Brain Change

Focus on life through a simplified mind

Bedroom closet complete

Finally!! I did it I took on the bedroom closet and got this monster put to bed.  Since posting in a previous blog that I was going to tackle it I have procrastinated and rationalized and let it fester until I was almost causing myself a brain tumor in worry.  The closet had become a huge mental stressor.  My bedroom closet is a huge walk-in and (was) packed from floor to ceiling with every item thats ever needed a place out of sight.  It was also completely filled with loads of clothing that my wife and I never wore.  I finally got the courage to make it happen using the approach recomended by most decluttering/minimalist authors.  I spent an hour unloading the closet completly taking everything out of it and I gave it a good scrubdown and vacuuming.  I then started sifting through the pile and decided on each item. 

KEEP/TOSS/SELL. 

I probably could have filed another pile for donate but most items that were in the toss pile would have made me feel funny to try to donate it was junk old paper cardboard boxes torn and ripped clothing among other things.  It didnt seem right for me to donate my trash just to feel good about donating.

The items in the sell pile were items that I could list on E-bay right now.  What food/shelter/donation place would like to be handing out old I-pods to the needy?  it just didnt feel right donating consumerist items to less fortunate people perpetuating the myth in society that “stuff” will make you happy. 

Enough on that, I placed everthing I wanted to keep back into the closet one item at a time deciding on each piece do I need this? will I need this? (winter clothes,xmas decorations).  If not it was put in a pile and taken outside immediatley, or taken to a bin that I could start listing items on e-bay.  I filled the back of my pickup full of crap, I could not believe how much junk had piled up in that room. 

I am nowhere near what a true master declutterer or minimalist would be I still kept way to many t-shirts, way to many dress shirts, I did however reduced my dress pants down to two pair from around 10.  I also kept a collection of basketball/football/baseball cards some trophys me and my wife have won over the years and all the photographs we had stored in the closet.  I am just not ready mentally to let go of certain things.  Perhaps as I continue to reduce my lifestyle and consumption needs I will find a way to keep these memories but get rid of the physical items.

Overall the closet being done has been a huge success as it has lifted the burden of an undone task from my mind. 

What struggles are you having with decluttering?  I would love to hear how you have dealt with issues that come up when you start clearing your life of “stuff”.

Please share this if you think it will help someone.

October 13, 2010 Posted by | decluttering, minimalism | , , | Leave a comment

Credit card no more

Three days ago I locked up my credit cards.  My wife and I decided to no longer carry a card and use cash only.  Am I crazy for no longer packing a card for “emergencies”?  I do not think so.  In short here is why I think we made a great decision.

It is to tempting to pull out your card for impulse buying and non emergency spending.

Yesterday I was going to take a friend to lunch,  I stopped when I realized I no longer carry a credit card with me and I had no cash on me.  Yes i went out into the world without cash or a credit card and I survived!  The result?  I could not take my friend out to lunch which may have cost me some good conversation but it also saved me around $25.  I am not advocating never buying a good friend a meal I am just saying since I didnt have my card or cash on hand, I ended up keeping $25 more dollars of my next paycheck to myself. 

You spend more when you use plastic

When I am at a restaraunt paying for a meal with a card I usually add the standard 15% tip regardless of the service and for small price meals i have even placed a standard $5 tip on my card for a $10 meal.   Dave Ramsey who wrote the Total Money Makeover explains that your brain does not associate what the “real” cost of goods are when you just write a number down and place your signature on the dotted line.  Dave mentions that there is  pain associated with handing over cold hard cash that forces your brain to challenge the value of the item or items you are buying and you will find by using cash you will not  “need” all the extra items when you hit the grocery store. 

But I have the self control to watch my spending on my card

No you can’t, the siren song of retailers, the marketing juggernaut of credit companies, or the rationalization of your own mind will in fact entice you to make a simple purchase here and there and you will slip.  One month you will wake up with more on your card than you can afford to pay.  And you will be stuck with items that probably didn’t provide you happiness and continue to accrue interest on top of the original purchase price.  The only cure for this cancer is to cut it out.  Stop using credit at all costs.

So with what I have just outlined until further notice I will be using cash only along with a debit card and only buy the essentials.   This I hope will help us further along the path of reducing consumerism that has plagued us for all of our life.  And help us focus more on what really matters in life.

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October 6, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, Personal Finance | , , | 2 Comments

Where did my day go?

The world today is challenging.  It is a world of instant communication, instant news, instant consequences, and instant gratification.  With all the avenues of information we have we should be super productive.  So why then at the end of the day do we wonder what happened to all of our time?  Why did we not get the tasks done that we were supposed to do?

One possible answer

Attention interupts

These attention interupts may be,  friends, co-workers, phone calls, web surfing, facebooking, twitter, e-mail.  With all these avenues of information we should be super productive, right?

Wrong

There is a mental state of mind that you create when you are deeply involved with an important task.  You may call this being “in the zone”.  Being “in the zone” means you are super focused at the task at hand.  You have all been here, the rush of doing important work and knowing you accomplishing something great can be so rewarding.

The problem comes when the phone rings, or the E-mail alert in your inbox goes off, or a coworker stops by to chit-chat.  All of a sudden you experience an attention interupt.  It takes you out of your state of mind and unleashes a burden to your attention.  These type of interupts are disastrous to your productivity.  Author Timothy Ferris tells us that for a major task it can take up to 45 minutes to reset physcologically after an interuption.

As I drive deeper into the core of minimalism I am becoming aware that one of our most precious possessions is not our, money, possessions, or jobs.  It is in fact our time.  it is one of the few things in life you can never get back.  Money can be made again, possesions can be bought again, jobs can be found.  Time you can never get back.  So how do we create more time to do the things that truly matter?

1)  First thing in the morning list all the tasks and obligations that you have to complete to get a complete picture of what your day may look like. Realize that you may not be able to get through all your daily tasks and pick 2-4 of the most important items you want to get done and for the time being, forget everything else.  Focus only on these tasks and work through them completely until they are done.  Do not be tempted to add a task to your small list until all of them are completed.  Remember these should be the most important things in your life to get done.  They can be work obligations, family obligations, or other interests that you may have.  The important thing is to “focus” and complete.  When you are completely done you can add another set of 2-4 tasks or set your schedule upon completion to be able to check your e-mail, voicemail, have a meeting, or visit with co-workers.  But not before your done.  Which brings me to my next point.

2)  Quarantine E-mail to specific times of the day.  Do not check E-mail first thing in the morning to see whats happening.  It will steal your mental energy for any simple task, request, or brainfart that someone just happened to send your way.  E-mail creates a false sense of urgency in your mind that even if you just check to see whats in the inbox it will burden your mind until it is resolved.  Voicemail and Phone calls do much the same thing.   In order to focus on your most important tasks set yourself up to check E-mail, and Voicemail, at predetermined times in the day.  Turn off you E-mail alert sounder to avoid cheating when something pops into the inbox.  I would recommend starting with limiting your checking of email and voicemail no more than 3-5 times per day.  I would also advise working your inbox to empty.  While you are on the task of clearing your inbox’s be sure you are taking care of every issue.  I use the three D’s to help me through the jumble.  Do it, Delegate it, or Dump it, pretty self explanatory.   If you leave an unaswered E-mail or voicemail sitting in your inbox it may cause frustration in your mind of an unresolved issue.

3) Your phone should be shut off while you are doing your most important tasks so you do not suffer an attention interupt while you are doing your most important work.  If your job requires you to be available to answer your phone at the drop of a hat.  Remember missed calls are what voicemail is for.  Be sure to have a voicemail message that reflects the importance of the call and the importance of your work you are doing.  “Hi you have reached the cell phone of Justin Guzman I may either be driving or working on an important project, please leave a message as your call is important and I will follow up with you as soon as I can”.  See it’s not that hard, and if it truly is an important call the caller will leave a message.  If it is not that important they will most likely call the next person on their list to help them out of their “emergency”.

Limit your attention interupts by implementing  these three items to your daily lives and I promise you will be rewarded with the gift of time.  Your most important work, family, life tasks will be completed and you will be more fullfilled at the end of the day.  Please do not use your newfound free time to spend it in front of the T.V. or at the watercooler bsing with the buddies.  The point of this exercise is to create the time you need in your life to do something that matters.  Spend more time with your family, read a good book, exercise, learn a new language, there are so many productive things you can now be taking part of.

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September 24, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, productivity | , , , , | Leave a comment

Begin Small

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time…. You may have all heard this question it is a good idea to keep this in the back of your mind when you begin to de-clutter your life.  In the beggining your energy and enthusiam will keep you focused on making sweeping change, attacking each area with fervor.  Soon your energy level will drop and your enthusiasm will wane.  You will start to run out of steam before your task is complete.  This by the way happens with all habits we either try to make or break.  De-cluttering your life is entirely about changing habits.  Changing how you view possesions, changing how you clean,think,live,spend,save,study,write,work,play.  So with all this change how do you stay motivated and energized to stick with your commitments of life change?

Begin small

Take your task at hand and break it into very small managable tasks.  If your goal is to declutter your house.  In the beggining you will be a whirlwind running from room to room trying to get all the clutter out.   Use this energy for sure but when the energy wanes?  Pick a small drawer in the house and choose to clean just that one drawer out.  It wont suck your energy and it will still move you toward your goal.  If you start with small tasks eventually they start to add up.  Leading you to the completion of your task. 

Starting small also allows you to easily work on the habit you are trying to form.  It takes a month of repetitive effort in order to change a habit.  So if you can do something small everyday to help you form your habit.   Eventually you will not even think of the new habit as effort.  It will be ingrained into your phsyche.

I have been trying to figure out the direction this blog is going, and have frozen in my tracks.   In the beggining words flowed easily and ideas for posts were pouring out.   I am now stuck in my own mind trying to create the perfect post.  Using my own advice to unstick myself I posted this article.  A small blurb that  unlocked my mind and is getting  me closer to the goal I have, to build the habit of posting regularly, and help others with my writing.  It really works I started this post with only the title, Begin Small , look what happened I now have a blog post to share with you.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, productivity | , , , , | 1 Comment

A small switch in thinking

In life where you focus your energy seems to enlarge itself.  Rhonda Byrne, from where I get my inspiration for this post, in her book, “The Secret” tells us that the universe returns to you what you put out into it.  That what you think about and invest your mental energy in the universe moves, people, places and events in order to fullfill your focus. 

Why is this “secret” important?

I will use my own experience as an example:

Imagine being buried under a mountain of debt and the only thing that you can think about is your debt.  How to get rid of it, being ashamed of it, wondering what happened to get yourself in this mess?  It can be overwhelming.  There are in fact many strategies to use and many books written on the subject of personal finace that we can talk about later for the sake of this post I would like to keep it to my own experience in trying to use “The Secret”. 

I happened to be thinking about my debt one day when I realized “what if all my focusing on my debt is only increasing situations where I may have to stay in debt”.  I made a point to change my thinking from always wondering how to get out of debt, into thinking about Saving, how to save, automated savings, what to save.  As well as income, How to generate more, what I could sell, what services I could offer.  A strange thing is beginning to happen.  I now have more cash in savings than any point in my life!  This only after a few months of changing my focus from Debt, (which I believe is a scarcity mentality) to Saving and Earning, (which is an abundance mentality).  I have been able to sell,donate several things around the house as well as earn top bonuses  and monetary awards in my carreer.  And you know what?  I believe you can as well.  Focusing on abundance remove barriers from your mind and opens new possiblitys instead of thinking “I can’t” you beging to think “How can I?”

September 9, 2010 Posted by | Personal Finance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is responsible for you?

We humans, each of us individually are  ultimatley responsible for our own well being and financial future.  It is not the resposibility of our family, employer, or government to take care of us.  Each of us need to take talk up the yolk and educate ourselves daily to improve the skills that will support us in life.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, Personal Finance | , , , , | 1 Comment

What motivates the move to a simpler lifestyle

Why would anyone on earth want to have less stuff?  Media tells us to keep up with the latest trend or you will be uncool.  Buy the new sportscar, ipad, designer clothing, atv you name it.   We are bombarded by marketing daily letting us know how we should spend our time and money.  You know why they do it?

Because Time and Money are assets of ours they would like to be in possesion of.  Apple computers does not care if buying the new gadget they came up with will benefit you or not.  They only care that they get a strong enough message across to make you think that it would benefit you.  If they can get you to think that it would benefit you they can charge a handsome price to be in possesion of their gadget.  It works similar across all goods and service providers trying to separate you from your time and money. 

If time an money are assets we control why would we not use them to create the dream lifestyle we have always wanted.  NO not more possesions.  Take an introspective look at find out what your motivations are.  Here are the reasons I want to live a simpler life.

1 I want to be free to enjoy anything I want

2 I want to be able to spend time with my family

3 I want an uncluttered house,mind,life

4 I want to be the sole master of my destiny

5 I want to vacation to new places spending as much time as I want there

6 I want experiences that fulfill not possesions that drain

7 I want to be healthier

8 I want to follow my kids in their activities

9 I want Freedom to choose how I spend my time

10 I want to make my wife the happiest woman in the world

11 I want to share my ideas with the world

Some of these seem redundant but it was a quick list I scribed as reasons I want to live simpler.  They all boil down to a few key areas. 

Freedom

Family

Fun  

Working the 9-5 grind or as in management the 24-7 there is an absence of time to fullfill your desires you are constantly interuppted or forced to stay in “cell range” to be able to fight fires as they arise.  It is a great tool to use to be able to get ourselves out of the corner we have bought ourselves into but we must persevere to find new avenues of income.   How can we ever begin to think of taking a month long vacation to a desert island when our corporate structure alots you a mere few days a year vacation time. 

Commitments to others to do things can be another way we chain ourselves down.  If we are busy running around for others using our time to do tasks for them, how can we ever be free to choose what we would like to do.  We must limit our commitments to others and take serious the commitments we make to ourselves and family the rest of the world be damned.

Possesions keep us right where they want us to be.  The more you own the more “it” actually owns you.  You are constantly worried not losing what you have and gaining more.  this creates a scarcity mentality.  Go through your possesions and give/sell them all but the neccesities.  this will create an abundance mentallity and the universe will reward you with more abundance. 

Enough for now I am going to test my theories by decluttering my closet i will limit myself to the essential and list why.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | minimalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Focus on what matters

I just finished reading Leo Babuata’s book “less is more” I find several interesting points he makes that goes along with my brain change I am trying to go through now.  Leo comments that one of the reasons that people fail to meet their goals when taking on a new habit change is that they take on too much too soon.  Leo suggests that we have major lifechanging goals and then create mini goals as well as mini task to get these goals done.  For instance.  Ill take my goal for example of being 220 lbs this is currently a 25 lb weight loss goal.  A mini goals would be to lose 2 lbs a week until reached or too eat healthier to help the process along.  A task you could do daily then to reach your mini goals would be to exercise 15 mins a day. or to cut 200 calories out of your diet.   I knew I was taking a hard approach when I decided to complete every goal I had within a month.  Decluttering House, Quitting Smoking, New Diet, Exercising.  So what I have done now is simply start small with things.  I am going to track my diet habits with myfitnesspal.com it is a great website to set up a goal weight and then simply enter in the food you eat as your eating it throughout the day and keeping a log. 

Decluttering:

Latest projects decluttered have been. 

Filing Cabinet ( Tossed just about everything in there when you stopped to think will I actually need this the answer was mostly no.) We had tons of old phone bills, power bills, just flotsam floating around in that cabinet I am relieved it is straight now.

Work Desk.  I got this monster decluttered and set up a filing system in the drawer next to me it does make work flow much quicker when everything I need to file or from my file is arranged and at hand.

Back Room Our house has little storage space in it so we had let junk pile up in my office space in the back room for years it was great to start putting to bed these items that have just caused untidyness in our house forever.

Bathroom painted: My wife came home one night and we (mostly her) taped off and painted the kids bathroom.  It is so much nicer to be in freshly painted rooms.

With all that we are doing a little chunk at a time we are slowly making progress to get our house to a respectable level of clutter there are a few major rooms left that we need to do.

I would eventually like to create a possesion list and limit our wordly possesions to what is on the list only being able to acquire something when we donate or sell something else.  I am not sure how big to make this list yet I have seen some minimalists publish 100 item lists.  I think that is way too small for us at this point and would be a shock to the system.  As soon as our house gets more organized I will build a list of all our possesions.  We can then chip away from there.

August 30, 2010 Posted by | minimalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncluttered Bathroom

Spent an hour tonight with my wife cleaning out the bathroom drawers and cupboards.  we threw away 3 garbage bags full of stuff.  Today I also purchased new towels for ours and the kids bathrooms.  We will be keeping only 4 towels per bathroom, tossing the rest of the old towels.  Items that I have decided to keep and the only things left in our bathroom are as follows.

Toilet paper, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Shaving Cream, Razor, Deodorant, 4 towels, Blow Dryer, Curling Irons, assorted make up (she tossed a bunch), Mouthwash, Beard and Mustache Trimmer, Hair Clippers, Soap Supply, Shampoo, Conditioner, Cleaning supplies under the sink – All purpose cleanser, furniture polish, toilet cleaner, soap scum cleaner, Travel bag (for toiletries when I travel), Diabetes test kit, Thermometer, Contact solution/container.

When you write it down like this it sure does seem like a lot of stuff we need to be comfortable.  I imagine I could go caveman and do away with the smell nice stuff but I sure am not ready to become Uber minimalist yet. 

My wife and I also bought new bed sheets today and tossed all others we have not used that have been sitting in closets.  We purchased two new pillows for our bed and threw away the 4-5 pillows that have been lingering around our bedroom.

My battle with nicotine addiction is not nearly over.  I gained 10 lbs since quitting last monday and I broke over the weekend buying a pack and then another and another.  So now I am overweight again and a smoker.  I know this is not going to be an easy process but I am going to systematically beat down all the clutter and distraction in my life and make better choices.  Limiting myself to what is truly important and tossing the rest out the window.  I think that Mental toughness comes by in part by reducing how much your mind is having to deal with at a given moment.  The more you can trim away the fat and get to the meat of the issue to larger you intesity and focus becomes on resolving that issue.

August 23, 2010 Posted by | decluttering, minimalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cleaning House

I set up my auto savings today an additional $50 every two weeks will be deposited for quitting nicotine.  Just saying the word nicotine or tobacco or smokes or chew is enough to make you want to say Hell with it one wont hurt.  It is amazing how addictive the substance is to actually make you talk to yourself in third person rationalizing that it is ok to do it.  It may also be another entity but that would be for another post.  

Began cleaning my office throwing away perfectly good crap that I will never use.   It is very hard dissecting what I absolutely will need.  In the back of my mind I am still hearing dont throw that away you may use it someday.  I am having to forcefully make myself to throw stuff out.  I am going to have to make several passes at this cause I still find my desk stacked up with a bunch of stuff. 

I have not started my list of essential items that I would like to keep my life in possesion of.   I do not know if I am ready to limit my life to a few  possesions that I really need to live.  I have a lot of sentimental items that i would not know what to do with.  Guns, knives, cards.  What do we do with these items?  I know they are not essential to life but isnt the point of life to get experiences? If you have a card your father wrote to you and it makes you feel good when you read it, do you keep it? Or toss it because it wont benefit you.   I must think deeper on this issue to see if I really want to become a minimalist.  I dont want to do it for the environment but im sure it will help.  I want to do it for the  freedom it could bring not being chained to items.

Mortgage, Car payments, Credit Cards these are all opposed to reducing mental anguish in your life and can only increase stress.  I have found that focusing on these things only magnify their importance therefore magnifying the problem you have yourself in with Debt.

I am now focused on building savings.  As I focus on depositing money into my savings account for some reason I seem to have more money to deposit.  For those of you who have read “The Secret” you know why this may be happening.

For now more passes on ridding clutter, actually doing exercise, eating healthy are top on my agenda for the next few days.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | decluttering, minimalism, Personal Finance | , , , , | 3 Comments

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