Tucked into the base of a mountain between a cypress forest and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mystras, Greece, Euphoria Retreat debuted as the first holistic spa concept of the country. Melding with nature, the four-story, 3,000-square-foot space gets its striking undulating look from DecaArchitecture, in collaboration with Natalia Efraimoglou & Partners, crafted with a results-driven destination spa in mind.
Housed within the minimalist structure are the spa’s reception, underground treatment and consultation rooms, as well as spaces for changing all dispersed throughout the elliptical spaces. Connected through catacomb-inspired corridors, the zen-like space is punctuated by three cylinders, with one of them opening to the sky and allowing natural light to penetrate the area.
Up a spiral staircase are private treatment rooms in monastic-like chambers. The indoor pool offers a tranquil ambiance with spherical cut-outs and archways, which allow guests to access from various entrance points, while the main floor’s design is reminiscent of a mechanical clock’s gears.
“The freedom on the other side of our stuff makes us truly euphoric!” That’s the phrase minimalist Amy Rutherford, 51, of Parker, Colo., uses to describe the feeling of joy she and her husband Tim, 52, now enjoy after getting rid of most of their possessions.
Here’s how she and a few others have embraced minimalism, and their advice for people who’d like to do the same.
The Rutherfords: Downsizing, Donating and Selling
Amy Rutherford, who writes about early retirement on her website GoWithLess.com, is the first to admit that the journey with her husband to minimize, retire early and travel the world wasn’t always easy. But the couple, who’d both spent their careers in corporate sales, didn’t jump into the deep end all at once, either. Instead, theirs was a series of well-calculated baby steps.
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First, the Rutherfords sold their 6,000 square-foot home in Parker and moved into a rental townhouse they owned in the same town. The new place was less than one-third the size (1,800 square feet).
Next came the major downsizing tasks.
“We made a purposeful choice to have less stuff,” Amy Rutherford says. The couple began by donating carloads of items to Goodwill and selling furniture on Craigslist for pennies on the dollar.
Instead of feeling deprived or missing the things they gave or sold, the Rutherfords say their new home has felt cozy and welcoming. “To us, physical clutter equaled mental clutter,” says Amy Rutherford. “Our collective things needed to be insured, maintained, repaired and cleaned. Opting to downsize provided us with a wider range of life choices.”
Four years ago, the couple sold their big house as well and said goodbye to their careers, retiring in their late 40s. And they have no regrets about the choice. In fact, Amy Rutherford gushes that “the past four years have been the best of our lives.”
The money the couple has saved by downsizing has also been impressive.
Amy Rutherford says that in their “past life,” they spent an average of $115,000 per year. The biggest chunk went toward their home: mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and other costs. Now, they spend roughly $36,000 per year — and that includes more than 100 days of annual travel.
“Our intention wasn’t to cut $6,500 a month from our spending,” Amy Rutherford explains. “We just paid attention to where our money was going. Then we thought about ways to reduce or eliminate. Some categories went up — travel and health. Dining and entertainment went down significantly. Those were our splurges in the past.”
Minimalism has played such a big role in helping the Rutherfords enjoy retirement on their terms that they’ve decided to make another big purge and sell their townhouse. “This time around, we’re getting rid of things that are a little harder…our bikes, my KitchenAid mixer, Tim’s tools,” says Amy Rutherford.
But she has been surprised once again: “With our goal in mind, it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”
Anne Chapple: ‘Toward a Simpler Life’
Another grateful minimalist: Anne Chapple, 66. After more than 30 years as an English professor, she retired two years ago and lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. Chapple now writes as a lifestyle expert for the personal finance website, Money Done Right.
Chapple describes weeding out her possessions as “the first step toward a simpler life.” Inspired by famed declutterer Marie Kondo, when Chapple began her road to the minimalist life, she handled each possession in her home and kept only those that sparked joy. “If [it doesn’t spark joy],” Chapple explains, “then it’s time to find it a new home. Simple as that!”
But, Chapple says, the process took six months and “it was painful, no doubt about it.” A big reason: “I felt guilty about handing off things I’d owned for years, especially mementos given to me by friends and family.”
Chapple also found that getting rid of certain possessions was especially difficult. “I have long been a collector of books,” she explains. “Not all of them bring me joy, to be honest, but they are important to me. In the end, getting rid of my library was more than I could do. My books had come to define me, and I couldn’t part with them.”
Chapple discovered, however, that it was much easier to part with items like clothing, furniture and things she hadn’t touched for years.
She also learned a better method for parting with her unneeded items. “Gifting them to friends felt much better than selling or dumping them in the trash,” Chapple says.
Practicing minimalism, Chapple notes, made her transition into retirement easier. She feels few regrets after downsizing and strongly encourages others do try it before retiring.
“Shedding possessions and responsibilities lessens stress enormously and contributes to better health,” Chapple says. “If achieving better health while saving money doesn’t inspire those looking to their golden years, I don’t know what will.”
Riley Adams: Saving Time by Living the Minimalist Life
Riley Adams, a San Francisco-area based CPA and the millennial founder of YoungAndTheInvested, makes a living advising people how to achieve their financial independence and retirement goals. He and his wife also practice minimalism in their own lives.
Adams says that while many people focus on the money savings with minimalism, he suggests considering its potential to save time.
There’s “time saved from not shopping, from mental attention and time spent thinking of what you want to buy and from not needing to clean or maintain as many possessions,” he notes.
To embrace minimalism while preparing for retirement, Adams says, it’s important to “learn to be content with less.”
Remember, too, that it’s okay to move at your own speed. You might even join an online community of like-minded people for encouragement. You just may find that minimalism can be incredibly freeing — more than you might have ever believed possible.
Why is a raven like a writing desk? If you’d asked me the Mad Hatter’s riddle six months ago, the answer would’ve been straightforward: I don’t own either one of them.
It might seem silly that a person who writes for a living wouldn’t have a desk to write on. But on the days when I would work from home, I’d set up camp on my bed, sometimes slouching over my laptop, sometimes lying on my stomach, sometimes curled up on my side as if Leonardo DiCaprio were going to draw me in a movie. After I graduated from college, I put off buying myself a proper desk indefinitely, worried that I’d move and have to lug some clunky wooden monstrosity with me. But after years of my contortionist double act with my laptop, I finally decided that my spine and my dignity deserved better. It was time.
I had a lot of ideas going in about what kind of desk I didn’t want. I didn’t want a desk that would take up a lot of room. I didn’t want to spend a fortune. I didn’t want drawers or shelves, or frills of any kind. I just needed a hard, flat surface to write on, the kind of desk that Marie Kondo might look at and say, Marissa, you have truly mastered the art of simplicity, and also we are best friends now. If it wasn’t completely hideous, all the better. And I found exactly what I was looking for in the elegantly named Writing Computer Desk Modern Simple Study Desk Industrial Style Folding Laptop Table for Home Office Brown Notebook Desk by Coavas, which specializes—ironically, given that prolix description—in minimalist furniture.
I had never heard of Coavas before, but I was won over by their Amazon page, adorned as it is with hand clap emoji and exclamations of “tadaaa!” But despite the company’s promise that its products are as easy as “Unbox, Unfold & Ready,” I was skeptical that it could really be as simple as waving a wand or clicking a mouse. Amazon offers buyers the opportunity to buy “expert assembly” with furniture purchases—in this case, running more than the cost of desk itself—which made me further doubt the promise that I would only have to follow a single step to put the desk together.
I had no reason to worry: When the box arrived, it contained no screws, nothing hexagonal or octagonal, and no diagrams that require an engineering degree to decipher. The desk arrived in just two pieces: a lightweight tabletop and a base that ships flat and unfolds. It’s a snap—literally—to attach one to the other. I went from a person who didn’t own a desk to a person who did within five minutes.
That one-step assembly makes it just as easy to take the desk apart and stick it in a closet, giving it the convenience of a folding table, although it’s much sturdier, not to mention more stylish. Coavas has an entire line of super simple furniture to match—collapsible coffee tables and bookshelves that break down—but at just $60–65, the desk is the crown jewel of the collection, if the 1,500 Amazon reviewers who gave it five stars are any indication. One calls the setup so effortless that “my grandma could do it.”
I was so pleased with the purchase that the next day I showed a photo of the desk to co-workers like it was my newborn baby. Never has the statement “I put it together myself” been less impressive, and thank goodness for that. Now all I need is a raven.
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A couple of years ago as I strolled down a grocery store aisle, a young man approached me, smiling.
I immediately recognized him as a friend of one of my children from adolescent days. It took a second to remember his name, but when I did, I called him by that name as I shook his extended hand.
What was odd, however, is how he did not speak to me. When I asked him the routine “How are you?” — he pointed to his ears and raised his eyebrows.
He then spoke, but not to me. He was talking on his phone, listening through the tiny buds planted in his ears and speaking into a wire hanging around his neck. He then went on his way, still without speaking a word to me.
I felt embarrassed and awkward when he made it clear the conversation in which he was engaged on his phone trumped any he might have with me on the grocery store aisle.
I don’t even have the equipment to talk on my phone while walking around, but I made a mental note to myself: don’t ever do that.
Unfortunately, in our wired society, there are more opportunities than ever to forget good manners.
Topics such as this are addressed in an excellent book I recently read, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, by Cal Newport.
Newport is clear that technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. But he encourages users to make it work for them rather than the other way around.
I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but when this book came to my attention, I put my name on the list at the library to have it sent to my electronic reader (a part of my own digital life that I manage responsibly, thank you).
It was a couple of months before it showed up in my queue, and I had forgotten about it. When I got around to reading it, I was enlightened.
The book is divided into two parts. In Part 1 Newport explains the “philosophical underpinnings of digital minimalism” and the way digital products and devices have invaded our lives, often to the point of being intolerable. He ends Part 1 with the suggestion of a “digital declutter” in which a person steps away from what Newport calls “optional online activities” for 30 days.
At the end of that period, an evaluation is made, and the user decides what, if anything, he/she will reintroduce and at what level, based on how that technology supports something the user values.
In Part 2, Newport examines ideas and practices to make a life of digital minimalism sustainable, with references to Thoreau’s celebrated reflection on simple living, Walden.
He does not advocate extreme measures of going off the grid, living in the woods or turning off your electricity, nor is he preachy or condescending. He simply challenges readers of his book to consider, or reconsider, how they use technology and be honest with themselves about how it has affected their lives.
In many ways, before reading the book, I already considered myself a digital minimalist. As I mentioned last week, I don’t participate in social media, other than my sparse LinkedIn profile, which I will likely delete in the next year.
I’m already a voracious reader, a practice the author encourages in place of staring at screens.
I have a blog, which I started as an outlet for my writing a few years before I began writing this column. There are about a half-dozen folks with whom I interact there on occasion, and I enjoy it.
When I considered the author’s suggestion of a digital declutter, I decided LinkedIn and my blog were hardly a problem, as I’ll go days or weeks without looking at them.
What I knew I needed to do, if I wanted to follow his advice, was to take a break from browsing on the internet and watching YouTube videos.
As a news junkie, I developed a habit of glancing at news websites numerous times per day. One tends to lead to another, and another.
I also can become mesmerized through mindless, though harmless, entertainment, and I’ve become a fan of YouTube videos over the past couple of years.
Neither of these are necessarily bad things, but I wondered, if I abandoned each for a month, how I might feel about them after that break. So I took the challenge.
I don’t know that I would call it transformative, but after the break, I am done with browsing the news sites. I realized they did not enhance my life, nor my obtaining news for that matter, in any way.
But staying informed is something I value. I now get news primarily from The Tennessean (both digital and in print) and Brentwood Home Page.
In addition, I receive news alerts on my phone, which I can look at in a matter of seconds (when it’s appropriate and I’m not with someone, as I’ll discuss later). I also still occasionally watch TV news and listen to it on the radio when I’m in the car.
In the event one of the alerts that comes through my phone is something I want to explore further, I’ll do so. I’ve discovered this rarely happens.
As for the YouTube videos, I am allowing myself to watch sporadically but have dialed it way back. In line with Newport’s directive, relaxation is, in fact, something I value. I’ll use these videos for that purpose, similar to watching TV, but on a limited scale.
There were two other things I considered in my digital declutter: podcasts and the use of my phone in general, especially texting. I did not give these up for 30 days, but I thoughtfully considered my use of both.
I love podcasts, and I listen to them only when I’m driving. They are entertaining and informative, and if I have to be driving, I might as well engage my mind. So I’ve decided I’m OK in that regard.
As for the phone, I realized texting had gotten out of hand. I like it because, in general, I don’t like talking on the phone. When texting came around, I loved the way I could communicate without talking.
I am in a group text with my family and another with some college friends. I think it’s a great way to keep up with folks and share photos. Nothing wrong with that.
But I realized, ashamedly, that when I would feel that vibration or hear that “ding” from a text message, I would often stop whatever I was doing, even if I was with someone, to look at that text and sometimes, at that moment, respond.
Some family members were honest enough with me to confirm this. Sadly, this makes me no different from the guy in the grocery store. I’ve owned it and I’m making a change.
Also, I have realized a phone conversation is sometimes the best way to communicate. I have strings of text messages about topics that could have been covered in half the time with a simple phone call. I might not be good on the phone, but I’m a big boy and I can step it up.
With all of this, I have established standards for myself for phone usage. When I’m out to dinner with my wife or anyone else, the phone stays in the car or in my pocket.
The truth is I don’t get that many calls anyway, so this is largely inconsequential. But I certainly don’t have to take a call in a restaurant, and text messages can wait.
If my wife and I are having dinner at home, or simply watching TV together or reading at night, I’m keeping my phone in another room. Again, any calls and text messages can wait.
My phone is linked to my watch (in a very simple way, where I can see calls and texts but cannot respond). If a call or text comes in that is important (again, this is rare), I can quickly address it if I think I need to.
When I take a walk, I might have my phone in my pocket (I could fall, you know, and need to call for help), but I often leave it at home. When I go to the Y, I don’t take it in with me.
These are my standards, based on the evaluation I made after reading this book. Like Newport, I’m not being preachy and saying they should be yours. But if you want to reexamine your life a bit as it relates to the all things digital, I highly recommend Digital Minimalism.
After all, as the author says (and this is my favorite line from the book): “Humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him email@example.com.
When we think about a minimalist lifestyle most of us probably imagine clean, Insta worthy, white homes. Either that or empty, cold boxes.
Minimalism on Female First
My early impression of minimalism was that it was only for single people living in stylish city-centre apartments or Tiny Houses. It was something unattainable for someone living in a small town with a husband, three children and two cats.
However, the truth is a minimalist lifestyle can be whatever you want it to be. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, you just have to find a way to make it work for you and your life. It’s more about living with intention and thinking about what you bring into your life and why.
If you’re just starting out or thinking about it, these six tips will help you on your journey to living with less.
Involve the whole family
If like me you have more than just yourself to consider, the first step is to get the family involved. Explain what your plans are and why. When you start to declutter have them join in with the process. If you’re loved ones are hesitant to give up their things, leave them alone and concentrate on your own. When they see how much nicer it is living with less, they’ll be eager to join in.
Many people put off decluttering because the thought of doing the whole house is overwhelming, but if you start in one small corner you will have done the whole house before you know it. Choose one drawer or shelf and start there. Once it is clear, you will probably love it so much you will want to keep going.
Approach gift-giving gently
When you embrace a minimalist lifestyle gift-giving can become a tricky subject. The best way to approach this is to sit down with people and explain that while you don’t want more “stuff” you appreciate the thought and if they really want to get you something, get you an experience – preferably something you can enjoy together. Most people will appreciate that the best gift you can give is your time.
Wait 30 days before making a purchase
We live in a fast-moving world and are exposed to more advertising than ever before, so it’s unsurprising that as a society we purchase more than ever before. Many buy on impulse rather than need. A great rule of thumb wait 30 days before you purchase anything. Of course, if you break something and it needs to be replaced you might not be able to wait an entire month but look for alternatives first. Maybe you have something else that can do the job, or a friend has one that they aren’t using. You don’t always need to go out and buy something new.
Choose quality over quantity
Living a minimalist lifestyle isn’t an exercise in misery, there will be times when you want/ need new things. The key is to buy less but better-quality items that will last. Cheap, low quality “stuff” is bad for the environment and will probably need to be replaced sooner meaning you also spend more money in the long run. This can be applied to everything from shoes to furniture.
It sounds overly simplistic but the more grateful you are for what you have, the more likely you are to be content with it. Find joy in everything you own; if something doesn’t bring you joy, it doesn’t deserve a place in your home. The more we buy the more consumed we become with “stuff”. Whether we admit it or not that is never going to bring any kind of lasting happiness.
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