The New Years Resolution that made me rich [spoiler alert: it’s not what you think]

The New Years Resolution that made me rich [spoiler alert: it’s not what you think]

Two years ago, I made a New Years Resolution that changed my life. Of all the goals you may be thinking of setting for 2020, I hope you will give this one a try.

To be perfectly transparent, this resolution didn’t actually change my finances at all, but what it DID do was change my PERSPECTIVE of my money. And, let me tell you, perspective is EVERYTHING. Even though I didn’t necessarily have more money at the end of the year [in fact, I probably had less], for the first time in my life, I felt really frickin’ rich.

My resolution was this:

I resolve to give money EVERY TIME ANYONE ASKS.

For the entire year of 2018, I gave money to every person holding a sign on the side of the road, every kid selling candy outside of a store, every collection bucket at an intersection, every additional dollar at the grocery check-out, every mailer requesting donations, every email asking for money, every heartbreaking commercial that I always used to ignore. I never kept track of any of it, so I have no idea how much this actually amounted to over the year, but, honestly, I haven’t missed any of that money and no matter how much it was, it was worth trading it all for the change it made in me.

To be honest, it was a huge relief. I didn’t have to endure that awkward feeling of trying to not make eye contact with whoever might be asking for money. I didn’t have to think about whether this person was “worthy.” I didn’t have to ask myself whether this was a “good cause.” I didn’t bother researching organizations to find out what percentage of their funds goes to administration costs or look up what the CEO makes. I didn’t pass any judgements or make any assumptions. I didn’t even ask myself if I could afford it [trust me, asking if you can afford it is the first step to finding an excuse]. I just said “yes.” Every time.

One time Brett and I were watching a Netflix comedy special without realizing that there would be a legit appeal for donations at the end…so, guess what. We are now proud supporters of Seth Rogen’s Alzheimer’s foundation called Hilarity for Charity.

Another time, Brett and I were on vacation in Baltimore when a woman came to us asking for five dollars. She told us a long story about why she needed the money and though we didn’t find it very convincing, her reason didn’t matter to me. All that mattered to me was that she needed money and I have plenty to share. We only had $20 bills on us at the time so I gave her one and wished her luck.

Now, I know what some people would say [because people have literally said these things to me]. “She’s just going to buy drugs.” “She is probably a professional beggar making $70k a year.” “You are not helping her, you are just enabling her.” “She doesn’t need a hand-out, she needs a job.” Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Trust me. I’ve heard it all. I was raised with the idea that the only safe, respectable place to give your money is to the church [so they can pay their bills and salaries and then use what’s left for ministering to their church members – am I stepping on toes yet?]. But I wanted to cut out the middle man and give to the needy. Even though my upbringing taught me that you can’t just give money to anyone, it failed to teach me the most important lesson:

Giving is just as much for the giver as it is for the recipient.

Giving money away at every opportunity is something that I do because it is right and good AND because it changes ME.

Giving teaches me to stop holding so tightly to my stuff, to let go of my reliance on my financial security, to live a little more by faith. Giving reminds me that I am blessed, that I was born into privilege, that I am no better than any other human being, and that everyone will face struggles and hard times and I can show simple, tangible love for my fellow humans by reaching into my wallet and giving [literal cold, hard cash] from my heart.

I have no right to pass judgements or make assumptions about the needs or intentions of others – because I am not god.

So many people try to play god, saying “don’t give money to that person because they will probably spend it on drugs or alcohol,” or “don’t give money to that organization because you don’t know if they will use it responsibly.”

But wait.

Who are we to decide who is worthy of charity?

How are we to know who is “deserving” of our kindness and love? Why do we think WE are qualified to decide who should get money and who shouldn’t? Because we are the ones who have the money? Because we were born into a more privileged situation? Because we were taught the virtues of hard work and money management? Because we had parents who loved us and taught us these things? Does that make it okay for us to pass judgements on them? Or to even view it as an “us” and “them” situation?

We are ALL “US.” We are one big collective group of human beings – unique and diverse except for the unifying fact that we are ALL trying to find our way in the world. And it doesn’t hurt for those of us who are the most privileged to show a little more compassion, to give a little more and to judge a little less.

I like to leave the judging to god. After all, it is impossible for me to know a person’s entire life story from a sign on the side of the road, so I choose to let the universe handle all that stuff and I just do my part, which is give.

And if you believe the Bible, then I think you will agree that Jesus didn’t ask people to give only to those who have been fully vetted or who are completely worthy or who have never made mistakes or who will use the money the wisest. I’m pretty sure he just said to give to people who had needs. That’s the only qualifier. That they have needs.

My job is just to give.

This past year, I didn’t need to make the resolution again because I had already developed a habit. Now, the new resolution is to give more each year than I did the year before.

Truthfully, I have never felt richer.

❤️❤️❤️

Karis

Why I Choose Minimalism

Why I Choose Minimalism

It took me almost 30 years to fully recognize and acknowledge that I was born into privilege – and for the past two years, I’ve struggled with what my responsibility to the world is as a result. The answer, in part, is minimalism.

But first, let me back up and explain…

I was born into a white, middle-class, American family. For most of my childhood, my father was a pastor of a large church in Flint, Michigan. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. I have four siblings. My parents loved us and provided a wonderful life – full of family time, vacations, extra-curricular activities, medical care, a beautiful home, all the food we could eat, gifts at Christmas and birthdays, private education, help with paying for college, even braces for all five of us. Basically, we had everything we could possibly need provided for us. There were also intangibles like all the words of affirmation, hugs and kisses, training in important life principles like money management, hard work, perseverance, and kindness.

I enjoyed one of the most privileged lives a human being can have in this world – filled with safety, security, health and love.

And man, did I take it for granted…

Despite how great my life was, I spent most of my growing up years saying that we “weren’t rich.” I have literally said that countless times. I guess I thought my parents weren’t wealthy because we didn’t drive expensive cars or wear name brands clothes or eat at expensive restaurants like some of my friends did.

Then as an adult, I had the same perspectivethat I wasn’t wealthy despite living a life of total luxury where I wanted for nothing. Yeah, I still don’t drive expensive cars or book vacations at Disney World and we live on one income in a wealthy Chicago suburb – but I will never again be foolish enough to think I’m not wealthy.

Why is it that the American middle class is so set on denying their own wealth? Everyone is looking at the small percentage of people wealthier than themselves, rather than the 3 billion people less fortunate. When I switched my perspective to intentionally noticing all the needs in the world, I became more and more aware of my own wealth.

What is more, I had to acknowledge that I hadn’t done anything to deserve being born into the family that I did – any more than those born in difficult situations deserved their lot in life.

This caused me a lot of guilt.

But guilt that produced action. Because I no longer felt that it was acceptable for me to live only for myself and my family.

But I was also very conflicted. On the one hand, I want to enjoy a comfortable life and provide nice things for my kids – but on the other hand, how do I justify spending all of my resources taking care of myself and my family when people are literally dying from preventable causes around the world? And what exactly constitutes “taking care of my family”? Where is the line between “needs” and “wants” in this consumerist society?

I began to struggle to justify any purchases outside of legit needs like food and medical expenses for my family. I feel guilty buying another shirt when my closet is already full of shirts that I don’t even wear. I feel guilty buying a fancy appliance for my kitchen when some simple elbow grease will do the job. I feel guilty throwing out food because I “didn’t feel like eating it,” when people go hungry all the time in this world. How can I spend $50 on decorative throw pillows for my couch when I know that I could pay for two months of education, food and medical care for a child in Uganda at that price?

The natural result was minimalism.

Minimalism, to me, means living with less, so I can give more.

Many people consider minimalism to be “extreme,” but it’s not. The materialism in America is extreme. The way we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that we’re not rich is extreme. Minimalism is just the natural byproduct of recognizing our wealth and privilege in comparison to the rest of the world.

Minimalism has freed us from materialism and a love of money and has freed us to prioritize things that matter the most to us – family, travel, and most importantly, giving to causes and organizations that are working towards a better world for all of us.

For me, minimalism was my path to a more intentional, fulfilling life. But it may not be the answer for everyone.

The big question is not “are you a minimalist?” but “what are you doing to change the world?”

🌎 🌍 🌎

Karis

April Clothing Donation

April Clothing Donation

April was the final month of my year-long commitment to donate twenty-six items of clothing from my wardrobe each month.

Here are the results for the year:

Clothing items donated: 323 (gave some extra a few times)

Clothing items acquired: 5 (2 gifts, 1 work uniform, 2 race shirts)

Clothing items purchased: 0 (bought no clothes at all – not for me or my kids. My husband did buy some clothes for work and bought me one of the above mentioned gifts)

[The shopping ban officially ends at the end of May on my 32nd birthday, but I’ll talk more about that then.]

The conclusion of this challenge [or experiment or whatever you want to call it] has come at the perfect time – right before I give birth to my fourth and final baby. So, on one hand, I am still holding on to some larger sizes that I will be able to permanently get rid of as soon as I shrink out of them AND a wealth of maternity clothes that I am anxious to find a good home for – possibly with a local pregnancy center. But, on the other hand, it has allowed me to clear out my wardrobe before the newborn craziness begins and my priorities switch once again to meeting the constant needs of the baby. Couldn’t have timed it better if I tried, quite honestly.

Soon I’ll be sharing my favorite ethical clothing brands that I plan to support in he future – in the absence of used clothing options.

👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

What are your favorite ethical clothing brands?

Karis

March Clothing Donation

March Clothing Donation

It has been ten months since I committed to one year without buying any clothes and to donating 26 clothing items per month – my self-imposed clothing ban.

Since then, I have not bought any clothing for myself or my kids [though my husband did buy me a sweater a few months ago] and I have donated 297 items of clothing from my wardrobe.

And I still don’t need any new clothes.

In fact, I feel like I still have an excessive amount of clothes – but, after I have this baby, I will be able to give away all of my maternity clothes and, after I get back to my regular size, I will be able to give away all my postpartum stuff as well. That will probably cut my wardrobe in half – again.

Last year, I heard about fast fashion for the first time when I watched the documentary The True Cost, which highlights many of the ways that fast fashion hurts not only our planet but people all over the world.

“It’s no secret that fast fashion has been responsible for a catastrophic level of environmental pollution. The trifecta of overt use of raw materials, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are only a part of the story. Not only is this circular buy, wear and toss behavior impacting landfills and becoming a major carbon contributor, but that may not be the worst of it. Fast fashion has played a very dark role in contributing to black-market trafficking of forced labor, as evidenced in the New York Times documentary, Invisible Hands, by journalist Shraysi Tandon.” – Forbes (read the article here)

I honestly had never considered how my “buy, wear, and toss” consumer mentality towards clothes [and all products] was affecting the world around me.

And it IS affecting the world. The only question was, did I care enough to change my spending habits? Hence the clothing ban.

This clothing ban has left me permanently changed. It may be over in May, but I will never be able to go back to my old ways of spending money.

Once again, if you haven’t watched The True Cost, DO IT!

Karis

Are you using AmazonSmile?

Are you using AmazonSmile?

Nowadays, everyone seems to shop Amazon…for pretty much everything. So, I’m just making sure that everyone is using AmazonSmile for their purchases.

AmazonSmile is the same Amazon we know and love, but is found at a different url: smile.amazon.com

Just log in with your regular account information, choose a charity, and place your order – then Amazon will donate .5% of the purchase price to your charity [eligible purchases only – but I haven’t even come across any items that don’t qualify yet].

I added a quick link to my phone’s homepage so that I am certain to make all my purchases through AmazonSmile.

Here are the instructions for you to do the same:

To be clear, .5% is not much. I don’t spend that much on Amazon, and I’ve been spending less and less as time goes on, but if I’m going to order something, my charity might as well get a little kickback. As it says below, “every little bit helps.” Over the course of time and with everyone using it, the amount of money can be significant.

Here’s my impact since I started:

Ok, so $13.67 seems a little underwhelming, but that’s $13.67 that wouldn’t have gone to this charity and I didn’t have to do anything other than make my regular purchases through smile.amazon.com.

So, why not?

Please, please, please tell me you are already using AmazonSmile! And what charity do you support?

Happy Smiling!

😀 😀 😀

Karis

November & December Clothing Donation

November & December Clothing Donation

Last month I didn’t gather the required 26 wardrobe pieces for donation mostly because I wasn’t doing much of anything in November due to debilitating morning sickness [and a general feeling of laziness]. So this month I have a pile of 52 clothing items from my closet that will be donated or recycled [depending on their condition].

I’ve now gotten rid of 208 pieces of clothing that I don’t need. I started with 486, which means I have almost cut my wardrobe in half.

And, after 8 months, I still have not bought a single item of clothing for myself. [I did buy a pair of socks for each of my kids’ Christmas stockings…]

In a few more months I plan to move all of my remaining clothes into my closet drawers and get rid of my ginormous dresser altogether, which will make our room feel so much bigger [and also provide a space for our pet, Petunia the Python, to live].

Cheers.

[I was up til 1am binging the entire Body Guard series on Netflix last night. Between that and The Great British Baking Show, I find myself using great British words like gobsmacked, bloke, dodgy, and – best of all – cheers! 🥂]

Karis

October Clothing Donation

October Clothing Donation

October marks the halfway point in my clothing ban. In the past six months, I haven’t purchased a single item of clothing [though I did acquire two new shirts for the marathon which were included with my entry – one from the race and one from the charity I ran with] and I have donated 156 items from my wardrobe to local charities.

We’ve also been through round one of decluttering our home. I’ve been through the entire house now and gotten rid of the surface level clutter – the easy stuff. But I know there are many rounds ahead. I’ve already been through three rounds on my book collection and two rounds on the toys and six rounds on my tank top collection – and I know there is still a lot more to free myself from in the future.

This month, since it is now fall and definitely, without a doubt, past tank top weather, I am donating every tank top that I did not wear all summer long. I probably mentioned before that tank tops are apparently my favorite piece of clothing because I used to own 57 pieces [!!!] – the biggest line item in my clothing inventory last May. I’ve weaned it down now to twenty, but really, I don’t need more than seven [for crying out loud].

So, it may be a few more rounds for the tank tops.

I also began setting aside everything I thought about wearing, but chose not to for whatever reason. Throughout the month there were several times when I put something on and stood in front of the mirror and had to ask myself if I actually wanted to wear it – or worse, asked my husband whether it was ok to wear. Each time, I immediately put it in the donate pile. If I’m wasting time wondering if I like it or if it fits or if it’s flattering … then, no. Buh-bye.

I am also getting rid of some socks and tights and underwear that I know I will never wear.

This process of weaning down my wardrobe has been very effective. Each month I have to make slightly tougher choices…but only slightly. I’m still working through a lot of excess.

So, don’t worry if you feel like you could never cut down your wardrobe. Just start with one thing. Just put one thing in the donate pile. Do it in waves. First get rid of all the easy stuff. Then come back and re-examine. Then get rid of the emotional stuff. Then come back again … and again until you’ve got only stuff you love and feel good about and actually need.

I’ve read in several books that a clean sweep is the best way to declutter. Collect everything of like type in your entire home and then after examining each individual thing, narrow it down to your favorite, say, 10% and get rid of the rest. But, for me, I have found that doing it in waves is more practical and much easier.

It’s hard to slash your belongings by 90% overnight. I don’t doubt that it’s possible, but I don’t think I could do it that way. I prefer to gradually free myself from belongings and then examine myself and realize that the more I let go, the less I need the stuff that remains, and then I cycle through again. In this way, I’m changing myself and not just the amount of stuff I own.

I am continually learning how little I need in this life to be happy and fulfilled – especially when it comes to clothing.

Karis