Closets, Clothes & Packing For A Move

The kids are ready to go! Destination and moving day unknown.

My closets are the cleanest and most organized part of my house. This probably seems like an oxymoron and I’m sure you hate me right now. For most people, the opposite is typically true. Closets are usually the most cluttered and messiest part of a room. Company coming over? Gather items in your arms and shove them in a closet – instant space and instant closet mess.

I’ve been downsizing for a while now, and I got to a point where everything has its own place. When every item has a place to live, you don’t feel cluttered anymore. It’s only when things are overflowing that we tend to feel cluttered. This also means that we have a tendency to adapt to our space.Your stuff evolves to fit the space in which you live. Bigger space, means more stuff. Smaller space, you need less stuff. It’s all about balance.

For me, my closets became organized because I have been ruthlessly decluttering for years now. Every object has a place. Items in my closet have been culled and are there for a specific purpose.

My coat closet contains my winter coats (2), snow pants, boots, storage bin of hats, gloves, scarves and snow tires. My linen closet contains towels, sheets, cleaning supplies, and a box of toiletries. I do place large orders of toiletries in “bulk” as everything from shampoo to lotion has to be special ordered from one company due to my allergies. You would not believe how many toiletry items contain almond oil so I have to special order everything to be nut-free. Aveeno body lotion sent me into full anaphylactic shock one time, but I digress.

My spare bedroom closet contains Christmas and camping supplies. Everything is in its own storage bin. As you may know from prior posts, I have decluttered Christmas so that everything fits into one storage bin, plus the tree. I’m pretty sure when I started there were three Christmas bins.

My closet in my actual bedroom has my clothes, my luggage, and the storage bin of seasonal clothing. The seasonal clothing storage bin currently holds winter – hoodies and sweaters. My bedroom closet also stores the air conditioner when it is not in use in winter.

Everything else in my house that is not in a closet is out, in use, or in its designated place. The only items overflowing are the CDs. More on those later.

Back to closets. The only reason why I noticed how clean and organized my closets are is because I started packing. I don’t know where I am moving to yet or when, but I am packing. In looking at my closets, there is really nothing in them to pack. Pretty much everything in all the closets is already in some sort of storage bin or container, so all I have to do is pick it up and move it. The only exceptions are the coats in the coat closet and my clothes.

Let’s move on to clothes. I am a big fan of capsule wardrobes and Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I’m not a huge stickler on the numbers. Again, I’m one of those that as long as all my clothing fits in my dresser and closet and I only have one bin of seasonal, I am fine. I have no idea if I have 33 items of clothing or 50. I know that everything fits in my designated space, and that I wear everything I have. My clothing is comfortable, fits well, and has no tags or holes.

Since I am packing, what exactly do I have for clothes? Well, since I am not moving right now, I can’t actually pack the clothes. I literally wear and use everything I have. When I do move, moving my clothes will be easy. Remove the drawers from the dresser and carry clothes that way. For the closet, take a garbage bag to wrap the clothes in to keep them clean.

What is in my closet and drawers?

I actually do have work clothes and everyday clothes. I am not one of those people who is able to have one all-purpose wardrobe. I’m a jeans & baseball shirt type of girl; that doesn’t really fly when my office is business casual. I don’t like business casual. It’s an uncomfortable but necessary evil.

In my closet, I have 15 hangars in use. Some are random, like the one that holds my hockey jersey. Hey, I’m not perfect. I do have random things that bring me joy. I don’t have a set number of items.

I would say that there are 10 hangars in active use. For work, my color palate is a base of black or grey that is accented with jewel tones of blue, green, and purple/burgundy. So, on 10 hangars, I have:

4 pairs of work dress pants (2 black and 2 grey)

2 blazers (1 black, 1 grey)

2 cardigan sweaters (1 black, 1 grey)

2 dresses (not work appropriate, totally summery, for going to the theatre, a wedding, etc. If you are interested, one is pink and the other a summer orange and they are both fun.)

My dresser has 4 drawers.

In one drawer, is my everyday tops. These are mostly baseball, football, or hockey shirts. Yeah, you’ve seen them. They have the team on the front and the number and name of player on the back. I have about 8 of these in a drawer. Along with 2 thermals and 2 flannels for winter when it gets chilly so I can layer. That’s one of my four drawers.

There is one drawer of pajamas. For every capsule wardrobe or challenge I have read, pajamas, underclothes and workout wear don’t count as “wardrobe” if you’re doing one of the number challenges like 50 items or Project 333. I have one drawer of pajamas and the color scheme here is very heavily pink. I like pink nightwear. I have a bin of summer running clothes, a bin of winter running clothes, and one of those plastic containers with 3 drawers that has bras, undies and socks.

My third drawer is work tops. Again, my color scheme for tops is mostly blue and green with some purple thrown in. I have about 8 different work tops. Right now, I also have “summer” in this drawer, which means my tank tops (not work wear) for when its 80+ degrees out like it is now.

In my fourth drawer, I have everyday bottoms. Like work clothes, I have 4 bottoms. Except for everyday, this includes 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of my infamous Victoria’s Secret yoga pants. Also, for summer, this drawer currently holds 4 pairs of shorts and some swim wear.

In the seasonal box, which currently holds winter, is 3 hoodies (those are bulky), a pair of corduroy pants, and 3 sweaters.

My clothes aren’t a problem and don’t bother me. I have no decision fatigue in the morning. I can get dressed immediately without having to put on multiple options or throw items around the room because “I don’t want to wear this today” or “this isn’t working.” Like I said, moving my clothes is going to be super easy. I don’t even really have to pack them or put them into luggage.

I typically have two loads of laundry per week – one of work clothes and one that consists of everyday clothes, pajamas, towels and sheets. Clothes are easy to move.

What has been stressing me out in trying to pack is not my clothes and not the items that are in my closets. It is my everyday items that are out and in use. Specifically, this would be my media of books, DVDs, and CDs. I have packed this stuff up and am now looking at it thinking, “I don’t want to have to (physically) move this stuff.”

Before I started packing, everything was in its place and I did not feel cluttered. I have one 2-shelf bookcase of books, and one 2-shelf bookcase of DVDs. The CDs are overflowing. The CDs I was just going to start curating, and decided to take them all with me to curate in the next location. When packed, the CDs, don’t seem like much. I’m not sure if it is just looking at a pile of boxes that is getting to me or what.

I left 5 DVDs and 5 CDs out to play with in this transition process. It has been challenging. For example, I find myself wanting to unpack the DVDs because “Oh, I want to watch this, and it’s packed.”

Right now, I am unsure if I “have too much stuff” or am simply overwhelmed at the idea of moving after being in the same place for 14 years. Whatever I’m doing, this is a super big change. I can also say that the kitchen is a room that I cannot pack right now because I am still literally using everything in my kitchen.

The only thing kitchen related I have been trying to do is to eat up and use up everything in my cupboards, frig and freezer, so that there is less food stuff to move. There really is not any cook ware or dishware I can pack that is not in use.

One of the problems of being a minimalist is having to wait to the last minute to pack because you are literally using everything you have. I guess this is a good problem to have. If I can pack something and have it sit there for months without needing it, then it is probably something to get rid of anyway. I only like to have items that I use or love.

I’m fortunate in that I have been minimizing myself for a few years now, so I am sure that I have less now than I would have, say 5 years ago. Still, it feels like so much. It could be because I packed two rooms and have all the boxes from two rooms in one room. Maybe it just seems like more than it is.

Downsizing, minimizing, and simplifying are all a process. Whenever and where-ever moving day happens, I will have to see how I actually feel about my stuff once I start physically moving it. I will be moving all the small items myself.

The large furniture items like my couch, bed, table, etc., I will be enlisting help to move. I have already figured that all of those large items I can shove into one room to make it easier for my helpers to move me.

It’s just all the little stuff that seems like a lot.

What I am learning is that my clothes and my closets are not a problem. So I’ve done a wicked good job with those. I have downsized my wardrobe to the point where I am actually able to live and enjoy life without worrying about what I’m wearing or wasting my time shopping.

The benefit to this exercise is that I am learning about the areas of my living space I need to focus on simplifying next – which seems to be my living room and media. Yet, when I find myself missing and wanting things that are packed … maybe they are not a problem after all if I am using and liking them. Collections are not bad if you enjoy them.

Minimalism is not some exercise in pain or how to live without. Minimalism is about having room in your life for what’s important. Apparently all the stuff I have now is coming with me – even if it does feel overwhelming to move it.

I’ll let you know how it goes when moving day comes (whenever that may be, but hopefully soon).

 

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The Toilet Paper Chronicles

People tend to have strong opinions about poverty and those who have “less than.” Many times, the individual is blamed for their “poor” choices. We refuse to acknowledge the societal factors that contribute to the cycle of poverty and instead firmly place all blame and responsibility for being poor on the individual.

There was an article recently that used toilet paper as an example of why people are poor. Unfortunately, as gross as it may sound, this issue of toilet paper has been a recurring theme in my life. More on that later. This particular article pointed out that buying toilet paper in bulk is cheaper in the long term than buying toilet paper in smaller packages. For example, the 20 roll bulk pack works out to be cheaper than continuously buying rolls that are either individually wrapped or packaged in groups of four (very common).

Do the math. Toilet paper is cheaper in bulk than in four roll packages. You can’t really argue with the numbers. It is a fact that bulk toilet paper is cheaper. The article then says that low income people or those on a fixed income, have a finite amount of money to spend. People are more likely to buy the four roll pack because it is “cheaper” (for that week) to pay the $2 for the four pack than it is to pay $10 for the bulk pack.

If you only have $30 a week to spend on groceries, it makes sense. You do not want to spend $10 on toilet paper and only have $20 that week to spend on your milk, bread, and eggs. When you are low income, it is hard to squeeze out that $10 in an individual week even if it is cheaper in the long run. When every day life is an emergency, you are constantly reacting to the present situation and it is extremely difficult to plan for the long term when you do not have any additional resources to set aside for an emergency. The emergency is now. You are living it.

The article then concluded because people only have a finite amount of money to spend each week, that the cycle of poverty is partially perpetuated by people’s inability to buy bulk toilet paper. They end up paying more in the long run for toilet paper and are unable to take advantage of the savings of buying in bulk.

This is, of course, an oversimplification of the point the article was making, but you get the idea. When you are low income, you are limited in what you can access. For example, if you do not have transportation to get to the discount store, you may be restricted to having to buy necessities at the local gas station down the street. We all know that this strategy is expensive. I personally do not buy anything in a gas station unless I absolutely have to. We all know the markup on items is astronomical. For some people who lack transportation or are in a geographic area that are what we call “food deserts,” there is no other access to necessities than the local gas station.

The cost of being poor is that sometimes, due to lack of resources, you end up paying more for necessities because you do not have the capacity to access cheaper alternatives. Poor people are often condemned for their “choices,” but often, they are making the best choices they can give what they have at the moment. It’s hard to break free of the cycle.

Toilet paper is a luxury item, not a necessity.

When I was growing up, toilet paper was a luxury item. We very rarely had it. Before there was SNAP or EBT cards, we had these things called paper food stamps. They came in little booklets where you would tear out a “stamp” that looked like monopoly money. The ones were brown, the fives were blue. If you were really lucky, the 20s were green. These were very rarely seen, and the highest denomination of food stamps.

When you used a food stamp, cashiers were only allowed to give you back change if the amount was less than a dollar. You could get coin change back, but if you had a $5 food stamp, and your grocery bill came to $3.73, the cashier could give you the $0.27 cents back in coins, but for the $1, they had to be able to give you a brown food stamp dollar, not a real American dollar. Thus, when you used your food stamps, you better use them in a place that could also give you change in food stamps. Otherwise, if the cashier did not have the brown $1 food stamp, you would have to forfeit it, and could only take the $0.27 cents in coin change.

As a child, I was given one brown food stamp per week for groceries. I can tell you that I used that $1 food stamp each week to buy 3 cans of spaghetti o’s and a pack of gum. The spaghetti o’s were $0.30 cents and a pack of gum was $0.05 cents. I would have a nickle left over each week. Each can of spaghetti o’s would last 2 days, so I had enough food for 6 days a week. As a child, I was pretty good at getting myself invited to friends houses for a meal so I could eat on the 7th day each week.

I remember when the price of spaghetti o’s increased to $0.33 cents because of how it affected my weekly food alliance. No more gum, and I only had a penny each week instead of a nickle. And people wonder why I started working at age 14. I had a paper route.

Food stamps were not allowed to be used to buy paper products. No toilet paper, tissues or paper towels. Food stamps were only for food. I used them for food. If I didn’t I would have starved.

At the time, you could get a roll of toilet paper for a quarter. So I was saving my nickels each week to be able to buy one roll of toilet paper every 5 weeks. This meant that you only used toilet paper when you absolutely needed to. If you were in a public restroom, you always grabbed an extra handful of toilet paper to take with you so you could have it for home.

This was the 80s when I was a child. The priority was having food, so toilet paper was a luxury item.

Because of how I grew up, I have this tendency as an adult to always buy toilet paper in bulk to have it on hand. It makes me feel rich knowing I never run out of toilet paper or have to go without. No matter how difficult my life has been at times as an adult, I have always had toilet paper. Even when I was living in my car.

As an adult making my own money, who is not on food stamps, I have the ability to buy toilet paper in bulk. I am privileged. I know there are people in my town and in this country who are not as privileged as I am who are making the choices I had to make as a child every single day. It’s the reality of being poor in America.

Buying in bulk may seem counterintuitive to the concept of minimalism. As a minimalist, the concept is less not more. Logically, bulk items make sense because they save money in the long run, especially for a household item you can use. For me, I have no problem making the argument to buy toilet paper in bulk. Buying other items in bulk such as shampoo or toothpaste, does not make sense to me, but to each his own.

Toilet paper is a recurring theme in my life. I cannot escape it.

I was in the grocery store this week and I bought the four roll pack of toilet paper.

Wha? I just spent how many paragraphs discussing the merits of buying toilet paper in bulk and got the four pack roll?

Yup.

I am currently having a housing crisis which has significantly reduced the spending power of my income. That’s a story for another day, but the consequence is that I have a limited amount of money to spend each week on groceries now. With multiple food allergies, it is very challenging to have to go from $80 a week for groceries down to $30 a week for groceries. This is especially true when I only have one choice of allergen-free bread and it costs $10.79 a loaf, which is half the size of a “standard” loaf.

So instead of spending the $10 to buy the bulk toilet paper, I spent $2 to buy the four pack. I took the $8 I “saved” and used it to buy a box of allergy-friendly cereal. Again, I only have one choice, and it is $6.78 a box. I may be paying more for toilet paper in the long run, but hey, I will have breakfast this week. I need to eat something in the morning in order to take my medication for it to absorb.

I currently do not consider myself poor. I still have toilet paper! I’m trying really hard to keep my family together and healthy. But these are the choices you have to make sometimes when you are in challenging situations such as being rent overburdened because someone decides to increase your rent hundreds of dollars each month to over 50% of your income.

Your next comment is probably going to be: “Then move to cheaper housing.” People make the best choices they can given the situation that they are in. I am working on it, but these things take time. Especially when the area I am in is extremely economically depressed and wages are well below what is considered “market rate” housing in a bedroom community. Again, a discussion for a different day.

While I feel that my life is constantly being measured in toilet paper, the point is to take a different perspective on poverty and circumstances. Sometimes you can make all the best and right choices in the world, and shit still happens. Literally and figuratively. The deeper the shit you are in, the less toilet paper you have to clean it up. Hope you brought a shovel. Hey, what did you expect? It’s the toilet paper chronicles.

Before you go judging someone and the choices they make, take a moment to step back and consider what may be driving those choices. You never know what some people are facing in life, whether as a result of their “choices” or simply the circumstances they are in. They could be reacting to something that happened to them in their environment.

And always buy your toilet paper in bulk. It’s cheaper.

 

Redefining Freedom

My family – Jude, age 6 (right), Simon, age 2 (left)

Freedom means different things to different people depending on circumstances. For many, travel means freedom. It is even popularized in a commercial as being “free to roam the country.” I had this grand Freedom at Forty plan that I would finally be able to go someplace to have a stamp in my passport.

While I would love to travel, I have had some life circumstances lately that are not only making travel impossible, but literally threatening my day-to-day existence. When faced with a life-changing crisis, we quickly realize where our priorities are and fight to make sure they are met. For me, that means that this year I am redefining freedom.

Freedom now means the ability to live with my family someplace safe and in peace. As long as the three of us get to stay together, nothing else matters. This has always been my first priority, but it tends to become more pronounced when your family unit is threatened with ultimatums such as “separate or get out,” or “choose between your children because you have too many.” Sometimes even just keeping a family together feels like a losing battle.

That losing battle straddles a fine line between freedom and survival. There are ways to keep families together and survive. It could be living in a car, a RV, or migrating somewhere new where you will hopefully be able to stay together safely. Freedom is more than survival. Freedom is being able to keep your family together in a way that enables you all to be comfortable, safe and to build a life where you can transcend survival and be able to thrive.

Right now, I am in survival mode trying to keep my family together and find safe, affordable housing that will accept us as a family unit. I’m hoping that the Fourth of July will be some sort of good luck charm to finding freedom to live with my family intact.

It’s pretty sad in this land of alleged plenty that keeping a family together is seen as a privilege and not a right. If keeping a family together is a privilege, then we truly are not free at all. Everything can be taken from you with only a moment’s notice – including those you hold dear. The whole point of minimalism is not to have nothing. The point of minimalism is to have just what you need so you can focus on what’s important. Being able to be a minimalist is also a sense of privilege in a country where some people are struggling to obtain even just what they need and to hold onto what’s important.

Freedom should include the right to keep a family together. As people spend the Fourth of July having barbeques and watching fireworks with their family, they should think about whether that family is a right or a privilege. Currently, in this country and as I am seeing in my own life right now, family is a privilege. True freedom would include the right to keep a family together in a safe environment.

The Fourth of July is also an anniversary. It was Fourth of July weekend back in the late 90s that I moved from Massachusetts to New York. I have gone back and forth over the years whether or not that movement was something I regret.

I have come to the conclusion that I do not regret leaving Massachusetts because of the positive things that have happened since I arrived in New York. I was finally able to achieve my degrees and I would not trade a single minute with my family to go back and do it over differently. However, the moving that I did that long ago Fourth of July weekend has had significant impact on the course of my life over the past 20 years.

While I do miss Massachusetts and wish I could afford to move back, I realize that in New York, I achieved a level of freedom that I would not trade. I now have education to bring in income that buys freedom (unless you are looking for affordable housing). I have the freedom of being with my family and that is the greatest gift I have ever received.

This Fourth of July, I am redefining freedom. My Freedom at Forty plan no longer includes international travel. Given my current circumstances, that is not a realistic goal. This year, I am redefining freedom as the ability to keep my family together. If I can keep us together in safe, affordable, stable housing that will be even better. The outcome is yet to be seen.

How are you redefining freedom this Fourth of July? What does freedom mean to you?