Empty Rooms

WP_20181228_10_29_21_Pro.jpg

Part of what makes vacation so appealing is that it is not only a break from everyday life but also offers a clean slate. Sure, you get a break from cleaning the house, paying the bills, doing your job. There is also the little thrill of staying in a hotel room with no worries.

Hotel rooms provide a bed for sleeping, a bathroom for the essentials, and usually a TV or some type of entertainment when you are trying to wind down for sleep. You don’t have to worry about cleaning them. All you have to deal with is your luggage – which is probably just enough for the time you are there.

 

One of the items I decluttered this week on Minimalism Monday was luggage. I have been experimenting since about 2012 with minimal packing and minimal luggage. Over the past almost 7 years, I have flown to Chicago, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia for 4+ day trips, ran full marathons, and taken camping trips (some a week long) with one small piece of luggage. Each time I flew, my luggage was considered a “carry on,” so I had no checked luggage. Each time I flew was with one backpack. I typically travel with one backpack or one small duffel bag.

When I say one small duffel bag, I mean the small LL Bean size duffel bag. In decluttering my luggage this weekend, I discovered that I also have several medium and large duffel bags for luggage that are never used. I could pretty much fit my entire wardrobe in the medium duffel bag. I can’t think of any travel destination that would require my ENTIRE wardrobe.

I did not even use my luggage when I moved. I left all the clothes in the drawers, and removed all the drawers from the dresser. For closet items, I put a garbage bag over all of them and just picked up the bunch and went.

Luggage was an item I got rid of this week. Since I only use either a backpack or the small duffel bag for traveling, that is what I kept.

Back to the hotel room scenario …

Hotel rooms offer clean slates. You just deal with your luggage each day and everything else is about experiences. In a hotel, you shower, dress, and go out to enjoy the day. This is not like home, where you go through multiple outfits in the morning, throwing clothes all over the room, and struggling to get out the door. On vacation, you wear what you packed because that is all that is with you.

By the way, if you have mornings at home like I described where you go through outfits in the morning trying to decide what to wear because you “have nothing to wear,” then I highly recommend a minimalist wardrobe. I would start with Project 333. It’s an amazing feeling to wear what you love every single day.

When I moved into the house, it was like I was offered a clean slate, similar to a hotel room. Here is this empty space – what are you going to put there?

Even though I have more space in the house, I am still getting rid of things. As I have said repeatedly, I do not want to be chained to this house – I want to be able to go out and enjoy life, whatever that may look like.

So, the goal in the house is empty rooms. Yes, I realize that sounds insane. However, I went from a 5 room apartment to a 9 room house complete with basement, attic and garage. That’s twice as much space to maintain and clean.

This month for Minimalist Monday, I decided to start decluttering one closet. It ended up turning into going through and rearranging the entire upstairs, which lasted almost all day. However, at the end of it, I have 6 boxes for donation, one completely empty room, and another room that will be empty once everything goes to donation.

This is progress. Empty rooms are easy to clean and not time consuming. Wash the windows, floor, and molding. Done.

I only keep things in my home that are either useful or beautiful. Yes, I do the whole “spark joy” thing. I know many people roll their eyes over the whole “does this spark joy method.” However, with the house, I feel that some of the questions I’m asking as I declutter are slightly different.

Instead of asking “does this spark joy,” I am now more commonly asking myself “do I really want to clean and maintain that?”

Do I use this?

Do I love this?

Does it bring me joy?

Do I want to clean this?

Belongings are supposed to make you happy. I look at a Monet print in my living room. It makes me smile and I’m happy. I’m totally fine with cleaning the glass every week to see this beautiful painting.

However, if you are constantly grumbling that your Saturdays are being taken up by cleaning when you would much rather go to a movie/go ice skating/play a game with your child, then you need to also look at your belongings and ask “Do I want to clean this?”

I actually did get rid of about four wall hangings when I moved into the house for this very reason. That is four more frames I have to clean. Yes, I liked the prints. However, the amount of joy they brought me was not enough to override the amount of annoyance that cleaning it brought me. I kept and hung the pictures that I really love.

I get to see and use “special occasion items” every single day. What “special occasion” are you keeping that china/those keepsakes for? Isn’t every day life enough of a celebration? Use the fancy plates while you are here to enjoy them. Use them while your kids are home before they go off to college and leave. You’ll have great memories of family dinners with the fancy plates while the kids were home.

So yes, the goal this year at the end of Minimalist Mondays is to have two empty rooms and one empty closet. I currently have one empty room, so that is progress. I know that some people get weirded out by empty rooms. However, I am one person in a big beautiful house who wants to spend my time enjoying my beautiful house and not cleaning it. I want to sit in my yard in the summer and have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. I don’t want to be stuck inside maintaining this house. If there is not stuff every where, I can enjoy life. Empty rooms make sense for me.

Deep down, empty rooms make sense for a lot of people. Isn’t that why we love hotel rooms? They contain the essentials we need for a few days and the only thing we have to be responsible for is the luggage that came with us. Why can’t home feel like vacation too?

 

 

Advertisements

The Magic of Three

wp_20181228_13_06_46_pro

Simon enjoying his new beanie animal

Many times, I have written about the magic number three in my decluttering/minimalism goals. Three items on a surface, three things hanging on a wall … This week the magic of three does it again.

Minimalist Mondays this year are a way for me to try to organize and declutter my house. I want to be sure what I have is only what I love and what I need. Just because I have double the space now, does not mean I need double the stuff.

This week was kind of a wash. I have not been feeling well for most of it. Thursday I was pretty much a vegetable. For minimalist Monday this month, I have four Mondays to address the area in question for January. That area is one of two walk-in closets. Since there is a holiday coming up on January 21, I am hoping to catch up then since I have been under the weather this week.

Where the magic of three fits into all of this is in cleaning. My goal in decluttering is so that I can actually enjoy my life my being able to do things and not be chained to this house having to clean it all the time.

This week I discovered that by putting three CDs into the CD player, I can clean the whole house. #Score

Three CDs of cleaning. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

While the first CD was playing, I worked on cleaning downstairs. By the time the CD was done, I had everything clean downstairs except for mopping the kitchen floor. As the second CD began, I mopped the kitchen floor.

I can’t clean the entire house in one go. It’s just too much for me. Especially since I have not been feeling well this week, I was way too tired to clean the entire house in one swoop.

Once the kitchen floor was mopped and the second CD was spinning merrily along, I took a break. Not only did I take a break, but I cranked the volume and danced around in my socks (and Victoria’s Secret yoga pants, of course #weekend) a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

I’m sure if any of the neighbors bothered to look in any of my windows they were probably laughing hysterically. I mean, I washed all the windows, so they definitely had a clear view.

One of the things I absolutely love love love about the house is that all of my CDs are unpacked and out. They are displayed, organized, and ready to use. Not only that, but I can play them as loud as I want. In the apartment, the maximum stereo volume was 10. In my house, the minimum stereo volume is typically 16.

So for the second CD of this exercise, I took a break from cleaning. If you decide to try this at home, be sure to pick some kick ass tunes for all three discs.

Then, when the third CD came on and I was sufficiently rested, I cleaned upstairs. Just like with the first CD, by the time the third CD ended, I had the entire upstairs clean with the exception of washing the bathroom floor. So then I washed the bathroom floor and the whole house was clean.

It basically took three CDs to clean the house. It was a lot more fun with music.

Now, with both upstairs and downstairs, when the CD ended, I had everything done except mopping. I hate mopping, so I always leave it for last. My personal goal is to get the house minimized enough so that by the time a CD ends, the entire area of the house is clean.

We’ll see how that goes. It may be wishful thinking. Three CDs worth of time to clean an entire 1600 square foot house is pretty good, I’m thinking.

When I am feeling better to get to minimalism Mondays this month, the area for January is one of two walk-in closets. Some of this is organization. For example, the walk-in closet in question has all my camping stuff. However, I have found camping equipment in two other locations in the house. It’s a consequence of moving. Part of minimalist Mondays is going to be recreating my “zones” in the house. Once I get all of the camping equipment together, then I can evaluate it.

For the record, while many people’s walk-in closets are jam packed with clothing, mine are not. I have been doing pretty well with my minimalist wardrobe. My walk-in closets are mainly storage for seasonal and sentimental items. I’ll be going through things like camping, running gear, luggage, Christmas, fans, and the “sentimental” box when I finally hit the closet this month.

I would love to get everything down to one walk-in closet instead of two, but I don’t see that happening. I have too many summer hobbies that require equipment. Yes, I actually do USE all of that equipment.

Maybe when I’m engaging in minimalist Mondays, I will have to invoke the magic of three. If I can use three CDs to clean the entire house, I should be able to use three CDs to declutter and organize and entire closet, right?

I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting here in my shades grooving to some cool tunes in my clean house.

 

This is the New Year

WP_20181225_10_32_32_Pro

Simon at Christmas 2018

Welcome, 2019! Every year, for the past three years, I have wished for a quiet year. And every year for the past three years, I have had challenging times with multiple tragedies that were anything but quiet. So I’m not going to wish for anything this year. I know better.

My favorite New Year’s tune is done by Death Cab 4 Cutie. I’m just going to follow their lead on this new year (listen to the lyrics, people).

What I am looking forward to the most this year is that my 40th birthday will be coming up in March. We all know that birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Plus, anytime I turn an age with a zero at the end means I get to move up an age group in running. But my birthday is still a few months away …

Something new I will be starting this week is minimalism Mondays. My house is quite larger than my apartment, so I am going to take my time in going through each room, closet and drawer to be sure all I have is what I really need.

Not to mention, there were some items that the sellers left with the house for me. Some of those items have been quite useful – I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the wheelbarrow, the front window curtains and the entryway doormat. Then, there are some items that are so old that they are no longer useful and belong in a museum. Other items are so rusted that I am afraid to use them because tetanus is one of only two vaccines that I cannot have with multiple food and drug allergies.

So, next week I will be starting minimalism Mondays and going through one area of the house per month. My goal at the end of this exercise is to have a house that is easier to clean. If the house is easier to clean, then I have more time to spend doing the things I really want to do. I do not want to be chained to this house.

The other advantage to creating a minimalist interior, is that I can then focus my attention on the outside of the house. The exterior of the home has been the most challenging part of home ownership for me to handle. I am fine with cleaning a house, but dealing with lawn care, grass mowing, and snow is too hard on a body.

In addition to minimalism Mondays, I’m hoping to get back on some sort of schedule in 2019 so that I can do the things I really want to do. I’m going to run a half marathon this year. It will be my second race post-stroke. I need to go camping. 2018 was the first time in over 20 years that I did not get a vacation and get to go camping.

So, yes, I guess you could say that I am hoping 2019 will be a quiet year. But, shhhhh – I don’t really want to say that. I don’t think I can handle tragedy four years in a row right now. The goal for 2019 will be to slow down so that I can actually enjoy life instead of just trying to survive.

I’m hoping to make some changes in life on the professional front too that will extradite me from the bullying situation I am experiencing. Getting out of that mess is going to take some time. There is a lot more involved when you have to handle something like that on your own because the powers that be refuse to address it. So I do anticipate change in 2019. I highly doubt I will get the quiet year I’ve been wanting for awhile.

Most of all, I am entering 2019 grateful. I am so thankful that will all the tragedies I have experienced in the past few years that I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people that have been helping me. I would not be able to get by without a lot of help from many people.

A key aspect of slowing down my life and minimizing what is inside of my house around me is to give me more time to show the people in my life that I am grateful. I don’t want to be spending my time maintaining a home that is twice the size of my apartment. I want to maintain my home and spend my time with the people that matter. I want to be able to give back to them as much as they have given me. I would not have made it this far without all the amazing people in my life.

So minimalism Mondays will be starting next week, as I start going through the first room on the list for the month of January. I’ll let you know my progress. I’m focusing on the large indoor areas this winter. As soon as spring/summer arrive, I have a whole list of outside things that need to be done. There is no rest for the wicked. But, that’s another song.

Happy New Year 2019.

 

15 years and 6 hours

WP_20181210_17_23_02_Pro

Christmas lights at the library

Even though I try really hard to be a minimalist and only have what I absolutely need, it still took me 6 hours to move into my house. It was overwhelming. Granted, I had lived in the same location for 14 years, so it basically took me one day to move 14 years worth of stuff. I suppose that’s good. It was still overwhelming.

I had the thought that the next time I move, it better not take 6 hours. It better be closer to 2-3 hours. However, I won’t be moving again. I bought a house. I’ll be dying here.

I suppose that is why so many homeowners have so much stuff. It’s that feeling of comfort that this place is your’s, so why not store something? There is no need to get rid of things if you have a place to put it. Then, we wonder why we are surrounded by so much stuff.

The point is, even if you do own your own home, when you die, you can’t take it with you. Some relative is going to be left with the chore of going through all the stuff stored in your house that you didn’t want to deal with when you were alive. Newsflash: your relatives won’t want to deal with it when you’re dead either.

So even in my house, I’m still striving to be a minimalist so that I am not leaving a heap of crap when I die. I also do not want to be wasting my time cleaning or keeping house.

Someone tried to give me a lamp a few months ago. I took one look at it and thought “no way in hell do I want to have to clean that.” My mouth said “no thank you.” In reality, do I need a lamp? Nope. I have enough interior lighting.

Having less stuff means less to clean when you’re alive and less to get rid of when you die. I like both of those ideas.

Christmas vacation will be coming up, and I will be continuing my decluttering process. Now that I am in permanent housing – my own home – what do I really need? Not to mention that I have more built-in storage space. I can probably get rid of an entire bookcase simply by putting the items into some of the house’s existing space. It’s my space to be used. It’s not like I need the bookcase for some future dwelling when this is the last stop.

One of the positives about being a minimalist is that it is not all about what you are removing from life. It is about removing things from life to focus on other things. In fact, you can even upgrade things.

Here’s an example. About 5 years ago, I bought a set of dishes from the second hand store. I’m pretty sure I paid about $5 for a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. I’m one person. That’s all I need. I love the dishware, but many of the bowls now have chips in them. I can’t really complain about $5 dishware. I’m sure that prior to my use, they probably served someone else quite well for a decade with no chips. But, now my bowls are chipped. I noticed it when I cut a finger on one.

One of the benefits of minimalism is that since I am not up to my eyeballs in debt (I don’t do hardly any shopping), I can spend money on quality dishware. Five years ago I spent $5 on dishware because I only had $5. All my money was going to this credit card bill or that bill or whatever.

Now, I have no debt as a minimalist, so I can go wild and pay $5 a plate if I want. And then some.

I decided to try Fiestaware. I bought one plate and one bowl. If I like them, then I will order more so I have a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. However, Fiesta is expensive, so I am ordering pieces gradually. I view this purchase as an investment in my future. I have permanent housing. I need permanent dishware that’s not cracked and cutting me. I figure I should be able to get a good 15 years at least out of the Fiestaware. I’ve heard some people have pieces from 30-50 years ago.

I never in my life thought I would be paying $15 for a lunch plate. But estimating that it will last me 15 years makes it worth it. The fact that minimalism has realigned my priorities means that when I do have to replace something, I can afford higher quality items that will last longer.

I’m expecting to live in this house until I die. Hopefully the Fiestaware will be the last set of dishes I buy too.

My single Fiesta bowl and single Fiesta plate just arrived today. We will see how I like them before I order more. Of course, if everything works out, I’ll be ordering more bowls before I order more plates since it is my current bowls with chips that are causing troubles.

When deciding on dishware, I decided to avoid the second hand store this time. I love the second hand store, but I do not want to buy another set of dishes that will only last me 5 years. I want dishware that will last me 15 years.

I had narrowed down my choices to either Corelle or Fiestaware. I currently have a few Corelle bowls. In the house, there are water dishes for the cats both upstairs and downstairs. I had to buy more bowls to put water dishes upstairs and it just so happens that they are Corelle. I like Corelle. However, the idea of being able to mix and match colors with Fiestaware was very appealing.

We will see whether I ultimately decide to go with Corelle or Fiesta once I have had the opportunity to use the Fiesta. Corelle is more affordable, but Fiesta feels more substantial and oh, those colors.

Given that I am buying new dishes, you would think I’m not really concerned about the whole having to move in 6 hours thing. This is partially true. I like to think that when I die, whoever goes through my house would be happy with 4 Fiesta bowls and 4 Fiesta plates. Let’s keep it real.

I would like to get rid of things so that it would take less than 6 hours to move, but I still need stuff to use to survive. Plus, I’m not moving again. Hopefully whoever has to clean out my house after I die will be able to do it in less than 6 hours. At least they’ll have some fancy dishware to show for it.

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).

 

Kitchen Minimalism

2018 is the year that I aim to minimize my kitchen. First, I am making the transition from plastic to glass. Second, I am trying to eat up the food I have in my house so that I don’t have a bunch hoarded. Third, I am focusing on nutrition and health both for running and for life.

The first thing I did this month was to replace plastic with glass. I now have 5 glass Pyrex dishes to use for work lunches. I figure since I have made the change from 70-hour workweeks to 40-hour workweeks, that I actually have time to cook at least one meal a day at home now, so I no longer need to stuff the freezer with individually portioned meals.

There are 37 sets of plastic wear in a box s as a result of my switch. 37 sets. This includes the plastic dish plus the lid as a set. I kept two sets of plastic wear for use when traveling, as it is typically easier to travel with plastic than glass. There is now significantly more space in my cupboards.

Not only is there physically more cupboard space, there are also fewer dishes to wash. Out of all household chores, I despise washing dishes. While I am sure it is some sort of illusion, it feels like I am using fewer dishes as well. Instead of grabbing a plastic dish for whatever, I am now using my glass dishware and being more mindful. I have actually been eating off my plates instead of just throwing something in a plastic bowl and microwaving it.

The kitchen cupboards are full of dishware. I have a separate stand-alone “cupboard” for food. I have more cupboard space where I live now than any other place I have lived. If I can declutter the cupboards to the point where I could fit some food in them too, that would be ideal. If I were to ever move someplace, I am more than 90% certain I would have less cupboard space than I have now. Decluttering cupboards makes sense as a long-term goal.

Cupboards are almost like the Narnia of kitchen clutter. As long as everything fits, people don’t tend to pay much attention to what is in the cupboards, especially those that are above the stove or refrigerator. Not only am I trying to clean out my cupboards, but also I am trying to eat healthier by switching from plastic to glass.

Second, I am trying to eat up the food that is in my house so that I can meal plan better. This is most definitely a work in progress. I did go to the grocery store recently. Mostly, I need things to go with what I already have in this effort to eat up the food. I’m sure everyone has a shelf in their pantry or food cupboard where you find a random can of fruit or soup way in the back. Eat it or donate it.

Third, I am focusing on nutrition. I have been trying to be sure to eat more fruits and vegetables this year. This will actually necessitate more trips to the grocery store. I kind of got away from fresh food in the year I was recovering from my stroke, as it was easier to make other things. Beanie weenies, anyone?

There are still moments when I have symptoms and difficulties from my stroke. While I know that nutrition was not the cause (that’s what they say), I definitely need good nutrition to run my marathon this year. I’m hoping that by minimizing my kitchen I can be in more control of food and meals.

What are some other tips for kitchen minimalism?

  • Remove duplicates. I am not one of these people that can survive with just one of everything in the kitchen. I like (and have) to cook. Be smart about this one. Do you need two stovetop saucepans? Yes, when making both potatoes and green beans for Thanksgiving. Do you need five saucepans? Not when there are only 4 burners on the stove. Sometimes you need duplicates, but most times you don’t.
  • Remove items not in use. Again, be smart about this. The turkey baster may not be in use now, but it will be come November. If you have a bunch of cake decorating equipment and haven’t had time to bake in years, do you need to hold onto that, or would someone else enjoy using it?
  • How much dishware do you need? I am a one-person household and downsized from service for 8 down to service for 4. If you are a family of 3 or 4, I understand having service for 8 for when there is company. How much do you entertain? It all depends on lifestyle.
  • The silverware drawer. In most kitchens, this is one of the most cluttered drawers beside the junk drawer. Be sure to apply the above rules to silverware and utensils. When I went through my utensils, I discovered I have 11 spatulas. Do I need 11 spatulas? Nope. Maybe you do. Again, it all depends on lifestyle. You don’t want to purge the spatulas and then find yourself without one. Be realistic.
  • Box it up. The kitchen is the one area where I highly recommend boxing items for a period of time before donating just to be sure that you do not need any of those items. If you have 11 spatulas and box 7 of them, can you survive with 4? Try it and find out. I bet you can survive with 4.

Have any more tips for kitchen minimalism?

Bucking The Norm

Life is dynamic and ever changing. There is no point in which we have “arrived” and that is it. Well, we may have moments when we feel like we have arrived, but those moments typically last for a blink to five minutes before something changes again. Minimalism is the same. There is rarely a moment when we are done downsizing or making life more minimal because life is always changing. Also, we are human.

This weekend, I made some changes in life that may come as a surprise. At this point in my minimalist journey, one would think I have already addressed these issues. I have, but sometimes you need to address them again. Life changes. I also did a few things that may seem to counter minimalism, but I’m going to argue they don’t. Here is what I did.

I reclaimed the spare bedroom as a spare bedroom.

I’ve been working for about 6 months to make the spare bedroom homey and comfortable again. Earlier, I did a post about how I dismantled the spare bedroom because it represented my fantasy self <insert link here>. At that point in time, it was true.

I dismantled the spare bedroom because my fantasy self was this uber-popular person who had frequent soirees and overnight houseguests. I say fantasy self because in reality, typically my mom is the only one who visits and stays in the spare bedroom. I’m not as popular in real life as I am in my dreams. I had this grand idea of doing something else in the spare bedroom – installing a treadmill, for example. I did install a treadmill. Then, I realized I’m happier running outside and away from home. I like the freedom of putting on shoes and just going.

There were logistic problems with the treadmill as well. Like how you should really bolt treadmills to the floor if you plan to run on them without tipping them over. Plus, I was competing with Jude for treadmill time, who thought the treadmill was simply the best perch ever for bird watching out the window.

I’ve decided to reclaim the spare bedroom because even though I am not this popular person hosting house parties, I like the fact that my mom can visit and have a comfortable place to spend the night. I may not have loads of people sleeping over, but my family is an area of life that I want to prioritize. Even if the spare bedroom only gets used a few times a year, I want it to be there so I can foster the relationships most important to me.

Dealing with paperwork

I thought I was so minimalist a few years ago when I was able to clean out two filing cabinets and downsize everything to fit into one milk crate. That’s right, one milk crate. When I went through that purge, I took roughly 50 pounds of paper to shredding. My one milk crate holds my important papers like insurance policies (house, car, health, life), tax paperwork for my entire working life, and anything else “important” that is supposed to be hard copy. I go through the milk crate once a year just to be sure it only holds the essentials and nothing extraneous.

One milk crate sounds great. It’s oh-so-minimalist.

To be honest, in addition to the one milk crate, I also had nine binders of “important” paperwork. Yes, nine binders. You see, I was trying to justify keeping all that extra stuff by being super organized about it.

Nine binders = ridiculous.

This weekend, I downsized from nine binders to three. I generated one paper grocery bag of recyclables and one paper grocery bag of shredding.

What’s left?

My three binders now include: binder one for vehicle related purposes. I am one of those anal people who keep records of car repairs so I have a complete record of my vehicle. This means that I only need a record for the vehicle I currently own.

Binder two is academic related. I previously had four binders of school related stuff. It made sense – I have four degrees. I was keeping things from school that I thought would be useful for the future for work related purposes. Have I ever used any of my school materials? Rarely. Everything I have written is saved on a labeled flash drive. My one binder now simply contains syllabi – if I want to refer to something from when I was in school, I can use a syllabus to reference the article or book I want. Depending on the degree, some people may not even have one binder. I am actually finding things I learned in school applicable to my paid employment, so I like keeping some of this information without completely getting rid of it.

Binder three is running related. I had kept everything from prior races. Everything. Every handout, advertisement, brochures from the swag bag, everything. Now, some information related to races, I need. For example, I need my training logs and training plans for analysis purposes. I also like to keep a record of where I stayed in certain cities in case I return there so that I have a home base of sorts. I had three binders of race related information for the past 11 years of running. I now have only one binder – basic information for each city, plus training plans and notes. I do refer back to previous races sometimes, depending on how training is going for a current race. For example, when I had an injury in 2015, how did I adjust for the injury in 2010? That information from 2010 helped me to navigate 2015. Some of this information is useful.

Don’t buy storage

Don’t buy storage seems to be one of the basic tenets of minimalism. If you buy storage, you are not really downsizing. Out of sight is out of mind. If you put things in a pretty package, container, or storage bin, you will forge that you have it, and the clutter “disappears.” The goal is to downsize your stuff to the point that the storage container is not necessary.

I agree with this idea to a point. I have gotten rid of so many things that I have also gotten rid of a great many storage bins that are now empty.

However, I am deviating from this tenet for two instances.

First, I bought a plastic bin for under-bed storage. This is not so I can own or store more things. That plastic under-bed bin is replacing a piece of furniture. That’s right. A complete piece of furniture is leaving. I no longer need a chest at the foot of the bed holding the extra blankets. I have donated many blankets to CNY SNAP (local cat shelter). The remaining blankets that I kept do not need an entire piece of furniture for storage. They are going in the plastic bin and sliding under the bed. The result is more floor space.

Second, I bought a storage system for photos. Yes, I know, store photos digitally. I do. However, I still like prints for some things. Some photos, I only have in print because I did not have digital (like back in the mid-90s). Instead of having photos displayed in eight photo albums, I am keeping a photo album for the cats. Why yes, I do show pictures of all my fur-children to visitors, and the rest are going in this plastic storage unit I bought that is itself the size of one photo album. So, I am essentially going from eight photo albums down to two. The physical number of photos is the same, but the way they are stored is more efficient.

All of my photos are now digital. While I have not ordered print photos in awhile, I cannot bring myself to just throw out photos that are already in print. Now I can store them all more efficiently. I did buy storage. I did not buy storage to store more things or to forget, but to store what I already have in a more space-saving way.

Sentimental stuff and changing minimalism

You don’t just get rid of a bunch of stuff and then poof you’re a minimalist. Minimalism is a journey. Especially when it comes to sentimental items, you need to make multiple sweeps when getting rid of things. I had two filing cabinets of stuff. Going from two filing cabinets to one milk crate and nine binders was a big deal. Going from one milk crate and nine binders to one milk crate and three binders was a big deal. My goal is to get to one binder and then eventually, just the milk crate.

It’s a process. I can tell you that if I just tried to go from two full filing cabinets to one milk crate and no binders, that I would have been a mess. Downsizing sentimental stuff is hard emotionally. Sometimes you have to make several sweeps over a period of time. There may never be a time when you have arrived.

My goal is to get rid of all the baggage so that I can enjoy the now.

Not only do I want to enjoy the now, but also when I’m gone, someone will have to deal with my stuff. I’m hoping only to have the minimum of belongings to make it easier on the person who has to deal with what’s left after I’m dead. As long as I have enough things so that they are useful and I am happy, I don’t need anything more.

Life is about experiences and the people we love. I try to manipulate my environment and the stuff in it to maximize the amount of time I have with the people I love and to do the things I love doing.  How do you buck the norm?

 

Never Say Never

All through this minimalist/simplifying process, the one thing I said I would not touch is my CD music collection. Typically, every person has that one thing that they will not touch, and for me, that was music. For some, books are hard to declutter, for others, their closet, and for others still, the boxes of artwork their children made.

This week, I actually got rid of a shoebox full of CDs.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was only listening to some of my CDs. There are many CDs that I have not bothered to listen to quite literally in years. Similar to how we wear 20% of our wardrobes 80% of the time, I realized that I was doing the same thing with my CD collection.

I have also come to the point where my collection is so massive that it is overwhelming. I have two containers of CDs stored in a closet. I physically do not have enough space in my living room to display the entire collection of CDs. The idea behind storing some in the closet was that I would be inclined to listen to the CDs physically displayed in the living room more often. This has not happened.

I’ve decided to cull the CDs.

Decluttering my music collection is one of the most challenging categories to declutter in my home. Like many others, I thought books would be the hardest to downsize. Books were surprisingly easy. As with DVDs, I only keep books that I have read more than once. There is no point in keeping a book if I do not intend on reading it again.

Sidebar: my library has begun printing how much money you have saved each year by using the library. They use list prices to ascertain that if you had gone out and bought the book/DVD/CD new instead of borrowing from the library, you would have spent so much money. I have saved over $400 so far by using my library this year.

What makes CDs challenging is the fact that I have listened to them all multiple times. Yet the collection is so massive that it is overwhelming. The very first CD that left the house was one that I listened to in college back in the 1990s. I put it in the CD player and could not for the life of me figure out why I had the CD or why I had listened to it so much 20 years ago. That album is crap. I suppose that music tends to just fit depending on the points we were at in life. Yet this “crap” album had no memories associated with it, other than I remember listening to it back in the day.

The albums in the shoebox that left are all albums that either holds no meaning, or when I listen to the CD, I only really like one or two songs on the album. I do not think one song is worth it to hold onto an entire CD. If I want to hear that one song that badly, I’m sure I can find it someplace online when I need a “quick fix” of listening to one particular song.

Getting rid of one shoebox of CDs is huge for me. Music is the one category I said I would not touch in the process of simplifying my life. However, I am learning the economic theory of diminishing returns and that you can have too much of a good thing. When your music collection is so large that it is overwhelming and no longer enjoyable, then it is time to curate that collection.

In the grand scheme of things, one shoebox of CDs is very small. There is still 1 and ¾ of a container of CDs stored in the closet. I’m sure this is going to be a slow journey, as music is my most challenging category, but the ultimate goal is to get down to the amount of CDs that can be displayed in the living room without having any stored in the closet.

Before anyone says to just digitize everything, keep in mind that digital clutter is still clutter. I’m not about to make the conversion from physical clutter to digital clutter. Not to mention, I’m not a huge digital person anyways. Especially with music, I like to have the physical product for the experience. Remember things called concept albums? How album covers, art, and packaging all contributed and added to the music inside to create a story? I’m really into that experience.

As we move to simplify our lives to focus more on what’s important, we all have that one category that we won’t touch. That’s ok. If decluttering your home and purging items is painful, then you won’t stick with it because it feels like punishment. For me decluttering my home is not punishment, it is a sort of freedom in that the less items I have to clean and maintain, the more time I have to spend with the people who matter the most. The only reason why I am finally touching that one “never declutter” category is that it has become so overwhelming that it no longer brings joy.

What is your “never” category? Is it still sacred and untouched? Or, have you started to downsize that category? What strategies did you use to attack the most challenging category to simplify?

Revisiting The Rule of 3

jude-christmas-2016

I have previously written about how I incorporated the rule of three  into my decluttering goals. At the time, my goal had been to ensure that surfaces contained no more than three items that I found to be either meaningful or useful. To go all KonMari  again, I do not see the point in wasting space to contain items that do not bring me joy. I also do not see the point in wasting precious time in cleaning, dusting, or organizing items that are not either meaningful or useful.

I am proud to declare that I have been quite successful in minimizing all surfaces so that they only contain three items.

Having surfaces that contain only three items simplified my life in such a way that I decided to take the rule of three and run with it. I also applied the rule of three to my walls. I went through each wall in my house, and there are now only three decorative items per wall. I cannot tell you how much easier it is to clean my house now that there are only three items per wall and three items per surface.

When I applied the rule of three to my walls, I noticed that many items that were on my walls did not bring me joy. I decided to replace those items with things that do bring me joy. For example, I had some of my photography printed and framed, and now my artwork is gracing my walls, were previously was some commercial print that I neither liked no held any personal meaning to me.

Some walls in my house have less than three items on them. Some have only two items, and I am looking at a wall now that only has one thing on it. It is very relaxing to sit in my living room either before or after a long day and be able to enjoy sitting there. I also now have less things to dust, windex, and clean.

The rule of three inadvertently spilled over into other aspects of the declutter process as well. I culled my wardrobe again. While I am one of these people who will probably never have only 33 or 37 or 42 items of clothes, I do want to be sure that I only have clothes that fit my body well, that I love to wear, and that fit into my dresser and closet without overflowing my available space.

My dresser contains four drawers, and I have decided that one drawer is for pajamas and nightwear, and everything must fit into the drawer. If the drawer starts to overflow, then I need to get rid of items so that everything fits comfortably. I applied the same concept to all underclothes, such as socks.

One drawer contains my jeans and other pants that do not need to be hung in the closet. My work pants are hung in the closet so that they are not wrinkled. As most Americans. I realized I had an obscene number of jeans. I culled my jeans so that I only have three pairs. That is way more than I wear in a typical week. I kept my three most favorite pairs. Applying the rule of three to my jeans has also allowed me to upgrade. I was able to replace one of the $10 pair of Walmart jeans with a $40 pair of Levi’s, which I’m sure will last me much longer, and I am way happier with the fit and feel of them.

In applying the rule of three to the closet, I have three sweaters for when it is cold in the winter, three summer dresses, three hoodie sweatshirts, and three suit jackets. I currently have five pairs of work dress pants, but that will soon be decreasing to four. I have a hard time finding dress pants that fit, so I like to keep more than three pairs of those.

So while I may not have an overall goal number concerning the amount of clothing I aim to own, I have been trying to apply the rule of three to individual categories of clothing. Of course, for shirts, I have way more than three. Shirts do not seem to be as sturdy as pants. For work, I have nine v-neck shirts in various colors (that I will need to gradually replace, as they are becoming worn). I am hoping to get that number down to seven.

I do have a drawer of shirts that I wear when not working that include running shirts, baseball, hockey, and football shirts. I honestly do not know the number, but they all fit quite comfortably into their assigned drawer, so I am not concerned about their actual number. What I have been trying to do is to be sure that I am wearing everything, and if anything is in any way uncomfortable or does not fit well, then it goes into the donate pile.

I only want to be surrounded by the things that I love.

Have you incorporated the rule of three into your life? Have you applied it to surfaces, walls, or drawers? I am finding that it allows me more time to be with the ones I love and do the things I love because I spend less time cleaning and having to weed through mounds of clothing.

Even if the rule of three seems daunting, start with one surface. Choose just one stand or shelf and apply the rule of three. See if it helps to simplify your life.

Complacency

driftwood

I was talking to someone this week that was saying that they felt stagnant. Part of complacency is fear. We are afraid to let go; we want everything to stay the same. New places and experiences are frightening. Fear of the unknown has held many in place, and it is often a detriment.

This same person inspired me to reignite my passion(s). Since finishing school last fall, I have been kind of wallowing. I was a college student for 20 years – practically my entire adult life, and I honestly do not know what to do with myself or how to fill the void that is left now that I am not in school. I have been trying various activities, and it has been hard to find my groove.

I also realized that when we become complacent, we become reactive instead of proactive. I have pretty much simply been responding to whatever crisis or need happens to need my attention instead of being anticipatory and trying to do proactive things to make my life easier. When I was a full time student and working 70 hours a week across two jobs, there were some proactive survival skills I employed, such as preparing large batches of food ahead of time and freezing them in individual portions, so that I would always have allergy friendly food to eat with my hectic schedule.

Yet nothing has prepared me for life in the real world as an adult. I have a new set of challenges and circumstances for which to prepare. It has now been 6 months (6 months!) that I have been out of school and in the real world; it has been a rude awakening. While it may sound cliché, I have learned that even the best-laid plans can be shaken down to their very foundations and destroyed. Survival skills that I learned and used while going to school full time and working 70 hours a week now need to be adapted to address the unique challenges of trying to juggle work, health issues, and leisure time.

Ah, leisure time! Such a first world problem!

The number one thing I have learned these past few months is to be grateful every single day for everything I have and do, for those things are fleeting.

In the words of the great philosopher, and star of my most favorite movie of all time, Deadpool: “Life is an endless series of train wrecks with only brief commercial-like breaks of happiness.” The only way to achieve those breaks of happiness is to break out of complacency and push the envelope. The best moments lay just beyond your comfort zone.

To this end, not only have I completely re-evaluated my priorities in life, but also I have made a concerted effort to double my KonMari  efforts in evaluating my possessions and surroundings to be sure that I am living an authentic life and that I have and do things that are in complete alignment with my values and goals.

A small example of an area in which I have been complacent is my spare bedroom. Now, 5 or 6 years ago when I started my minimalist journey, I did so with the intention of preparing for a large out-of-state move. That move did not happen. I then nested. I took my spare room, which had been a cat playland/library and turned it into an actual spare bedroom. This was partially due to trying to live out one of my fantasy selves: that of the socialite who frequently holds house parties and entertains overnight guests from out of town who come to visit me from far away so that I am not always the one that has to do the traveling.

In the 5 or so years that the spare bedroom has been in existence, it has been used maybe twice. To me, that is not enough justification to keep the space as a spare bedroom. First, if I were to move, then I would no longer be able to afford a 2-bedroom. I would at most be in a 1-bedroom, probably a studio (most likely living in my car again) with the way housing prices have skyrocketed in my area. Second, while I do have an extra room as long as I am living here, I want to be able to use that room for my own purposes, and not simply have it there to be kept clean awaiting company I never have.

I have decided to sell the bed in the spare bedroom. The money is going to be put toward my passion of running (I will not have sponsorship for my fall race this year, and must cover my hotel room and expenses in entirety). Not only am I going to shake myself of the complacency of maintaining a spare bedroom that is not used or needed, but also I am going to use the money to fuel a passion, and once the spare bedroom is empty, I will use the room to fuel another (as yet undetermined) passion.

I’ve always said I wish I had my own treadmill so that I could run inside when the weather is icy without having to leave my house and without needing a gym membership. In fact, my “dream life” is to be in a house in the woods completely off the grid run by solar panels, and of course, a treadmill so I could run in inclement weather. Who knows – once the bed is gone in the spare bedroom, I may seriously look at using that room for a treadmill. Time will tell.

The point is, the more we move out of complacency, the more beautiful life can be because we can control some of what happens to us. We can be proactive instead of reactive, and put into motion things that we want to have happen instead of waiting for life to happen to us. If life is only punctuated by brief moments of happiness, then I want some control over what that happiness entails.

If we operate from a place of happiness and gratitude, then we are better equipped to face the challenges that life throws at us. If you have ways to get either through or around the train wreck, then the continual train wrecks of life are just a little bit more manageable.

Break out of complacency. Fuel your passion.