Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Weekend Declutter and Update

This weekend I reaped the benefits of scheduling, decluttering and minimalist-ing. Friday I had to run to the grocery to pick up cheese for a family party. I didn't know last weekend that I would need it. However, everything else that I needed for the party was available at home, so my trip to the store was super quick. I did pick up milk, though, because it was $1.50 cheaper there for the organic milk than it is elsewhere.

As a result of my quick trip Friday I was able to have a quick trip Saturday, and I was able to both Target and Costco (which would have been challenging otherwise). I tried to exchange laundry detergent that was the wrong scent, but they were out of the free and clear, and I did come home with peanut butter. Life can continue at my house.

My reward was a camping trip and a day at my parents' house. We went camping with my dad, food was easy because it was all planned and on the menu, so we sat around camp and talked an went on a hike/walk with the dogs. (The hike was not long enough or challenging enough to really qualify as a hike, but it was very pleasant!) Afterwards, my dad invited us back to his house. I wasn't planning on that, but since I've been keeping up with my chores and I knew what I needed to do, I could go. So instead of an afternoon of laundry, we played games and my mom made ravioli for dinner!

I feel like I was able to enjoy my family time (my overall goal) because I've been keeping on schedule. I also feel like I was more able to enjoy our trip because I was more efficient about what needed to be done. I wasn't worn out from running to the grocery every day, and that gave me the time to be where I really wanted to be, and it gave me the flexibility to do something that would be more important in the long run. There is a quote that "the enemy of the important is the urgent," and I think I avoided that this weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's Working!

I decluttered around the washer today. I felt... ahead... all day today. I vacuumed under the refrigerator. Made space here and there (and utterly failed at consolidating pasta in the pantry). But I felt like I was on top of my game today.

This translated to good family time, and that's the point of the project. I got home LATE from a meeting. My family chose to have burritos from the local shop instead of eating pasta two nights in a row (tomorrow we will have it at a family birthday party), but they COULD have made pasta from what is on hand.
View of the reservoir 

But best of all, everyone felt relaxed. After dinner we played cards until bedtime. We played with the dogs. We played together. I really want to maximize this time while the kids still live at home, and tonight feels like we made good use of our time.

That's the point of this whole project. Declutter, minimize and simplify so we can make the best of our time as a family.

I don't think we're perfect. I know there is clutter, and I know we will have crazy nights with late meetings that run into incomplete homework and fend-for-yourself for dinner. But tonight really feels like we're on the right track.

Daily Declutter

Odds and ends again today.

I'm getting rid of a small laundry basket I used for my son when he was about three. I've tried to use it for dog towels, things like that, but they sit on the shelf just fine without the basket. And the basket has been sitting on my dryer, getting in the way, for at least six months. Out it goes.

I used up a secondary box of steel-cut oats, and am not down to just one box. Not my family's favorite form of oats, but they're not going to waste now and they're no longer taking up space in the pantry, so I'm happy. Also used up some berries I needed to defrost, so that's good too. Best of all, I fed my family breakfast and everyone's full and happy.

I got rid of the lost socks and the basket they resided in. From now on lost socks can live in the drawer of the person to whom them belong. I am happy to get that space back in my cupboard, and hopefully people will pair socks themselves rather than wait for me to feel like it.

Tonight is one of the few nights this week that we will all be home together. The weather is cold and rainy, so I feel inclined to sit on the sofa and watch a movie. Instead, I will try to get the family together for a game. We need the time together when we can get it. As simple as it feels to all vegetate with a movie, we'll be happier in the long run if we have fun together.

I've been thinking about what to do after I deal with the obvious clutter. How do I identify the areas of the house I don't use regularly so I can declutter them and make all my corners work for me? I will ponder that, and come up with a plan for second stage decluttering. But I do have obvious clutter still, so that's a little while off.

Daily Declutter

It's raining again, and I am grateful for the water, but it means I cannot take pictures outside and post things to ebay. I have been busy inside, clearing out the food clutter in the freezer. I spent an outrageous amount of time separating frozen kale from frozen berries. I was given a bag of mixed berries and kale as smoothie blend, but we don't drink smoothies, and I wasn't wild about the combination, so I used the kale to make strata and the berries will go into oatmeal. I used up most of the bread ends and bits, so the freezer is looking more accommodating than it was.

I located some tea towels I had embellished, and those will be a gift for a family friend along with a serving tray. I ironed the tea towels and some shirts that had patiently been waiting for attention.

Not much decluttered, but I ran a few errands and prepared for tonight. We have dance class, so I want to have everything as done as possible before I pick my daughter up from school. That way we can have a little family time before I head out again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Is Minimalism Elitist?

Lions at the Tower of London.
Because the kings of England were not minimalists.
I read something recently that criticized minimalism as elitist, or at least privileged. The article argues that our Depression-era grandparents would never have thrown out empty Cool Whip containers because they appreciated the potential usefulness of things. Minimalist used their (vast) wealth to buy whatever they need instead of reusing margarine tubs for leftovers.  I feel that is wrong, at least when stated as a universal description of minimalism. Minimalism can be frugal or spendthrift, elitist or populist, depending on the desires of the person who implements it.

Would my Depression-era grandmother have needed seven varieties of salt to make dinner? As a minimalist, I prefer to limit the varieties of food I keep on hand at any time. (Or at least, I'm working toward that. I have a pasta problem in my pantry. How many pounds of pasta does one family really need!) Would my grandmother have a stash of 40 different types of yarn or bolt fabric that she bought "in case" she found a project for them? (I'm trying to use it up, I promise! No new yarn unless I don't have anything that will work, and I have several bundles listed on ebay to try to winnow down my stash). The proverbial granny would have probably been shocked at how much I own, even as I have worked to reduce my surplus.

Keeping large quantities of unused goods on hand was a luxury those grandparents didn't have. Grandpa kept baling wire in the shed to repair garden equipment, but he didn't keep three new spools of it -- he used it almost as fast as he acquired it. That's why he kept it -- because he actually used it, not because he thought it "might" come in helpful "someday." I have kept things for "someday," and I have found the replacement part after I bought a replacement. Those Depression-era grandparents didn't have so much that they forgot what they had.

I think the quantity of things they owned is the difference between how our Depression-era grandparents saved things, and how we save things. As a people we have more than enough. Much more than enough. That grandmother mended clothes and saved buttons because that's how she made sure everyone had clothes to wear to school and church. She didn't cling to forty pairs of pretty shoes she didn't wear. She had little and she made it last. I think that granny would have laughed at my desire to wear pretty, impractical shoes once or twice a year. She would have spread my wardrobe to more people (how did I get so many t-shirts?)

Are minimalists elitist? Some of them. Some aren't. Some make the best use they can of the resources they own, and some maintain the most current styles, discarding the old simply because it is old. Is minimalism elitist? It depends on the minimalist.

Daily Declutter

I've had a busy weekend, and Monday was no better, with lessons and the orthodontist appointment. But we ate dinner at home, eating leftover cornbread and a butternut squash (and other things), using up a few things that have been sitting around the pantry. That's good.

Today I'm back on track. I wandered around as I washed laundry, and I noticed shoe inserts in my closet from a pair of shoes I no longer own. Why were these inserts still there? I don't have a good answer for that. But now they are gone. I also have a woven (straw?) fan I bought at a fair...I don't know how many years ago. The ribbons get in the way all the time. Also gone. A folding paper fan; why is this in there? Three baseball caps (one was mine), a bag that I loved but is irreparably torn, and a shoe rack. By consolidating all my shoes on one rack I am able to shift it over, put two pairs of boots on the shelf next to my other shoes, and unstack my hat boxes. Now I can reach the top boxes without standing on tiptoe and knocking the top one off the stack. That hasn't been a good plan, but I've been using it for the last seven years or so. The floor is clear so I an sweep quickly and I have room to stand when I reach for the top shelf.

I've been thinking about next Christmas (I'm one of those people) and I'm thinking about including a hat for my father-in-law. This made me consider the yarn I have in my stash, namely, some fisherman's wool that I don't like. If I don't like it, why am I keeping it? It's now in the donation box.

I also cleared out the cabinet where we keep the medicines. I discarded an expired box and combined two that were the same meds. I also found two unopened bags of sore throat lozenges that I will donate to the food bank because we have never used them -- we're tea drinkers for that sort of thing.

A bunch of little things, but that's how it works! I now have a large box full of things to take to the donation site, and a couple things for the food bank.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Necessary Clutter: Shopping Bags

I live in California, a state that recently voted to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. This has caused a change in the way people grocery shop because we have to make a decision every time we shop: use your own bag, buy a bag for ten or fifteen cents, or carry your purchase home without a bag. I have been bringing my own bags for a long time now, but I overhear a lot of people lament bags left at home.

I left my bags a lot, for a long time. They would sit in an untidy pile, or in a tidy basket, by the front door "so I won't forget them when I go shopping." I would forget. I have found I have to make it more inescapable than that. I finally realized that I have to take them out to the car, for storage, every time.

Simplifying the steps to remembering my bags was a major step in remembering them. If I forgot to bring them into the store, I either ran back out to the car or I loaded the groceries into my bags at the car. The little bit of hassle helped me learn the new habit. At this point I'm ready to join the "bring your own bag" Olympic team -- I bring cloth bags for produce and bulk items.(for the record, they store food really, really well and I no longer have mushrooms turn to slime before I get a chance to use them. I can tell you how it works if you're interested).

I really like cloth bags for a number of reasons. I appreciate their environmental benefits. I appreciate the five cent refund from a number of retailers. (I would turn in a coupon for 45 cents, so why not get back five cents a bag, every trip?) But I really appreciate not having plastic grocery bags taking over my cupboards!

I know lots of people find them useful, but they mostly just went to live in the cupboard under my sink, where they leaped out every time I tried to wash the dishes. I tried to keep them in a special sock, or an old tissue box, but they always overwhelmed the box or bag and escaped across the floor.

Now, I use cloth bags for shopping, and empty bread bags for picking up Things I Don't Want To Touch. When I have too many bread bags to fit in my container, I thin the heard and put the extras out in the car, next to my shopping bags, so I can recycle them the very next time I go shopping when I remember to. I'm not perfect, but I think the process is improving.

Note: You don't have to use the ugly bags stores sell at the register. I have a pretty floral bag I never used for anything else, and an old beach bag that never went to the beach. And if you find you have more bags than you every use, offer them to the person behind you at the store who forgot hers. Only keep what you need, and your car won't be overcluttered with shopping bags, either.