Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily Declutter

Because tomorrow is a holiday, I ran my errands today. I'm still maintaining a once-a-week grocery schedule, and it's still one of the top ways I'm maintaining structure around here. I save so much time by not trying to squeeze a 15 minute trip in several times a week. When I calculate in the actual shop, the time to drive there (or get off the freeway if "I'm there anyway") and putting things away, it really adds up.

Additionally, I was able to load up the truck before I headed out on my errands. I had several piles of things that needed to be dropped off elsewhere -- rags for Goodwill, random metal pieces and glass bottles for recycling -- and they are thankfully no longer my responsibility. I don't have that constant "I really ought to" reminder every time I come home! I also put a couple of kids toys out at the curb -- they still work, but they aren't in resale condition. Now those are no longer taking up the garage, and I can park back in the garage before winter weather arrives!

I'm still (again?) making baby steps toward a peaceful and organized home, but it's better than letting the chaos overwhelm me!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily Declutter

The problem with bringing home merchandise for the store is that I always have clutter lying around the living room! Today I got it all outside, and I'm feeling really good about that, but I also know I have a lot of work to do with it, since the clothes are not all priced and tagged. However, I am waiting for tagging supplies, so I have a good excuse.

I finally went through my closet as well. I am pleased that it took so little time to work through my closet. I lay everything out on my bed, pulled out the clothes (mostly dresses) that were summer-only, put back everything I will continue to wear through the autumn and winter, then added the few things I had put away in the spring. I had so many shirts that I pulled out a couple to store, just so I won't have so much bulk in my closet this winter.

I did have one dress that I will be donating to the fabric recycling at Goodwill. I knew it was about worn out, but I was limping by with in through the end of the summer. I will need to look for a replacement, but it is not a rush item. When I rush, I am much more likely to buy something I regret later.

I'm also getting rid of a pretty shirt I never wear because it is a heavy knit and sleeveless. I'm either too warm or too cold in it, and I just don't enjoy wearing it. Likewise, I will be getting rid of a very nice vintage wool sweater; I'm too tall to feel comfortable in this, because the sleeves are just too short. I'll post it to ebay if my daughter doesn't want it.

I also cleared out the freezer. I toasted all the bread ends for bread crumbs, so they won't go to waste and I won't have to eat them myself. This will give me space to store the zucchini that I found late in the garden. I just need to shred it up, and I'll be able to use it all winter for muffins and such.

Last night the kids put away the Halloween decorations and brought out the Thanksgiving decorations. I don't decorate heavily for most holidays, but we do have a little bit going on, especially honeycomb pumpkins and turkeys. We've had these guys for a lot of years, and they still remind me of my childhood.

So, I didn't really get a ton moved out, it feels like it around the house, and that's important. We have a lot more living space, and that's the point!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Daily Declutter

The smaller bins are working! I am able to move bins of clothes for the store outside when they are full and inventoried, which give the house a lot more living space!

Today I continue with my weekly menu planning and shopping trip. I also returned a couple dead plants to Home Depot -- I had been looking at them with guilt for weeks, and finally they are gone! I will move the pots out to the garage, and bring them back out when I decide I need new flowering plants on the porch.

I made another trip to the bins, with the associated laundry that follow a trip to the bins. I again resisted bringing home anything I didn't need. I did pick up a couple shirts for my dad, but I will be leaving them with him this weekend. I'd rather he have shirts from the bins than support sweatshops!

The house is a little messier than I'd like, but I feel good about moving the plants out. Plus, I have federal jury duty for the coming month -- I have to call in every night to find out what I am doing the next day. I have set up a plan, for taking the kids to school and making dinner, so I am hoping I will be able to keep the house on an even keel while attending my civic duty (read that last part with sarcasm).

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Minimalism isn't just about decluttering

I'm pretty sure I've written about this before, but minimalism isn't just about decluttering, and I need to remember that. I write about the things I've gotten rid of (and the routines I've created to keep clutter down), but I don't think enough about how much less I acquire.

I shop frequently now. I shop for the family one day, but I often shop two other days every week, to acquire merchandise for the children's resale shop my mother started. This means I visit garage sales, thrift shops and the bins -- the Goodwill outlet center. And for the most part, I don't bring anything home for my family.

In the past couple of months I have brought home brand new (with tags!) tea towels for gift giving; a couple of shirts for myself, my husband or my kids; a couple of notebooks for the kids' school supplies; a tablecloth I immediately regretted and gave away; and a set of napkins for school lunches. I have not brought home dishes, vases, pans, blankets, toys, holiday decorations or many other items I see for sale. I'm not even tempted, and today I realized that I was not at all tempted to even look at the things that were not shop related.

In earlier times, I would have been tempted. I would have brought home lots of things that were useful, or could be useful, or things that were merely pretty. I have a little weakness for buying blankets, but we have enough for everyone's bed and for the living room, and no where else to store them. This time, I realized I'm not even looking at those blankets, I'm not looking at the glass pitchers. I've come to a place where the stuff no longer offers me possibilities of a life that would be better.

I thank minimalism for that. Life is about what you do, not about getting the stuff that would make those dream activities possible. If I actually have a need for a new blanket (a blanket gets chewed up by the dog, for example) I can easily acquire another one. After all, there's enough stuff in the world. But I have been increasingly able to disregard stuff for stuff's sake, and that's improvement, too.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Daily Declutter

There is always more to declutter! I started planning for Christmas this week, and came up with a few items that I can declutter in the process. I'm not giving clutter for Christmas, but I do have some wool that will be knit into gifts. As I went through my yarn, I realized I still have some aluminum knitting needles -- and I hate knitting with aluminum needles! So away they go. If I want to knit something with that size needles, I will be happier buying new wooden needles, so away those went.

I still haven't cleaned out my wardrobe, but my daughter went through hers, and found items that I have never seen before. So those have wandered off as well.

In the meantime, the bar has mostly been cleared (my jury duty paperwork remains out, and pumpkins sit out waiting for Halloween to be carved, then made into puree for pumpkin bread). The counter in my bathroom is cleared of clothes that are "still mostly clean." The living room only has the clothes for the shop that I am actively pricing (the rest have been removed to storage).

Not the decluttering accomplishment I got before the shop, but I'm holding steady in areas, and still making progress in others.

Fantasy Minimalism

I have a rich fantasy life. The fantasy me wakes up when I'm rested -- not when the alarm clock goes off. Then she gets up, has a lingering cup of tea (and maybe breakfast) with my husband. We step out of our cute cottage, then walk the dogs -- an English bulldog and a husky -- to the nearby dog park. I wander into town (again walking distance) to pick up fresh produce and a crusty loaf of whole wheat bread for dinner. I volunteer at the library or similar organization once a week, and my husband volunteers at the maritime society. I know the town where fantasy me lives, and I've looked online for real estate there.

This is nothing like my real life. I almost always wake up to the melodious sounds of the alarm clock -- or occasionally, the sound of my dog barking. I get in the car to pick up my son from practice, I drink tea while checking email, I take a kid to school, I come home and do laundry, or maybe it is my day to drive to the grocery store the next town over. I come home and wash more laundry, label laundry, price laundry. (I now take laundry outside in totes I can carry!)

My fantasy life is not the only correct minimalist life. I'm pretty sure I couldn't actually live that way. For one thing, I still have kids at home, and my fantasy life seems to revolve around dogs. My fantasy life does not seem to include washing dishes, washing laundry or any housework at all. (I've had a husky; sweeping is a major occupation for husky people.)

I've been a little demoralized about my minimalist journey because my real life is so distant from my fantasy minimalist life. But as I work to control my environment, and as I focus on the life I actually live, I have become more aware that minimalism is how I live the life I am living, not a fantasy life with house elves. Minimalism is a tool that allows me to enjoy living a busy life, with growing children who are developing their own direction in life. It is a tool to allow me to pursue a business opportunity, charitable opportunity, or  travel opportunity, without compromising my future or my priorities.

So, yes. My life is crazy-busy. My husband and I are not home two nights a week because we are taking kids to classes. Weekends are full of extracurricular activities, garage sale-ing, and the occasional sleepover. But clearing the clutter out of the living room, creating a menu that does not involve take-out pizza (I can't eat cheese anymore) and preventing orthodontist appointments from conflicting with school might be what minimalism looks like for me right now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Daily Declutter

Well, I can't say I've made a great deal of forward progress, but my efforts with the smaller bins have created a positive effect. I went to the bins (and took pictures! But I don't think they demonstrate the immensity of what I'm dealing with, and I will try again. Taking pictures of random things is hard for me -- I have yet to get up the nerve to take pictures of my shopping cart. It just seems too weird for me, and I'm introverted enough to want to avoid attracting that sort of attention.) and my home does not look like it. I have about one load of laundry waiting to be washed, and the rest of the clothes are tagged and in a bin -- not roaming the living room, taking up laundry baskets. They will be priced and taken outside today.

Much of the day that was not spent on laundry and clothes for the shop was spent on creating Halloween costumes. My son will be an arcade game, and my daughter will be Spider-Man -- but the homemade costume, not the one Iron Man made. Cardboard boxes were instrumental in construction, and a sweatshirt and ski cap were sacrificed to the cause, but everything else will be reusable when we're done. Plus, everything either came from the bins, the thrift shop or was packing material, and the cardboard box will still be able to be recycled at the end of the night.

I did have a positive zero-waste event. Several weeks ago, my husband went to the snack shop at the local science museum (it's next to my daughter's dance class, so it's convenient) to get a cup of iced tea. He had remembered his reusable cup and was feeling good. However, they refused to use his reusable cup...but they were willing to sell him their reusable cup, which he could then reuse. They said they could not use his cup because it was "against Health Code." He gave up arguing with them (I didn't ask if he used a paper cup, but I know he didn't come home with a new reusable cup) and moved on.

I emailed the manager. This is, after all, a science museum! They should know about trash, and zero-waste, and things like that. They should be in favor of reducing landfill, and creating more plastic (which can only be downcycled, not truly recycled over and over like glass or aluminum).  The manager was very nice, and after a couple of emails back and forth, she changed the policy at the snack shop and retrained the employees! Apparently, the Health Code says you can use a customer's cup if it's clean and you don't tough the equipment.

I'm really grateful that the manager followed up and was willing to change! A zero-waste victory!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Daily Decluter

I think I have my living room back! I moved out the last boxes, including a box of tagged, priced and inventoried clothes. I moved the empty totes out to the barn, so I can get them when I need them and move around when I don't. I do not have a pile of things I need to decide about, lurking next to my chair. (How will I clean the stain off this shirt? What will I do with the vintage baby clothes?) Ok, I have one shirt with an ink stain I need to remove, and soon, because it's a Christmas shirt. But that's so much better!  For now, they go out to the barn so my living space will be living space, not storage space.

I even managed to post an item to ebay. I decluttered some lids that make mason jars into travel mugs -- but I have a travel mug I like, and I mostly just use my regular mug anyway. So these can go live with someone who will use them, and I can stop feeling guilty about them!

All my laundry is washed, folded, and put away. That used to be a foregone conclusion, but lately things have been lingering in laundry baskets, or worse, laundry baskets have been full of clothes for the shop.

Tonight (or early tomorrow) I will complete the menu and shopping list for next week, and finish my errands for the week. It will set me up to stay on top of things next week!


Daily Declutter

I brought the totes home, and they have made a positive difference in my home already. Yesterday I moved three totes of clothes out of the house (two into the barn, one into the truck for delivery). I labeled four baby shower boxes (so you can get a gift and out of the store in less than five minutes. For people who hate baby showers, or who forget.) I washes two loads of laundry, and one is already put away. I made decisions about baby shoes, burp clothes and bibs (on their way out to the truck in my next trip).

The bar is mostly clear, and I made enchiladas for dinner and banana bread for breakfast. I really feel like I'm making progress, but there's still a lot to do.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Respect Yourself

I had baby clothes all over my living room. It was way beyond what I was comfortable with, what my husband was comfortable with, very much in line with what my dogs are comfortable with ("Get off the laundry! I'll have to rewash that!). I kept the clothes in laundry baskets, totes from Costco, chairs. (I told you it wasn't pretty.)

I think I have a solution. I have moves almost all the clothes out of the house (I have a basket of to-be-washed, and I think that's it!). What was the difference? I finally bought totes that I could move comfortably.

I bought large totes before. I could store several loads of laundry -- over a hundred items of clothes -- in one tote. But they sat in the house because they were too awkward to move. And it took me a long time to realize my problem was the size of the tote. My darling husband (who has put up with so much so far) would carry the totes out of the house, but I wouldn't. Now I can load up clothes, and store them until I am able to tag them. I can carry most of the clothes out, and just work on one small section at a time, so my family will only have one tote of clothes to ignore.

Most people don't have hundreds of items of baby clothes sitting around the house, so what's my point? The point is, it took me a long time to realize, I have to make sure I am physically comfortable with my tools or I won't use them.

If the laundry basket is too heavy, if the shopping bags are too large, if the cabinet is too deep, I will resist using it. If I resist using it, clutter will build up, and I will get frustrated, until I identify the source of the disconnect and fix that.

I am so glad to finally have all this clutter out of the way! We can go back to living in our house, especially as the weather makes living outside (eating on the porch, relaxing on the porch) more difficult.

I'm so excited to finally make progress with this problem!

Onward!

I think I am finally recovering from opening the shop with my mother. By recovering, I still have clothes, shoes, bags, bins and boxes cluttering up all the living space in my living room. Not minimalist. But lately, more than ever, I have been appreciating how my efforts to approach minimalism have made this endeavor possible.

In the past year I altered habits to streamline processes around the house. I put away things that would become clutter -- before they became clutter. I sold or donated a lot of clutter, which made space for me to store boxes, bags and bins. I developed a shopping list and shopping day, began menu planning and generally made the home run more smoothly. If I had known I would start spending my time rescuing children's clothes from charity shops, washing and leaving them around my house, I couldn't have had a better preparation than what I did over the last ten months or so.

However, since August, minimalism has escaped from me, and I think my entire family has suffered. I would post a photo of my living room, but I am ashamed of the mounds of clutter. I am unwilling to let this continue, and I will have to work on two fronts if I am to make the changes I wish to see.

To that end, I will resume writing. I felt a sense of motivation and obligation to create change, so I could report change every day. Some days the change was minute, but I regularly made changes -- and that added up to a lot. I will not be able to report as often, as I will frequently need to buy for the shop and work on the shop in other ways. I hope to be able to report on an expedition to "the bins," where I am able to buy so much for the shop. (So. Much. Clothes.)

So, thanks for reading along, and bearing with me on this new expedition!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Minimalism isn't always about decluttering

One of the things I love about minimalism is that I don't have to do something every day in order to enjoy minimalism. I spent the first part of this year actively working to clear out clutter; now I'm reaping the benefits of my earlier work and still enjoying minimalism.

I'm looking around right now, and the sites that bothered me earlier in the year are basically clear. Ok, I have zucchini to shred on the bar in the kitchen, and a couple of papers to take to school on the shelf by the front door, but I don't have the piles of clutter stacking up like we used to. We've created new patterns or gotten rid of the things that used to sit around. (The exception to this is the table full of LEGOs in the kitchen. I have no words for LEGO mess.)

I think I'm getting a handle on working for the shop. I have a day for shopping at the Goodwill bins, and several days for washing, pricing and inventorying the clothes I buy there. I have space to store the clothes outside the living room (thanks, decluttering!). Next week will add another level of activity, but we'll still be able to come home to a quiet, peaceful, decluttered home. Minimalist efforts will allow us to pursue the activities important to each of the four of us -- even though we'll be pursuing more and more activities as the kids are getting older (cross-country running and dancing and college classes and 4-H and piano and, oh, yeah, friends).

I know I'm not moving any more forward as a minimalist home, but I'm pursuing so much else right now that it would not be minimalist to try to minimalist my home while I'm adding so many other activities. Adding the shop and supporting the kids' activities is relationship building, and relationships are the point of minimalism -- the point is not to live in a perfect home.

I often appreciate the time I had this past year to work on minimalist-ing the house -- because it has allowed me the freedom and space to work with my mother and sister on the shop without becoming overwhelmed.

As I get my feet under me I hope to be able to streamline my home a little more, and declutter a little more. In the meantime I will be checking in, hopefully twice a week, to reflect on how minimalism is working (or not) in my life, and what I'm doing about it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Daily Minimalisting

I'm still here, and I'm still working toward minimalism, but my new opportunities in the shop are making life seem very full! Right now my living room is very full of clothes that need to be priced and inventoried, but I know I have a place to store them as soon as I am done with these tasks, so that's helpful.

I continue with the patterns I was creating, and I continue enjoying the physical space I made in the first half of this year. I don't know if I could have undertaken working at the resale shop without the new patterns I created this year.

I'm still menu planning. Having a schedule gives me peace of mind because I don't have to create a dinner plan in the afternoon, and I have everything I need for dinner.

The bar is (mostly) clear, the counters are clear, the chest freezer is still empty.

I love all the space I created, for storing children's clothes before they go to the shop. There is no world where storing them in the house would have been a workable solution for us!

I'm still selling on ebay. I'm not posting as much there, as I am not moving much out of the house (that time is spent on moving children's clothing around) but I am still getting things into the hands of people who want them.

This is what minimalism is: having a full life by clearing away the physical clutter that gets in the way.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Daily Declutter

Decluttering is harder when you aren't home as often! I haven't been adding much to the house (except clothes for the shop, but they have a definite path out), but I haven't been clearing out much either. However, school started this week for the kids, so we can't go on adventures like we have been, and I suddenly have been home to get things done.

I didn't get any concrete clutter out of the house, but I did get a lot of mental clutter cleared. I got through a long to-do list of people to call -- appointments to make or change, service calls to arrange. I had a wonderful experience with Best Buy's service department which reconciled my terrible experience with my Samsung washer. I will be able to sleep better tonight with fewer to-dos on my list, and I expect the days will be calmer as a result.

I have been reading Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home again, and this passage really struck me:

Many aspects of my life contributed to my feeling of hurry. Time might seem to be a very separate issue from possessions, for example, but I'd noticed that after I tackled clutter, not only did our apartment seem more spacious and organized, I also felt less hurried, because I could find and stow things easily...I had a place for everything, with nothing superfluous in my way, which gave me a feeling of unhurried-ness and mastery of the space around me.

This mastery of space and time is an aspect of minimalism, and I appreciate it as I feel it flow. I am on the ebb right now, with the introduction of the shop I am running with my mother and sister, but I feel the tide of peace there, and I do get moments to really appreciate that peacefulness, more now than before I started this project.  Getting my mental clutter cleared out is one more way to grasp the peace I find through minimalism.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Daily Minimalisting

With the introduction of the shop, my daily routine has included a LOT more whopping and laundry. Loads and loads more laundry. But I'm getting it done, and getting it out to the free space in the shed (thanks, decluttering!) so family life has resumed more or less normally. No more walking around piles and bags and totes of children's clothes in the living room.

I made very cute (if I do say so) hat stands to display baby hats, using candlesticks and balls of fabric. I had a picture of the inspiration, but I can't find it to share with you. Used up rags I was going to donate and I didn't need to keep supplies on hand to create a "project." I'm thrilled that I was able to accomplish my intention without having to deliberately keep supplies on hand, as clutter most of the time.

Menu planning is still saving my life. I don't know how I lived for so long without doing this, and I feel like such a goof for saying that! But there you go. This is what I have come to.

The house is tidy and live-able, even after all the mess caused by the clothes for the shop. We celebrated my son's birthday, spent about an hour tidying up beforehand (vacuuming, making sure the bathroom was clean), then about the same amount of time tidying up afterwards (putting dishes in the dishwasher, storing leftover pizza). Minimalism really is contributing to the happiness of the family, making every-day and special occasions easier.

I still have work to do, but it's getting so much do the things I want to do. I just wanted to take a minute to appreciate how my changes have positively affected my life.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Daily Minimalist

I didn't get any decluttering accomplished, but I did do a load of laundry, and we've worked out our schedule for the coming year. My son's taking a class two nights a week, the same two nights my daughter will be taking her class. This is good, because we will largely be together the other nights, but getting dinner on the table, and cleaned up afterwards, will be more challenging than in years past. Still. if we have a plan, we're half-way done.

Speaking of plans, I am glad to be back on my menu plan. Tonight we're just having veg and bread for dinner, but we've got a plan, and that's a good thing.

The kids (with motivation in the form of ice cream bribery) came up with their own plan for washing up every night once school starts. It's not the plan that I would have written, but then, I'm neither washing dishes nor did I need to negotiate a solution, so I'm being quiet on that score and serving up ice cream. I'm telling myself that negotiating a solution is a beneficial skill for the kids as well, so it was just good parenting.

As for the shop: we opened my mom's children's resale shop Saturday, and I am please with our success. I would, of course, be thrilled if we had made twice as much money, but we had a pretty constant stream of people in the shop, some buying and some selling. It gave us a great opportunity to learn how everything works (cash register, credit card machine, people bringing in clothes for sell-back) and we enjoyed meeting the people. We're hoping to have a Grand opening later (with cake) once we have the kinks worked out. But I do think we are successful so far.

On that note, my daughter and I went with her friend and her friend's mother to shop for back-to-school clothes at the thrift shop. The girls found plenty of clothes (that their mothers approved!) for a minimal amount of money, and they had a blast showing off their outfits to one another -- and coveting what the other girl found. They're planning to share a couple of outfits with each other, and nothing is too revealing for girls their age, so I'm happy with our results.

In all, although I didn't clear anything out, I don't think I made the clutter around here worse, and I know my mental clutter will benefit from having a plan.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Still Here

We're opening the shop tomorrow! It's been a busy couple of weeks, getting things reorganized (so we can find things), getting the shop clean, and buying more children's clothing to sell.

Oh. My. Goodness. I have been doing so much buying. I shopped at the bins (the Goodwill Outlet). I shopped at garage sales. I shopped at thrift store. I bought So. Much. Stuff. Then I came home and washed it, and folded it, and left it in a big box in my living room, so we can enjoy a big messy box before I take the clothes up to my mom's and the shop.

So, the house is messy. I've been doing a LOT of shopping. Things are piled up. Have I lost everything I worked for so far in my walk toward minimalism? Not really.

I haven't bought much for myself. I got a wool sweater for myself and my husband (we share that sort of thing), a new tablecloth that I might be regretting, napkins for school lunches and a lovely Trader Joes canvas shopping bag. That's it for me, out of bags and bags of things I've brought home, and many more bags worth of things I've sorted through.

My routines are mostly holding up. (Not as much with the laundry routine -- people in my house have run out of clothes, but only the once. Even though I wash laundry almost every day.) I'm going grocery shopping today, I have my list and I'll finish my menu before I head out the door. I do have the storage space, which I'm using for one large item right now, to store clothing in the shed instead of in the living room. I just need to make that last step work.

I'm sorry summer is over (or about over. My husband's back at school, but the kids aren't) but I know it will be easier to slip into a routine when we aren't rushing off to the beach at a moment's notice. Not that I wouldn't put up with a certain amount of chaos in order to have that eternal summer. But I'm looking at the bright side.

So, what I really wanted to do is check in so you'd know I'm still here, still writing, and hoping to be back on a regular basis starting Monday. (I'll get some work done around the house, and let you know how the opening went.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Shop

I'm still pretty surprised to find myself the (partial) owner of a children's resale shop. In a lot of ways I've been preparing for this since my son was born, 15 years ago. I've always stockpiled hand-me-downs, and thrift-shopped for clothes for him (and later his sister). I had an elaborate storage and inventory system to avoid overbuying, and the moment someone grew out of clothes (like, a half hour before we were supposed to go see Nutcracker) I could pop out to the shed, pull out new clothes of an appropriate size, and we were ready to go.

The shop will be like that, but on a grander scale. When we run low on size 4 boys shirts, I hope to pop back into the storeroom and resupply, easy-peasy. But seriously, a month ago, none of us had any idea of opening a shop!

So this past week has been pretty crazy, and the coming week looks like it will be pretty full as well. I need to go back to the Goodwill Outlet ("the bins") and rescue more clothes from the waste stream, and bring them back into use as an alternative to people buying new. We have washing, and reorganizing, and building, and cleaning to do in the shop. My house would really love it if I spent a little time here, maybe washing some of our own clothes. But we'll see.

My efforts at minimalisting have definitely paid off in the last couple weeks. My wonderful husband was able to go grocery shopping for me, and I have a menu plan for this week. I'll be able to feed my family, thanks to my husband and the plan. We're not tripping over debris, due to the decluttering, and I am hopeful that the mounds of dog hair that are developing in the corners will be swept away today before they coalesce into spontaneous puppies (they're getting pretty big!).

So, hopefully I will be more present online after this week, but I am really grateful for the change that has occurred over the last six months or so. I can move forward with this new endeavor (with my mother and sister) because of the changes I have made over the last year. Hopefully I will be able to continue both the shop and minimalisting after the store opens Saturday!

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Trip to the Goodwill Outlet

Oh my goodness, people! I have never!

I went down to the Goodwill Outlet to pick up gently used children's clothes for my mom's shop. (She got the shop! We're opening in about a week, in time for back-to-school, but just barely.) I had no idea what I was doing, and due to our proximity to the border, most of the people there came across from Mexico to shop. Thus, I think I was the only English speaker there, and most of the employees gave instructions in Spanish, so that was different for me. I felt like a fish out of water, but everyone was very nice to me, and took care of me (somehow they could tell I was clueless) and I got inside to do my shopping.

I noticed that everyone was very patient with me, and helpful to me despite the fact that I did not speak the language everyone else spoke. I wonder speculate about how the situation would have been different with one Spanish speaker in a crowd of English speakers.

There was So. Much. Stuff. We were each assigned a six-foot high bin, like they receive goods into at the donation station. We were packed into a small building, sorting through clothes (and other textiles), throwing the "good" stuff into a sorting tote, and the rest went onto the floor. I should have taken pictures, but I was too overwhelmed. After we emptied our tote, we'd put our clothes back in the bin and move onto another bin. Over and over, for two hours.

Eventually, I believe the remnants are sold at auction but I didn't confirm that.

I could not believe how much our city throws out, on a daily basis. This facility is open every day, with this much stuff available every day! And Goodwill is only one charity shop, among several, in one large city in one corner of our country. As I was pawing through the piles and bins, I couldn't get over how much people were throwing out, and how much people keep buying new.

Most of the goods were in good shape, and good quality. For my mom's shop I purchased children's clothes from Carters, Children's Place, Gap, Gymboree and other quality children's manufacturers. I am glad I can bring a lot of these clothes (some probably never worn) back into use, and away from the waste stream. And I'm glad Goodwill makes these items available. But it saddens me that we, as a nation, buy so much new, and throw so much away.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Daily Declutter: Mom Was Right

I'm not proud of this. Last week I started mending a few items with my sewing machine, but then the kids' friends came over and I left the project out. And ever since, it's been sitting there, looking messy and taunting me with things undone.

So last night, after the kids were in bed (when I'm usually just a blob on the couch with a book) I finished making produce bags for shopping. They aren't perfect, but they are done! (I don't know where shopping bags go, but they do wander off!) After a week of looking at the pile of fabric, sewing machine and other debris, I'm done! Everything is tidied away!

I also finished up a spool of pumpkin orange thread (I don't make much in pumpkin orange) and threw that spool away. It felt surprisingly good to finish that off. (I do use the weird colors of thread for things that don't matter. I use the "normal" colors for altering my daughter's clothes, and things like that.)

I also packed up a bunch of sales on ebay and shipped them off. I used all reused boxes, or I created shipping boxes out of used boxes. I now have a lot fewer boxes sitting around, and I have a lot less clutter waiting for homes.

If I had just finished a week ago (as my mother taught me) I wouldn't have been taunted my undone projects all week -- and I would have felt calmer and less cluttered all week. Maybe I'll learn my lesson now. I think I'll go make my bed.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Why do I not do the things I know I should do?

I had to run to the grocery yesterday, Again. This is the third time since Thursday (I had to shift my shopping day for my husband's birthday.) I had worked out a system, and it was working well. I made a menu, then made my grocery list from my menu and I didn't spend multiple days grocery shopping.

Why did I stop? What made me decide that coming up with a menu was harder than running back to the store over and over?

I know this isn't unique behavior. I haven't found a place to put the hand-me-down clothes I'm going to offer a family at church. So they sit on the bar -- my Flat Space of Clutter -- until next Sunday. Unless I forget, because I've gotten used to seeing clutter in the kitchen.

I have shopping bags lying around -- those are my husband's fault. No, really. I bought things for him at Home Depot, and he didn't do something with them. Like leave them on the workbench in the garage on the way in the house. Oh, wait, that was me again.

The house has been slowly getting cluttery again, with boxes for ebay and bags from the (multiple trips to the) store. Things that need to go to my mom. Clothes the kids need to decide upon.

I know what I need to do, but what keeps me from doing it? It's getting really bad; the house is feeling uncomfortable to me, but I have been successfully escaping the house to do fun things, so I don't dwell on the clutter. Do I need to reduce the amount of fun in order to focus on the house? That's not the sort of balance I'm looking for. But I do need to figure out what has lead me away from the order that we all prefer, and in so little time!

I know I can do this. I know I can maintain a peaceful, ordered home and spend time going out to the aquarium, the movies, the river walk, the beach. I need a shift in focus or order, and I need to follow the routines I have created for myself. I need to follow the routines even if they are hard because my life is better off if I do so.

Like I tell my kids, you don't have to want to, but you have to.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Most Amazing

Today we went to the Dog Surfing competition in Imperial Beach. It is exactly what it sounds like. People take their dogs out into the surf, and the dogs ride the waves back to shore. Competitively.



It was a marvelous occasion for people watching and dog watching. Some of the dogs were dressed to impress, while others were just there for the waves. We found ourselves cheering for the dogs as they coasted in on a long wave. Truly, the best stupid fun I've had in a long time.

I think I'm discovering how this minimalism -thing works. Make time for the things that add value. Like sitting on the beach with your loved ones, cheering for dogs on surfboards.

Friday, July 28, 2017

No Decluttering Today

Today is my husband's birthday, so instead of staying home and making him clean out the garage, we will spend today out and about. We're going to the aquarium, and out to lunch. Then my daughter's dance camp will be performing what they learned during camp. After that, down to my in-laws for a birthday party!

Birthday presents will be fairly non-cluttery. A couple books and new shoes. Not exciting, but what he wants. (And after all, he doesn't need LEGOs!)

I hope you have a good day, and a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What is "Rich"

Due to a series of events, I was having a mental discussion with myself asking the question "Are you rich?" I had a series of different answers as I discussed this with myself (as I was pulling laundry off the line, so no one heard me, thankfully).

My initial reaction was "no." I wouldn't claim wealth. It seems like claiming beauty, or intelligence, or most adjectives that are considered positive. No, I am not someone to envy. I'm only ordinary.

But, I argued with myself, consider most of the world. I have clean water, affordable health care, plenty of food for my children to eat (in fact, I doubt they have ever gone to bed hungry). I enroll them in extra-curricular activities that appeal to them, and in fact I do not have a paying job so I can support my children and my family in growing together and supporting the activities that are of value to us. Is there greater wealth.

I doubt my brother-in-law would consider us wealthy. We skip many of the outward trappings of wealth -- cable TV, smart phones, many types of electronics, new clothes. I cannot think of the other outer aspects of wealth, New cars.

This lead me to consider the material wealth of our country. I am spending a lot of time and energy trying to limit the material goods I own. Material goods are so easy to acquire in the US -- even homeless people have carts of goods they carry. In other parts of the world, and in other times, poverty includes a lack of things in addition to a lack of food. People had one blanket, one set of clothes. In Southern California, where the weather is temperate, homeless people carry multiple blankets, sleeping bags, sleeping pads. They have camps where more goods are stored. We throw away so much that people who are living without are able to collect their own surplus out of our discards.

I do not mean that homeless people should do without a second blanket to provide comfort. I do think that some of my wealth can go to help people who need it in better ways than throwing away a blanket for them to use.

I am rich. I have enough, and more than enough. I do not want for anything, although I may want things. Truly, I can have anything I wish for, although I may not have everything I wish for. I limit myself from grabbing everything that I wish for so I do not get sick on the surplus, like a child at a birthday party.

As I comb through everything I have brought into my home over the years, it is beneficial for me to acknowledge that wealth is present without material goods, and my material wealth allows me to operate without a safety net of "things I might use someday." My true wealth is not something that can be seen, stolen, or destroyed. I hope you also are rich.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Daily Declutter

Moving forward again. Boning (for clothing/costume making) was donated to dance class; magazines were donated to the senior center. I spoke to a gentleman who wants my old scrapbook; he has several granddaughters, so I can pass it along to him with a clean conscience.

A lot of things have been coming into the house, and I have not been recording them faithfully. I tell myself that they will replace things I have or they will move to another home, but I can think of a lot of new towels that have come in (old towels will go to the Humane Society or another animal rescue group), hair dye (to pass along to a little girl I know), and copper cups (for making Moskow Mules; they were a birthday present) that have come into the house in the last week or two. Likewise, a toy moved from the barn back into the house (it is not for sale, but to be played with).

The kids and I looked through all the art projects we still had from preschool and art class. The kids kept as much art as would fit in a mailing tube, and the rest went to be recycled. It was nice looking back, identifying pieces they remember. Amazingly, there was no sense of loss when we threw out the still-life drawing my son made when he was seven; my daughter did not regret the loss of a picture of a cute kitten. And now their artwork can fit conveniently and tidily on a shelf, in a container, next to other mementos instead of taking up as much space as a couple large plastic totes.

I'm really, really pleased with the overall improvement in the amount of storage space freed up in the shed and barn, and the living space freed up in the house. I will be dropping one of my obligations (I have others I need to evaluate) and hopefully I will use the time my daughter is in dance class to shop for the resale shop I'm hoping to open with my mother and sister. If I hadn't spent so much time making space and getting rid of clutter I would not have room for storing out-of-season stock, and starting this endeavor would have been much more difficult. I like being well prepared, and having a lot of stock ready to go on the shelf at the beginning of a season makes my much more comfortable than trying to buy things as we go; for this, I need storage space. I am so glad my efforts to declutter will make this new undertaking much easier, even if my life won't be more "simple." However, I am hopeful that I will be able to use non-family time to shop for the store, and still leave family time largely intact.

Speaking of family time, my husband were able to get away for a few hours of hiking and bird watching. And talking, uninterrupted. Beautiful birds, including a Lazuli Bunting and a Green Heron. I'm not quite a bird watcher, but I did enjoy the quiet and the activity of the birds. Not as appreciated were the two snakes that were out; I am not a fan of snakes, although I do understand their purpose in nature. Still, I would appreciate them better if they served their purpose farther away from me!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Daily Declutter

Hooray! Moving stuff out today, making good use of space, making the house more useful. China finally moved out of the house so we can use that cabinet as a bookcase for the kids. They mostly share reading material at this point (Hello, Harry Potter) so sharing a bookcase makes sense for us. Thus, they will have more room in their bedrooms. But, the china had to move out before that happened, and now we can finally move forward.

While we were moving the china we evaluated what we really want to keep. My poor, beleagured husband wanted to keep the things we use every year (?!), so we only got rid of a couple serving pieces and all our china coffee cups. We don't drink coffee, serve coffee, own a coffee maker or coffee. So they cups will move off to another home where people drink coffee (and presumably break pieces of their china) and we will enjoy the space we have.

We also cleaned up the barn so we'd have room to store the china. We got rid of a couple games, a string of lights, a box of books, a scrapbook someone gave us conditionally ("until we find another little girl who will appreciate it." Really?), a suitcase, a suitcase stand, a bunch of trash, and a couple sheets we used to cover furniture we no longer store. Everything is on shelves (I keep giving this as a goal!), and things are even grouped together so I can find them easily. Ebay stuff is all together, out of season clothes and linens are together, LEGOs are together. My husband found a display board from a school project from years ago; I kept saving it "just in case" but he finally recognized it for what it was: clutter. I guess all lost of the clutter is together as well -- in the donate bin!

I feel so good about making so much space. The kids books will be better available, and their rooms clearer. I have two shelves of stuff I'm selling, and I've got most of it posted, either to Craigslist or ebay. I scrubbed the bathroom hard and dealt with a lot of the hard water stains in the shower.

And now it's time for dinner, and relaxing with the family!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Daily Declutter

We are virtually done with the bathroom...renovation. I hesitate to use that word, because it implies removing walls or structures, but it was certainly more than just buying new towels. Hopefully, after this, I can get back to decluttering the house and simplifying.

I did have an excellent opportunity to go through everything we had stored in the bathroom, and evaluate it for utility. I didn't find much that needed to move out, but everything looks much tidier than it did before.

I need to declutter the desk area. We were looking for a picture we purchased last summer, to use as decor in the bathroom. Neither of us could find it. We did find souvenirs from our 2011 summer vacation, in a shopping bag. Not a great way to display mementos, and not a great use of the space. And we never found the picture we were looking for. (I put the 2011 mementos in with the other container of 2011 mementos we found, and that will need to be cleaned out, possibly some of those things will go on display, but not today.)

It's good to know what I need to tackle next, but I won't be too aggressive with the desk clean-out. We need a few days of playing and going to the beach before I force my poor husband to begin cleaning something else.

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On an unrelated note, my mother, sister and I are considering beginning a resale shop together. Reflecting on some of the details necessary to begin the shop, like where to store merchandise out of season, I'm really glad I have cleared out so much space in the storage shed. It will make beginning this project much easier. I don't know what we would have done (rented storage space in a self-storage facility) if I hadn't been decluttering all this time.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Daily Declutter

We helped my niece and nephew move into their first home today. They have some wonderful friends, and it was grand to see them setting up their new life together. They've done a wonderful job furnishing their home with contributions from family and gleanings from Craigslist. I'm so proud of them, and it makes me reminisce fondly of the apartment my husband and I first moved into many years ago. I'm grateful that they have a first floor apartment, however, as I remember not loving moving everything up all our steps.

A young couple moving into their first home need lots of incidentals that they did not think about. They could use a couple of lamps (the bedroom has none), ice trays for the freezer, and a trash can in the kitchen. Things that you don't necessarily think of until you go to get ice... and there is no ice there.

This is an excellent opportunity to get rid of things we don't necessarily need, and an opportunity to evaluate things I didn't really want to get rid of, but which I don't need. My niece could use an end table, and my husband and I offered her one that we had in storage. However, when I was getting the table ready to drop off, my husband mentioned that he meant to give them a different table. (Yes, we have two end tables in storage. That I had never thought about getting rid of. That's why I'm working on this.) One table (which I offered) came from my husband's side of the family; the table he offered came from my side of the family. (Do you see where this is going?)

My table is part of a bedroom set. We are using the bureau, and the end tables and bed are all in storage. But you can't get rid of part of a set and keep other parts, can you? That would be breaking up the set. Even if you never plan to use anything except the bureau, because the bed is only a double and too small and we don't have a guest room and even if we did I'd rather have a queen bed with sheets that fit on any bed in the house and would be more comfortable for any couples that stay over because we tried to sleep in the double bed when my grandmother owned it and it was too small (all read breathlessly, faster at the end, until you run out of breath.)

In the end, after thinking it over, I will be bringing the table by my nieces, so she can use it if she wants to. I'll offer the other one as well, and the mate to my grandmother's table. Because how many end tables do I really need? I'll also be dropping off a mirror, and the trash can we used for recycling cans.

In all, the day was well spent with family and friends, celebrating a new chapter in my niece's life. And I got rid of a couple of things into the bargain.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Oh, how I love Craigslist!

I spent much of today painting, running errands and driving through traffic, so I don't have much interesting to report. (This is an ongoing excuse, but I hope I am almost to the end!)

However, yesterday we got rid of a large piece of furniture that we eliminated from my daughter's room, and it makes me so happy! I am happy to have the furniture out of her room, I am happy to have the furniture out of my garage, and I am most happy to have given this large piece of furniture to a good home.

Several years ago my husband built a freestanding window seat for my daughter. She loves Romantic fiction, Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden and other things like that, and she had developed a desire for a window seat so she could sit in her room, reading her book and looking out at the garden while hidden from the world. However, she has outgrown the window seat, and it did not make the cut for her new bedroom decor.

A window seat would probably not find a home if donated to Goodwill. Instead, we advertised it on Craigslist, and now other little girls have a secret hideout/princess tower as part of their bedroom decor. I am so happy to be able to make other little girls happy, and I am happy that the effort my husband put into this structure is being kept out of the landfill.

That's the beauty of Craigslist. I can post something and leave it available until someone comes along who really needs what I have; I can keep checking Craigslist until I find what I'm looking for. I don't need to go to the store, and I certainly don't have to create pollution and a negative working environment in order to get what I want. I just have to wait for the community to come to my aid.

I love knowing that someone else, and actual person, is taking advantage in the changes in my life, and I can take advantage of the changes in someone else's. If my baby grows out of her clothes, someone else's babies are growing out of theirs and I can find the community that will allow everyone to shift their clothes down to the next size, and absorb someone else's growth spurt. If I buy a ceiling fan or bathroom sink that I didn't actually need, someone is happy to get them at bargain prices.

And I can take advantage of the same system in my turn. So I no longer need to keep something "just in case." I can let my bookcase or sink or extra tent go into the world, and I will get someone else's when the time comes. It's sharing and community, simplified.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily Delutter

Not much forward progress. I am working on listing my weekly/monthly activities, so I can identify activities I can cut. I haven't decided for sure on any cuts, but I do have a couple of ideas. I'd really like to simplify my activities because the whole family is impacted when I have things to do. If I have a meeting it moves dinner up or back, for example, limiting the rest of our activities for the night. Our evenings are disrupted enough as it is.

I didn't get rid of anything today. My husband did not manage to avoid the wine glass party favor from last night, so that came home with us. If mine follows me home (which it might) I will get rid of other glasses in favor of these. If mine does not follow me home I will be donating his. I visited three thrift shops today and I did not buy any impulse purchases. I did get a new shower curtain for my bathroom, to replace the grubby one I had. The new one is blue, to match the new towels. I also got a game I will give as a Christmas gift. I feel pretty good about both purchases, especially as I will not be making as many gifts this year (the "I don't enjoy projects" realization).

I found several new items of clothing for my daughter's back-to-school. This is necessary as she is still determined to continue growing out of her clothes. Middle-schoolers!

I took a "perfectly useful" empty bucket out to the recycling bin. It was empty of wall texturing compound, and I was tempted to keep it, but we have lots of buckets that sit on shelves, and we do not need to add to that number.

Today was grocery shopping day. I am mostly reusing the menu from last week since we ate in so rarely -- and we will be out for dinner a couple times this week. It made shopping a lot easier, but menu building is still much harder in the summer.

Nothing earth-shattering to share today, but I continue incremental progress. They say slow progress reduces backsliding later, in weight loss at least.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Decluttering is about more than Stuff

Today was spent texturing the walls in the bathroom. Again. Thankfully that part of the task is done. Now all we have to do is paint, panel the remaining wall, put up shelves, and clean up after ourselves. There's a reason we've put this off for so long.

While I was working, my husband took out daughter to camp, and I was alone. I listened to a few Ted Talks while I was working, and they kept playing a new talks after each talk finished, so I didn't have to push any buttons with my grimy hands. It was interesting, seeing where the internet took me on its own, but there were a couple talks that have kept me thinking all day.

Sarah Knight spoke about "The Magic of Not Giving a F***." It sounds really fabulous -- instead of decluttering every thing that doesn't benefit you, you give up activities and obligations that are not beneficial. Give up baby showers and going-away parties for people you don't like. But the more I thought about it, the more difficult it is for my to identify the things that aren't important to me.

I hate showers (bridal or baby. I like the water kind.). I really hate showers. I was glad on one occasion to spend the day with my sister, in the hospital, because it got me out of a shower. But I love my family, and if I have a niece who is being honored with a shower I'm not going to just decline to go because I hate showers. (I hated all of my showers. If I went through that time of life again I would refuse to have them.) But I love my nieces, and my family, enough that I am not going to make this about me. I will go to the shower, and I will play inane games, and I will be happy that my family is celebrating their lives. So how do I identify what activities are not in the "budget" for my time, money and effort?

I'm not certain. I will be writing out a list of all my obligations, and the obligations that my family members oblige me to commit to. Driving underage people to classes is on that list. But I will be trying to cut back on the commitments I have made so I can better use the time, money and effort I have.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily Declutter

Today's declutter was short because I spent much of the day plastering the bathroom. However, we did manage to declutter a bowl in the kitchen, by smashing it to pieces. It was a favorite, but these things will happen. I can look for another perfect blue salad bowl in my journeys.

I bought a new toaster at Target because the old one stopped making heat. I left Target without anything else, and now I can make toast again.

We did manage to have a little fun, after the work in the bathroom. We spent a little time at the zoo after we picked my daughter up from dance. Walking around in the not-too-hot, looking at birds and the bear trying to escape, was a great stress relief from the cleaning-patching-painting routine.

Tomorrow looks to be much the same, but I'm hoping I'll be able to shower in my own bathroom starting this Satuday.

Daily Declutter

I am decluttering because I have clutter. Lots of clutter. I keep finding clutter during everyday activities, and I would like to have the things I own be useful or meaningful. I'd like to make better use of the storage space I have, or get rid of the storage space. I'm willing to get rid of shelves, although my family is shocked when I say things like that.

Today I found two large, plastic, deteriorating buckets full of rocks out in the garage. I had those tiny gravel rocks from the bottom of fish tanks and a half bucket of round, decorative rocks. So now the rocks are "landscape rocks." I threw them out in the yard. If I need the round rocks they will still be there (we've used a few over the years); we started a new fish tank this year and didn't use the stored rock, so they are now part of our gravel path. I couldn't think of another way to dispose of them usefully.

My husband got rid of some electrical connectors. He told me to write that. :)

I found a home for the felted sweaters I previously realized I would not be using. The woman who took them was excited because she wanted to make stuffed animals but didn't want to make the felt. Hooray! I also sold a hand-crank ice cream churn on ebay. I'm really excited about that one because it is large and didn't fit on the shelf, so it has been sitting on the floor being in the way. Now it can go somewhere else and be loved (especially for its beautiful color!).

Menu planning has not been terribly successful this week, but we do have food in the house. We've been much more out-and-about than usual, and meals have been a little more haphazard. For example, we went up to visit my parents this weekend. The meal planned for that day is still sitting in the fridge, waiting. I'm not complaining, because this week has been fabulous with activities, but I need to plan more flexibility into next weeks plan so fresh food doesn't linger into the following week.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Daily Declutter

Or, maybe not so much "declutter" as "de-uglify." Sure, it's a word.

When we bought the house 18 years ago, the color scheme was ugly. It had a shade of teal that did not appeal, and a shag carpet that was shocking in as much as it was from a prior decade. We hated the colors but loved the location and floor plan, so we bought the house. Over the years we've removed the valances, carpet, and teal. All that was left was the ugly master bathroom, and we have finally stripped it.

In the process we're getting rid of a few things. We're removing the too-small medicine cabinet, and instead we will each have a small box on the counter for our personal items, like moisturizer or electric razor. The medicine cabinet is a terrible place to keep medicine anyway, because the bathroom is so moist, so we will be doing away with it entirely. The collection of random nail polish and essential oils will either need new homes or they will need to be discarded entirely.

Ugly shelves will be recycled. The ugly towel racks will be painted.

Unfortunately, the ugly cabinet will not be able to be replaced. The plumbing in out bathroom is really weird, so we will not be able to put in the pedestal sink I was hoping for. Instead, the sink will be placed on Craigslist, and we will get the space back in the garage regardless.

I didn't get much done outside the bathroom, but we did get a lot done in the bathroom, and at Home Depot. I am hoping to get the sink photographed and posted tomorrow; that will make a difference. We will also be using up some cedar planks we've been storing for this project, freeing up even more space.

We will be up some scrap lumber as well to make a shelf over the sink. Again, I didn't get much done, but now we have a plan and we are moving forward. The bathroom is pretty unusable tonight, but hopefully tomorrow I will be able to report strides toward using is again. I might even be able to report positive decluttering changes.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Daily Declutter: Beach Trip Edition

We went to the beach today, and our beach trip is something else that needs to be minimalist-ed (sure, that's a word. All four of us were heavy-laden as we walked from the car to the beach: two umbrellas, a blanket, dufflebag full of towels, extra swimsuits (!), two chairs, two inflatable hammock-things, boogieboards, a basket full of lunch, water, iced tea (in thermoses), a watermelon, sandcastle building equipment. Wow! We, and our car, were struggling, to get everything where we needed to go. Surely we don't need so much!

I've already trimmed down the extra swimsuits. It is over 100 and humid outside, so my family is hiding in the house right now, but my kids will be weeding out the beach toys as soon as the weather cools off a little tonight.

While we were at the beach I couldn't find my book, because it was hidden somewhere in the dufflebag, under towels and snorkel gear. I had to pull almost everything out to find what I was looking for and I hate that feeling. I just want the outing to be easy. I want to grab a couple things, hit the beach, and relax. So we're going to need to carve away the things that get in the way.

Which naturally makes me think of minimalism in general ('cause I have a blog about it, and it's what I do). I need to carve away the extraneous things from life to limit the frustration. I want to get down to essentials so I won't need to rummage past so much debris to find what is important.

I think it's getting better. I think life is moving more smoothly, but we're on summer vacation so I can't tell for sure. Hopefully, as I care away the excess this summer I will create a home that will work as smoothly when school starts up again.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Daily Declutter

I have removed nothing new today, but I do have a confession on that score. A lot of the things that I have removed from my possession have not actually left the house before now. I had a large stack of silver waiting for sale on ebay, and a couple other items I was hoping to sell on Craigslist. However, the clutter of these items was making the shed difficult to use. As of today I dropped all the remaining silver and two Craigslist items at a community rummage sale, and I have the floor and shelves cleared up.

We finished my daughter's room as well. Everything that's not in her room (or in storage in the attic) will be dropped at the donation station. I need to stop by Costco before I can drop things off because we have more donations than we have boxes for delivering donations, but I'm happy with that. I'd much rather need to go get more boxes than try to shove more stuff into the house.

As part of the renovation in my daughter's room we've decided to create a shared bookcase for both kids in the hallway. My daughter started clearing out the case they will share. We will use some (newly available) storage space in the shed and my bedroom for displaying some of the things in the hall. I know, it sounds confusing, but the essence is: by getting rid of things in a variety of locations we can have more of our desirable collectibles where we will better be able to appreciate them. In the long run I am hoping to reduce the number of collectibles, but if we don't at least we will be making better choices about what we display, and we will be looking at things we most admire.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Daily Declutter, Family Style

My daughter's room is just about finished. I think everything has been moved in that will be moved in. All that's left is a trip to the donation station and we will get our garage back (an living room, and hallway).

We didn't make a clean break with everything. She has one box of toys that she admitted she hasn't missed, but she knows she'll recognize them if she opens the box and she would feel too sentimental to donate them right now. We left them in the (shoe) box, in her closet, and in six months or so we will revisit the box. Anything that is too special to discard will be kept, but in the meantime her room is that much tidier. She also dedicated a shelf to display items, but she chose a small shelf, and some of the display items will be stored and display will be rotated, like at a museum. That way she can keep a tidy room and also keep the things she most values.

I am happy to report that my daughter did thin the collections she kept. Only her favorite doll clothes will be kept, and only her favorite display items. About half the items in each collection were purged, and I am confident the remaining items will be of greater value to my daughter in the future. I did not push her to get rid of any item, even if I did not see the value of the things she decided to keep. I would rather she have a second purge later on than resent the decluttering process, and me, because I pushed her to get rid of something she valued.

On another front, my husband also felt the decluttering bug today. He cleared up the desk area, and moved a lot of sentimental items out of our living space. When our dog died several years ago the vet gave us the ashes, a paw print in clay, a personalized wooden box (for the ashes) and a velvet bag (to protect the box), We have scattered the ashes, but we still had the box with the dog's name, sitting empty on a shelf. This is not the best way to remember our dog -- we're actually more likely to remember him at the beach, or when we see a dog the same breed -- and we will not feel a loss for disposing of the box. My husband also got rid of a couple crafts the kids made when they were very young, and instead uncovered a photo of him and the kids together. I prefer the photo to the crafts made in preschool, and if that's the way we both feel we should not hang on to the crafts just to prove we were present during our children's childhoods.

I'm really excited about all the sentimental items we're decluttering. I don't feel I can declutter these things alone, but I am happy to remove the items that "should" hold sentiment in favor of activities that are important and items that actually do hold memories.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

I won't be decluttering today, but I will be focusing on the things that give me joy. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. If you don't happen to be reading this in the US, I hope you still have a day focused on the things that are most important to you.

So where ever you are, enjoy a day of love and family at the beach, or a parade, or a hike, or a picnic, or fireworks. Enjoy ice cream and pie and coleslaw and whatever your family likes to throw on the grill.

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Daily Declutter

I am working on decluttering in order to focus on the most important things in my life, both material and intangible. I would like my home and my life to be simple, without clutter interfering with what I want to do. And I do this because I continue to find clutter sitting around, looking at me, whenever I am working on something around the house!

I spent a good amount of time in the garage today as my daughter painted the interior parts of her closet. We're almost finished painting her room, so I looked through the paint we have sitting on the shelf. At least two pints of paint were 20 years old -- even if they aren't dry then I'm sure they won't be used. They went to sit with a few other containers that need to be taken to the HazMat disposal site. Since I am no longer planning to work on "projects" I do not need to keep materials around "just in case," and 20 year old paint is definitely a "just in case" item.

 I also found shelf brackets I had forgotten were there. We'd like to add an additional display shelf for my daughter's room, but I found two sets of brackets and a complete shelf kit -- in addition to the shelf I did know I had. We'll choose her favorite, and the rest will be donated. In fact, they're sitting next to the donate pile to prevent re-absorption by the garage-at-large.

On the potting bench I noticed a couple flower pots that I do not like. I do not care for the colors, and I will not be planting anything in them. Why do they take up space that could be used for potting? I have no idea. They're also gone.

In the attic, I saw a couple of pool noodles sitting unloved and unused. Since we can't use them at the community pool, and because we don't have our own pool, they have no business keeping those toys. However, when I suggested taking them to my parent's pool my daughter responded gleefully. Playing with toys is much better than storing them in the attic until all the kids grow out of them.

And so it goes!  As I go through each area of the house I find things that I don't need, won't use and won't miss. I do notice more space, especially in storage areas, and I'm really happy when I have a productive day, with lots of clutter moving out. I feel like I'm making a difference!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Minimalist Camping -- Or Not

The last couple days I've been away, camping at a local campsite. We had a great time playing games, walking around the lake, and reading books. I kept thinking of minimalism (duh!) and how our camping habits converge and diverge from my minimalist ideal.

First, I love the simple lifestyle we follow when camping. My husband and I spent at least a half an hour talking and watching the ducks and turtles in the lake. (Two of the ducks had ducklings, and they were adorable.) There was no rush, there was no clock, we just sat and talked. Then we went back to camp, started a campfire, made cream puffs out of crescent rolls. The next day was more hiking, card games, reading in the hammock. The kids rode bikes and trained the dogs to run alongside the bikes. (The dogs had a blast, running ahead of the bikes but they are sleeping now. They are sleeping hard.)

On the other hand, we brought a lot of stuff. We brought kites and croquet and card games and trackball. We brought two tents, four sleeping bags plus extra blankets in case we got cold. We brought air-mattresses for us, and for the kids. We brought non-inflatable sleeping pads for the kids. We brought so much stuff!

As we packed up we determined that some of the stuff we brought was unnecessary, and we have either already gotten rid of it, or we will do so soon. However, a lot of the stuff we brought was stuff someone thought we might need. People in my family would rather pack more stuff, and shift it around the campsite, rather than think of something we would want (want, not need) and have to do without it.

And so it goes. We will continue to work forward, trying to eliminate the pieces that are weighing us down. We will try to leave behind the stuff that isn't actually useful and I hope we will learn to give up some of the things we are bringing "just in case."

The most memorable moments of out trip required very little material supplies at all.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Daily Declutter

Today is the day we celebrate finishing my daughter's room. We've started putting back furniture, and getting garage space back. Her bureau is back, her desk is finally in her room (finally! I get my kitchen space back!) and it is time to bring back all the little things that she uses.

Her room is so beautiful right now! It isn't cluttered with all the little things that she's collected over the years, and I am taking advantage of the room's empty beauty. As she puts things back (we had to empty her bureau to paint it) we are evaluating the things she has. As we evaluate her things she has been finding a number of things that don't look pretty in her room anymore, or things that take up space and make other belongings become cluttery. Case in point: my daughter has two small jewelry boxes on top of her bureau. One is very small and the other is very young, so my daughter cleared out all the jewelry she doesn't like or won't wear. A necklace with the original tags didn't make the cut (I think it must have been a gift). Another necklace that no longer fits also didn't make the cut. With the reduction in the number of items, we should be able to reduce the number of jewelry boxes to one. If necessary we can buy one box to replace two, but her room will look less cluttered.

What's really different about this project is our ability to add things until we are done, instead of subtracting things until we're done. If we were subtracting items I think we'd stop sooner because an improvement would look like enough improvement. By adding to a clean, empty room we should be able to tell when we've added too much -- I'm hoping we'll have much less overall by decluttering this way. We're not done yet, but I'm very optimistic about our outcome.

On a different note, this project allowed my husband to discover a tool that was not valuable to him. While cutting corners for the crown molding his miter box was just too flimsy to be useful, and his table saw worked well enough. So the miter box is going to the donation center, and we'll have that much more room in the garage.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Little Changes Make a Big Impact

I've spent most of the day washing laundry or helping my husband with my daughter's room. Today was crown molding and baseboards, which involves a lot of "here, hold this" and not much else from me.

We spent some of the time talking, which is nice, but I also spent more time thinking. Honestly, part of the time I've spent fantasizing about the space we're gaining my giving up soda. I know, I could possibly be geekier, but not by much!

However, we have to store the boxes of soda in the house, store the extras in the garage. We have a recycling bin just for redeemable cans and bottles (in addition to curbside recycling). We have a recycling bin outside for emptying the little bin before we want to go down to the recycling center, and we have another bin in the garage for cans that are in the car, so we don't have to carry them in the house to recycle them. Seriously, this is too much stuff and work dedicated to an unwholesome beverage!

I haven't gotten rid of anything yet. I don't want to spook my husband, who embraces change only slowly. I hadn't even realized we had so much space dedicate to soda. But now, I realize we will be getting a lot of this space back and it invigorates me!

I've said this numerous times in the past, and I'm sure I will say it again, but I am often surprised when I discover something we can eliminate without a loss. I've found clutter that is essentially trash and clutter we've grown out of year ago. We've gotten back usable space by decluttering things that we've overlooked for years.

I'm looking forward to streamlining the recycling process, and I'm looking forward to freeing up the storage space we've been dedicating to something that has suddenly just become "something we used to use."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Daily Declutter

We spent a large portion of today painting my daughter's room. We primed two walls and painted all four walls (two white, two aqua). We also had a chance to have lunch with my mother, then my son had a dentist appointment. All in all it was a busy day, but not much decluttering occurred.

However, early this morning we (almost forgot to) took the dog to the groomer. In the basket where dog leashes belong we found four leashes (we only have two dogs), a chicken harness (yes, for walking our chicken), bandannas, an eyeglass repair kit and lip balm. Most of those things are necessary, and in fact they slowed the emergency "get-the-dog-to-the-groomer-before-we-lose-our-appointment" run out the door. So that did get decluttered, and next time we will only have two leashes trying to permanently entangle themselves. A small step, but this is the sort of thing I want to resolve, in order to make a minimalist, decluttered, peaceful home.

I'm glad I got something accomplished toward the overall goal.

Another change around here, although not really "minimalist" is the joint decision to give up soda. I have been resisting soda with greater or lesser success (this weekend was lesser). I've known it's not good for me, but my husband and I decided today to stop soda entirely. The amount of sugar in conventional soda is too high, and the artificial sweeteners mess with your microbiota, causing insulin levels to be elevated (and fat accumulation). I'm writing it up here because giving up soda is healthier, and health, mindfulness and minimalism are all related to me. And because if I write it on the internet it must be true and I will feel more accountable. If I feel accountable, hopefully I will be more successful this time (and having my husband on board will help!).

Saturday, June 24, 2017

You have to ask

I don't usually check in on weekends, but I had one of those moments and I thought I'd post it before I forgot.

I was squeezing lemons yesterday, and rather than grab the juicer I prefer I grabbed the one in front. Why do I have two citrus juicers when I'm writing a minimalism blog? I have two because my mother gave one to my daughter. (My daughter likes my mother's juicer, and she often juices citrus fruit for my mother when we visit.) I assumed that my daughter's juicer was something she valued; that's why I kept it. I was even ready to get rid of my juicer (since I usually use hers rather than crawl around to reach mine in the back) but I thought I'd ask. As it turns out, my daughter was surprised I asked, surprised I thought it was hers, and not at all interested in keeping a vintage citrus juicer until she sets up housekeeping at some point in the future.

So I will be posting the vintage juicer to ebay and I will return to using the juicer I have. With a little more space in the cupboard, and one step closer to minimalism.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Daily Declutter

The plumber was fast and effective. He spotted the problem quickly, and it was not that bad a fix. We're cleaning up because we'd rather patch the hole ourselves while we're prepping the room than pay the plumber to do it.

While my husband was home performing homeowner duties I ran my weekly errands. The menu is prepared for the week, and shopping was pretty easy, except they ran out of the milk I like (I'll have to go back tomorrow for that) and I forgot something I needed to return. I think I'm more peeved about shopping multiple times this week than I would have been when I went down to only one trip a week. I really like not running to the store all the time!

I took my daughter with me because she needs to choose some things for her room. We didn't find everything we wanted, but I also didn't find anything I didn't really need. Not only did I not buy anything I didn't need, I didn't see anything unnecessary that I was tempted to bring home. I tell myself that this means I am becoming more self-aware and embracing a minimalist mindset. Or maybe they just didn't have anything I wanted. :) I did buy a set of poker chips for my husband, but he specifically needs them for a game, and they aren't for me, so maybe that shouldn't count?

I have found a lot of what I consider "hidden clutter." Hidden clutter is clutter that I find after I have already decluttered an area; it's stuff that I would have considered clutter the first time if I had seen it, but somehow I overlooked the clutter. Last night I found two expired antibacterial sprays and this afternoon I found craft supplies that I would have discarded if I had seen them before. I'm glad to have these items gone, but they always make me concerned that the reason I have so much clutter is because I'm not seeing clutter I have lying around. At any rate, the sprays are gone and a whole box of craft supplies are on Craigslist, hoping a crafty person will be grateful to have them. And I will continue to declutter bit by bit.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Daily Declutter

A lot of stored clutter got moved today. I went through the craft supplies again, and got rid of a bunch more. I put a bunch of rubber stamps in the donation box, as well as some punches and other stuff I cannot even remember at this point. I also pulled out a bunch of ...kid craft supplies. I don't know how else to describe them. I put cotton balls, q-tips, googly eyes, popsicle sticks, stamp pads and other things in a box to go to church for kids activities. I also gave up on a baby sweater I was supposed to be knitting for the church. Any baby who wore that sweater would cry from the hate I have knit into that sweater -- I do not like knitting with acrylic, but that's easy for a new mama to wash! So I will frog the little bit that I have knit and pass the project off to someone who will knit it with love.

I pulled a couple cute bottles out of storage. I will make chai infused honey in them, and give the honey as a gift at Christmas. We always have a lot of people to give to, and I'd like to make use of these jars, rather than keep them around for "just in case." Plus, chai infused honey will be quickly assembled (avoiding the problem of "projects") and it will not become clutter for other people (unless they too save the cute jars for "just in case" and I cannot take responsibility for that. Clutter out and gifts prepared in advance? I call that a win.

I have held on to old calendars for many years. Will they someday be valuable historical documents, describing the life of an ordinary woman in 1990? I doubt it, but I have kept them for much too long. I finally moved them out, combined the not cards that were in the same container with craft glue and glitter (all the things I bring in the house regularly) and now I have another suitcase to hold out-of-season clothes for my husband. This freed up a tote, making it easier to empty things out of my daughter's room prior to painting.

My wonderful husband gave up a set of books he has kept since childhood. Or possibly it is a set just like a set he had since childhood -- he can't remember if they were actually his or not, and is ready to let them go. I already got them posted to ebay!

Lots of books, shelves, and other things have moved out of my daughter's room. We'd be all ready to paint her room, but we found mold behind her baseboards next to where the shower is (on the other side of the wall). So right now her room is largely on hold as we wait for a plumber to some out and fix the leak. I am not thrilled at this, but I am glad to catch a leak, mitigate the mold and keep the air clean in her room. Additionally, we have decided to add another color to her room (for shelves and such) so we have time to pick out paint and add the color to her furniture, which will be cute and enjoyable for her. I'm really trying to look at the bright side.

I should be more pleased with the progress we made today, but the plumbing problem is discouraging. However, these things do happen, and we will make the best of it!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Daily Declutter

This morning I had the most amazing experience with a neighbor. Someone I had not actually met (but with whom I had exchanged peaches) dropped off a bag of backyard tomatoes! I am so grateful! We had tomato sandwiches and tomato salad for lunch -- a proper celebration of tomatoes.

As is happened, just as my neighbor arrived with her grandchildren I was moving donations to the donation box. (I keep a plastic tote in the house for donations because I have a horror of silverfish, which often live in paper products like cardboard boxes. I transfer donations to cardboard before I drop them off. I keep an ongoing donation box so members of my family can get rid of too small clothing as soon as they realize the items are no longer wanted, rather than requiring us to remember later.) I had a too-small pair of gardening gloves that might work for her grandchildren. As I passed those along my husband remembered that we had a set of child-size gardening tools. This is one of the reasons I want to declutter! We still had gardening tools appropriate for preschoolers when my children are in middle and high school! Surely there are other things hiding in plain sight that can be utilized by other people, rather than sitting around our garage. How did those tools get overlooked so many times? My husband just cleaned the garage recently, yet these tools got away! Thankfully, they are now in a better home.

Other things are getting better homes as well. We are painting and decorating my daughter's room; this requires us to remove almost everything from her room to give us access to the walls. As we remove everything she has been evaluating the things she has been keeping. Books that she has grown out of are (largely) being offered to friends with younger readers (who have recently passed along their too-young books). Doll accessories are being passed along to other girls who will play with their dolls more. LEGOs that are being store -- but not displayed -- are being reconsidered; they may be disassembled or displayed, but they are no longer being taken for granted.

And lest you think I have been working too hard, the second part of the day was spent at the coast. The kids attended a beach party, while my husband and I visited the farmer's market, watched the waves, ate hand-made chocolates (dark chocolate caramel red pepper and sea salt chocolates are definitely worth trying!) and played foosball. We also talked without interruption, and concluded (like Julhi suggested) that I don't actually enjoy many of the projects I begin. I have long felt obligated to make things, and I enjoy having made things, but I don't love the process. Sometimes it helps to have an outside perspective. Realizing this, I will be minimalizing some of my craft supplies, and more importantly, I will be minimalizing the need to begin projects simply because projects are something I am accustomed to doing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Daily Declutter

Tyranny works. Instead of gently reminding the children, we are imposing stern measures to make them fulfill daily obligations, like cleaning up after themselves when they make something to eat. It's not as pleasant as if they remembered on their own to put away the mayonnaise, but on the other hand, the mayonnaise isn't left out. The house is tidier and I'm not growling around because things aren't being done.

I'm really enjoying summer, but I'm off schedule (which I guess is part of the definition of summer). The past two days I have gone shopping -- once for a bicycle inner tube and once for hot dogs for the kids' youth group bonfire. My menu plan will need to have more freezer meals, in case we decide to eat out or picnic instead of following the plan. I am not going to turn down an activity in order to stay home and follow my menu plan -- the plan is to serve me and not the other way around.

Despite my lack of organization and decluttering I feel like we are living in the heart of what minimalism should be. I was able to sit in on interviews for a new teacher because I wasn't stressed about other obligations. We spent the evening at a park by the beach, with a picnic dinner, playing croquet and flying kites.It felt like vacation; it felt like the way I want to live all the time.

I will be decluttering the rest of the house as things go on, but this week has been slow. I posted a toy to Craigslist, and I have someone who wants to meet with me when I go into town tomorrow morning. I shipped a book I sold on ebay. I'm using my library to watch The Hollow Crown from BBC, so I don't have to buy my own copy. And I'm taking it easy.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Daily Declutter

I'm back on the straight and narrow. Well, sort of. I cleared the peaches that needed to be frozen, and I cut up loquats to be dried. I put blankets and clothes out in the shed. I hung the string lights my husband received for Father's Day. My home looks much tidier.

I did not move anything out, but I dealt with a lot of the clutter that had begun building up. Unfortunately, due to the nature of summer, I have more peaches sitting on the counter, waiting to be processed. (I will make jam out of them Wednesday morning, so I can escape the house for the remainder of the day.) Fresh fruit will need to be picked and processed (or given away) often in the coming month. Hopefully zucchini will begin to come in, and zukes will sit, green and glowering, on the counter next to the peaches and grapes.

As I often do when I see so much bounty sitting around, I remind myself that I am fortunate to have so much. I'm also grateful for my earlier efforts to clean away clutter so I have room for the bounty that is coming in. Truly, a lot can be said for clearing clutter so I can receive new blessings.

I also am reminded that I need to just buckle down and complete projects, even if I don't feel the spirit move me. I did not finish the trivet I've been working on (for a couple months). For a while I was waiting for my son to be interested in finishing the project with me (he expressed interest. Once.). Now, I will finish this project the first opportunity I get, and just be glad it's done.

There's a lot to be said for done, and having space (physical and mental) to move on to the next thing.

Daily Declutter

I have been so busy having fun! I'm sorry I didn't post Friday, but I spent much of the day going shopping (shopped with my husband, so I bought more than usual!), picked the car up from the mechanic (regular service, nothing bad), and came home and collapsed for a while. The we played a game as a family, and watched a John Wayne movie outside, in the cool of the evening. We went back to the fair Saturday so my son could show his chicken, then we spent the rest of the day enjoying the fair again. We got to bed a couple hours after bedtime two days in a row, and I'm feeling it!

I will take this moment to pitch John Wayne movies. I love John Wayne, as a person and a character, and I am always surprised how far from stereotype his films exist. We watched El Dorado Friday, and we all enjoyed it. Robert Mitchum was much funnier than I expected, and the whole film didn't progress how I expected it. The kids enjoyed it, too. If you haven't gone back and seen these in a while (or ever!) it's worth a viewing. Plus, it's on Netflix right now, which makes it easy.

Ok, advert over. My darling husband has been patiently and pleasantly pointing out that a lot of the clutter around the house is mine. Unfortunately, when I look at it I don't think of it as clutter, I think of it as "Projects I'm in the middle of." Which, yes, technically looks like clutter. My brain certainly perceives these projects as clutter! So today I will work on cleaning up these in-process projects. Once the "project" clutter is under control again I will be able to attack the stationary clutter with a good conscience. My list for today is: slice and freeze peaches, slice and dry loquats, hang lights (porch lights my husband received for Father's Day), school clothes go out to the shed, last winter blankets go out to barn, locate totes for both, finish the trivet I was working on a month ago (with or without my son). Plus regular household tasks like laundry and making yogurt, and a trip to the orthodontist, the  bicycle store, Costco for a return, and someplace that sells vegetarian hot dogs because I found out yesterday that the kids will need some for a church event this week.

In essence, this weekend has been about fun. Today we will work hard enough to get to have fun later this week.

Friday, June 16, 2017

County Fair

I love the county fair. I love it! Frankly, I love any event where people can share whatever they are passionate about, and we attend a lot of events just to see people demonstrate their blacksmithing skills, or quilting, or caber tossing, or whatever. The county fair is an opportunity to see kids (and adults) show off the goat, or cow, or chickens they have spent the year raising. Yesterday I saw someone shaving the back end of a cow to make her look a little more perfect. You have to really have an animal trained for her to allow you to groom her so personally.

Children were there, looking at animals they do not see the rest of the year, and there were people comparing the competition chickens with the chickens they keep at home. (I remember when keeping chickens at home was unusual, and it wasn't that many years ago that chickens at the fair were as unfamiliar as the goats and cows.) Burros and piglets stood around looking adorable and photogenic (or slept, in the case of the piglets).

I love the display of arts, paintings and furniture and welded metal. Someone yesterday created a model plastic digester, which is designed to break long carbon chains in plastic down to methane and propane in the presence of argon (to prevent combustion and the creation of toxic by-products). This would be an amazing alternative to simply burying plastics in the landfill (if it is viable). Someone invented this, though, and brought it to the fair for display. I love all of it!

Another part of the fair is all the selling. The fair is an unparalleled opportunity to buy thing, things you can't buy the rest of the year, or things that are fair specials -- such amazing deals that you cannot afford to miss! We were repeatedly offered free trips to Hawaii, free gifts (aren't all gifts free?) and improved TV service. I was offered skin treatments to make me look younger, and a better straightening iron to eliminate the curls in my hair. There were exercise machines that you could stand on and the machine would jiggle the fat off you. There were several different installers and manufacturers of saunas. (I don't know where you live, but the last thing I need going in to summer is an indoor sauna. I usually work to minimize the amount of outdoor sauna that I am exposed to!)

I don't spend a lot of time watching TV, reading magazines or shopping the mall, and maybe that made me unusually aware of the degree of inadequacy the merchants were selling. Your shoes are too dirty (after a day of walking in the dirt, everyone's are!). Your home needs a better shower, kitchen, barbecue. You need to be younger, and your hair is all wrong.

As always, we enjoyed the fair. I didn't bring much home with me, except the new tags for the dog (the tags there worked better for us than the ones we get at the petshop) and new sunglasses for me (they even had bifocal sunglasses, for reading at the beach!). I did not buy the reusable instant hand warmers (even though they were really cool, we live in southern California -- it doesn't get that cold!). I didn't buy the drill attachment that allows my husband to cut sheet metal (I have no idea what he, personally, would do with that. He works in wood, almost all the time.) And I didn't buy the concept that something we could buy at the fair would make us better.

(Disclosure: we have bought some really amazing things from the fair in the past. The extendable ladders have repeatedly been useful to us, and my husband is grateful every year that we purchased one. But we are no longer new homeowners, and there's not much that we really need to acquire at this point in our lives.)