Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Decluttering again

Our church is hosting a rummage sale at the end of the month, and that was the kick in the pants I needed to look in some of our cupboards and closets for things we don't use anymore. No, as I write that I realize it was just the final kick -- I've been reading Joshua Becker's The Minimalist Home, and Ryan Fields Milburn's Everything That Remains, and Will Davis, Jr.'s Enough and Peter Kalmus' Be The Change. And every one of those books agrees that Too Much is counter to happiness and peace and the health of our planet. So I've been culling my surplus in hopes that it will be a blessing to other people, and also in the hope that it will encourage other people to buy used instead of new.

It's interesting to me, at this point, to see what we now consider unimportant. We got rid of a vase that was given to us as a wedding gift. But it's my second-favorite vase, so it rarely gets used -- I very rarely have two vases of cut flowers in my house at once. I got rid of some old refrigerator glass containers -- we use them during strawberry season, as once pint of strawberries cut up exactly fills one container, but I don't buy single pints of strawberries, so it's kind of missing the point. We got rid of books we don't read, and won't read. We got rid of a vintage thermos, and we'd get rid of one more if we could agree which one is better (mine is smaller on the outside but holds more. It is clearly superior! But my husband likes the cup that comes with the other one, so in the name of marital harmony we will continue to keep both). I got rid of tea I don't like and spices I used in a gift and I found a place to put my electric kettle so it won't hog so much counter space all day.

And if I'm completely honest, I'm also decluttering because I want the house to feel clean. I stopped by someone's house, and her home was So. Much. Cleaner. than mine has been lately! Granted, she doesn't have a dog (how can a dog shed that much and never go bald?) but mine is worse than that. Less stuff in my cupboards will give me room to store what remains. With more counter-clutter stored for 23 hours a day, the whole house will look a little more polished. That polish will make me feel more at peace, and happier, and as a result the whole family will be happier.

So I'm grateful for the pushes that came together to make the house just a little more minimalist.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Simple Living Isn't Simple

I have been obsessively listening to The Minimalists podcasts lately, and I've been finding them really inspirational. For one thing, I get my socks folded in record time (I find it SOOOO boring, but now my brain can be happy and I fold socks the same day I wash them). But I realize that I have been trying to do too many different things, thinking they are the same thing.

They have a quote (that of course I can't find right now, maybe it isn't them) that says something like "Simple living isn't simple," and I have been forgetting that. I have been all over the map -- decluttering, trying to make money to pay down our debts, parenting -- and I can't understand why things are not matching my vision. I have a vision of a simple, clean, elegant home with happy children. We calmly sit together, talk, drink tea, enjoy being together. The dogs sleep quietly on the floor (not the sofa!). But that's not who we are -- that is a moment in time. And I keep forgetting that!

I also was hugely inspired by T.K. Coleman on their School podcast. He said that, if you want to do something, then start and learn as you go. So I started talking to my friends, telling them that I am interested in helping declutter homes. If they have friends who need help (because I can't suggest that they need help!) to pass my number along. It's not simple, but it is working toward my goal -- and I'm so tired of paying interest on the car, paying interest on the house -- I want to be done! And that's my larger goal -- simplifying my life so I can enjoy my life.

I can't have my vision of a peaceful house all the time. I have kids who want to do things, explore the world. I want them to pursue the things that they are curious about! So we will have swim, and robotics, and 4-H, and dogs (on the sofa and otherwise), and homework, and birthday parties, and all the things kids do. And from time to time we will sit and talk and drink tea.

And this is as simple as I am willing to make my life at this point. I need to remember this. If minimalism is removing everything that doesn't add value, my life is minimalist because the things I do add value to my family (if not to me specifically). And the journey to the life I want is worth the effort it takes.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Decluttering by not buying

I have been working on a lot of tedious projects lately, things that require hands but not brains. I am not yet a person who can remain present while she's folding socks. Maybe I'll be that peaceful some day, but don't count on it.

Anyway, I have started listening to The Minimalists podcasts while I do these things. This week I heard one of them say that when he traveled with his partner, he deliberately didn't pick up souvenirs from places they visit, so he doesn't become attached to them. He then doesn't have to deliberate over whether to keep them in the long run.

Through the week, I have found myself coming back to that thought again and again. I have not been in the habit of buying souvenirs (I usually get jam, or sometimes alcohol. I like revisiting our travels over toast or a glass of wine at night.), but I can apply the policy of not buying things that I will have to declutter later.

It doesn't mean I can't buy anything, but I am happier when I don't deliberately bring home things that I will need to re-home later (especially since I have a problem re-homing things, and I feel a responsibility to inanimate objects).

This requires me to stay away from places where I can buy things I don't need. I plan strategic strikes at Target. I don't go into World Market or Barnes and Nobel to browse. I only stop by Goodwill for a drop-off or when we've run out of clothes. The crazy thing is, when I stay away from shops, I have more time for the type of deliberate living I'd prefer to emphasize in my life. Funny, that.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Guilt, Duty and Clutter

I've been working to move clutter out. I would like to get some money for some of it, and this week I've been surprisingly successful! A tea cup, a collectible ceramic butter churn, and a wooden armoire all moved out to a new home.

I feel better about finding a good home for things, rather than just dropping them off at the charity shop. If they have a good new home, I don't need to remain responsible to them.

Marie Kondo is in the media again (still), and I really liked some of what she wrote about. But as much as I like her perspective on thanking your clutter for what it has done, then letting it go, I have difficulty -- I still feel responsible to it! I really feel better when I limit what I bring into the house, rather than simply rely on later decluttering efforts to simplify my space. For one thing, if I just don't bring the clutter in, I don't need to spend the day(s) later taking it back out.

I was really happy today, because I was able to return an unwanted plastic toy to the shop. It was given to me, as a joke gift, over Christmas. I was so happy to be able to take it back, because I was able to tell myself that someone who does want it will be able to purchase it there new, and hopefully one fewer plastic toy will be made. (Yes, I know it doesn't work that way, but it makes me feel better). If I had simply dropped it off at Goodwill (my initial plan) I'd have still have felt guilty, because it wouldn't have decreased the demand for useless plastic toys. I know, I have an overdeveloped sense of guilt.

In conclusion, I've moved clutter out to other homes, where other people actually want it! Maybe they'll even buy less new clutter, because they are able to buy my clutter instead? And I remain committed to preventing the flow of clutter into my home, because of an overdeveloped sense of duty (cue Gilbert and Sullivan) makes me want to keep my clutter after I know I no longer actually want it. I will embrace the slow move forward, and be grateful that slowly moving forward is better than moving backward!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Clutter Creep

It happens. I was doing so well, than suddenly I realize I can't park in the garage. And the bar in the kitchen is covered with canned goods from a week ago. And a gift bag was left out of the Christmas wrap box, and someone thought the best place to put it was on the entertainment center...not away.

So I'm back at it. I posted a project armoire on Craigslist. Hopefully someone else will want a project his rainy season. My poor husband would like to get out of the car without rain falling on his head. Weird. I also took a lot of things to the shop (which is over-full, so they're cluttering up my parents' house, but that's a different issue...) so the garage is already a little better. I also posted a couple of vintage drawers that I intended to repurpose for the shop, but since the first ones haven't sold yet, I'm letting these go. If the others sell, I'll look around for more things to paint.

I have a lot of little things that have been sitting around, waiting to be posted to ebay. They just look clutter-y, and now they're on their way out. I've taken pictures, posted the pics, and now the clutter can go sit in the barn for a few weeks. If no one is interested online, I'll pass them along to the thrift shop and enjoy the space in my home. The cute ceramic butter churn my daughter used during her "Little House on the Prairie" phase. A fiddle-bottle I once used to gift vanilla. A couple of books my niece was getting rid of. Clutter.

And on and on it goes. But I'm glad I caught it early, and I'm able to move these things when they aren't so overwhelming a task, and it only takes a few minutes to post them to the world. If I wait, posting the accumulated clutter will take hours, I'll want to put it off (even if I can do it in bite-sized pieces) and the clutter will get worse. By taking this time now, I've forestalled future clutter!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


I spent yesterday helping my sister-in-law declutter her spare room, so it would be useful as a bedroom. She had a lot of boxes from her mother, things that were too sentimental to pass along right after my mother-in-law died, but with a little more distance it was easier.

My sister-in-law was so brave about letting things go. She is incredibly sentimental, and she has always felt that hanging on to things allows her to resurrect memories. We kept single items from collections, took pictures out of frames (and donated the frames) so the pictures can be scanned and put in a digital frame, recycled a LOT of paper, and just let some things go. The samples of Belgian lace my mother-in-law brought back from her trip to Europe meant that her mother thought of her in Europe, but that was all, and my sister-in-law let the pieces go.

As much as she wanted her space back, the thing that most struck me was a comment my SIL made, just casually, about not wanting to make her daughter go through all this someday. It is such a loving reason to put herself through an exhausting day, physically and emotionally.

We took two full carloads of stuff away from the house. Stuffed animals will go to the firehouse to be loved my children that really need a distraction. A coffee table will go to a group of refugees. Frames and miscellaneous went to Goodwill. Many cans of paper went out to the recycling bin.

We asked questions like: What does this object make you think about? Where do you want to display this? (I'll put it somewhere is not an acceptable answer, that means it will always live in a box.) How will you view these? When will you use this? We also considered the 20/20 rule: if you can replace it in twenty minutes and for less than $20, it's not worth saving "just in case."

I am so happy my sister-in-law has so much more space, and I really hope she is happier with her additional room. But what I keep thinking about is her motivation to spare her family from having to clear out several generations worth of clutter when the time comes.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Happy New Year! I know I'm late, but the sentiment was there are the same. We had a wonderful, restful holiday. After Christmas day we took a short week to camp a little, stay in an actual caboose a few nights, and watch the Rose Parade.

The nights in the caboose were beautiful, amazing nights. We were on a redwood grove, with no tv, no movies, no wifi. We just had to hang out together. I felt like it was insight into what life in a tiny home would be like. We enjoyed being together, and we surprisingly seemed to have enough room for the things we wanted to do. However, I don't know if it would have been as charming if I needed to do laundry, and if I had to hand wash dishes every day.  I would be willing to try, however.

I am thrilled at some material redistribution around the house. At a family party, one niece mentioned that she'd like to make almond milk, but she doesn't have a food processor. I have one that I only use when the zucchini are big, so I'm happy that she can use it, decide if she likes it, and even have time to look for a second-hand one. Maybe mine will live at her house permanently, and on;y come visit when the zucchini need to be processed and frozen. At the same party, another niece mentioned that she was considering getting a waterpik. My daughter got one because she so desperately needed it to keep her braces clean -- then she only used it a few times. So that niece gets a free waterpik, and I don't have to be frustrated about resources going to waste!

Having a community of people that can share what we don't need makes me so happy!