My recent journey with less
Being the driver of a Smart car can lead to a lot of questions: How much gas mileage do you get? Is it safe to drive? How do you fit anything in that thing???
The answer to all of the above: around 40 mi/gal; it is safe (feels like driving a sedan—you don't really notice the difference); and I gave away 99% of all the things I owned when I moved away from Oakland last July—so everything I own literally fits in the trunk area of that car.
The next question to understandably follow is: What is it like owning so few things?
The answer: pretty freaking great.
And I've realized a few take aways:
I already knew this, but now I *know* this in a much more intimate way: in America we live in a highly driven capitalist/materialist society.
I always considered myself a relatively frugal person, but now that my salary is crowdfunded, I am extra watchful. I have a strict policy of any time I need to buy something, I exchange it for something that is no longer useable. The last major personal material purchase I made was for a new pair of work flats back in October—the old ones were super worn out and needed to be replaced. So, goodbye to the old shoes and in with the new—and no added weight acquired.
It actually feels really good to be so mindful of my "spending power"—I've even noticed myself being more critical of print and media advertisements (e.g. Why are they trying to sell me this crap? Is there really a need for it?). I've started the practice of jotting down something I may need (that isn't an essential basic personal item/necessary office supply) and revisiting the list in a few weeks to see if I still really need that item. It's really helped me to think more methodically and deliberately about finances, which has strangely been more freeing even though I am on a super tight budget.
It also frees me up to think about other stuff.
Because the only significant material asset I possess is my car, I don't spend a lot of time caretaking any material possessions. (And when I do need to take care of my car, it feels strangely different from the rest of my routine because I virtually have no other material things I am overseeing.) I realllllly like the feel of having fewer material things to worry about so I can focus more about my work, personal life, etc.
I now think of myself as a minimalist and I don't think I'm going back.
How Minimalism Applies in the Legal Clinic Setting
I am still super digging working with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project (SFDP)—it has been so awesome to work with a friend/colleague (hi Allegra!) who has been so generous with her knowledge about running a badass nonprofit. I am definitely learning a lot and taking notes in preparation for my Virtual Law Office (VLO) launch later this year.
SFDP has some amazing and efficient systems that really help to maximize client impact (what it is all about). The organization runs a totally free weekly Friday legal clinic where immigrant youth can come in and initially apply or renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application.
I was stoked to be at the clinic all Friday afternoon volunteering, and was absolutely amazed at how many people were helped last Friday. There were 25 people who received services that day within a 4 hour period. Dang!!!
With an individual appointment system, 25 clients would have taken days to be seen. But with a tightly run clinic setting—clients can drop in at their convenience, and there is a procedure in place for different stages of the DACA application process to maximize efficiency and client empowerment. The client is ultimately responsible for each "phase" of the application before it is complete (and usually comes back during a following week's legal clinic.)
While at the clinic, I listened to stories of immigrant youth talk about their families and their schooling (one of DACA's required elements)—and their plans for the future.
One teenager spoke about her plans to become a schoolteacher and was starting to enroll in pre-requisite classes so that she would be able to major in it in college.
Another youth described his aspirations to join the US military and serve.
And yet another teen described her dream to become a physician assistant, and how she couldn't wait to get started.
There are so many amazing stories of our immigrant youth who are already contributing so much to American society. Receiving DACA allows these youth (known as Dreamers) work authorization in the US and valid social security numbers—tools that allow Dreamers to finish high school, pursue higher education, participate in the local and national economy, and ensuring every individual's right to Dream.
It can be tempting to be sucked into fancy and elaborate legal organization systems—or buying material stuff we really don't need. But at the end of the day—simplicity reigns supreme. Simplicity = higher impact.
With a huge election year (I just can't with the Iowa Caucus last night. Seriously—oye.), the general American public has an opportunity to embrace more inclusive immigration policies for our friends. And it is a pivotal time with the Supreme Court hearing DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) later this year.
Less discriminatory social policies and immigration laws = a huge net positive in the contributions to American society—to our economy, social consciousness, and so much more. So many DACA applicants have survived a long journey to the United States and are thriving—and have so much to contribute.
Less fear and more inclusion. This is a concept we—as individuals and as a society—need to have at the forefront of our minds, always.
Sending you much love from the wintery corners of Santa Fe!