Monday, January 30, 2017

Neglecting Our Personal Resources

I spent fifteen minutes this morning shaving my daughter's favorite sweatshirt. It was getting pretty nubby, and not really looking good anymore. In years past this sort of thing might have been reason enough to get rid of the sweatshirt (especially if it were mine, not someone else's). Now, I want to keep the things I have as long as I can, for a couple of reasons.

First, I want to keep things looking nice because I want to keep using them. I don't want to go shopping for a new sweatshirt. In years past, going shopping was just something I did. I could pick up a sweatshirt because I was going to be at the store anyway. (Since I mostly use thrift shops, it wouldn't even be that expensive!) If I shave this sweatshirt once or twice, I may not need another sweatshirt until she grows out if it!

Second, I am concerned about the environment impact of the things I buy. I know thrift shops have more goods than they can sell in many cases, but they don't need me to donate a nubby sweatshirt because I no longer want it. Hopefully, more and more people are utilizing the second hand market. I see more consignment stores now than I did just ten years ago. I know we, as Americans, still tend to buy more new things than ever before and I cannot explain our ravenous appetite for stuff.

I didn't grow up taking care of my clothes, really. I mean, my mother washed my clothes and made sure they weren't stained, but that was about it. I had play clothes to wear after school so I wouldn't ruin my school clothes, but I wasn't aware that there was something I needed to do other than throw clothes in the washing machine. I don't know if I was just unaware, or if this was something people didn't do in the '80's. I'm sure my great-grandmother mended, and combed, and brushed her clothes.  As a result, her clothes lasted. I want to make things last. I want to spend the little bit of time now to save my things from being wasted; I want to prevent waste through what my great-grandmother would have called neglect.

I only recently bought a sweater comb and started using it. I bought a cashmere sweater that started to pill after a season of constant wear, but I didn't want to throw it away and look for another. I had to look for another solution. I didn't want my sweater to look old, worn or neglected.

Neglect is a word we don't use much anymore. Maybe we should.


Today is a "not-at-home" day - the last scheduled "not-at-home" day for this semester of dance. My daughter's class will be changing to nights, so we will need to create a new family schedule since she will need to be driven to class, and we will not be able to sit down to dinner at the regular time. We'll see how that works out, but we will need a schedule so the whole family will be able to have time together.

On a different not, I decluttered by not receiving a tablecloth and napkins from a friend who was decluttering her house. The tablecloth would fit my table, but I've been getting by without it, so I don't need to store it. But, oh, I was tempted! Free stuff! That I can use! I'm glad I had the willpower to resist.

The bar in my kitchen is mostly clear. This is the first time since we've lived here that the bar is remaining clear without my specifically clearing it off. Apparently, making the decision to deal with things NOW instead of waiting is actually working. It's working for other people in the family as well. My husband found a bottle of glue on the bar and put it away, rather than let it sit there until the whole bar was cluttered. I have read that a cluttered space attracts more clutter and a clean space is easier to keep clean. There may be truth to that!

The thing that was really different about today, though, was my free time during dance class. While my daughter dances, I usually use Monday to run errands. This means go shopping. I shop for clothes my kids have grown out of, groceries, birthday presents, anything that needs to be done. Today I didn't need to shop. I did all my shopping Friday and Saturday. I didn't need to go look for clothes without my kids, because they have enough. If they grow again, I'll take them with me. I had totally free time! So I spent an hour walking around the park, and half an hour calling people I needed to talk to. (I even took a couple pictures of blooming flowers, that hopefully I will use later.) When I got home I didn't have phone calls to make, groceries or other purchases to put away. I was able to just be at home, and I was able to spend time with my family.

I wish I had tried scheduling shopping sooner, but I'm glad for the time I have freed up now.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Future of Screen Time

I was listening to the the TED radio hour on NPR this afternoon, talking about screen time, and how it is changing people. One of the speakers was working to develop technology that would read our emotions. She wants our devices to say things like "Are you ok? You haven't laughed in four days." Another speaker suggested that we are becoming a new type of animal, different from Homo sapiens because our tools have changed so much.

It makes me afraid to think that people are becoming so dependent on technology that we need technology to evaluate our emotional health -- instead of friends being concerned about us. Amber Case discussed that the screen is an evolution of the tools our Paleolithic ancestors used to extend our hands (hammers), teeth (knives) and brains (cave paintings). But the episode also talked about how differently we think when time is altered by constant communication from our screens/phones. We are eternally receiving messages about deliveries arriving elsewhere, actions we have to take some other time. We aren't living in the present and some of us are un-learning to live in the present, in my opinion.

I'm not saying that all technology is bad. I'm terribly fond of a great deal of it. But I am concerned about how dependence on screens, and technology, can separate us from people just as we think it is bringing us together. Perhaps a minimal use of technology is a more prudent approach -- use as much as we need, but don't let the technology become an end in itself. Much as so many things are better taken as a means to an end, and not the end in itself.

So I will put away my computer, and spend the evening with my family. A friend gave us a blackberry apple crisp, and I will go enjoy it in real time.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Daily Declutter

I spent most of the day away from home. Grocery shopping, dance class, visiting with friends. But I did get rid of a big piece of clutter. I finally sold the canoe!

The canoe has been sitting in my yard for months and months now. I have never moved it, except to take a picture for Craigslist. It was of no benefit to me -- in part, because it was so difficult to move. But this morning I got a message from someone who wanted it, and was willing to pay for me to deliver it.

I had a very generous friend come over to help me load it in my old work truck. Exactly half the canoe stuck out the back, over the tailgate. I wish I had taken a picture! I felt absurd, and probably not legal to drive the freeways. I spend almost an hour driving (it's usually a half-hour drive) to deliver the canoe. The guy who bought it said he'd now have a "red canoe story," so it must have looked absurd to him, too.

But the best part is being rid of the canoe. I'm rid of the guilt. I will no longer look at it when I walk outside and think "I really wish I could get rid of that." I will no longer feel bad for letting it rot in the front yard, when surely SOMEONE could use it. I'm free, I'm free.

Most clutter isn't as loudly annoying at this canoe was, but I think this is a good indicator of why the whole "minimalism - thing" is so appealing to me.

Daily Declutter

Clutter has been sneaking up on me. I put away a couple of skeins of yarn that had been sitting out. I moved a box of magazines I posted to ebay back out to the shed. I had a book sitting on my nightstand for not less than six months, just looking at me accusingly. I finally moved it to a bookshelf where I won't hear it's accusations "you never finished reading me!" My husband threw out a calculator that didn't work. (We had to discuss keeping it. Some of us thought it might just need a new battery, but since no one had done that in months, and he was going to put it back in the drawer in favor of another calculator, he decided to throw it away. This is how clutter sneaks up!)

I washed laundry, though. I'm still enjoying my tidier laundry area, with room for my laundry baskets. My family is dealing with lost socks living in their sock drawers. Did some house cleaning, which is not the same thing as decluttering.

Made my menu for next week, and started grocery shopping. I'll finish tomorrow. This may be my new pattern, because I like some of the shops near home better than the shops I can get to on Saturdays. As long as I don't go out all day, every day, I will count it an improvement.

We've been busy living. We went to the circus yesterday evening! If you have the circus in your area, GO! I hadn't been since I was a child, and the circus is very different than I remembered. For one thing, our circus had no animals. The performers were amazingly talented. The clowns we not in makeup, and they were hysterically funny. I do not remember the last time I laughed so hard! We saw Circus Vargas, but check out the circus near you.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What to do when you're not decluttering

I talk a lot about decluttering. But that's not my life, and I don't want my life to be all about getting rid of stuff. For one things, that would mean at some point I'd have to start bringing stuff into the house so I would have something to declutter.

Minimalism is a concept that has various meanings for various people. But I keep seeing people talk about how minimalism is about the quality of life you live, not about the number of things you own.

My path to minimalism is largely about my relationships. I want to make the best use of the time I have with both my children at home. In order to do this, I need to prioritize our time together, and I need to prioritize their interests. As a result, dance, robots, Legos and chickens take up time and space in my life. Legos take up a lot of space in my house, even if they aren't a decorating decision I would make otherwise.

I am spending some of my time serving God through my church. I am hoping to improve the lives of people in my community through my service there. If other people are able to better enjoy their time with their children because they have better access to food or other necessities, that is a good use of my time.

I do need to decide some other uses of my time. If I'm not going to spend all my time running to the grocery store (still thrilled with the new system, thank you!), what do I want to do with my time. I spend some time blogging, some time keeping the house reasonably tidy, some time keeping my family fed. But I need to decide what relationship-building activities I find most important. What does my family want to do together when we have an afternoon or weekend free of commitments?

Commitments that do not support our true priorities are clutter as much as physical objects are.

If minimalism is making space for the important things in life, we each need to decide what those important things are, to us. With so much environmental static, with so many messages crowding in on us to be this, buy that, do the other thing, we really need to quietly evaluate what is important to use internally. We need to have the environmental quiet to hear our authentic selves tell us what we really want to surround ourselves with. It's probably not clutter.

So go out and discover what you're interested in being, and pursue that when you're not decluttering.

Daily Declutter

I feel like the sloth is my spirit animal. I'm just not moving forward the way I would like. Sometimes, that's just the way life is. I've been busy with church activities, orthodontist visits, parenting and family activities.

That's why I need to simplify the physical aspects of life. A big decluttering project isn't in the cards at present.

I have been working on tiny things. I got rid of the pens I hate from the jar near the phone. Next time I need to jot something down I won't scowl at the pen I grabbed, put it back and rummage around for another one. I'll be willing to use the one in my hand. I'll have a pencil there as well, because sometimes you just need a pencil you can erase.

I glued a broken decoration back together for my daughter. I left it on the counter for only one day, instead of leaving it there for weeks. I had to go outside to get the glue, which seemed insurmountable at one point. I was done in minutes, and it feels good to have that off my counter and off my brain.

I spent a large portion of yesterday doing laundry and hanging it out. I found a torn handkerchief, and instead of putting it back into the bag where we store them I deposited it into the fabric recycling container, so no one will pull a ragged scrap out to blow their noses in front of people.

I've been thinking I really need to take pictures for the blog, to make it prettier. But I really am dedicated to living in the moment, and the recurring thought that "I should photograph this for the blog" takes me away from the moment. We spotted a rainbow the day before yesterday, and I'm glad I enjoyed it with the kids rather than running in the house for the camera. Because how many kids their age still enjoy looking at rainbows? So I'll be sticking with the simple structure, at least for now.

Decluttering "Useful" Things

Decluttering useful things is hard for me. Harder than decluttering decorative things, or sentimental things. If it's useful, or something I should use, then why am I not using it?

Case in point: I have a face scrub that is half used up. It's very nice face scrub. I just usually wash my face with soap in the shower -- I don't think to use the scrub. It needs to be kept out of the shower because it is a powder, so I can't move it to a more convenient location. But I can't give it away -- it's used. I don't want to throw it away -- there's nothing wrong with it. So it sits on the counter (still), waiting for me to make a decision about how to deal with a bottle of scrub.

This happens with lots of things. If I try something and don't like it, I have no problem giving it away, or even throwing it away. The dish washing liquid that did not discernibly cut grease is gone. But "perfectly good borax" from making my own laundry soap (it doesn't dissolve in my new washer) sits, waiting for a craft project. (For that matter, the leftover homemade soap sits as well, waiting to be used up. Not it's fault.)

I don't want to be the little old lady with stacks of old egg cartons, empty mayonnaise jars or cool whip containers. That's what this reluctance to get rid of "useful" things is, though. Keeping something that is not actually useful because it might be useful someday is how that little old lady got into that trouble.

So what do I do? Clutter is delayed decisions, so I need to make a decision about how to get rid of these things. I'll have to move the scrub to a dry(ish) spot in the shower. If it gets ruined from humidity, or dropped in the tub, at least it will no longer be cluttering up the counter. I can search Pinterest for other uses for borax, and washing soda. I may find them irreplaceably useful, and they may remain on my list of things I need. Or I may use them up and move forward.  The soap will be a pretreatment for laundry with stains. I know my shower curtain could use the extra attention.

And so it goes. The useful things are the hardest for me to declutter, but if they aren't being used, they really aren't as useful as I like to think they are.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Daily Declutter: Motivation Edition

Today, I have a terrible case of the "don't wannas." I'd rather troll Pinterest, or aimlessly wander around the house, than get stuff done. So I'm going to do it anyway, and I want you to do it with me.

Set the timer for 15 minutes, and clear out a section on the house that you think needs tidying. The eternal junk drawer, a shelf in the pantry, your sock drawer, a couple of bookcase shelves. (I'm going to hit up the bookcase).

I'll also call the drugstore to see if they develop film cameras. I found a film camera in an earlier cleanout, and it has sat around since, looking like clutter. (Clutter is delayed decisions. I couldn't decide where to get it developed.)

After that, I'll run the vacuum, and sweep the floor. Not too much, but the difference between nothing  and something doesn't have to be great. You just have to make some forward progress, and avoid backsliding. Who knows, maybe I'll even get swept up in the adrenaline rush. (I may be trying too hard to sell this to myself.)

If this were a movie, there would have been a fade to black there. Or maybe a montage sequence of me wandering around. So, since I wrote that (and since I didn't want to either admit failure or change the above) I spent roughly 15 minutes decluttering a bookcase. I got rid of a bunch of pre-Pinterest articles I had clipped, for gift inspiration or decorating ideas. I got rid of a reference book I have used exactly once in 20 years. I eliminated several very old Martha Stewart magazines, again with gift ideas. I emptied the binder and used it to replace the binder I keep my recipes in. The old recipe binder went in the trash.

I also swept and vacuumed. I dropped off the camera for developing, two library items that are coming due soon but we have finished, and a disc to Netflix (please, oh please, send my Sherlock Season 4 disc soon!).

Even better than that, my husband was inspired by my busyness to declutter a lot of things off his desk. He threw away the shelf holders for a bookcase we bought roughly ten years ago. In all that time, the hardware has say on his desk in a plastic cup.

Thanks, internetland, for helping me get over my "don't wannas" today. I wouldn't have done it without you!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Minimal Waste

I'm not ready to go zero waste. My family has a need for sliced sandwich bread, and I have a need for inexpensive items that prevent me from giving up Costco cheese and things like that. But I am trying to embrace what I will call minimalist waste -- as little waste as possible.

Why is zero waste a minimalism issue? Because minimalism is so much about mindfulness, we need to be mindful of the waste we're making. We can't just ignore the bags we place to the curb each week and assume it is successfully thrown "away." As I simplify meals and simplify the pantry I can also choose foods that are whole, intact and not packaged.

I want to make sure that you know that zero waste is a goal, and reducing waste is the achievable path that we can walk to get to zero waste. Zero waste has to be embraced by producers to truly be "zero waste," or the packaging that gets food to the stores will remain as waste, even if I don't bring any trash home. But I have to start somewhere, and I start at home.

We've really cut out our food waste. That's huge for many families. Statistics say the average American wastes $1500-$2500 a year in wasted, edible food. This does not count the tops of carrots or apple cores. I have a teenage boy, so we never have leftovers, and they never go to waste. The plate scrapings and apple cores go to the chickens, to that's easy.

Our shopping bags, even our produce bags, are reusable. I keep apples and mushrooms in cloth bags in the fridge. (By the way, mushrooms never go slimy is kept in a cotton bag. I was amazed.) I just throw them in the wash with our kitchen towels and cloth tableware, and then out to the car to await grocery day. It's not harder to wrap your produce in cotton than plastic.

Bulk nuts, flour, salt, beans -- all that is not much harder. Close off your bag and write down the code. You always have to write down the code anyway, if you're buying bulk, so write it on your shopping list instead of a plastic tag, and you're done.

Choose glass over paper, because it's endlessly reusable. The choice between metal and glass is harder, because metal may be lined in plastic, but it is recycled at a higher rate than glass. Buy plastic only if there is no other option, and it really is a need, not just a want. Medicine falls in this category. Recycle the plastic, but as there is little market for recycling plastic, and it all moves closer to the landfill with each reuse, the plastic you buy is destined to the landfill if it doesn't end up defacing the environment.

There's a lot written on zero waste. If you're interested in more of the details about how our family incorporates zero waste into our lives, let me know and I will include more details from our individual experience.

Daily Declutter

Today was a running-around sort of day. I took my son to the museum to see Art of the Brick, sculptures made of Lego, while my daughter was in dance class. (She and her father had already seen it.) It's really incredible what the artist can do in brick!

I got rid of five books off the living room bookshelf, and moved some family books out of my bookshelf into the living room. The kids are old enough that we have all started reading some of the same books. Right now most of us are reading Laurie R. King's Beekeeper's Apprentice, about Sherlock Holmes during the 1920's. If you like mysteries, I highly recommend this series!

But I digress. I moved some family books into the living room, in the spots that are now open. It makes access easier for the kids. It also makes the bookshelf look full, and not like "Mom has been getting rid of all our reading material." I consider that win-win.

I didn't get rid of much, but we did make good use of our time. As focused as I am on physical clutter, minimalism isn't about that. We had time to play a couple games, I made dinner (I planned for leftovers, but I did not take into account a growing boy!), we read as a family and I started a new knitting project for gift giving. All activities that are life building, and the real purpose of minimalism around here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Minimalism and Not Buying Things

I have noticed, through the course of my Daily Declutter posts, that I have stopped buying Stuff. I go to the store less frequently, and I am less tempted by Things when I am there. I focus on Stuff a lot, as I get rid of them, but have not been wanting as much as I did at one point in the past.

I think this is because I have increased my awareness of how Things do not really benefit me, after the level of being fed, sheltered and comfortable. (I'm really fond of sitting with a blanket on the sofa, reading a library book.) I am much more focused on clearing space for living. I am focused on getting rid of Cool Things that cease being valuable once I bring them home and show them to people. This change of focus seems to be the difference between seeing something, admiring it and wanting it, and just admiring it and moving on.

I really think that an increased awareness of the material goods in my environment is making me desire things less. This is part of what has attracted my to minimalism. I keep hoping that if I minimalist my physical surrounds I will magically have more time, more patience and more organization. Not to mention more money and more freedom. Perhaps that will lead to more travel. Or perhaps it will mean more generosity and more time spent supporting causes that I feel deserve it.

I know I have a limited amount of time to do the things I want to do, both in this stage of life and in life generally. I want to spend that time doing things that really matter, I don't want to spend my life at Target buying the next fashionable accessory for cheap. I'd rather spend my time getting chores done early so I can fit in a game with the family. I think I'm on the right road!

Weekend Update

Had an amazing weekend. Stayed home almost all the time, so it wasn't exciting, but I loved it. Played games with the kids, watched a couple Marvel movies, progressed farther into Wuthering Heights, stayed out of the rain.

I did make a menu plan for the coming week. I included lots of hearty, warming food, because it's supposed to be wet, then cold, for much of the week. I ran my grocery shopping errands Friday and Saturday mornings -- I had to split it up so I could pick up non-driving members of my family, or drop them off, but I won't have any additional trips this week. Hopefully.

I am glad it takes me a while to move things out of the house after they are decluttered. My daughter asked about the throw pillows I got rid of. Apparently those are the pillow fight pillow. I don't enjoy getting whacked in the head, so I don't participate. Fortunately, those pillows were waiting for the fabric recycling bin to get full, so they were reclaimed to put to their proper purpose. Bonus: no light fixtures were broken in the process, although it was a near thing.

My husband appropriated the shoe rack I had eliminated, to store paper and desk stuff on the shelf above the desk. Things are less stacked on each other this way, which makes them easier to access, without pulling a pile of supplies down on our heads. So this is a good things, but it is reducing the amount of stuff moving out. I probably should look through the supplies up there to see what we actually need.

Most things that I say I have decluttered actually go into a holding area. When the box is full, or overflowing, I transfer the contents of the plastic box into a cardboard box and take it to the donation station. Or  I leave it in the garage until I can't stand it, and then it goes out. I cannot stand bringing cardboard boxes into the house, as they too often are the homes for bugs. The holding pattern allows me to be enthusiastic in eliminating things, and my family has the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they can get their stuff back if they notice it's missing. If they don't notice, they probably didn't use it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Daily Declutter

I dropped a couple pieces of clothing at the consignment store today. When your kid wears a 28x30 pair of jeans with a belt, consignment is an easier way to find jeans than thrift shops. When I can I drop off at consignment, which makes purchases from the consignment more affordable.

I finally found the correct scent of laundry detergent, so I was able to exchange detergent, bring home the correct scent, and put it away. Done. Finally. Out of my mind, and off my to-do list.

I got about half my shopping done this morning before I needed to pick up a kid from school. I will finish tomorrow morning after I drop a kid off for dance class. (Do you see a theme to my life?) It didn't help that I had the wrong car for shopping -- my produce bags were in the other car. I'm trying to minimize my packaging. I'm not zero-waste, but I do borrow from that philosophy when I can.

I finally made the risotto I've been trying to use for weeks now. It was delicious, but I will not be buying any more arborio rice for a while -- at least until my pantry starts feeling a little more bare. It's tempting to get more right after we enjoyed it, but I am forcing myself to remember how long it too me to use up this box.  I will be making manicotti next week, since I found more manicotti shells while I was shopping. I will make enough to use up the half box I have in the cupboard since last winter. Pasta never goes bad, and I will be happy to have an easy dinner planned in advance, plus two boxes of food clutter out of the pantry.

Not much, but lots of little things are adding up to make a difference.

Digital Minimalism

I'm not on Facebook. I don't follow Twitter, I don't have a smart phone. I am living in a digital desert. And it is voluntary.

It's not that I think these things are bad. If you can use them responsibly, I salute you. But I can't. I have a Pinterest problem -- I am perfectly happy to spend hours looking at the funny comments and beautiful crafts other people have pinned. I'm not happy about it, and I'm trying to cut back.

Because when I cut back on my electronic entertainments, I spend more time entertaining myself with other people. Last night we played a couple of (really goofy) board games, then watched a movie as a family. It was rare for us to have a Friday night home together, but without a little effort to get us started, I could easily have sat down "just to check a couple things" and spent an hour online.

Both kids suffered from my decision to keep us offline last night. They helped my cook dinner, and twenty minutes later we say down together. They could have spent those twenty minutes being really entertained, but instead they learned to make risotto (keep stirring!) and we talked about stuff. Not important stuff, but we talked all the same.

It's too easy for me to be lured in by easy entertainment and the desire to know things right now. It's easy for my husband to choose to play a game by himself on the computer instead of setting up a game for us to sit around, face to face.

Last night was one of the best family nights, one of the best weekends, I've had in a long time. Limiting digital access, minimizing easy distraction, was the step we needed to take to focus on each other for the night.

I don't expect to eliminate electronics from my family entirely. But by preventing myself from being entertained and distracted by Facebook and a smart phone, I am forced to look at my family as we sit waiting for class to begin, or out meal to arrive. In those moments we interact, and the time we have together is too limited for me to throw it away on my Pinterest boards.

Edited to add: I found an interesting article on Apartment Therapy on an editor who is fasting from social media for a month.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why I Love Thrift Shops

I have gotten rid of a couple of big boxes of clutter around the house, so far. I probably will get rid of more before I'm much older. Some of my clutter goes to ebay, but most goes to thrift shops. I am so happy, and thankful, to have thrift shops!

They take my clutter, and sell it to someone who needs it. They keep my clutter out of the landfill. I know not everything will make it to the shelves, but part of the problem there is because more people donate than buy from thrift shops. But I can't change that, I just do what I can. Many use that money to support a charity, which is a bonus! However, even if they just keep goods out of the landfill, that's good enough for me.

They take other people's clutter, and sell it to me. I'd rather buy someone else's outgrown clothes, rather than supporting foreign sweatshops. Also, I'd rather spend $5 on a really good quality shirt that will last, not a cheap shirt that will need replacing soon.

They make jobs for people, collecting, sorting and selling clutter. Most thrift stores are non-profit, but even if they are profiting from my donations, I'd rather support people working locally for a service organization. If I need (need, not want) something, I'd rather not have to buy it new. Recently I needed a gift for a family friend; I was grateful to find a wooden tray for her new travel trailer. She didn't know the tray was not new, but I knew that the gift went to help people, not harm them.

They provide an inexpensive place to buy back my clutter, if I make a mistake. I'm not donating unique, historic clutter. I am not the woman who donates a painting that later is found and valued for millions of dollars. I'm donating things that are roughly equivalent to the things other people are donating. Craft supplies, kitchen supplies, clothes, linens are all available at the thrift store most of the time. I'd rather risk having to spend a few bucks to rebuy something once in a while if it means I have space and clarity in exchange.

I have, in the past, bought things I don't need from the thrift store. There is always so much available! Some of it is questionable, some is funny, but some is so tempting! The unnecessary has made it's way back to the thrift store to go home with someone else. Minimalist-ing is about reducing the amount of unnecessary contents in my home, so I've been buying a lot less lately. But thrift shops are still my go-to when I need new shoes, clothes, or a gift for a friend. Thank you, thrift shops!

Daily Declutter

I cleaned the cupboard under the sink. It has, apparently, been a long time since I looked under there! I found trash, an old bottle of conditioner I no longer use, an empty bottle from shampoo (that I once thought would be a good travel-shampoo bottle. But when we traveled this summer, we neither looked for it not needed it.), two containers of q-tips (we don't use them, I don't know where they came from), cotton balls (ditto). Now, the cabinet holds a trash can, train case for travel toiletries and a few personal necessities. I was surprise at how much junk was under there -- I thought I had dealt with most of the random clutter around here.

I also dealt with a bag by the front door, and the Christmas cards inside. The mental clarity is so much better with that done, and a phone call I didn't want to make. I'm going to keep that up -- I felt so much more relaxed knowing what I had accomplished! Today I will make a doctor's appointment more me. I hate scheduling doctor's appointments, just for the time the appointment takes, and working around things I need to do. But it has to be done, and when it is no longer mental clutter I'm sure I'll feel better.

Cleared out the cabinet where I keep table linens. Got rid of a too-small tablecloth, and a Thanksgiving one. I thought I had already got rid of the Thanksgiving one when we decorated this last year, and really we didn't miss it. I may still have too many tablecloths, if we went through an entire year and didn't realize a Thanksgiving tablecloth was in the cabinet. (It was vintage, printed with harvest and pilgrims, so there really was no question about using it in summer.)

I actually posted the magazines I photographed. Please, oh please, let someone buy them quickly so they can get out of the house! At the very least, I won't be telling myself that I need to do that!

I will be making a menu plan today, and shopping either today or tomorrow. But only one of those! I do like having the schedule for shopping, and not shopping as often. My family is surviving, and they have not run out of anything critical yet.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mental Minimalism

This isn't a pretty confession. I finally got my Christmas cards sent. I didn't have that many left, and I had sent most before Christmas, but I wasn't done. I had a bag sitting near the front door so I could take the task on the road with me. Or I could work at it when I was watching tv.

I would look at my bag. Sometimes it would just be a messy bag near the door. Sometimes it would be a task that I need to accomplish before I could be "done." The Christmas cards were a constantly unfinished task FOR A MONTH that always was weighing on my conscience.

It took about an hour. I had to hand write the notes (especially after waiting so long!), but it really only took an hour, sitting drinking tea and not working outside in the rain.

And now I feel so happy! I don't have to worry about that again for over 10 months! I have put the bag away, and the living area is less cluttered looking -- and not guilt inducing!

Why didn't I do it earlier? 'Cause I didn't wanna. I caved into my inner (spoiled) child. I do the same thing every year when I put off filling out my tax forms. I feel so good when I declutter my to-do list. I feel so much lighter, free-er.

So, it came down to decluttering my mind. I got rid of two things I kept thinking about, things that my brain kept cycling to. (One was a call I didn't want to make. I made the call. It went much better than I expected!)

It feels a lot like cleaning out a closet or cupboard that has been preventing my from getting things done.

What do you need to mentally delutter?

Daily Declutter

Yesterday, while the rain held off, I photographed a bunch of old Life magazines for ebay. If you need old magazines, they'll be up today! I hope they find a good home.

We have been storing a lot of electronics donated by friends for an e-waste fundraiser at my son's school. Yesterday, before the rain, he loaded them up in the truck so we can deliver them this weekend. I am excited to get so much garage space back! It's not "real" clutter, in my mind, because we were only ever storing it for the fundraiser, but it still took up real space! I'm glad I had the shelf space available. The rain has started today, and I am so glad I can use the garage for parking (and loading up the car for school).

I returned some library books, and I picked up a few more. This is the closest I've come lately to bringing in new clutter to the house, which makes me happy.

Things aren't moving out quickly, but I think I've curtailed stuff coming in. However, clutter still is coming out of corners, and coming home from school! I am looking right now at a shelf with a mask (school project), and disposable film camera that needs to be developed, a Netflix envelop that needs to be returned, pruners that need to go outside. I can deal with most of them today, but I'm pretty sure more clutter will come out of hiding when I do that.  I guess that's how it works, though. Eventually I will have to run out of sneaky clutter!

The menu plan had been working this week, but it crashed and burned today. I was planning risotto and leek pie, but the skies have opened in southern California, and I need soup. The leek will be repurposed to potato-leek soup, but the arborio rice (which I'm trying to use up) will continue to linger in my pantry. Which is why the box has lingered in there so long -- when I try to make it, something seems to always come up. On the other hand, we get soup and bread tonight while watching the rain, so that's a good thing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Minimalist Tip: Let Go of Perfect

I was browsing Pinterest (instead of doing something useful, like laundry) and I saw a tip on how to make your whites white, not grey or yellow. The picture showed beautiful, fluffy towels and perfectly folded sheets. I started figuring out which container I would use to whiten my laundry.

Then I realized that I don't really care. I admit, the socks in my house (especially work-in-the-yard socks, and kids' socks) do tend to have a tinge of grey. But since the kids don't care, and they wear their socks without shoes a lot (which tends to make them grungy), spending the afternoon whitening all the whites in the house is not a good use of my time.

This works for a lot of things. Of course, some level of hygiene is necessary. When cloth napkins start showing grease stains, they need to be treated. But undertaking tasks that never occurred to me before may be anti-minimalist.

I had a friend many years ago who suffered with borderline hoarding disorder. (I am not a psychologist, so I can't diagnose her, but I am not using this condition as hyperbole.) She never could start clearing out her clutter (and trash) because she couldn't make it perfect in one go. She couldn't deal with the clutter in the kitchen because her dishes didn't match, so what was the point?

The point is: don't let perfect be the enemy of better. Get your laundry clean, even if the socks are a little grey. Wash the dishes, even if they don't match. When you have reduced the amount of clutter to a point where you have too much free time, then you can whiten grey socks. Or play a board game with the family. Whatever floats your boat.

Daily Declutter

I spent the day doing laundry, which is easier since I got rid of a few things there. I have room for the laundry baskets and I no longer need to keep shifting them around.

I continue to fight with the printer. I found a spray bottle that I thought might work to clean out the possibly clogged print heads. It didn't help, and I haven't used it in over a year -- but it's so pretty! A glass and metal sprayer, for spraying plants! I can use it to keep orchids alive! But I don't have any orchids, and I'm not planning to buy any to match my sprayer, so out it went.

Also got rid of a couple of throw pillows. When I bought replacements we kept the old ones for the dogs to use (they like pillows). But the pillows went in the storage chest. Now the stored blankets can smell like dog, be difficult to store, and the dogs can not have access to their pillows -- this is not a win. So out the pillows go. (The dog is currently sleeping on the sofa, where he's not allowed, instead of his bed. Maybe that's why they didn't need the pillows).

No great strides, but I got laundry washed, hung on the line, and folded. I fed my family, and used up a cup of garbanzo and fava bean flour left over from our gluten-free test on my daughter (hooray! gluten is not the source of her allergies!), so the pantry is slowly being cleared of clutter. I'm not ok with wasting food, so the pizza crust was especially high protein, and I'm ok with that.

Baby step. Baby steps will get there, and it's a long road. I'd rather move forward with baby steps than burn out, or have my family reject the efforts I'm making.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Weekend Declutter and Update

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's Working!

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Declutter

Odds and ends again today.

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Declutter

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Is Minimalism Elitist?

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Declutter

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Necessary Clutter: Shopping Bags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

Practicing Gratitude

I don't know if other aspiring minimalists practice gratitude as part of minimalism. I know Christianity, which has a strong minimalist bent, at least originally, emphasizes it strongly. Today I am working on practicing gratitude, and I am expressing it here.

We met with the orthodontist, and the cost was everything I was fearing. I had been hoping the quote would be lower than my previous quote for orthodontia, but it isn't. I will not be able to use money from selling our trailer to pay down the car. Instead, additional money will go to paying for straight teeth.

So I will practice gratitude.

I am grateful that I am planning for orthodontia fees, not orthopedics fees. I am grateful that we have health insurance for that sort of involuntary expenses.

I am grateful that we are looking to fix teeth, not trying to pay for an illness, or some sort of terrible disease.

I am grateful that we live in a country with modern health care. I am grateful that if my child needed serious medical treatment that treatment it is available and accessible.

I am grateful for my husband's job that will pay for this treatment. I would rather spend the money on a vacation or something recreational, but I am grateful we have the money available.

I am grateful that our trailer sold, to help pay for much of this expense.

I am grateful that elective treatment is something we can afford to elect.

I am grateful that my children have free, quality education, so we are not having to choose between education and medical/dental treatment.

I am grateful for my home, that shelters my family.

I am grateful for my family.

I am grateful for much in addition to this, but remembering to be grateful helps me get over my disappointment in what is really a minor inconvenience.

Making Do

One of the considerations that makes me hesitate to get rid of things, and one of the reasons I have had to limit my shopping expeditions, is the fear of going without. "What if," my brain says to me, "my family needs (XYZ) and we don't have it?!"

Really, though, when my family is forced to do without a want, it usually is exactly that: a WANT. We aren't missing meals. We aren't lacking health care. We aren't going naked. We're simply being forced to use butter instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich, wear a less-than-ideal sweatshirt, or play a game other than the one we remember enjoying in the past.

For Christmas I gave my husband a game we had decluttered years ago. I don't know how many years, but it was somewhere between five and ten years. We carried it around with us for at least ten years before that. When my husband realized he wanted to play it again (my son is now of an age to play it with him) we survived quite well without the game, and he was very excited to receive it as a gift. In the meantime, we (and they) had shelves of other games we could play.

Would we have been better off keeping that game (and several of it's friends) for the intervening years before my husband wanted it again? I think not. He may have a slightly less emphatic response, but I still think it is worth it to make do in the meantime, and not have everything we want, whenever we need it.

I was thinking about delayed gratification. Teaching this skill to our children is important. We know they need to be able to wait to receive a cookie, or any reward. This is the sort of skill that we need in adulthood. Making do is an aspect of that, and I have been allowing my family (including me) to be the sort of demanding toddler that needs everything whenever we want it.

I WANT a sandwich with mayo -- I'll run to the store today so I can have it. I might WANT that shirt at some point in the future -- I can't deny my future self.

If I do want something in the future and I do not have it, either because I have run out or because I have decluttered it, I need to remember my blessings. And I need to treat my future self as an adult, and trust that she can make do without every whim being satisfied as soon as she feels the desire for something.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Menu Planning Again

Menu planning worked pretty well last week, so I'm going to try it again this week. I have a couple of carry-over from last week. I also have a couple of pantry-based dinners for this week, in case life happens and I have to move something around. Menu planning only with fresh food would leave me with food wasted in the fridge, which is not exactly the point.

I had a brainstorm, which probably isn't unique to me, that I should keep something ready-to-go in the freezer. I can leave an opening in the plan, and fill it with the freezer meal, if I have something ready to slide into the plan. I need to clear out my freezer a little more before I do that, so in the meantime I'll combine Operation Food Clutter with menu planning and just push things back if I need to.

In case you're curious (I'm sure you are!) this week we will be eating:

Saturday: Black bean soup, salad, cornbread
Sunday: Dinner at Mom's
Monday: 10 Spice Veg Soup that I didn't get to make last week, but we love it!
Tuesday: Spaghetti
Wednesday: Tea: Sweet Potato Bites, Spanikopita, cream cheese tea sandwiches, and shortbread cookies out of the pantry
Thursday: wagon wheel pasta (barbecue sauce, pasta, beans, cheddar cheese)
Friday: make pizza at home

I went grocery shopping again. Fewer stores, but I still was out for three hours. I hope I can cut it down in the future, but it still has to be less than running out to the store several times a week. Most weeks I won't need to go to both Target and Costco.

We took down Christmas decor, and we got rid of a small box of decorations no one loved. At the end of the day, we really no longer wanted the silver garland, or the trees in the kids' bedrooms. Next year we'll decorate their rooms differently. The ornaments they didn't want (and that were homemade, and not really donate-able) were cycled into decorations for gifts. We'll add pompoms or flowers to gifts this year, in lieu of bows, and hopefully those will be passed on. I'm trying to make good use of the things that can't be donated. My problem is that I am then collecting these things in the time between when I decide to declutter then and when I actually move them out of the house.

Post-Holiday Relief as Minimalism Preview

We took the Christmas decor down. The house feels so light and open. I know a lot of people feel the same when the tree and decor goes back in the boxes. It's a good metaphor for decluttering in general. Once you get rid of the excess, you feel so much better, lighter, freer.

A lot of people are drawn to minimalism to get that feeling of freedom. I no longer have to worry about knocking ornaments off the tree. I can dust the flat surfaces in seconds. I can bring in a vase of fresh flowers and have room to display them.

After the excess of the holidays, the a lot of people are choosing to pull back toward more simplicity. There is a religious concept called askesis that means a voluntary limiting of oneself, usually severely, or severe self-discipline. Lent is an example of askesis, or the poverty of a Buddhist or western monk. Askesis can lead to greater creativity and better understanding of yourself and your needs. Minimalism doesn't need to be monkish, but limiting one's surrounding, reducing one's surplus in durable or consumable goods, can help you to get to the heart of what's important to you.

Or at the very least, it will reduce the amount of time it takes to dust the living room.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Menu Plan Week One Report.

It's been almost a week since my last shopping trip, and my family is all still alive! Seriously,  I did not go to the grocery for anything in a week, and it felt kind of weird. My menu plan didn't work out as I planned it, which has always been my problem with menu plans in the past. 

One night's dinner made way more than I expected, and we had that again a second night. So that was one planned dinner that didn't get made. We unexpectedly invited friends over to dinner this weekend, and she's allergic to nuts -- which was an ingredient in the meal I had planned. So I had to rework that night. Oddly, I had planned until this coming Sunday even though I will be going shopping Saturday morning, so I have time to alter Saturday night's plan, but the plan still didn't work. Another night's plan was shifted so I could make Sunday night's dinner tonight, use up more leftovers, and go to see my parents Sunday night.

Despite this, I think the menu plan and single shopping trip worked. I had enough pantry meals planned that I could shift things around. We'll have spaghetti some time next week -- the ingredients will keep on the shelf until next week or the week after. My family lived without mayonnaise when we ran out. I planned to make mayo, but it didn't happen, and yet they lived. Hopefully this will impress people enough to mark food on the shopping list in the future. I know the list is well marked for the coming week.

Lastly, I really liked having the plan! I liked having an answer to the eternal question "what should I make for dinner tonight?" I liked looking for the answer in my book, instead of trying to throw something together. I don't know if it was noticeable to anyone else, but I felt calmer, and that's part of the point of the project, right?

This week was not typical because no one went to school, so the leftovers in the fridge were not in as high of demand as they often are. But I will say the menu plan seemed to work this week. I am looking forward to planning for next week and trying this again. We will continue to use up the backlog of ingredients in the freezer, and eat the fresh food in the fridge before it has a chance to move to the dark side.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Be Kind to Yourself

Tomorrow is our day to take down the Christmas decorations, and I cannot wait. I love Christmas, and I love looking at the lights and all, but I am really done with having a tree in the house.

My family is also looking forward to taking down the Christmas decor. They really don't seem to mind the amount of space the tree takes up, but Epiphany is an exiting day for them. There are snacks!

We celebrate Epiphany (the twelfth day of Christmas) by taking down the tree, receiving a small gift, and finishing up the Christmas treats. Diets do not begin January 1 around here! The kids have free access to any fudge, toffee or cookies that have not been demolished. Additionally, while we pack the ornaments away, we eat. I make finger foods, many that rarely appear other times of the year, to snack on while we pack everything away.

It occurred to me that the same strategy can apply to decluttering other types of clutter. Pour yourself a glass or cup of something lovely before tackling the linen closet. Make popcorn for the kids before asking them to choose which movies they want to get rid of. Then put on their favorite movie to celebrate, or do the same thing with board games. You don't have to celebrate every time you tackle an area, but by rewarding yourself as you go, the entire project will be less arduous.

The process of eliminating the unnecessary and discovering the essentials can be part of the joy of having less. Be gentle with yourself and your family, though. The clutter didn't show up in a weekend, and changing your lifestyle to a more minimalist, cleaner lifestyle won't occur in a weekend, especially if you want lasting change.

Daily Delutter

I went through my closet today, and pulled out three shirts to move into spring/summer storage, and one Christmas shirt to store until next year. Everything else stayed, and I'm a little disappointed. My closet feels crowded, but I wear everything in there.

I made banana bread out of some of the frozen bananas. This will eliminate a little of my food clutter, but that is slow going. Pinterest says I can fold in pomegranate seeds that I have in the freezer, so I made one loaf with those, and one loaf with dried mangos in lieu of raisins.

Deluttered a couple of kitchen utensils, but not enough to make a notiecable difference. I did move all the pieces for the popsicle maker to the cabinet with the popsicle maker (I'm not using it right now!). If it isn't useful this summer I will rehome it, but right now I'm just hiding it. Removing the auxiliary pieces DID make a difference in the drawer, and didn't negatively impact the cupboard.

Does anyone else have difficulty cleaning house during Christmas? I have dog hair on the tree skirt -- how do I get that off? I can't sweep or vacuum it. I put the skirt through the wash every year, but that doesn't help toward the end of the season. And with all the nick-knacks lying around, I remember why I usually don't keep things like this around. There is so much dust!

I just want to curl up with a book and a cup of tea. I'll struggle through a little of my ought-to's, then enjoy the rain. Heathcliff is waiting for me

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How to Start

I've been decluttering for a while now. Like, twenty years. Seriously, twenty years! I would expect I would be done by now. I would expect my home to be clean, and tidy, and without a lot of excess.

To be honest, it's a lot better than it was when we started. We bought a book shortly after we were married that promised to rid us of the clutter. We would be able to find what we need when we need it. No more looking for scissors because we would know where they were! No more buying duplicate items because we couldn't find what we need -- or because we forgot we had something until we went to put it away and found another one there. We would save money and time! Birds would descend from the clouds, singing!

As time has passed, our needs and wants have changed. Things that were once desirable have become clutter.  We have reduced the amount of stuff we have, but I am sometimes still overwhelmed by the amount of items in our home. So I started this project to reduce the amount of stuff in our home and reduce the stress in our home.

But what do you do if you've just started. What if you look around your home and see cabinets, baskets or piles of ...things. You don't like to open the closet door because there is too much to deal with there. Your pantry is full, but you never look in the back, and you just keep replenishing the items in the front. You can't find a working pen when you need to sign a form. You need to eliminate a lot, not just ten or fifteen pieces.

I've read a lot of different books on the subject. Some tell you to start in your highest traffic stop, so you get an immediate result. Some say to work all weekend, and others advise doing a little every day. Marie Kondo recommends taking everything out and putting back only what you love, and who am I to argue with her? But I will, and I have another tack that works for me. Just pick something, and get rid of it.

I know it sounds foolish, but if you're just beginning, I find it is too easy to get wrapped up in what you should declutter, and how, and when. If you are starting, just get started. If your drawer is too full of kitchen implements to open, then get rid of the ones you know you don't need. Carry the unloved spoons, dull knives and weird implements to a box by the back door or bag in the trunk of the car (don't put them in the garage,it's too easy to forget about them there). When you leave the house, or when you drive by a donation spot, drop them off. You don't have to get a receipt, just let them go. Now you have a working drawer, and your life is easier. If it's not a drawer, if it's an end table, just go for it. Repeat as necessary.

Using this method as a starting point, you will not get rid of all the clutter in your home. You will not end up with a minimalist magazine (Pinterest?) spread. But you will get rid of enough that you will have room to work.

This is not the time to decide whether you want to get rid of the rolling pin that belonged to your grandmother. You never make pie, you don't like pie, but you loved your grandmother. After you are living in a home that you can breathe in, you can consider how you want to remember and memorialize your grandmother. But to START, just get rid of the easy things. If you find yourself waffling over something, put it aside for now. If you find yourself waffling over everything, take a break. Take the box (bag) of donations out of the room, empty the trash and recycling cans, do something to relax. Then come back to whatever needs your attention next.

A Special Note About Paper Clutter: Do not start decluttering with paper clutter. Do not start by trying to eliminate the pile of bills, adverts and school papers that have climbed to two feet tall. Paper clutter is more time consuming than other clutter because each piece is so thin. Important things can hide between pieces of unimportant things, and because ten items of paper clutter are a quarter of an inch high; ten items of any other clutter will half fill a box. If you have paper clutter on the refrigerator, on the counter, on the desk a different strategy needs to be taken. Spend 15 minutes (or whatever time you can) eliminating the clutter from the top of the pile AND DON'T ADD TO THE PROBLEM. Make the hard decision before adding new paper clutter to the pile.

You may miss out on a few things this way. If you receive a new issue of Reader's Digest in the mail, you may have to pass it along (leave it in the doctor's office, or give it to your neighbor) rather than reading it if you have a lot of magazines in the pile. Obviously, if you have a lot of magazines in the clutter pile you aren't getting around to reading them anyway! If the weekly grocery circulars arrive in the mailbox, recycle them as they arrive at the house. You may miss out on a great coupon, but it will be worth it to reclaim a great piece of furniture.

By working at the clutter problem from both ends -- reducing what has accumulated and preventing new accumulation -- you can eliminate the easy clutter. Once you see a difference in the way you live you can develop the momentum you need to address more difficult, entrenched clutter.

Daily Declutter

I sold two items on ebay, which was exiting to me because I not only got rid of the actual items, but I also got rid of two boxes to transport them to their new homes. I also put the dvds into their boxes so I could donate them. I found two containers of body lotion, and I brought them to a meeting so someone else can use them. Keeping them in storage and not using them isn't actually helpful.

I found a roll of calculator tape that I will pass along to my neighbor. I know he has a calculator that uses tape, since my daughter used to enjoy playing with it (and using up all his tape).

Not much physical stuff moved out, but I'm moving out little pieces (ten today) while the family is home. And the basic clutter that sometimes makes me crazy seems to be decreasing. Magically. By putting away things as I use them, there is less clutter on counters than there used to be. So that's beneficial. I just need to keep moving forward.

Another day without having to go to the grocery, so that's something good, too. Ran out of mayonnaise because no one wrote it on the list, but I will make it from scratch and resist going to the store early.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Food Clutter

I have had a hard time accepting the idea of food as clutter. Food is necessary for life! People all over the globe -- including this country -- are going without, so I should be happy to have a bounteous pantry.

But if I don't make good use of the food I have, it is essentially clutter. Objects (cans, boxes, bags) that don't serve a purpose. Their purpose should be to provide sustenance, but they aren't serving any purpose. Clutter.

So I am working on reducing my food clutter. When I am at the grocery (especially the discount grocery) I tend to stock up on items. If my family like something, I will buy lots of it so they can always have it (and not run out). But too often they get tired of that something, or they become excited about something else, and things linger. Currently I have frozen grapes and frozen bananas in the freezer, because my kids like to snack on them during the summer. I have all the bread ends, because no one in my family is thrilled to eat ends as toast or sandwiches. I have a deep freeze full of frozen water (for camping) and other things that are perfectly useful...if we used them. But we haven't used them in six months, and they won't keep forever.

Likewise, the dried fruit in the pantry. I bought dried mangos, but people only eat them in oatmeal, if they are cut up. So they mostly sit there, unused, getting older and drier. And sometimes, they feel neglected and hide more popular items from me.

Could I get rid of the deep freeze (and be able to use the laundry room more easily) if we clean out the freezer? We would certainly use less electricity (goal 3!) if we stopped using it. Could I store things more easily, making the pantry more pleasant to use? I think so!

So I will be menu planning to use up the food clutter. Make banana bread (buy flour) to use up the frozen summer bananas. Make crock pot oatmeal, with grapes instead of raisins, or mangos instead of raisins. Bread pudding (or "strata") will use up the bread ends and single hot dog bun I found in the freezer today. Make dinner loaf to use up the wealth of bread crumbs I make out of more unwanted bread ends.

Since this is a planning things, I can't get it all done in one week, but I can work on it over the next several weeks. I want to use up the food that is currently undesirable, rather than let it go to waste. I would donate it if it were possible, but the food that is clutter is open or unpackaged.

Clutter anywhere can be reduced, making each part of the day work more easily. If I declutter the pantry I will prevent food waste while making food prep and planning simpler.

Monday, January 2, 2017

I lived through the weekly shopping trip.

Today was, apparently, the day everyone chose for running errands and grocery shopping. I have not seen that many people in years. I don't even have words.

Nut, I persevered and accomplished my goals! I returned a book to Costco (it was a duplicate). I returned the sheets and calendar to Target. I grocery shopped at five different store, looked for a gift (failed), and I did not come home with anything to clutter up the house. Even the food wasn't clutter (yes, food can be clutter, and I will address that, but not now).

I really, really, REALLY hope this is it for the week. I'm already readjusting my menu plan (my greatest downfall for menu planning is the life events that require readjustment). I have enough leftover black-eyes to make another dinner, if I make another pan of cornbread. I'll just shift over something that is pantry-dependent, rather than refrigerator dependent, and that should cover meal planning.

Now that I've recovered and dinner is in the oven I feel pretty good about accomplishing all the grocery shopping in one fell swoop. I even made it to the two discount groceries in town, one of which had both tuna and veggie ground crumbles (ground beef alternative) which were very welcome. Tuna was on my list, and veggie crumbles are a very nice start for a quick dinner if I get home too late to cook.

I just hope next week is much quieter at the stores, and I don't have to spend that long every time.

Decluttering Responsibly

I'm working to get rid of a lot of the excess in my home. As I do this, I am mindful to rehome my excess goods in responsible ways, but it is not as easy being responsible. (And that sentence is complete in itself. It's never as easy to be responsible as to be irresponsible!) Reading about the excess goods that even thrift shops cannot absorb, I am making a greater effort to find good homes for the things I want to get rid of.

My mother gives me her old magazines. After I have looked through them, I used to donate them to the local library. Recently, however, I found out that they no longer really want old magazines, as they don't sell well. I found a senior lounge near where my daughter dances, and they were very happy to receive them. Plus, when I went back with more magazines I found that the ones I had brought previously were no longer there, so I assume someone is appreciating them. I will hope that they are recycled when no one else wants them, not thrown in the landfill.

The bottle of hand lotion I was given will go to a women's shelter that was collecting items at my kids' school before break. If they are no longer collecting, the lotion will go to the church, to be included in baskets for shut-ins. It will take a little longer to move the lotion out, but if the shelter wants it, it will be more needed and desired there.

I sell items on ebay, especially if I'm not sure whether an item will be appreciated at the thrift store. Life magazines from 1968? Probably not a high demand item at Goodwill, but someone somewhere will want them, and I'm willing to take the time to sell them that way. I have the space for storing both the goods and the shipping packaging, so I'm able to do store things for sale.

For me, simplifying isn't simple. I feel responsible for the goods that pass through my hands, I feel responsible to the people who made them, and I feel responsible to the other people who live on this planet who have a share in the results of the decisions I make. I would like to eliminate the excess material goods quickly and easily, but I need to take responsibility for the decisions I have made in the past. Hopefully, when I am done with the decluttering aspect of this project I will not have to cart around objects as I look for an appropriate home for them.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

I hope the new year is full of recognized blessings for you and yours. May everyone enjoy peace and love throughout the year.