m shopping for myself personally, I always make sure to have a list, even if I’m shopping for clothes. I also have a 24-hour waiting period for most random purchases. You’d be surprised how many things you realize you don’t actually need or want after mulling it over for a bit.

Frugality is all about using your money in ways that are effective. Minimalism is all about clearing all the extra junk out of your life. By combining the two, you basically make it your goal to live frugally but well, and you give permission to yourself to ignore some of the less important things in life. You can breathe a little and remember that you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses or give in to FOMO.

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You don’t have to change your entire life, but taking a few moments to slow down and make sure that you’re focusing on the right things can be incredibly beneficial. We gotta take the time to appreciate what we have!

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Pushing Through a Reading Dry Spell

In the final months of my undergrad, I was dying for the freedom to read whatever I wanted. I dreamt of a day when I would go back to all those books that had been collecting dust for years, waiting for when I had the brain space to read them. At the time, it seemed like the only thing missing that would allow me to fully dive back into reading was free time.

Well, I have free time now. So what have I been reading?

Not much.

I’ve been able to delve into some nonfiction books. I’ve really been digging Come As You Are over the last couple weeks. I listened to a good portion of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before 428374928 different life things got in the way. I was also really enjoying What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You on my commute to and from work, but my phone battery just isn’t what it used to be. The point is, I never quite seem to finish the books I start. The last book I finished was Turtles All the Way Down (which I reviewed here), which felt like a weird exceptional blip in this reading dry spell I’ve been having.

A huge part of the problem is that I read for a living. I read books as I look for writers to reach out to, and then read those books again as I proofread them. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reading dozens (or potentially even hundreds) of submissions to the writing contest I’m running for work.

When I’m not working, the idea of reading seems entirely unappealing. I’m much more interested in curling up on the couch and watching/yelling at Mad Men or attempting to take over the world in Europa IV for the 574356th time of just sitting quietly on my phone and scrolling through Pinterest. This feels like a moral failing to me, having been an English major and a voracious reader since I was a toddler.

So, what’s a proofreader and webnovel manager to do?

I don’t have a plan in place just yet, but once I start figuring out how to get out of my tech- and work-induced reading funk, y’all will be the first to know.

How do you handle reading dry spells? Any tips for keeping up a reading habit? Leave a comment below!

How to Edit Your Own Writing Like a Pro, Part 2: Know Thyself

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

For part one of this series, “The Basics,” click here.

We all have quirks in the way we write. For some of us (*cough* me), those quirks include long sentences, overuse of commas, and overuse of em dashes. One of my best friends always used to mistype “minute” as “minuet,” not because she didn’t know how to spell the word, but because her fingers tended to jumble up the E and the T. Other people tend to mistype certain phrases – “all of a sudden” becomes “all the sudden,” for example.

Quirks like these are perfectly normal, and sometimes they can even be endearing. Unfortunately, a lot of people’s written quirks are pretty grating and can affect their audience’s experience negatively. Luckily, with some extra attention to detail, most of your more annoying quirks/repeated misspellings/regularly broken grammar rules will disappear.

So, how do you fix things?

The first step to fixing these issues is really analyzing both your own writing and other people’s writing. If you’re a novelist, read some high-quality novels and really take time to look at how they word things. If you’re a blogger, read some blogs written by professionals that have a really strong grasp of English and see how they put things together. Once you’ve done that, go back and look at your own writing. Older pieces will be better for this, as you’ve had some time away from them and they’ll feel a bit more like they were written by someone else. This will help you see your writing with new eyes.

Once you’re looking at your own writing, get really nitpicky about it. Are you using that word correctly? Are your paragraphs and sentences too long? Too short? Are they all one length with little variation? Are you using extra words you don’t need? (“Just” and “suddenly” are often used unnecessarily.)

Identifying these shortcomings can be difficult if you haven’t practiced it or if English isn’t your first language, but it’s a vital part of becoming a better writer and self-editor. Finding out what mistakes you make most often in your writing will help in two important ways. First, it will make your existing writing higher-quality and easier to read. Secondly, it will keep you from making those same mistakes in the future. This will allow you to update old posts and make them easier to read and increase audience engagement in the future by ensuring readers aren’t turned off by easily-avoided errors. With a little editing, everyone’s happier!

How To edit your writing

Book Hoarding

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For the past several months, I have been trying to get rid of some of my books. It is… not going well. In the three-ish months (god, I really hope it’s only been three and not longer) since I resolved to separate my books into “keep,” “donate,” and “sell” piles, I have only been able to select about ten books that I’m absolutely certain I don’t want to keep. Some of them are gifts that I am just not all that interested in and never have been, while others were assigned reading that I always meant to finish but haven’t gotten around to. I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (yet), but from what I have heard secondhand, one of the most important things to do when tidying is ensure that the stuff you are keeping around you is stuff that brings you joy.

I love my books. I love having books on my shelf. But I’ve had to admit to myself recently that I have not made much time for sitting down and reading physical books. I read all day at work and I’ve prioritized other hobbies since leaving high school. I can’t say that it’s a good thing, but I tend to prioritize gaming and watching TV over reading. Which means that now, instead of having a shelf full of possible sources of entertainment, I have a shelf full of heavy decorations that are not being used.

I’m a big believer in secondhand books. I rarely buy any books with a hard cover or brand new, because I’m a very heavy user. I make notes in the margins and dog-ear pages. A lot of my favorites no longer have covers and are falling apart. Buying secondhand is simply part of frugal decision-making for me – why buy a book at full price that isn’t going to stay pristine? But a big part of my belief in secondhand books has always been being willing to let books go so that others can love them just as much as I did. But for some reason, I haven’t actually put that concept into practice for several years. I’ve gotten rid of a few textbooks I had no attachment to, sure, but not any of the novels I picked up from the free library in the laundry room and never started, or the books that I am entirely certain I have grown out of that I no longer have an emotional attachment to.

I’m not entirely sure why this is. I think to some degree I just haven’t had much time to de-clutter much of anything in my apartment over the last four years, and I’ve been lazy about taking on big projects. But a huge part of it is that I am deeply attached to my book hoard. The thought of decreasing my collection even by one book makes me uncomfortable. They’ve been a heavy presence at the corner of my eye for so long. Many of these books have been with me since I was very young and it feels wrong to release them into the wild for someone else to have. I can’t say they feel like part of me, but they certainly feel like part of what makes my space mine. I worry that I would be lonely without them.

But even with all those emotional ties, I can’t help but consider things like what will happen when I move out. How many boxes will all these books take up? (Too many.) Will I really want them in whatever new home I end up in? Even if I don’t move out any time soon, do I really want to keep all that space for books that are going unread when I could use it for vital storage of other, more useful items that have had to be tucked away elsewhere? And the more I think about things like this, the more I realize that my hoard is less of a comforting presence and a collection of knowledge and more of a reminder of my issue with letting keepsakes go. So I think back on Marie Kondo’s rule to only keep things around that bring you joy and ask myself: are my books bringing me joy? Some of them. But most of them feel like an anchor.

That tells me that I have to do something about this. I treasure my books, but I need to move forward and let them go. I need to let other people find them and treasure them and hopefully crack them open once in a while. And I need to do it soon.

Fingers crossed.

 

Non-Zero Days, or, Why You Should Be Using Habitica

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Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

I’m proud of the amount of original writing I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts for work lately. I’ve also been mentally preparing myself for taking on NaNoWriMo again this year (I want to finish a 3rd time!) and doing some other small writing pieces. I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks, though,  especially after putting together this post about creating productively. When discussing tips for increasing one’s productivity, a lot of what gets said is stuff that you’ve heard from people before, but I tried my best to present information that we all kind of know in our hearts as writers and bloggers and creatives and make it feel more attainable and positive. I feel like a lot of posts advising creatives to improve their habits and increase productivity tend to be sort of negative. They often read more like someone telling you off and ordering you to “stop being so lazy” or just make you feel terrible for not being able to be a Perfect Bastion of Creativity every second of your day. Like, bro, depression is real! Being tired is real! Having other things on your plate and not being able to dedicate an hour to your craft every day is a fact of life!

Rather than admonishing myself for all the things I haven’t been able to accomplish, I prefer to do my best, encourage other people to do their best, trust that they are doing what they can, and accept whatever the outcome is. I firmly believe that all you can do is try your best. Which is why I really appreciate both Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) and the philosophy of non-zero days.

The non-zero day philosophy is outlined in the comment ryans01 posted, but I’ll just state the basic rules here:

Rule 1 – No more zero days. A zero day is defined as a day in which you don’t do anything to achieve your goals. A non-zero day is one in which you do something – even something very small, like writing one sentence or doing one push-up – to achieve your goals. The idea is to accumulate non-zeros so that you know you’re moving forward and you don’t fall back into the abyss of not doing things and having zero days.

Rule 2 – Be grateful to the 3 Yous. That’s Past You, Present You, and Future You. You want to thank Past You for doing things that are benefiting Present You. You want Present You to work to benefit Future You. And you want Future You to thank Present/Past You for doing things that made life better/easier.

Rule 3 – Forgive yourself. Sometimes we have zero days. It’s okay. Forgive your past self and devote yourself to being better in the future.

Rule 4 – Exercise and books. Exercise improves your body and your cognitive function, which improves your overall outlook and makes it easier to do other things, and reading expands your mind and teaches you new things.

These rules are simple and easy to follow, and honestly how I live my life most of the time. Motivating myself with outside pressures doesn’t work very well for me. I have to do something because want to do it. If I don’t feel like doing something, there’s very little that is going to get me to get up and do it. But telling myself that my future self will be grateful, or just knowing that I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing I moved a little further towards my goals? That’s really motivating.

Unfortunately, though, I also tend to get bogged down by self-doubt if I don’t see obvious results for a while. Like, sure, I finished reading a book, but how did that really help me? Is that $10 I put into savings really going to make a difference? Did that run I went on really do anything for me? Was that blog post I wrote really worth my time? It’s easy for me to be doubtful when I don’t have something to look at that shows me my progress. Which is where Habitica comes in.

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Habitica is, at its core, a task manager. It allows you to create habits (things you want to do, but don’t necessarily have to, and would like to do every day or every week), daily tasks (things that you want to do every day), and to-dos (one-off tasks that you would like to get done at some point). It allows you to “purchase” rewards with gold, which you earn by completing tasks. Those rewards can be in-game items, like armor and weapons for your avatar, or customized rewards that you come up with yourself, like an extra thirty minutes of watching your favorite show or buying yourself that new book you want.

It’s very simple, which is what makes it so appealing. It’s also very easy to customize and use exactly how you want. I use mine to encourage myself to floss daily, exercise more regularly, eat more green things, read, and do a number of other things. I’ve joined guilds like the Financial Discipline Guild, which encourages me to be smarter with my money. My partner and I made a party together, which allows us to keep each other accountable, because every time we complete one of our daily tasks, it deals damage to a monster we’re fighting together, like the Feral Dust Bunnies or the Basil-List. It gamifies the act of completing daily tasks that would otherwise feel like a chore and I get to watch my avatar level up and grow stronger as I achieve more in my real life. I can seek out support networks through guilds tailored to my interests and needs (seriously, it feels like there’s one for everything, from learning languages to writing to knitting to walking to Mordor).

To put it simply, Habitica makes it that much easier to ensure that I have a non-zero day. Because in addition to following the principles of non-zero days and encouraging myself in that way, I am also held accountable to my Habitica avatar and the other people in my Habitica support network. I also have a way of quantifying my success. My avatar levels up as I gain experience from completing tasks, which reminds me that my real-life self is leveling up, too, just in ways I can’t see as well. If I don’t do what I said I would do for the day, my avatar loses health and eventually dies, which loses me a level. It gives me consequences without punishing me in a way that actually harms me, which helps me forgive myself for not completing tasks while motivating me to do better in the future.

I honestly recommend taking the time to really absorb the non-zero philosophy and set up a Habitica account. I would never have imagined that I’d be the kind of person who flosses regularly, has a physical journal for work and life tasks to help me keep track of things that I write in nearly every day, and exercises more than a handful of times a year. It seems silly that this little game could make such a difference in my life, but it has.

Seriously, you owe it to yourself.