Saturday, December 31, 2016

Simple Eating

I was going to call this minimalist eating, but with a middle schooler and high schooler, we do anything but eat minimally! Last night I made a pot of black bean soup for them and a friend, expecting leftovers to last the week -- I didn't have enough leftovers for today!

Simple eating is having quality food available in the kitchen ready to feed my growing family when I need it. Simple eating is NOT running to the store because I realize I am out of an ingredient half way through dinner prep. Simple eating is not driving for pizza because I'm too tired to come up with an idea for dinner (and the pizza guy gets lost on the way to our house). Simple eating can be ready in the crock pot, waiting for my family to come home from an outing (reducing the temptation to eat out on the way home), but more often it should be about the ordinary days.

In order to improve my schedule and reduce shopping trips, I am making weekly menu plans. I have done this in the past, and they have not worked for me. We ended up not being in the mood for what was planned (soup on a hot night). Too often food would get wasted because I planned something, we didn't eat it the night it was planned, and the food went to the back of the fridge to die.

So far I'm pretty happy with my plan for last week, and the coming week. I didn't make everything I had planned for last week because my avocados didn't ripen in time, so they got pushed to this week's menu. We have dance class Wednesday night, so we have tea before class to get in some family time.

Sunday, January 1st: Black eye peas, kale and cornbread
Monday: Dinner loaf, mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli
Tuesday: Pasta with avocado pesto
Wednesday: Afternoon tea, with sandwiches, stuffed mushrooms, scones
Thursday: Spaghetti with red sauce (by request)
Friday: 10 Spice Vegetable Soup
Saturday: Birthday party, so I'm not cooking
Sunday: Farmer pie

Dinner loaf and Farmer pie are vegetarian adaptations for meatloaf and shepherd's pie. Dinner loaf makes yummy sandwiches the next day (if I double the recipe!) and shepherd's pie is marvelous for using up any leftovers lurking, including the leftover mashed potatoes and gravy from the dinner loaf.

I'm hopeful to test out this week's plan. We have dance class two days this week, so we're easing back into some of the challenges of going back to real life. The following week will be the real test, with school starting up again. Hopefully this plan will work, because I really want to simplify my home time!

New Year's Eve

The new year is a time to look forward to what people want to change and improve. I started a little early with this project, and I have been writing a good bit of public introspection. I have been making positive changes, but I also wonder if I am too focused on the physical objects around me. Am I making myself anti-minimalist by focusing so much on stuff? Would I be better off just donating things, getting them out of the house, and ignoring my third goal (of paying off the car early and getting ahead financially)?

I'm pretty sure I need to work all of my goals together. I won't feel completely at peace if part of my brain is still concerned about finances. I'd like to come up with a plan that makes more money than I get from ebay, but that would take too much from family time (and my unpaid profession of chauffeur to my kids). I've already cut expenses as much as I can (and keep our level of comfort), so that doesn't seem like a viable direction.

So no new goals, no new resolutions. I will continue trying to make the decisions that need to be made (hang my sweater in the closet now, don't leave it for later; figure out what to do with the hand lotion I was given at Christmas and get it off the counter). I will work on developing a schedule as soon as the holiday is over. I want to be focused and present when at home, and better planning should reduce my mental distraction. And sell off the excess, providing a clear space and financial boost.

What are your goals in the new year (or what are your goals a year from when you are when you read this)?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Minimalist Day

Today was low-key. I spent most of the afternoon plying my daughter with hot tea, while keeping her company on the sofa, reading books. Sometimes this parenting thing is rough.

Seriously, I enjoyed having downtime with my daughter as she suffers through the cold we all sincerely deserve. We've been eating poorly, staying out late and generally not trying to stay healthy. So hot tea this afternoon, and black bean soup tonight. Black bean soup is powerful, and will cure a cold with the strength of heartiness.

My husband, my son and my son's friend are in the other room playing a terribly complicated board game. I'm glad they have enough people to play without me.

This morning we put away our new DVDs, and we got rid of several we no longer watch. I bought Disney's Beauty and the Beast when I was in college (because, you know, it would go into the vault) but we've watched it once. And she's in middle school now. So some other child can enjoy it. Things like that, to make room for movies we actually will watch (or that we think we will watch. I can go the rest of my life without seeing Finding Nemo again, but apparently that's just me.).

This is the sort of day I want from minimalism. Being able to focus on my family. A quiet day, taking care of ourselves, and no need to go out for groceries or other necessities, is the heart of minimalism for me.

I hope you are enjoying your school holidays, or weekend, or snow days this winter!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's not about the Stuff..

...Or at least, it's not supposed to be. I feel I've been focusing a lot on the physical stuff right now. I'm keeping track of what comes in, and what goes out. (I haven't been taking pictures because I have a not-very-fancy camera and I don't have a smartphone. Plus, I'm not sure a picture of my donation box is really something that needs to be recorded for posterity.) I hope I can develop a less material focus after a little while. I hope this "Stuff"-focused period can be temporary, after which I will enter a Zen-like period of life where I am unaffected by material goods and instead spend my time playing games with my children and serving simple, nutritious food to my family. I'm not counting on it -- nothing like that has happened so far -- but I'm hoping it will magically occur this time.

For now, though, I will continue to move the physical objects out of my way. I decluttered a basket I received for a gift. I could keep it for 12 months and regift it to someone else, but I'm not wild about how it looks and I'm not wild about storing it for a year. So I'll let someone else discover it at the thrift store. I donated two books I didn't even use much when homeschooling. Washed one of the new sets of sheets so it can become useful rather than leave it sitting on the table next to the other new set (the one my son still needs to approve). I carried out all the craft and wrapping supplies to the storage shed, which is not quite the same as getting rid of them but they are no longer clutter I have to look at. For the first time in over a month!

Put my Christmas gift from the kids, a Totoro car decal, on the car window. Crazy, I know, when I could have just shifted it around the house for a month or two, trying not to damage it. Clutter is delayed decisions!

I continue my efforts against the cookies.

I cut up a loaf of bread and some dinner rolls to make bread pudding, rather than my usual plan of ignoring them on the counter until they become fuzzy. I no longer have ziplock bags on the bar (hate those!).

I have not needed to go to the grocery yet this week, and I'm feeling pretty good about my shopping expeditions last week. A quick run to Target yesterday remained a QUICK run to Target, and not every other shop in town. I'm optimistic that menu planning and a better plan for my shopping list will improve my scheduling of household errands and leave me more time for family time. (I have spent so much time decluttering yesterday and today because the kids spent the day and night with their grandparents. Tomorrow will be much less productive because I will be doing things with them, which is why I am working to deal with my physical goals today.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Daily Minimalist-ing

I hope decluttering works if you do it randomly, whenever something catches your eye. Because that seems to be the strategy that appeals to me. I have a small basket by the front door that is supposed to hold dog supplies -- leashes, combs, training collars, chicken harness. But the basket was starting to sag from it's handle, and frankly I was concerned about it breaking. Now I know why. I got rid of two pairs of scratched sunglasses, gum, candy, an extra leash (we only have two dogs, we don't need three leashes!), a flashlight that didn't work (replaced the battery, now we have a working flashlight) and other miscellaneous items. The basket now closes completely and the poor handle is no longer bending. Was it as high a priority as decluttering the bar (again)? Probably not. But I tell myself that baby steps are forward steps.

I cut up the Thai peppers my mother brought over, and added them to a jar with white vinegar. We will now have hot sauce for the year, and one of the items on the bar is gone. I also tossed a few cookies to the chickens (they were no one's favorites, and the kids are out of the house so no one will complain) and washed one of the containers.

I did clear up my workspace in the garage yesterday, and I am living the American Dream. I parked both cars in the garage! The garage is very full of packing materials, though, so I'd appreciate ebay listings selling so I can move both them and the packing materials out.

I donated a tea cup that was replaced by a cup I got as a gift (my cupboard only fits so many cups) and I shifted camping gear from a broken tote to a new one I bought. This counts as decluttering because I didn't know where the broken one was (we have several camping totes), but when I found it I removed it. This was a double benefit because the new one was constantly in the way in the garage because it didn't have a home.

In the other column: things coming into the house. I went to Target to shop the after-Christmas sale. Not exactly a minimalist activity, but I'm also not made of money and I like to pick up things fifty percent off. I think I did pretty well. I got a desk calendar for my daughter, flannel sheets for me, flannel sheets for my son, and a box of Christmas cracker. The calendar is on approval: if she likes it she can buy it off me, and if not I will return it to the store. Our sheets are wearing out. They are not all worn out yet, but looking thin. I don't know if this year or next is the last one. My son needed a new bottom sheet because the dog ate one. I don't know if those are all real needs or justified wants, but I don't think they will be clutter.

The last thing I bought, the Christmas crackers, are not clutter. They are actually part of my goal to simplify next Christmas and I am really thrilled I was able to find them. This year my husband had to sneak out after the kids were in bed to buy crackers at the only Target nearby that still had some, and I wouldn't mind missing that experience next year.

(I have a new title for the daily tally. I hope it will be more interesting than the old one.)

Christmas 2016: Scorecard

Before it gets away, I thought I'd record the things that worked this year, and the things that didn't. I hope that I can be better prepared next year (I hope that every year!) so the holidays will run more smoothly. This year I had more time than usual to work on gifts, and I really liked being able to make so many gifts for friends and family. I think they were well received, and if not my family is very good at pretending!

Win: Gift wrap packages as gifts for teachers, club leaders, etc. I had one person thank me on several different occasions for the gift of gift wrap, tags, ribbon, and decorations to tie on to the packages. I loved creating the gift tags, and I am very happy to give a gift that won't be clutter for anyone else. Best of all, it is consumable, so I can make these up again next year, and it will still be useful!

Lose: I need better boxes (or something) for giving cookies to our neighbors. I used one-pound strawberry boxes, but I'm not happy with how that turned out. I need something better for next year. Hopefully it will something cheap and reusable or upcycled. I haven't received any returned tins or plates in recent years, and I avoid disposables and plastic wrap, so I will need to get creative. Fortunately I have plenty of time.

Win: We cut a tree from the back yard. It is very natural looking, but I like the way it displays the ornaments. I like the bead garland we have that loops from branch to branch. I especially like how we used a tree that was growing too close to the house, so it would have to be cut down anyway, and this way no tree was wasted.

Lose: I need an old-fashioned Christmas Eve church service. We tried another service this year, and I was disappointed without the traditional carols.

Draw: Playing charades with my parents Christmas night, after dinner and after the gifts had been opened, was definitely a win. I need to organize this a little better next time, to make sure both my parents and my kids know the words to guess. My parents knew "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," but didn't know "The Bridge to Terabithia." (BTW, for fun, try to act that out to people who have never read/seen it. Sounds like...tear!) If I make charade slips months in advance I should forget everything by Christmas morning.

Lose: Forgetting certain stocking stuffers until the week of Christmas. Running to the store at 9:00 at night to pick up crackers is no fun. I need to get them now, on clearance, or early next season.

Win: I stuck to what the kids asked for on their Christmas list, for the most part. I felt that I didn't get them enough, but Christmas morning they were excited and grateful for what they got, and excited about what they gave. I didn't need to overwhelm them with a lot of gifts just for the sake of having a lot. Not having clutter and guilt is definitely better than spending $50 last minute for Star Wars ships that my son never asked for, doesn't know about and never will miss.

I hope your holidays are more win than lose this year. I hope next year is even better and more peaceful.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Back on Track

Today is sunny and beautiful here, and my family (more or less willingly) is getting back on track. My husband is fixing a leak in the roof over the deck. The kids are cleaning their rooms and weeding a patch of the yard. I am catching up on laundry and generally tidying the house.

We are all valiantly trying to reduce the cookies that are cluttering up the counter. To a greater or lesser degree, we are all pitching in to the best of our abilities.

We dropped off five (copy paper) boxes of  donations at Goodwill. With a minimal amount of tidying, we should be able to park in the garage again. I think I will do that while the next load of laundry is washing.

It feels good to have a holiday, but it also feels good to be back on track. The clutter and general disorder has been making my family cranky. Each person (myself included) has had a day or afternoon of crankiness and general ill-temper. Restoring order to our physical environment, our diets and our schedule must help.

If you're tidying up after Christmas, let me know how you are progressing.

Monday, December 26, 2016

There are two types of people...

After opening our Christmas presents yesterday, my niece gleefully commented that "now we get to find places for our things, and organize them!" About a third of the people there agreed, and the rest looked at us like they'd never heard of that before.

We're in the first group, at my house. I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday, and I hope you find places for all the gifts you received. And I hope you feel free to release to someone else any gifts that you cannot use. Let them go to someone who needs it and can use them, and don't feel you need to keep a gift just because someone else gave it to you. If you cannot pass a gift along when it is no longer of benefit to you, it is not a gift but an obligation, and that is not supposed to be the spirit of the season.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas to everyone out there. I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful holiday, full of family and love. Today is not the day to try to make changes, but instead to simply appreciate the many gifts you have been given -- spiritual and immaterial, in addition to the concrete ones that you find under the tree.

(Thanks to Graphics Fairy for the image.)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Daily Count -4

Checking in with just a few things today. I sold and mailed a couple of items on ebay. Hooray, they have a good home and I have more space! I also re-homed a couple of items I have as gifts for a friend's child. Her second grade son is getting a fossil we have not been appreciating, and I her fifth grade daughter is getting a locket that no one here is wearing. I did need to go out this morning, as I had forgotten to pick up a few food items as stocking-stuffers.

I am desperately resisting buying Disney toys from Moana. We just came home from watching the movie, and we loved the piggy and chicken in the film. I want to get next day delivery from Amazon for those characters as gifts. The film in general was uplifting, and engrossing, and much more enjoyable than Rogue One, which we saw earlier this week. (Don't judge. Two movies in one week is way more than we usually see, but the kids just finished finals, and both will be on the honor roll this term, so they're getting spoiled.) I know in my heart (follow your heart!) that they would only really be appreciated Christmas morning, after which they would become clutter, but I am still working on resisting.

My family is home, and I am off to finish my last gift, a box of hair ties for my daughter, sneaky-like. I'm upcycling an Altoids box and using Mod-Podge to protect some stickers so she can carry the hair ties around when she needs them (to dance class, or school, or other places she suddenly needs hair ties. Because they certainly can't live in a drawer in her room.).

I'm pretty pleased that I can find gifts from our surplus, and that I can move things out even when there is so much pressure to bring things into the house.

(Feeling better about not buying the toys. Writing it out seems to have talked me away from the edge.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Minimalism and Gift Giving

So we're only a couple of days out from the biggest gift giving holiday of the year. Oh, yeah, and something religious, peace and joy, etc, etc.

Because of my interest in minimalism I am hesitant to give gifts that will simply be clutter in someone else's home. I am reluctant to give gifts that will eventually end up in a landfill somewhere. According to the Story of Stuff,  99% of the stuff we harvest, mine, transport and consume is trash within six months. Minimalism, to me, isn't about contributing to that statistic.

I've already written about giving consumable gifts instead of durable goods. Seriously, though, people grow and sometimes they need goods to help them through new stages of their lives. People develop new interests, or remember old interests, and they need things to help them achieve their goals. Buying second-hand (thrift or vintage/antique) creates minimal environmental impact while still meeting a person's needs. This Christmas my husband and my son are each receiving games I bought used, with all their parts, on ebay or a thrift store. My nephew is receiving a pair of Coca-Cola mugs, with other Coca-Cola related memorabilia, and snacks. The glasses came from a thrift store, but they look like new because glasses don't deteriorate over time (except that time you drop them from the table. But that happens all at once).

Gifting has been difficult in my house this year because I am approaching minimalism, and so are members of my family. Not everyone, but some of us. But here's the thing. Most of the things my kids have been looking forward to are not the gifts. My daughter loves making and delivering cookies to our neighbors. It's not a simple activity, but it's part of what brings her joy each year. Going to look at Christmas lights. Sneaking around, hiding activities and conspiring in gift giving activities. Receiving "coupons" from Mom or each other for passes to escape from chores. All these things can be done without creating the sort of clutter that gets returned or thrown away each year.

I hope the holidays bring you joy -- whatever holidays you celebrate. Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years. I hope you feel peace and joy, on your holidays and throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Daily Count

I think I'm going to leave off my daily count until after Christmas. I have only been marking time lately, not moving forward. I haven't even tried to eliminate any clutter, and things are coming in. I am so grateful for my friends, and their thoughtfulness, but now I have things sitting around, waiting for homes, and I don't really want to tackle that.

I never realized that I am the source of so much of the clutter I find overwhelming, but I have been noticing as I leave things lying around. The sweater I plan to wear again tomorrow morning gets hung back up in the closet and I find that it doesn't take me any longer to grab my sweater out of the closet than off the chair. Putting it away at night still requires mindfulness, but it's worth it in the morning.

As for other sources of clutter -- other people's things, and permanent things -- I haven't made any headway, and I don't see it happening this week. I am going to embrace the holiday, and I will not try to eliminate the joy of gift giving (and receiving).  After all, my relationships with others are more important than the material gifts .

Monday, December 19, 2016

What Minimalism is for Me

I was at an event talking to a friend, and she introduced me to the women she was volunteering with. My friend was excited about some of the things I do that wouldn't even occur to me to mention as unusual traits. My friend mentioned that I own chickens, I'm vegetarian, and I shop thrift stores for my clothing. She challenged my to name the last clothing I bought new. Not counting socks and underwear, I couldn't do it. (I have since remembered that I bought a pair of Dr. Martins this summer, new. I am so pleased with them every time I wear them. I feel about 15, and rebellious. If you're my age, you'll remember.)

I'm trying to make the world a better place, here where I am. Do you remember the quote "Think global, act local"? I see a lot of problems world wide that I can't affect on the large scale, but I try to do what I can where I am.

Reducing my consumption and seeking a simpler, more minimalist lifestyle is part of that goal. If I can reduce my demand for cheap fashion, at least I know that I am not contributing to the problem of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh. If I reduce my consumption of plastic, at least I know that I am reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment. If I reduce my trash output, I am lessening my contribution to the landfill and methane production.

Minimalism works together, in my mind, with my other goals. By buying a tasting selection of ethically grown chocolates instead of another necklace as a gift, I am reducing the amount of material goods excavated from the ground, and I am using the same amount of money to make sure that the farmers can send their children to school rather than make children work in lieu of having a chidhood. And seriously, who is going to waste chocolate? Alternately, I could buy a necklace from Goodwill. It wouldn't require resources, but no one I know needs another necklace. But it's about minimalism. Every woman I know has a drawer of costume jewelry that she rarely wears. Does it bring her joy to have that? I don't know. It doesn't bring me joy, and unless I know it will bring someone else joy, I don't want to support it anymore.

Some people might point out that I make my life more complicated in my efforts, but I want to be minimalist OVER ALL. I want to minimize my waste production, and I want to minimize the amount of pain I create in the world. I want my impact on the world, at the end of my life, to be more positive than negative. I want my impact to be the effects I created, not the waste I generated and goods I consumed.

I know minimalism is different for everyone who pursues it. This is what motivates me to find my version of minimalism.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Minimalism at Christmas

Time and again I wonder about my timing with this project. Christmas may not be the best time to focus on minimalism, but it also is the time of year minimalism is most needed. I haven't been able to focus on decluttering the house (hello, big tree in the living room!) but I've also been a lot more mindful. I am more mindful of the gifts I'm getting the kids. I'm more mindful of the time we have together, and trying not to cram the days full of every possibility. I've been working to leave a little white space to enjoy our time together, and not attend every possible activity. I've been -- wait for it -- choosing the activities that are most meaningful. I've been limiting our activities so we are doing things when we have free time, instead of cramming activities into every 15 minute opening.

So far, my Christmas season has been more peaceful than usual. The kids are preparing for finals at school, and even they don't seem quite as harried as they have been at other times. Minimalism seems to be the answer to a lot of the stress I usually experience trying to give everyone a perfect holiday.

Daily Count

Started a check list for groceries. I have resisted this for years, but after this week and constantly being out of needed things, I'm willing to give it a try. I don't like the idea of hanging it on the fridge, but I am willing to start there and find another spot. I know I will need to make improvements, but I need to start somewhere. I keep reminding myself that this is a process (hence the "-ing") and I need to accept my efforts.

No item count, in or out. The repair man came by to fix the washer, I finished the last gift for the last extended family, and nothing came into the house (ok, my husband brought home an apple pie as a Christmas gift from work. But we took care of that last night, so it's no longer a problem. 😀)

I am very grateful tonight. Despite regular family activities, I feel that the house looks a little ... lighter... than usual. I think there are fewer items piled up on the bar (number one flat surface clutter spot). There were boxes of fudge to deliver to school, and pans of fudge cooling, but other than that, not the general miscellany. Not enough for anyone else to notice, I think, but I feel it's better, and that's the first step.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Planning a Schedule

I went shopping again today. Necessary things for my husband's work -- forgot about them until this week -- but it needed to be done. I think that makes four days out of five this week that I have gone shopping, and I haven't been doing recreational shopping. Ran out of milk one day, needed spinach another (one of the kids was making dinner that night, and who am I to tell a kid not to use spinach!), needed things for work today, etc, etc. This is why I need to create a schedule. If I had a schedule I wouldn't spend so much time (and gas) running to the store. Statistically, I would spend less money if I run to the store only once a week. I would be less tired, and I would be more able to focus on creating a home that consists of the physical and emotional contents I desire, without the clutter it presently holds.

It's really hard right now to create a schedule. School schedules are different, dance schedules are different, and we have activities that occur no other time of year. But this is the time we most need it, and this is the time I have. I need to start creating a shopping list for once a week shopping. I need to base this list off a menu plan to eliminate last minute grocery needs.The new year will run more smoothly if I get the schedule planned soon, so it can be implemented with a minimum of confusion. For example, when will I do my grocery shopping? I can squeeze it in when my daughter is at dance, but will I skip that to go out with the other mothers, thereby blowing my schedule? I need to decide now so I don't shoot myself in the foot.

I also need to consider all the other elements that need to go into my schedule: church meetings, kid meetings, occasional grandparent visits, other things I haven't thought of yet. And, oh, yeah, FAMILY TIME which is a large part of the reason I want to refocus family time at home. I only have a limited amount of time left when my children will both be at home. If I want to have a firm foundation for them to reflect on, and if I want to maximize the amount of time we have together, I need to eliminate the extraneous activities -- including multiple trips to the store every week.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Daily Count

Today is one of those reasons I need minimalism. I ran around in circles, and ended up frustrated.

My husband needed items for work, so I ran to the store. And the other store, and the store after that, as long as I was out. Came home, swept the house, met the termite guy (who was treated to an unswept view of my laundry room, as I wanted him to see the termite dirt. Lovely), found out I was counted as late for a volunteer opportunity last week and I would be fined unless I volunteered again. Need to fill out a form for my son's robotics group, and get it signed by his club leader, before his meeting Saturday. The volunteer opportunity makeup is 1-3 Friday, but that is an hour and a half in the car, pick up my daughter from school, and drive out again. So I declined that, and instead I will hope to volunteer Saturday. My wedding anniversary. But that's ok, my husband has to stay home so he can drive my son to and from his meeting (he's fairly new and hasn't met anyone who could drive him instead of us driving). And I just realized I need one more item at the store so my daughter can make fudge for her teachers for tomorrow.

I'm exhausted reading over it. It's the sort of day that needs something to go away, but I can't see what it is or how to eliminate it (ok, if we had been on time we wouldn't have a make up volunteer opportunity, but I'm blaming my husband and traffic for that). What is essential, and what is not? Stay tuned for the answers to these questions in the next episodes of my fascinating life.

In order to look at the positive side of the day, I did have a couple of positive steps. I wrapped two gifts, but did not get rid of any clutter. I did avoid making clutter in a couple of instances, like when I filed the receipt for the termite elimination instead of leaving it on the desk for my poor husband to file later. So I guess I am moving forward a little. Baby steps.

Making Improvment

In the week I have been writing her I have made tiny, not huge, improvements in my home. I have been using this blog as a sort of "to do" list. I talk about what I need to get done, or what behavior I need to change (hello, delayed decisions). The act of writing them down and publicizing them to the world makes me feel more responsible and more aware of my habits. I have stopped leaving clothes on the bathroom counter because I am aware that they are clutter. Even if I plan to wear those jeans again tomorrow, when I wake up in the morning I don't want to see clutter on the counter. So I hang them up (on a hook provided for the purpose) and eliminate first-thing-I-see-in-the-morning-clutter.

On the other hand, I feel I need to make a list of all the areas that need to be addressed. I feel like a fruit fly, flitting from one cluttery area to the next, trying to address the decisions that need to be decided. Sweet potatoes to the bathroom counter to sewing projects to...whatever's next.

I'm really of two minds on my random behavior. Do I address whatever is in front of me? Does that bit of clutter attract my attention because it is something I must work around constantly? Or should I focus on one area at a time, or one topic, and make sure each part of my home is clear before I move on?

I've decided to work on the first method. I have decluttered before, repeatedly, and although I would like to reduce the physical goods in my house, I don't think that is the real problem. I think I need to address habits. I think I will feel more peaceful if I have reduce the unnecessary actions and repeating clutter. And I'm hoping that eliminating behaviors that contribute to clutter, and not just the physical objects.

Whatever I do, working actively to reduce the clutter will have a positive outcome.

(Thanks to for the image.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Daily count

I found a home for my sweet potatoes! (I know, you were holding your breath to find out the conclusion there.) I had a basket filled with miscellaneous items (packaged dried mushrooms, dried tomatoes, other slithery things) that could be repurposed for sweet potatoes. I will work on using up the mushrooms and tomatoes in soup this week, other items could be moved elsewhere. This looks good.

The sweet potatoes are not exactly the point -- I made a decision (finally) and cleared the clutter (finally). By feeling responsible to the blog, I felt that I had to make the decision. That is the reason I am writing to the internet, and a win in my book.

I would take a picture of my cleared off microwave, but I cannot believe there is a more boring picture available on the internet. You will just have to imagine the glory of a white microwave.

Other things are moving around, if not necessarily out. Move some of my husband's out-of-season clothing into storage, which makes his side of the closet easier to use. Not Project 333 by any means, but it's easier to shove his clothing to the side to put back clean laundry. Hemmed a pair of trousers that he didn't like to wear because they dragged. Donated a binder that is a color my daughter doesn't love. I had been saving it in case her's breaks, but I also have one in case my son's breaks. They can have the same just-in-case binder. (Yes, his has broken before, in the middle of the school year. Replacing it with something I have stored from the thrift shop is faster, cheaper and easier on the earth than running to Target. As I have said before, I am working toward minimalism. I am not there.)

Two more Christmas presents finished and ready to wrap. Two more gifts wrapped and under the tree. After this, I think I have all the gifts (crafts) finished, and I just need to wrap the extended family gifts. I still need a couple of things for my family, but that will be a load off my mind when those are done. Then I can relax into the peace of the season.

Made this pasta for dinner tonight. Used up some avocados that were threatening to go to the dark side. We have avocado trees here, so that is actually a problem. Making dinner out of free food is part of meeting my third goal, so I'm happy I could feed my family and keep it inexpensive.

(Not included on the list of "Christmas things to do" are making cookies for our neighbors, teacher gifts, Christmas dinner. But having gifts done is a big deal.)

Decision Fatigue

Minimalism appeals to me, I think, because it eliminates so many daily decisions. Instead of a closet full of clothes, there are thirty items to choose from. Instead of elaborate meals, make something simple. I read somewhere to eat a salad every day for lunch; it reduces your choices, and makes grocery shopping easier because you know you will need lettuce, beans, nuts, whatever you like in your salads. This doesn't work for me, but I like the idea of eliminating all the unnecessary decisions so I can spend my decision making powers on something else.

I do feel like I have a limited amount of decision making power. Science backs me up, in part, saying that people make poorer decisions where there are too many choices. People are physically more stressed when they have many choices (for a mobile phone plan or health care plan) rather than just one or two options.

Decluttering delayed decisions reduces my stress. It may not make my home look like a Pinterest board, but it is a step to feeling better, clearer and happier. If I can eliminate the constant pressure to deal with "this," or put that away then my home will look and feel better. Which will make me feel calmer and better able to deal with actual needs as they appear.

(Thanks to for the image.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Daily Count

Today was a wash. I didn't get anything new, but I don't feel I made any progress todard my goals. I had hoped to take pictures of things to post on ebay, but instead I spent the day washing laundry, going grocery shopping (I needed powdered milk for a club event. Who knew I'd need to go to four stores to find it!) and other housekeeping tasks. On the plus side, I found out the easy way that my washer is under recall!

Samsung was awesome. When I called about another issue, they recognized my machine as being under warranty, and arranged for someone to come out this week to fix it. Plus, they added a year to my warranty, which can't be a bad thing. So I'm pleased by the whole exchange.

Hopefully I'll get things photographed for ebay tomorrow. We're expecting rain later this week, and I prefer to photograph outside for the better quality light. If I can get the magazines photographed tomorrow I can post them while it rains. This will help with both goal one (get rid of things around the house, and mental clutter) and goal three (pay off my car payment). Ebay money is applied to the car payment as prepayment, to pay it down early.

Harder than I thought

I was feeling good. Riding high. I had figured out the secret to minimalism, and clutter, and everything (world peace?). Then I was confronted by sweet potatoes.

I have a bag of sweet potatoes sitting on top of my microwave. It isn't pretty. I didn't take a picture for Pinterest. (For the record, it has a friend up there too, a bag of white potatoes). So all I need to do is make a decision and put the potatoes somewhere else, right?

Except it's not that easy. The potatoes ended up on my microwave because I can't figure out where else to put them. I don't want to put them by the onions -- that causes one or the other to go bad too quickly. I read it on the internet, so it must be true, right? If I put them on a shelf they'll fall off and create a stink. If I put them in a cabinet I'll forget them and they'll create a stink. If I put them in the refrigerator they'll get starchy and not be tasty, half the reason for having sweet potatoes.

So what's my point? Sometimes making decisions is hard. Harder than it should be. I mean, these are potatoes, not international politics. I should be able to just find a home for my potatoes (sweet and white) and move forward with a beautiful, decluttered, minimalist home.

I'm going to go stare at my potatoes. I have to be able to make a decision about this.

Daily count

I returned a book to a neighbor. It had been sitting on the table, looking like clutter, and now it's gone. Donated two glass domes I bought to make gingerbread house snow globes -- they would have been so cute, but I'm the only person in the house interested, and I haven't done it in two years. I can let those go.

On the other hand, I brought a large tree into my living room. Covered it in lights and sparkly bits. So I guess that's not terribly minimalist. But part of my goal is to not make my family crazy, so that makes the tree worthwhile.

Stopped by a thrift store to pick up a gift. Also came away with a dress for my daughter, a shirt for me, and a basket that will match my daughter's room when we repaint after Christmas. The dress I can justify -- we will be visiting Hawaii with my parents, and if I don't have a "Hawaiian dress" for her my mother will buy one there. New. I have issues with buying new things when there is so much in the world already, and I don't like a lot of the working conditions in parts of the world where things are made for Americans, so I opt out. So like I said, I can justify the dress. Not so much the other two things. That's what makes this life (and this blog) a process.

Hopefully, knowing I will be keeping a tally will reduce the number of impulse purchases, and reduce the over all amount of stuff I am responsible for.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Recognizing Delayed Decisions

Since I recognized clutter as delayed decisions theoretically, I have noticed a lot of clutter around the house that is actually delayed decisions. The Christmas cards on the counter that I haven't opened yet because I haven't written mine. I feel guilty every time I walk past the envelope, and my reaction to that bit of clutter is disproportionate to the amount of space an envelope occupies. That makes the cards clutter to me (even if someone else might not notice them.)

I unexpectedly had a free day Saturday. I had enough energy to really tackle some of the tasks I have lying around.

I painted a couple of Christmas presents, but instead of torturing my husband by trying to declutter his stuff in the garage (where I was working) I decluttered TASKS that had been hanging over me. I mended the (previously mentioned) pajamas. It felt as good as clearing a closet or cabinet -- I felt a great deal of openness and freedom as a result.

Obviously, some clutter is physical. But in a lot of ways, even physical clutter is delayed decision-making. My son's unwanted water bottle bothered be sitting on the table because it was unwanted. Once I recognized that no one wanted it and DECIDED to pass it along to someone who could use it,it stopped being lutter.

A lot of my physical clutter, I am beginning to realize, is stuff that I think will be useful someday. Pretty paper I can use for card making, or gift wrap, or some other project I will make. But those pieces of clutter get in my way when I'm looking for something, or simply weigh on me because I know I have boxes of supplies that need to be used for something. To be honest with myself, when I want to make something I rarely am inspired by what I have. I am much more likely to use whatever is on hand to make my vision work. I prefer to upcycle, rather than rummage through craft supplies looking for something that will work. Very often projects that are forced out of available supplies become clutter themselves, unfinished projects that are not inspiring enough to see completion. In the past when I've tried to declutter stuff without realizing what clutter represented I kept this potential clutter. Hopefully, this time the blog will help me find a more effective path to a home and life that is decluttered of inessentials.

Daily Count

Yesterday was a hard day for counting individual items. My daughter received a potted flower as a gift for her performance (instead of cut flowers which die immediately but which don't create clutter). My mother gave me a bag of things she has collected for me -- a couple books she finished reading, some magazines she's finished -- but which will leave again naturally. I will drop them magazines at a senior lounge, the books will go back to my mom when I'm done.

Yesterday was really much more about my second goal, making home peaceful. Yesterday was not a peaceful day. We were up early for church, as usual, but instead of leaving a tidy home, the kitchen was a wreck. My husband usually washed up the breakfast dishes while I shower and dress, but he was hit by a dizzy spell and had to sit until it passed. The dishes continue to stare at me as I write this, 24 hours after we ate that breakfast. After church we were off to the theatre, grabbing lunch out. Quick run to the grocery for flowers (and dog cookies, they were sadly deprived of their morning cookie) then back to the theatre. The show was marvelous, then out to dinner with my parents. Dinner was slow, and too loud to converse. (We ended up playing pictionary using an online charades generator.)

By the time we got home we were all exhausted. The loud music at the restaurant had worn our nerves down. This is not the feeling I like to have Sunday night, looking forward to a week of work and school.

(Now, I need to explain something. We have an Advent calendar for the kids, but I'm not crazy about putting candy in every night. So I include activities for lots of nights, like "decorate the tree tomorrow," or "make cookies tomorrow." It is exciting to the kids, it lets them look forward to specific things for a day, but it spreads out the anticipation so the season isn't too overwhelming. One of their favorite is "have a candle night." We turn off all the lights (except the tree) and use candle light. Usually my husband or I read aloud. I know we sound pretty saccharine, but this started when we were reading Little House in the Big Woods and it has stuck.)

I had promised a candle night in the Advent calendar the night before. We only had about half an hour before bedtime, but I figured a little was better than nothing. So we got home, lit every candle I could find, and turned out the house lights. The kids put on their pajamas, and we sat on the sofa for 20 minutes reading picture books aloud. And something amazing happened: I felt rested. I felt calm, and peaceful. That 20 minutes of sitting in the dark, reading Bear Stays Up for Christmas, was enough to create the peaceful mood I want home to represent.

Then we went to bed, and slept the sleep of the exhausted. But this morning we were all rested and ready to "do the things that need to be done." (In the words of A Prairie Home Companion.)

I know I've written a lot this morning, but I'm excited about how this scheduled quiet time, without distractions and as a family, created the goal feeling of calm and peace in a day that was anything but calm and peaceful.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Item Count -3

An item count of three things out doesn't seem accurate. I took three cardboard boxes to my neighbor's house -- he uses them for distributing produce. Threw away (compost) my old fiber door mat that just collected muck for distribution on our shoes, instead of actually scraping it off. It had been sitting to the side of the door because it is such a mess that I'd rather do without than use a wet, muddy mat. Purchased a new paint scraper because we cannot find our old one.

But that doesn't tell the story of today. Keeping in mind that "clutter is unresolved decisions" I resolved those things that clutter my mind. I planted the bag of potatoes that had been glaring at me for weeks. I don't know if they'll grow, but at least they are no longer sitting around! I mended the drawstring in my pajamas. Tomorrow morning I will not have to struggle to keep my pants where they belong, and I won't tell myself "you know, I really ought to mend these." Done! These are things that did not take up much (or any) physical space, but they were oppressing me every time I looked at them.

Before tonight's over I hope to mend a tear in the trim of my winter coat. I rarely think of it except when I am leaving the house. But every time I wear my coat I remember that I ought to mend it when I get home. So today, while I have mending in mind I will mend my coat and have that pleasant feeling the next time I wear my coat. I will be able to remove that constant bit of clutter from my mind.

Mending and planting should count toward the eliminating side of things, but I'm not sure how to record them. Folding laundry from yesterday would be recorded the same way -- it nags at me when I walk by and don't act on it. Maybe something will occur to me.

Getting rid of mental clutter will help me get to my goal of a more peaceful, minimalist home by eliminating the physical objects that are waiting for action, and I will be more peaceful as I eliminate the decisions that are not actually important to me.

Clutter is Delayed Decisions

Clutter is the sum of delayed decisions. Minimalism is reducing the number of decisions in my life, to reduce the daily clutter, both mental and physical. Neither of these statements may be original or profound, but they have been impressing me this last day as I get rid of physical clutter. A sweater I don't like to wear -- why didn't I get rid of it before, instead of waiting to make that decision? Why did I wait so long to deal with the reusable water bottle that no one wants? The draw string in my pajamas needs replacing. Why haven't I done that? Every morning I have to deal with droopy pajamas BECAUSE I DO NOT MAKE THE DECISION to fix the string. How long could it take? How much mental energy have I spent on the daily thought that "I really need to do something about this?"

If I reduce the amount of decisions I need to make in the future, I will clean my mind and my environment of the clutter that daily drags me down and exhausts me. I will have the space I want for enjoying my life and my family, without the constant nagging sensations that I hate.

I need to work on this. How do I create an environment that does not contain these delayed decisions? How do I catch up on the delayed decisions so I can enjoy the aspects of life I really want?

Item count: -3

I got rid of easy things today. Donated a wool sweater that's too short in the sleeves, a travel mug that has a curve inside that cleverly captures the hot tea (until I tilt the cup too far and it sloshes in my face) and a water bottle my son never uses and left lying around for over a month. He prefers the larger bottle, which is fine, but I needed to get rid of this one. I went grocery shopping and did not buy any essential oils (on sale! half off!) to add to my collection of oils I use rarely. Stopped by Goodwill looking for gifts (I'm eternally looking for a particular juice glass to replace one that broke years ago) but walked out with nothing.

Friday, December 9, 2016


I've been thinking about this project a lot. I'm hoping the blog will provide accountability (and not just be one of those blogs that last for a couple weeks before becoming abandoned). Part of me says that starting a blog on minimalism is not exactly minimalist. But it might be minimalist-ing if it provides me structure to keep moving forward.

I really hope that I can:

  • remove the excess in my home. The clutter on counters, etc, makes me feel overwhelmed visually
  • create a schedule for my time. I want to make events move more smoothly. Currently I have no schedule for when I should be doing the things I need to do. If I could create a routine I think there will be less rushing to catch up. This is hard because every day has different expectations, and we have a number of meetings that only occur once a month, so we have to keep track of those as well.
  • create financial simplicity. I'd like to eliminate my car payment early, and save up enough money to not need to make payments again in the future. This will be easier if braces are less expensive than my original quote! I have an appointment in January that I'm hoping will answer this question.
I know there are other goals to tackle, and I'm sure I will think of them as I get a better handle on the above goals.

I've been working on simplifying and decluttering for a long time now. I have some magpie tendencies that I need to get over. For example, I will look at ribbon, or fabric scraps, or pine cones, and think "I could use this for a Christmas present" and I keep these things. But there are lots of craft materials in the world, and I feel more creative when I scavenge pine cones and pods fresh for a project. Looking at a supply of materials in my shed does not inspire me to come up with a project. I need to let these things go, and operate with more spontaneity.

I will post later with the things I've eliminated (and hopefully I won't have anything new to bring into the house today!).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Beginning

Christmas is coming. While I love Christmas, every year it fills me with a certain degree of anxiety. My home becomes cluttered with gifts that I will be giving to extended family Christmas day, gift wrap to wrap gifts, craft supplies to make gifts. I have Christmas decorations on every flat surface, and a large tree scheduled to make an appearance some time next week. Additionally, I have holiday concerts to attend and children to deliver to additional programs. So what do I find myself doing when I ought to be wrapping gifts or cleaning house? Browsing minimalist sites on Pinterest.

So I've decided to keep track of what comes in to the house, and what goes out. I have a pathological responsibility to things I've owned for a long time, to make sure they are re-homed responsibly, instead of just donating them to Goodwill. I sold a box of canning lids on ebay this morning, and decided that will be my starting point.

From now on, I will take pictures of things going out, and things coming in. I hope that I can inspire myself to reduce the amount of physical objects pressing in on me. I want to create a home that is calm and relaxing -- while housing the people and dogs who actually live here with me. I'd like to create a home that feels like a sanctuary instead of a way-station for material goods.