10 Things I Learned This Summer

On Wednesday, the school year starts for the ThreeYears. The Junior ThreeYears start fifth and second grades and I return to my two school districts to teach ESL.

This is the second year that I’ve been off in the summer. We spent part of it on an epic road trip, then spent the rest of the summer enjoying how beautiful New Hampshire is in August.

10 Things I Learned this Summer--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I didn’t work this summer. Aside from writing blog posts 2-3 times per week, I did not write or do freelance work. I did not take online classes for my master’s. I just took care of my kids (ok, that is admittedly work, and a lot of it. But I didn’t do other work).

We had lots of beautiful time at the beach, the lake, and at home to hang out. I wasn’t particularly good at making the kids keep up with reading or math, or any other schoolwork. They mostly played. We used a lot of the strategies I wrote about here to keep ourselves occupied.

I tried to rest as much as possible, and think. I read a lot of books. I watched some TV. I wrote in my journal, something that’s gotten short shift since I started this blog. I followed links I read about on other blog posts.

Here are ten things I learned, or learned about, this summer, that I thought I’d share:

1. Quitting Social Media is Possible.

I watched this TED talk by Dr. Cal Newport, then read his book, Deep Work. This guy is not on social media, and he’s young. But he’s rejected it his whole life. He says the three common objections that people have for quitting are not true objections: it’s a fundamental technology. No it’s not, he says. It’s a form of entertainment that is addictive. It’s vital to my success as an entrepreneur, etc. Actually, he argues, doing work that is thoughtful and profound is rare and valuable in this day and age. And you can only do that type of work by shutting down distractions. What’s the harm? It’s no big deal if I’m on FB/Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat/etc. It’s more harmful than you think, he argues, as these technologies are designed to be addictive, and as you spend a larger and larger portion of your day on social media, your attention becomes more and more fragmented and you permanently lose your ability to sustain attention.  Continue reading “10 Things I Learned This Summer”

What Money Can’t Buy

Last week, the boys and I returned back to New Hampshire from a month-long road trip in the Southeastern US. The Junior ThreeYears and I had taken our trusty Prius down to North and South Carolina to visit family, go to the beach, and soak up the sun and humidity. I find that when I get Southern heat and humidity a bit in the summer, winters in New England are easier to get through. To me, it never gets hot enough for long enough here. I need the “walk out into a sauna” experience to feel like I’ve truly had a summer.

What Money Can't Buy--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We were on our way from the coast of South Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit my sister, on a busy stretch of interstate near Columbia, the state capital. It was around ten in the morning on a Monday, and traffic was heavy.

Up until then, we’d had almost two full summers of uneventful road travel. Everything had gone just swimmingly. But luck was against us that morning. I was in the left hand lane, and was completely surrounded by fast-moving eighteen-wheelers and cars. Suddenly, right in front of me, I saw a piece of tire that had come off of a semi–they’re called road gators in trucker parlance–and I realized there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I thought about veering left, but there was no shoulder on the road. I couldn’t get over to the right, because I was hemmed in. I slowed down as much as I could so that the huge truck beside me wouldn’t plow into me, and ran over the piece of tire. Continue reading “What Money Can’t Buy”

How to Create Beautiful, Frugal Flower Gardens

Do you love to garden? Is Spring your favorite time of year, when the flowers start blooming and there’s color bursting out of every bed?

I absolutely love to create flower gardens. I also know I could spend a small fortune buying plants and shrubs to create the perfect landscape around our house.

Flowers--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Since our family is on a three year journey to double our net worth and become location independent, it’s not a priority to spend a lot of money on landscaping when we’ll be selling our home soon. But I love to constantly improve our gardens and so, have learned to save lots of money but still create beautiful flower beds.

Continue reading “How to Create Beautiful, Frugal Flower Gardens”

The Paradoxical Problem of Choice

In this great big world of ours, we have many options. We could live virtually anywhere. So why don’t we? Why is it that we get trapped in a city we don’t really care for, doing a job that’s not our favorite, fulfilling the expectations that society has for us, but that aren’t our own?

Choice--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I have a friend who’s lived all over the world. She has lived on four continents in the fifteen years that I’ve known her. And yet even she and her family are debating where to live next, now that she’s tied to a job in Europe when their home was in Asia. Should they stay in Asia? Should they move to Europe? What would be best for her husband’s business? What would be best for their daughter?

Tons has been written about decision fatigue, busyness,  and the lack of focus associated with always being connected to the internet. 

We know that too many options, in whatever form they take, produce paralysis. Continue reading “The Paradoxical Problem of Choice”

Can You Shop Zero Waste and Be Frugal?

I discovered the Zero Waste movement, like so many others, when I stumbled on Béa Johnson’s blog, Zero Waste Home. Zero Wasters try to purchase and create as little trash as possible. People like Bea, who really originated the movement, get so good at it they can put all of the trash they generate in a year in a mason jar–everything else is refused, reused,reduced, recycled, or rotted, in that order.

The movement is super inspiring. Paying attention to how much trash you purchase and/or generate gets you thinking about how much waste we, as a society, generate. Zero wasters freely admit that for most people, creating no trash is really hard, if not impossible. The idea is to reduce as much as possible the amount of trash you create, to really think about what you purchase and be creative about ways of buying stuff with less packaging.

The biggest place you can make a difference in the amount of waste you make is at the grocery store.

Continue reading “Can You Shop Zero Waste and Be Frugal?”

Semi-Minimalist Home

love minimalism. I discovered Becoming Minimalist and The Minimalists about three years ago. I started my minimalist journey with Courtney Carver, of Project 333, and used thirty-three items of clothes per quarter, for about a year. At the same time, I started cleaning out our house, getting rid of things we no longer needed.

During one January break, when we were snowed in, I tackled about twenty boxes of books that had been stored in various basements since my college days. I curated my collection, keeping maybe thirty tomes, and giving the rest to charity. I read Marie Kondo last year, and Konmaried the rest of my house.

While The Minimalists recommend a more radical approach of boxing up everything you own, and then only pulling out the things you need as you need them, my own more measured approach worked better for me and our family.

I think it would have been very hard for my boys to suddenly have nothing in their rooms and have to go dig out the toys they wanted. This way, I’ve slowly boxed up things they don’t play with anymore, and I store those in a big Tupperware bin in our storage closet. If the boys don’t ask for any of the toys inside for six months (and they rarely do), then I donate them to charity.

Continue reading “Semi-Minimalist Home”