Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Daily Declutter

Clutter happened again. The bar (my prime flat spot) is covered with ...stuff again. Parsley in a vase, so it will keep fresh for dinner tomorrow night. A couple of nasty beers that will be made into quick bread (if I put them away, will I forget about them?). A bowl of limes. A couple of vases of flowers that are NOT being displayed to best advantage. A kit for making cough syrup out of herbs (my family have developed a cough, and now it the time to use the kit).

It's so ease for stuff to appear, and it takes work to remove it all. So these things will all be dealt with today. The flowers will be moved someplace smaller, where they will show better. I will write the beers into next weeks menu, then put them away (if my friend does not want them for making corned beef. Is corned beef the meat you cook in beer? I can't remember.). Cough syrup will be made, and hopefully I'll even get around to processing the limes.

All these things are temporary clutter -- they all (mostly) have a definite lifespan. The flowers can only live so long, then they have to go away. I need to get better at dealing with things as they show up, so they don't become clutter.

I do have one permanent thing I need to deal with: potted plants. I have several houseplants sitting around, and some are actively dying. I feel like I should keep houseplants, to purify the air, but I'm not very good at it. They get dusty, and want water more often than I think about it. Is it ok to get rid of houseplants? It's definitely minimalist to get rid of houseplants that I don't love, but are houseplants one of those things that I really should do, like going to the dentist and eating vegetables? I'm thinking of moving one plant out, see how I feel, then evaluate the other plants from there. I will maintain plants in the bedroom because we spend so much time in there, at least for now.

Some things have already been dealt with. I dropped a pair of jeans at the thrift shop, because they were not wanted at the consignment shop. Done. I removed to storage a bunch of jars I am saving for Christmas giving (fudge and epsom bath salts). I found another box of matches in the bathroom, and those are now put away. I'm pretty sure matches are breeding out of dust bunnies in the bathroom. I don't know how they keep showing up. I dropped two boxes at the post office, heading to ebay buyers. Today has not been a loss, but there's always more to do, even as I try to reduce the amount of stuff I have around to deal with.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Daily Declutter

We had a busy weekend, with both kids participating in different activities in opposite parts of the city. Thankfully, I have a good friend who helped out with transportation so my husband and I were both able to be at the event that allowed spectators. Sunday was both productive and restful. We served at a community lunch, then rested hard for the remainder of the day.

I spent much of my free time reading yesterday. I finished Hundred Dollar Christmas by Bill McKibben, and I started Enough: Finding More By Living With Less by Will Davis. Hundred Dollar Christmas would be a great introductory book, especially if you have friends or family members you would like to talk to about reducing the material component of your Christmas celebration.

Enough is a more complex book, looking at Christian theology and the reasons to only have enough, and disperse your wealth ("more than enough") to other people. I have no problem with the Christian theology, being Christian myself, but I know that other people have other paths and not everyone is interested in a book that uses Scripture as evidence. That said, I have very much enjoyed what I have read so far. I am looking at some things I have been storing just in case, and I have been thinking about making things available to other people. If I have more clothes than I need, can I bless someone else with those extra clothes?

That said, I have mostly stagnated today. I made one candle out of stubs, and I will be giving that candle as a gift at Christmas. I finished my father-in-laws hat for next Christmas (using up two half-balls of wool) during piano lessons.

I finally addressed a really messy corner. It turned out to hold a couple of desk supplies, a bunch of broken pencils and paper scraps. It only took a few minutes to clear that spot. I feel a lot of accomplishment, visually, for something that only took a few minutes.

I also cleared a bunch of jars that I have been collecting for gift giving next Christmas. They have been accumulating in the windowsill, but instead they can wait in the Christmas box in the shed. Cleaning up the messy spot and the jars gives a lot of visual impact for minimal effort

I need to process a bunch of limes I was given. They can wait in the freezer to be squeezed over black beans or Mexican food. The zest will become chili-lime salt, and that will be another gift to give this Christmas. I'm not sure it is considered minimalist-ing to make Christmas gifts in February, but it makes my Christmas a lot more peaceful, and I get to define the project however I want, so here I go with that!


I don't post on Sundays. My family takes this day as a rest day, and we're not allowed to work. The kids have to have their homework done before Sunday, or do it after. I don't clean, weed, or actively declutter.

I love taking a day of rest. I love having a day when we cannot be "responsible," but instead have to be idle. I don't have to nag my son to clean his room. We can play a game, read our books or take a nap. If someone is grounded from playing video games, Sunday that suspension is paused.

The most amazing thing happens when we do celebrate this day of rest: we're ready for the week. Growing up I always felt a sense of dread on Sundays. I wasn't ready to go back to school, and I didn't want to do the homework I had put off to the last minute. Now, by Sunday night, I feel ready to tackle things I've been putting off.

So what does this have to do with minimalism? By reducing to a minimum the number of commitments and chores I am willing to do on this day, I can enjoy what I have. I can enjoy my family by playing together, or simply by being together, reading and drinking tea. I can take a nap if I need to. Or if I want to.

I have a day when I have to step off the treadmill.

Realistically, my life cannot be blissful and peaceful every day. I need to go to doctors appointments, orthodontist appointments, club meetings, dance class, piano lessons. I like supporting my family in the various activities they are exploring, and I like supporting the projects I work for. But I also crave time together with my family, building connections and memories. My day of rest gives me balance.

So, today is Monday. I am back to work after my day of rest. I have piano lessons to drive to. I will be washing the extra car this week and placing it on Craigslist, so I need to locate the registration and be ready to sell it. I can create ebay drafts, ready to post when the new month starts (and I get 50 new free posts). I can get my tax materials together, so I can stop dreading that task (do it now!).  I have the energy and motivation to do what I need to do, because I had the opportunity to seek balance.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What Could I Use Instead

I have a number of "just in case" items that I have been hanging onto, even though they don't actually get used. For example, I have a collection of disposable bags that I have been keeping. They make the cupboard more difficult to use, but occasionally I want to bring a collection of things to people, and I need a way to collect them all together.

For example, I have been collecting a number of books to return to my mother. If I leave them on the bookshelf I know I will forget to bring them (ask me how I know!). So I have been collecting them in a paper bag, and I can leave the whole thing there or I can bring the bag back home. If I were to get rid of those disposable bags, what could I use instead? I probably have a cute basket I could use, and that would look nicer while I am waiting to drive up to my mom's house.

I need to look at a number of clutter-y items this way. I have things I use, but I don't like the way they are stored, or I just have too much and I would like to have more space. What could I do instead if I got rid of certain objects? Could we use the oven instead of the toaster oven (no, my family would riot and that would use a lot more energy to make toast).

I need to do this a lot more with areas that have a lot of things. We still have a relatively large collection of CDs, but we mostly listen to Pandora if we listen to anything (I like quiet). Can we get rid of the CDs in favor of Pandora? I don't know. I'll have to try this out on my family, and see how they take it.

We already do this quiet often with books. Unless a book is something we read regularly (at least once a year) I've been trying to let the library be our bookshelf. I should be able to find alternate sources or alternate uses for things, in order to increase the living space in our home.

Using creativity instead of stockpiling everything I might need, "just in case," is better. I just need to get back in the habit of creating solutions so I can clear more living space.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Daily Declutter

A little of this and a little of that today. The weather is so beautiful outside, I've been trying to get out as much as I can. As a responsible adult, this means weeding or cleaning up.

I've had a pile of costume jewelry on my bureau that I've been meaning to offer to my daughter. She didn't want anything, but my son found a pair of cuff links that he loves, so they found a good home. The rest of the jewelry will be dropped off at a local charity shop where I've found jewelry in the past.

I've had several pieces of outdoor...clutter... that I've been meaning to deal with. I had been using an old wheelbarrow as a planter, but it is even too rusted out for that. Rather than let it rust in place (attractive!) I dragged it over to my neighbor's dumpster, and it is no longer an eyesore.

Likewise, I've been meaning to get rid of our old, nasty barbecue. It will be offered to the metal recycling shop across from the smog check station that I need to visit today. I'd much rather the metal be recycled than landfilled, so that will be another eyesore off the property.

I photographed a few more things for ebay. I'll post them again at the beginning of the month, when posting is free.

Today is my day to make the menu for next week, and my shopping list. I am feeling singularly uninspired, but I will come up with something. It's better to sit with a cup of tea, browsing cookbooks, on a Thursday morning, rather than trying to contrive something Wednesday night at five!

I kept moving today, getting a little done here, a little done there. It doesn't feel like a lot, but it's adding up!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do it now!

(This is my 100th post! I can't believe I've written 100 things already! I have a lot of words, as one of my favorite authors, Jan Hatmaker, says.)

I have a couple of personality quirks that make my minimalism look different than the pictures on Pinterest. I like color. Especially green and red. I also like making things, and I like upcycling things into new things. I don't like throwing things away into the landfill. It just seems so...wasteful... to throw things away after all the energy that went into making something.

So I tend to collect bits and bobs of little things to make into new things. I usually have a can or jar of used candle bits that I intend to make into something else. I've dipped pine cones to make firestarters for gifts, and I've poured wax into old egg cartons to make firestarters for us. I have a bunch of candle bits now that I intend to use to make new candles to give as gifts.

In the past, I would often collect the candle bits, and scent oil, and containers, and I would let them sit around until sometime in December. Then, when I need a gift for teachers, or my sister-in-law's parents, or someone like that, I'd mumble under my breath while I tried to scramble together a gift before tonight. And the materials I'd collected would sit, collecting dust, until I got fed up and threw them in the recycling.

Instead of making a mess that I have to declutter later, this year I am trying something different: do it now. I'm picking up candle wicking this week during my shopping trip, and I will finish these gifts now. I will not have seven different containers that might look cute as candles. I will use what I have today, and I will be done. Then I will stick them in the box of completed Christmas gifts, and I will be thrilled this December.

I mended my daughter's overalls this morning. The straps were too long, so I added a couple extra button holes. Today, the day after she gave them to me. Done. I got the sewing machine out, sewed four button holes, and returned the machine. In less than a half and hour. Rather than leaving the clothes to glare at me, next to my seat in the living room (where mending occurs) for three weeks, I have cleared away a piece of potential clutter, and I feel pretty good about myself!

I know this advice sounds like the sort of advice your mom gave you when you were a teenager, but there's probably a reason for that. If I get my task done now, I don't have the physical or mental clutter sitting around, clogging up my energy and environment. I feel like I keep discovering the same concept over and over, but I also feel I am improving.

Routines, schedules and minimalism

I don't know how minimalism relates to simplicity, or how simplicity relates to minimalism. I know they are related but I don't know if you can have one without the other. In my life they are interrelated, and as I pursue minimalism I am also pursuing simplicity.

One of the strategies I have employed since the beginning of this project is my grocery list and menu plan. Is our weekly menu more simple because of the planning that occurs at the beginning of the week? I do know my time is simpler, since I don't need to invent dinner plans at five o'clock, and I don't need to run to the store several times a week. Is this an aspect of minimalism, or simply mindfulness? I do know I am more mindful of my time since I have been eliminating excess.

I am also much better at the tiny tasks that contribute to piles of clutter around the house. I have written a couple of times about putting my sweater and jeans away, even if I expect to wear them again the next day. I no longer have a pile of clothes glaring at me each morning. Is this minimalism, simplicity, or just finally having an adult household routine? I'm not sure, but as I work to clear a surface I find my habits are changing to create an improved environment.

Knowing that shopping day is coming, I check the cupboard and refrigerator, and eliminate food waste by planning to use everything that is in there. (If my family is reading this, that does mean that raisins will be scare until the mango bits are finished.) Storage containers are emptied out, so I always have containers for leftovers (some of the virtue of that may be attributed to a growing teenage boy, as well.) I declutter as I go for a simple, streamlined refrigerator.

I'm actually rather surprised at the synchronicity the forces that are changing my environment. As I work to streamline my physical environment I am freeing up time (which I expected) and people are seeking me out for relationship building (which I did not especially expect, but I am enjoying the time to build friendships). I am able to exchange time I spent on home care and replace it with people-care.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Daily Declutter

I haven't been actively decluttering stuff lately, but I have been working on my to-do list, and I have been spending time with people. Yesterday was a holiday, so the kids didn't have schoolwork. My daughter and I cleared out her wardrobe. She got rid of several items that she no longer liked or which no longer fit. Afterwards we went to the store and got a couple of tank tops, which she needed to wear some of the tops she likes. We also found two pairs of jeans, because she keeps growing! I did not get anything for myself because I don't need anything and I did not find anything that appeals to me. I'm pretty thrilled with myself for not feeling tempted to add anything to my possessions.

I had time to play a game with my son. I love having time to play with him, when I don't feel pressured to go do something else. We sat and played and were silly together. We made cookies for school, and told each other riddles out of a couple different puzzle books. In all, an evening well spent.

I also got new tires for the car, and took it for an oil change today. Not exciting, but they were tasks that were costing my mental energy. Now my mental energy can be better spent on being present.

Today is laundry day. The sun is shining, and the laundry is drying quickly, even the jeans. I met up with a friend for tea and talking, which was beneficial to both of us.

I wrote earlier that I need to figure out what I will do with my time when I no longer need to deal with my possessions as often. As I declutter, I think I am building closer and better relationships with people around me, and I think that is the answer to my question. As I reduce the physical possessions in my life I am building relationships. I'm not sure how if works, but it's definitely worth it.

Would a minimalist keep this?

I have a lot of things around my house still. I have been decluttering for over twenty years, since shortly after I received a lot of wedding gifts that I probably didn't really need. Yet I still have a lot!

I want to get rid of more, but when I glance around my house I feel like we use everything I see. Microwave? Yes, every day, to reheat my tea. Toaster oven? Several times a day, to make toast or sandwiches. Decorative "flour, sugar, tea" canisters? Actually, I use the sugar and salt for sugar and salt, and the flour one holds my charging cords.

On and on it goes. I'd like to get rid of my "good" china, but we use it every year when we host Easter dinner. I guess I could get rid of it, but then I'd need to buy more plates so there would be enough for everyone. And where would I store the extra plates the rest of the year, because I don't want them cluttering up my everyday cupboard.

In the last two months, since I've been focusing on it and thinking about it, I've reduced the clutter around the house. I've eliminated a number of piles that seemed permanent, and I've also just gotten rid of a lot of items that I didn't think about but stored out of habit. These are good things. I've also gotten out of the habit of buying things I don't need. (I took my daughter shopping for jeans that fit and a couple new tank tops to wear under shirts she owns. I came home with jeans, tank tops and a pair of boots. As a result, she got rid of two pairs of boots she doesn't like as well as the new ones.)

What does my life looks like, as a minimalist? I don't want to get rid of things we use and enjoy. That seems counter to the spirit of eliminating the excess. But I don't want everything to remain the same. That seems counter to the "-ing" in the title of the blog. If I'm not becoming something different, or doing something different, what am I doing? Recording a list of daily chores? Surely the internet does not need that!

So far, I think the answer lies in time. If I continue moving forward with baby steps (I'm beginning to hate that phrase, but it is what best describes my efforts) I hope to continue making incremental changes that will add up to the change I want to see.

Monday, February 20, 2017

It Cost Good Money

I bought three bottles of peppermint essential oil several years ago, in the hope that the oil would eliminate a rodent problem we were having. I have heard that rodents cannot stand the smell of peppermint oil, and they would flee anyplace that smelled of peppermint. We got rid of the rodents, and I do not know if the peppermint oil helped, or if the snap traps did all the work. However, the rodents were gone. The essential oil remains.

I do not want to use this oil for anything else. I don't especially want to smell like peppermint. Among other reasons, I don't want to think about rodents all day. I have hung on to this oil for years, in case we have another rodent summer, and just because it seems wrong to throw essential oil away. After all, if I needed more, it's not cheap. I spent good money on these bottles, and I shouldn't throw them away!

Another way to look at this is: I bought these bottles, which served their purpose years ago. I hope not to need them again. I'll clear up this tiny section of counter and stop worrying about future rodents. After all, we're talking about something in the neighborhood of $5-10, not hundreds. Letting go of all that space, all over the house, is worth the minor financial investment if I need to buy the oil again.

Hanging on to the essential oil will not bring the money back to me. So I need to come to grips with the money spent in the past (an expense I was willing to spend at the time) and stop cluttering up the present.

With this in mind, I will pass my essential oils along to a friend whose garage has become inhabited. I will release the money I spent in the past in order to have a more enjoyable present and future. This will stop being one of my excuses.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Daily Declutter

More little things today. I'm trying to squeeze decluttering into my regular life, rather than dedicate a large block of time to decluttering. The process is drawn out, but I think it's less stressful than a more concentrated approach because I have so many outside obligations, especially to things that aren't mine. I don't want to tell the kids that they can't go to lessons or meetings because I want to get rid of all our junk.

This morning the rain had ended, so I took pictures of more LEGOs we're rehoming, and some measuring cups I hadn't wanted to get rid of. Or, that I didn't want to use because I don't like them, but they're vintage and I want to make sure they don't get thrown away at the thrift shop. That does happen when the shop has too much merchandise (because people buy too much new stuff. Period.). Still, I don't run a museum, so I shouldn't be the home to all the excess stuff just because it's old.

Fortunately, I remembered to look them up on ebay. People do collect these, so hopefully I can find a good home that way. Either way they are out of my cupboard for now, and hopefully for the long term.

A lot of the clutter I have eliminated so far has been behavioral. I no longer have clothes cluttering the bathroom counter because I have changed my awareness and my habits. I am grateful for the awareness, brought about by writing it out, of how my behavior eliminates clutter even more than getting rid of the physical items that surround me.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Daily Declutter

Lots of running around in circles today. I went to the tire store, but the tires they had ordered for me were the wrong size for my car. I will have to go back next week. I had to go out a second time to do my grocery shopping, because my son had to be picked up from school. However, I got almost all my grocery shopping finished (I need one thing at another store, but I think it can wait until next week) other than that one thing my grocery errands are done.

My groceries are all put away, and I am set for the next week's menus. It feels good to have that done.

I did get rid of an old, damaged mirror that had been sitting around for over a year. Neither Goodwill not Salvation Army would take it without a frame (apparently, someone might "get their head chopped off" if the store had a mirror without a frame), so I had to throw it away. It was damaged, so I don't feel too bad, and I am very happy to be rid of this large piece of clutter.

We are expecting a large storm through town overnight, so I tidied up outside. Mostly moving hanging baskets down to the ground so they won't fly off and damage something, but the mirror was part of the tiding effort, so that was worthwhile to me.

I threw some seeds in the ground, as an effort toward gardening. I'm a terrible gardener. I don't like following the rules (plant this after the frost; plant this before the frost; start this indoors) so plants don't succeed very often. I've even killed zucchini. However, I know water is important for plants, and we're certainly getting rain this week, so I'm putting seeds out and hoping for the best.

So, not much forward progress, but I am maintaining my schedule, and that is simplifying my life. We spent the evening together as a family, unstressed, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix, and playing Yahtzee. That I definitely consider a win, because that is how I want to spend time with my family. And that, not the stuff, is what minimalist-ing is about.

But I have the space!

I'm going to throw my husband under the bus here. When I get the decluttering bug, one of his frequent excuses (other than "but I use that") is "but we have the space."

Not surprisingly, I do not find this a justifiable excuse. I feel so much better in uncluttered spaces (to be honest, so does he). So having space to keep clutter does not justify having clutter.

I find that when I declutter spaces where I "have space," I free up room throughout the room or even my whole house. For example, when I discarded expired ointment and a medicine dropper from the medicine cabinet I was able to declutter the bathroom counter. I now have space for my deodorant in the medicine cabinet. My daily environment is less cluttered because I cleared out a space that was hidden. Although I "had space" for those unnecessary items, decluttering allowed me to prioritize valuable things above undesirable things.

This is true for anything. Deluttering the garage, the linen closet, the cabinet under the sink allows me to get rid of the things that aren't really valuable. This may allow me to store something I find valuable (I like to store the swim things together during the summer, in the linen closet, so no one loses a swimsuit and we can walk out the door to the pool without hassle) or it may allow me to simply enjoy a clean counter, dryer or other flat surface.

Sometimes I don't see the point to decluttering invisible spaces. If we've "always" stored table linens there, why should I declutter them? We're not going to stop using tablecloths and napkins, after all. But the last time I decluttered that space I found two tablecloths that I didn't even realize we had, and now it's easier to find what we actually need.

I know some people like to declutter their home in one fell swoop. I'm the other kind of person; I keep whittling down my unnecessary possessions until I (hopefully) have a minimalist home with nothing in it except the things I find really important to the way we live. Hopefully a day will come when I do not have to worry about cluttered surfaces, cabinets or drawers. Even better, I hope not to have a cluttered mind. In the meantime I will continue to declutter both the hidden and visible clutter, whether we have room for it or not.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Daily Declutter

I am so often shocked at the old clutter! I checked the medicine cabinet for clutter this morning; I found a medicine dropper (for little kids), matchbooks, and a tube of ointment from I-don't-know when. I now have room in there for my deodorant, clearing up the counter a little more.

I dropped off a couple of boxes of packing popcorn. The shipping place in town reuses it, and the things I have for ebay right now don't need it. I'd rather someone else use it, since I'd just be storing it. As clutter. I dropped off several boxes at the post office at the same time.

We should have rain tomorrow and the next day, so I took some pictures to post to ebay. I'd like to get them up tonight, but I also would like to spend time with my family, so we'll see how that goes.

A roadrunner stopped in the front yard today, and my daughter and I got to watch it for a while. They really remind me of dinosaurs! The way they move their heads, and the way they display their tails, is unlike any other bird I have seen. Plus, they eat snail and mice (and lizards, which I'm not ok with!) so they are welcome to visit our yard any time. If you've only every see the Warner Brothers Coyote and Roadrunner, you should check them out on youtube. They're really fascinating.

I made my menu for the week. This is a great activity for when I don't want to do anything, but I still get something done. I'm almost done with my shopping list as well, and I will be going shopping tomorrow since Saturday has filled up on it's own. I love having the extra time this one change has facilitated. And, despite almost running out of milk, my family continues to survive. (This week my kids ran through a half gallon of milk in two meals. So they have had to limit milk the rest of the week, and get by on other foods instead.)

Focus and Mindfulness

This is not my quote. But it is something I need to remember, and I find it all too easy to forget.

Minimalism is a lot about mindfulness. Minimalism is about being aware of all the world around me, my place in the world, and my contributions to the world,

If I focus on how slowly I am making improvements I will not notice how many improvements I have made. Keeping a journal, or blog, allows me to see what I have accomplished. It helps me focus on the joys of accomplishment.

I remember a story about a king who commissioned two of his knights to survey his kingdom. One knight was to report every good thing he saw; the other was to report every bad thing. When the knights returned, the knight who was to report bad things described a kingdom that was desperate, falling apart, without hope. The other knight reported joy, health, caring and blessings among the people.

I hope you see the blessings in your life, despite the difficulties. I hope, as you eliminate the extraneous aspects of your life and develop a simpler lifestyle, that the joys become more obvious and overshadow the difficulties.

Daily Declutter

Yesterday was largely housekeeping, which is important to that clean, decluttered fantasy home I imagine, but it's not exciting. I did clear a basket, some tools and the glass jar of failed laundry detergent off the dryer. Now the dryer only hold laundry baskets, which pleases me more than it probably should.

Laundry was washed, folded and put away. At least, I think it was put away. I have to check on the kids, because sometimes they just pile up the clean laundry on furniture. Then it falls on the floor, gets slept on by the dog, and ends back up in the wash.

I sold a bunch of items on ebay yesterday, and I will be packing and shipping them this morning -- hopefully before I drop the kids off at school. I'm so excited to see these things move. I think I will be able to eliminate an entire box from the shed when all these items are shipped, which is a noticeable amount of change.

No major changed today, but I wanted to post baby steps.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Daily Declutter

Today I did a lot of things I've been needing to accomplish. For one, I went to the dentist. Not a decluttering activity, but a necessary one.

I also photographed a bunch of items for ebay, posted three, and shipped two items. Hooray for shipping! I am about out of boxes now, and I will need to prowl around looking for boxes before I can ship much more. I am willing to do that! I think the kids' school is a source I can tap for that.

I got rid of some vintage fruit box art. In the 1920's to 1960's of so, fruit packers pasted these labels on wooden boxes as advertising and identification. They are really pretty, and interesting art for the kitchen. But in 15 years I had never framed and hung these pieces, and it is someone else's turn. They don't take up much space -- in fact I had forgotten them -- but they still need to move out. At some point I or someone else will have to deal with all my stuff, and there is no reason to keep these. As Marie Kondo would say, they aren't "sparking joy."

We got home late, late last night. However, I put my sweater away where it went (it took an effort) but the bedroom and bathroom were tidy when I woke up, which was a nice way to start the day. I write that because it continues to be an effort some days, and I want to give myself credit for doing hard things, even if they are obvious. Even if they are the sorts of things I should have been doing all along.

I printed out more shopping lists to hang on the refrigerator so my family can keep the list updated. This supports my goal of making fewer shopping trips.

I'm pleased, overall, with what I did get done today. Not much actually left the house, but a lot of little things are off my mind. And two ebay boxes of goods did leave, which always makes me happy!

"Ought to"

I realized yesterday that a lot of the clutter I have difficulty with is of the "ought to" variety. My imaginary minimalist house (the home I am working for) is a restful place, without stuff ordering me around. I realize now that I need to get rid of the "ought to" things that are cluttering up both my mind and my home.

A realization came to me when I saw the business card case full of cards for a volunteer position I hold. I "ought to" use those, I thought. Then it occurred to me that I have not had a desire for the cards, they were a gift to all the volunteer leaders, and I had not had a need for the cards or the holder in the year or more since I received the cards. With that, I dumped the cards and the guilt. I no longer will think about the things I should do when I see it, every morning in the basket where I keep my hair accessories. (Another question might be why the case was there, but it is to no purpose now.) I could both declutter the physical object and the responsibility associated with it.

That is my problem with a lot of clutter I have around the house. The laundry detergent I can not use with my new washer -- I "ought to" do something with that. But I have another stain remedy, and it works better than the soap does. I just need to let it go! I "ought to" frame the fruit crate labels I bought for the kitchen 15 years ago -- but I have other decor, and I don't need another errand. So I will put them on ebay today, and someone else can enjoy them.

If I get rid of the clutter than causes my guilt, anxiety or stress, I am both minimalizing my environment and my internal life. Which is the point, isn't it? Minimalism is supposed to be about eliminating the excess in my life so I can enjoy the desirable elements.

I don't always realize the difference between clutter and the things I need. I am getting better at understanding the reasons for keeping some of the things I have kept, things that do not add to the enjoyment of my life. I'm really happy every time I recognize a stumbling block for what it is, and I am able to avoid it in the future.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Change Can Be Hard

Ferret in my front yard!
Change can be hard. Who knew? Stop the presses!

But seriously. I was reading A Simple Year, and she commented about how hard it was when she started to become a minimalist. I was surprised to read that someone else struggled to get rid of things! Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, with all the decluttering information out there. Somehow, I felt that when I realized I like the minimalism all the material clutter would fall away. But it's not working that way.

I have so much stuff, and sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between stuff I need and stuff I don't. Sometimes it's hard on my family, finding another pile of things I want to get rid of.

Sometimes it's discouraging that I still have so much stuff to work through.

I keep reminding myself that there is less than there used to be. The house is tidier than it used to be, just as a baseline. When it gets messy, there is less than there used to be. This helps with both pick up and finding a spot to put things away.

Selling things is a slow process, but I am selling things. The money goes to pay off the loan on the car, so each item sold is a double bonus.

When I read accounts of people who sold all their junk and paid off thousands of dollars in debt in a year, I feel I'm not making progress as I should. But I am enough. Their life is not my life, their goals are not my goals. My family does not want to move at that rate, nor do they want to move out of or house to travel the world.

If you are reading this and struggling, hang in there! We can do this. Taking baby steps toward our goal is still forward progress, and we do not have a timetable we have to follow!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Daily Declutter

I shipped a couple of books I sold through ebay. Hooray, things out! While I was at the post office I returned a couple of shipping boxes that I ended up not needing. I didn't want to throw them away (they were still brand new!), and now they are back where they belong and out of my house! It's amazing to me how tiny things like that feel like an improvement, but the boxes had been living in the bottom of my closet, and now I see bare floor down there. I'm also donating a box of breakfast cereal that is unopened. No one loves it, although I will request my family finish the open box we have.

I did my weekly shopping. This necessitated creating my menu. For some reason I was weak on ideas this week, but I did it. We have enough food to see us through until next week. I got more prepared food than usual, but my daughter is suffering quietly from braces, and I am trying to support her. Applesauce, ice cream, her favorite soup from Costco (even though the package is plastic and not zero-waste) are all on the menu the next couple of days. I went to five stores to get all the items I wanted, plus a trip to Target to return swimsuits. It took three hours, which seemed like my entire lifetime, but it's really worth the concentrated time to be all done.

Because I have super-awesome, amazing, tremendous friends, I was even able to take a nap this afternoon. I am feeling so run down. I don't know if I'm coming down sick (I don' have time!) or just tired from staying up late at the drive-in. My friend offered to bring my daughter home after dance class so I could come home and sleep. I am so grateful! I hope the extra sleep will fend off anything that is trying to bring me down. And tea. Lots of tea will keep me whole.

Updated to add: I had some time before bedtime, and my daughter was still working on homework, so I felt I needed to work too, in solidarity. So I ironed a couple of weeks worth of shirts. My son had two white button down shirts to be ironed, in different sizes. I had him try them on: one was too small and one had a spot on it. The too small one is in the box to be donated, the spotty one is pretreated and in the wash. So I had two fewer shirts to iron, and every piece of clean laundry is put away!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Daily Declutter

I've been longing for a clean, tidy home, so I spent much of today cleaning, not decluttering. Blame it on hygge. I scrubbed the only four drawers in my kitchen. I scrubbed the cabinet next to the drawers. I scrubbed the inside of my dishwasher (I still think the soap that cleans my dishes should clean my dishwasher as well, but it doesn't work that way.) I scrubbed the base of my blender (how does that get so dirty?) Those cabinets look so much better, but the rest need scrubbing more than ever.

I did dust and declutter the top of my bureau. I put away a few mementos the kids have made for me, some gift wrap, and a pair of scissors I obviously don't need went into the donation box. I also found a lot of dust, and that was decluttered appropriately as well. 😉

The most minimalist-ing thing I did today, though, was empty the donation box and drop off the contents at Goodwill. I have a donation station that is not too far from my kids' school, so we stopped by after pickup.

Although I didn't get rid of much today, I feel good about the deep cleaning. A really clean home it part of the Pinterest look I like so much. I probably won't get it that clean while I have kids at home, but the kids are worth it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Is it possible to be effortlessly tidy?

A lot of my efforts to delutter correspond with efforts to tidy. I clear the clutter off the bar in the kitchen (the prime flat spot in the house). I clear up the not-quite-dirty clothes on the bathroom counter. I clear away the school books on the sofa.

Many of the things I move have proper homes, although some do not. Some of the things I move in my quest for minimalism and simplicity need to be kept, although some can be disposed. But is it possible to have a home that looks like a magazine spread?

Probably not. Nate Ware discusses the expectation gap, and why we are unhappy. We see perfect images of perfectly airbrushed people, or perfectly designed rooms, but they aren't real. It is not realistic to expect to look like a supermodel, it's not realistic to expect my spouse to look like a supermodel, it's not realistic to expect my home to look like a supermodel. Expecting my home to be free of dog hair and unfinished homework is unrealistic.

Sadly, although I recognize this for myself and my husband, I keep working toward a home that is perfectly groomed at all times. I need to cut it some slack, and appreciate my home for what it offers.

My home provides safety and security. It protects me and my family (including dogs) shelter from the elements -- heat and rain. It is spacious enough to hold birthday parties, study groups and gaming nights. There is room for my family to gather together, and room for us to embrace our introverted natures separately.

So, I will try to remember to be respectful of the reality of the nature of my home. It is not a fantasy. (Although if brownies wanted to come tidy my home in exchange for milk, I'm willing to accept that, too.)

Daily Declutter

Moving slowly forward. I cleared clutter off the bar. There are still a few things there, but by tonight I will clear it of everything except a pan I need to return to a friend. I will deliver the pan and some tangerines this weekend. Among the things on the bar are a box, a bottle and an oil lamp that I need to decide where they go. Clutter is delayed decisions. I just need to remember that as I go along.

Disposed of a cloth bag my sheets came in. I kept telling myself I would use it for giftwrap. Unless the gift was exactly the same dimensions as the bag it would look awful, so I went ahead and dropped it in the fabric recycling container. My nightstand is clear again, and I won't feel obligated to use an ugly bag next Christmas.

I've posted more items to ebay. I've been selling a few items, but I'm really hoping people will buy entire collections of things. I'd love to get rid of the box that holds the old magazines, or the box that holds old books. Or all the LEGOs. I don't feel I'm moving forward when I sell something from one collection, or something from another and still have the boxes at the end of the day, with other things in them just like the ones I just posted. I'm sure it will come in time.

I picked up a book on hygge from the library. I was hoping for something that said I could sit on the sofa, reading a book and drinking a cup of tea. If I did this then magically my house would look as immaculately clean as the Norwegian homes I seem pictured on Pinterest. Instead, the book tells me to get more exercise outdoors and eat real food moderately. I expect I will be told to clean my own home soon. I shouldn't be surprised, but the hype about hygge is different than the reality. Oh, well, I am enjoying the book, and I have a date with my husband to go walking after work, so that part is worth is.

My daughter got her braces this morning. I will be making soup for supper, tomorrow will be lasagna from the freezer. I'm spending a lot of my time doing housework and "mom" activities, like making smoothies for someone who can't chew.

Step Two: Deeper Decluttering

I wrote before about starting decluttering for the first time. After you've been decluttering the areas that are the most obvious to you, you start to feel better. Free-er. At this point, having a plan to keep decluttering will make the most of your momentum and the most of your efforts.

I'm actually not a big fan of plans. I struggled with the idea of having a menu plan (I love it now, but I did struggle). However, I found that having a plan was better than not having one. I waste less time and less food by having a plan. I don't have to like it, but apparently I have to do it.

Make a plan. My plan won;t work for you, and your plan probably won't work for me. That's ok. You don't have to live with me (unless my kids are reading this), so your plan should be different.

Pick a starting place. Pick something easy. Pick something ugly. I like to start with the kitchen, because I use it every day. Decluttering the kitchen it too large for one start, so pick a part of the room. The pantry. The cupboard where you store appliances. The drawers next to the stove.

Get a couple of boxes, or a couple of paper bags -- something that stands up. Plastic bags lay there, and you either have to open them each time or they get buried under the clutter. You don't need your life to be more difficult. Get one box for Things that Go Elsewhere, and one for Things That Go Away.

Once you've picked a starting place, evaluate everything in that area. Pull out each item. It might help to set up a card table, so you don't have to put everything on the floor. I'll say this again -- pull everything out. As you pull things out, decide if they go elsewhere or if it goes away. Elsewhere could be returning something to another person, of elsewhere in the house. Your sweater probably belongs in the clothes closet, not the linen closet. That baking pan needs to go back to Mom. The shirt that never fit correctly goes in the "Go Away" box. The shirt you wear every time it's clean goes back in the closet.

It is so easy to flip through your cupboard and decide you like and use everything there. But it almost never fails that I find things that I don't want or use when I pull everything out of an area. I find books I didn't realize I still have. Or books that no one in my house actually likes. I find beans that no one cared for (they can go into chili), or food with garlic or allspice (they are migraine triggers at my house) that need to be passed along to someone else. So you really, really have to take everything out of the container.

Next, put everything back neatly. Put the skirts with the skirts, or the work clothes with the work clothes. Whatever makes sense to you. Don't color coordinate everything just because your mom told you it looks better that way. Organize things according to your own brain. If you like keeping your pasta and your canned tomatoes on the same shelf (because you make spaghetti marinara every week), then go for it. You may need to borrow things from other shelves to put them in the order that makes sense to you. You have my permission to mix things up the way they work for you.

Last, deal with the boxes. Put away things in the "Elsewhere" box as best you can. If you have something that belongs to your brother, start a bag of things that go to his house. Then deliver it the next time you see him. I like to carry things around in the car so I don't forget. I will keep a bag of books for my mom in my car for a week so I don't forget it at home when I see her. (Sometimes I forget it in the car. I'm just doing the west I can.) Write yourself a note, leave a reminder on your phone - do whatever it takes.

If there are things in that box that go elsewhere in your house, decide if you really want them, then decide where they should go. Don't put them "away" if they really don't serve a function. The sweater that has been in the hall closet -- if you haven't missed it, do you really need to keep it? Don't mess up your clothes closet with things you find elsewhere if they're really just clutter.

Take the box of donations away. Put it in the pile outside the front door if you've already called for a charity pickup. If not, put the box in the front seat of the car, so it will be annoying enough for you to remember and drop off the next time you're driving.

Only when you've completed the first area may you move onto the next area. Pick an area directly adjacent to the area you just decluttered. Do not move on until everything from the first area is cleared away. The last thing you want in clutter all over the floor, or shoved back into the cupboard or closet because you got too tired to finish. If you've set aside the entire weekend for decluttering, good for you. If you've squeezed in a half an hour after work, good for you. If you move forward from any spot and continue to declutter adjacent areas you will eventually uncover everything that needs attention. By working at your ability level, whether according to physical or temporal constraints, you can declutter everything you need to without making the mess worse.

I know this is really long,  and I appreciate anyone who has read through to the end. Decluttering an entire home is a big project, and it needs to be addressed in steps that are not overwhelming, or it is too easy to give up on your goal of a lighter, easier home.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Two Month Anniversary Reflections

I know. Two months isn't a long time. This week I've been feeling like I haven't accomplished much since I started this project, but for the first time I have documentation about what I have done. Journaling would have accomplished the same results, but I like blogging because I feel acountable to the people in Internetland to get something done and write about it. If I'm just writing for myself I get tired, decide I'll write about tomorrow. Nothing gets written for a week, and next thing I know I'm starting a new effort to make some order in my home.

So I will review what I have done in two months.

  • Largely decluttered the bar, and it rarely has a large pile of things that need to be dealt with.
  • Created a habit to put away clothes (like my sweater) in the closet if they aren't dirty, rather than leaving them on the bathroom counter to make clutter.
  • Got rid of the Lost Sock Basket in the laundry room, making a lot of space!
  • Created a shopping list and a shopping plan that give me a lot more time at home (and less time running errands).
  • Began making a weekly menu plan. It doesn't work out perfectly, but it is easier than coming up with a plan last-minute, like I did in the past.
  • Decluttered a lot of food items. Things that need to be eater, things that aren't expired but would expire if I continue to ignore them. Arborio rice, dried mangos, manicotti shells, unloved beans have all become dinner, not clutter. (Ok, not the mangos. They became breakfast.)
  • Rehomed the canoe, several vintage magazines, a lot of yarn and possibly a couple other things on ebay.
  • Developed a roll of film that has been sitting around for YEARS.
  • Got rid of a shoe rack, and I can reach my hats better than I ever have before.
There are a lot of little things that I didn't put on the list. These all add up. In two months I've gotten rid of things I've been walking around for years. In another two months, I'm sure I can make more improvement. It's not an overnight process, even though spending a few days in a cluttery house makes me feel like I'm not actually making progress toward my goals.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Daily Declutter

Somehow, I feel both like I'm surrounded by clutter and that there is nothing else to get rid of. Well, at least not my stuff. I can get rid of my husband's stuff, but he'd probably mind. 😃

Surprisingly, or maybe not that surprisingly, I found a lot to tidy up today. I worked my way through the big bookcase. I found several pictures that I would like to display that weren't displayed, and I put them in picture frames. The pictures that were in the frames were in storage, so I stored them with "pictures that aren't in albums or frames that I have to keep for historical purposes," or whatever reason I'm keeping those pics. I'll go through them in the future, but I can't do that on my own -- I'll need my husband's consent to get rid of some of them.

I also found a picture of my son when he was very young, and I had forgotten we had it. It's one of my all-time favorite pictures of him. It is now in a frame, replacing a gift someone had given us years ago.

I got rid of a stack of books I was trying to sell. I wasn't finding a buyer, and they weren't worth enough money to justify the space they were taking up.

The bookshelves look so much better! Books are only one level deep, pictures are in frames. I have a couple of display items that are displayed, not stacked.

I even found some magazines I didn't realize were there, and they are going to the senior lounge that enjoys my old magazines, tomorrow night. They will wait patiently in the car so I won't forget them tomorrow.

I was surprised at how much I could get rid of from a space I thought was decluttered, and I'm surprised at how much better I like that section of the room. Eventually I'll reach a point where I've decluttered everything I don't need or love, but I haven't gotten there yet.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Daily Declutter

What fictional character said "I like new days, because there are no mistakes in it yet." I want to say Anne of Green Gables, but I'm not sure. I feel like that today. I have the opportunity to make the house tidy and decluttered this morning.

I've finally dealt with the dehydrator. Today is supposed to rain, so it is not a drying fruit sort of day, nor will it be for some days yet. I also took a dress out to the shed. We've finished sorting LEGOs, and two sets have been put together and posted to ebay. This is better progress than I expected.

However, I did have to go to the store today, in direct opposition to my no emergency trips to the store policy. The dog was out of food, and he can't eat the other dog's food because they are allergic to each other's food. (This isn't even the dog food I've had on my list for two weeks. I was notified last night that we were out of food.) While I was out I picked up food for the other dog, and failed to buy a swimsuit for my daughter. I had to order it online from Target, and I am very hopeful that one of the suits I ordered will fit correctly, without being revealing.

I'm more disappointed than I should be about my emergency trip to the store. I was more proud of my shopping schedule than I should be.

I am glad, however, to me moving in a forward direction with my clutter. I would think that I'd have less after all these years of reducing. I feel I am really getting rid of a great many things we've clung to for years, and I am telling myself that this time the project will be more productive (reductive?) than it ever has been before.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Excess Begets Excess

My house has been taken over by the clutter monster. But worse than that, my mind is full of clutter too. At least I recognize it, and I am working actively to combat the clutter.

Part of the problem is the LEGOs. As we work to rehome them, they have taken over the house. There are boxes of LEGOs we want to keep. Boxes that need to be completed before we sell them. Boxes of loose bricks that need to be sorted so we can use them to complete the kits we're getting rid of. Bins of sorted pieces. (I could just chuck them all in a box and donate them to Goodwill, but I'm not certain toys are resold, and I don't want all these LEGOs to just be thrown away. After all, they're still good.)

At the same time, things are not getting done. I have clutter on the bar, waiting for me to do something with it. I know, I need to make a decision about some of it, and some I know what I need to do, I just haven't done it.

What really surprised me was my desire to buy more. I haven't been interested in buying anything for a while now. But yesterday I had a few minutes after I finished grocery shopping, before my daughter's class was over. I had time to stop by the thrift shop. I didn't need anything. Then I thought I really could use a new dress for church. It's been a long time, and some of my dresses are pretty old. They're probably showing wear, and should be replaced. I'm not even sure they are showing wear -- I just thought they might be! I really wanted to stop by and just see what the shop had.

I held firm, and drove to the park. It was a beautiful day, and musician was playing Eastern European violin music. I enjoyed looking at the flowers, the water, feeling the sun, listening to the music. I know I made the right choice driving past the store and enjoying the peacefulness of the park. I had to make myself do what I knew was the correct choice. It was hard, though, for the first time since I'm started this blog and been focused on this project.

Does the household clutter make me want to buy more? I think so, but I don't have scientific proof. It would explain a lot about my history -- buying more when I want to improve my living situation. Making purchases in response to clutter -- which only makes the clutter situation worse.

I can't be sure of the causality of clutter and buying. I am glad I was aware enough yesterday to avoid adding to the clutter situation by "just stopping by" to do a little shopping.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I Need a Pep Talk

I have not brought anything into the house, except food, probably since Christmas. I keep getting rid of things. The house should be feeling less cluttered. But this week I feel a little overwhelmed.

I know part of it is food clutter (tangerines and the dehydrator sitting out), and part of it is being busy. I know it would be worse if I weren't actively trying to get rid of the excess around here. But it seems to add up.

I'm not certain how to deal with the daily clutter. The paper napkins that came with the burritos, which need to go out to the car (but couldn't go out at the time because that car wasn't home). The food donations that need to be dropped off at the church...Sunday. How do I keep them in the meantime, and not forget them Sunday morning? Band-aids that need to go to school with my husband -- I bought them Friday, and they have to sit out until he goes back to school Monday.

Lots of little things. I need to accept that things will get cluttered from time to time. This is the second time in a week, and it doesn't seem like that busy a week.

Hang in there. It will improve. Deal with what's in from of you, decide what's important, get rid of the excess, and recognize that it's a long road. Don't regret being where you are on the road.

(I needed a pep talk.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Daily Declutter

I've been pretty all over the place lately. I do notice, however, that I get more done when I'm planning to tell all of Internetland what I've been up to. So today I will post my list, and hope to live up to it, or even exceed it. It's not a lot of decluttering, but the LEGO thing is kind of taking over the world.

Today I will:

  • Grocery shop
  • Put away Christmas decorations I found under my son's LEGO table
  • Finish the LEGO sets we started and photograph them for ebay
  • Make manicotti for dinner, and use up the two gigantic boxes of manicotti shells that are in the cupboard (yeah, space!)
  • Pick the tangerines off the tree and put them away in the refrigerator.
  • Play board games with my family while dinner cooks without needing my attention.
  • Put away dried oranges, wash dehydrator and put it away.
I'll update this later with actual accomplishments.

I actually managed to:

  • Do half my grocery shop and put the groceries away. I need to pick up dog food and a couple cans of spaghetti sauce, but that's it.
  • Take my son for a haircut after school.
  • Put away the Christmas decorations that were hiding.
  • Made manicotti. Made enough for dinner, plus enough to put two additional dinners in the freezer. We'll be set for east dinners for three weeks.
  • Picked tangerines, and put in the refrigerator all that will fit. The remainder are sitting on the bar, waiting for someone to get hungry.
  • Played games with the family.
I did not:
  • Finish making the LEGO sets. I can't find two pieces I need, and this has suddenly become a huge project that is taking over the house.
  • Wash and put away the dehydrator. The oranges did not get done until late. It will be done today.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Daily Delutter

I got the house whipped back into shape after clutter happened. Sheets got washed. Normal things happened.

I also moved forward, even if just a little bit. I cut up all the dried mango slices, so they can fit on a spoon. Now they can be added to oatmeal or cereal even if I'm not around to cut them up. I'm hoping they'll move out faster now. Because who doesn't like dried, sweetened mango?

Sold a couple more things on ebay! I'm glad they're finding new homes. I need to photograph more clutter to post on ebay. I'm planning to put together an unloved LEGO set, make sure the pieces are all there, and post that next. (Yes, my decluttering plans include playing with LEGOs. But it will free up a shelf and a couple of plastic totes when I'm done!)

However, putting LEGOs together, so I can sell a complete set, takes approximately the rest of my life. I will be grateful to rehome these things. I did discover, in among my son's LEGO boxes, a box of Christmas decorations that need to go up to the attic outside. As it is dark now, they will go up in the morning. That way I will have room for the totes I'm using to sort LEGOs.

Tomorrow will be grocery shopping. I have my list, and my family lived through the week again without emergency grocery runs. So despite the LEGO explosion that is taking over my dining table, I have at least one aspect of my life that is minimalist-ing.

It May Not Be Easy

I spent more time processing oranges for the dehydrator today. It gave me a lot of time to think (my daughter was using the computer and I didn't have the escape of TED Talks today). Drying oranges myself is not as easy as just buying whatever dry fruit the grocery has to offer. So why do I do it?

Partially, I dry the wealth of oranges that grow in my yard to prevent waste. I hate seeing food lay on the ground and rot when I know there are people somewhere who would appreciate having food. I donate what I can, but I also put up some myself for future use. After all, avoiding transportation and packaging is less wasteful, and I'm interested in reducing my waste along with the stuff around me.

But I think I do it for other reasons as well. I like being intentional about what my family consumes, in both senses of the word. People consume food, and people consume "goods." I've been working to reduce the consumption of goods, but we really can't reduce the consumption of food around here.

Being aware and reducing consumption of goods isn't always easy. People might look at you as being strange, different. It's hard for people to stop swimming with the current and find their own way. My way probably doesn't look like your way, especially if you live outside the citrus belt. My way is right for me (and getting better) but it's not going to be right for you.

Twenty years ago I became vegetarian. This didn't make sense to my meat-and-potatoes dad, but he's come to accept it. It's gotten easier over the years. My brother-in-law doesn't understand why we don't watch TV at our house (we've even given up cable). But it works for us, and he doesn't live here. Many people don't understand why I don't buy clothes new, or shop recreationally. But they don't have to understand for me to feel more comfortable this way.

Becoming minimalist is different. It goes against the advertisers, against the marketers, against the social construct that says you are what you buy, what you own. You are the person your experience makes you. You might be the traveler, or the reader, or the volunteer. Starting the change might be difficult, but you're the person who has to live in your own skin. Don't try to live up to the expectations of people on the outside.

It might not be easy in the beginning, but it gets easier the longer you do it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


I've been listening to TED Talks today while I processed oranges. I can enjoy being mindful of the process of cutting, peeling and separating oranges for the first orange. After that, I need distraction.

The talks I listened to were all about choice, our belief that many choices are good for us, and the evidence that many choices may actually be bad for us.

Sheena Iyengar spoke about cultural perceptions of choice. In some Eastern Europe, after the fall of the communist block, were overwhelmed by too much choice. They saw seven flavors of soda as one choice, soda, not seven choices. She mentions that Americans train their entire lives to identify choices, to such a degree that we believe the distinctions are innate, not constructed.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz teaches that many choices make us paralyzed and unhappy. If we choose the wrong choice we have no one but ourselves to blame for choosing poorly. If we make the correct choice (for us) we still might have chosen something even better, and we are unhappy. Assuming we have enough choices to meet our minimum requirements, we are better off with fewer choices rather than more choices.

Minimalism is self-imposed limitation of choice. In many religions, people limit themselves in order to improve their spiritual condition. Consider the Buddhist monk who lives with very little, or the Christian who celebrates Lent by giving up something. Limiting choices limits the amount of distraction, and it allows people to focus on spiritual improvement. 

I have found that my life generally has been running more smoothly, more easily, as I simplify my choices. I have limited myself to one shopping trip a week, and this reduces my stress and busy-ness. I've taken away the choice from myself to run out whenever I want something. I have to plan better, but I have more peace overall. I feel like I have made a case study of myself. By limiting my choice to do certain things I am happier.

Perhaps I listened to these particular talks because I have been limiting myself and that is the reason they appealed to me. But I have always found it interesting that I find reinforcing information about an action once I am on the right path. Minimalist-ing my life is the right choice for me.

In Which Clutter Happened...

Yesterday was going well. I washed and hung out laundry. I processed a bunch of oranges for drying. (I dried some peels for Christmas potpourri presents, and the flesh as alternatives for raisins.) I was feeling efficient, and proud of myself. I even made it to a meeting on time.

Then something happened. I'm not sure what happened, but I know it made clutter. All. Over. My. House.

I have a laundry basket sitting in the living room. It should have been put away last night -- why wasn't it? Dinner dishes weren't washed. I know what happened there. My daughter had a huge homework assignment ,and she and I worked on it past her bedtime. Just before her final print she read that the text had to be 12 point font, double spaced. So I spent over an hour helping her to reformat the assignment, making the text fit and resizing pictures to fit in the pamphlet design. Neither she not I was inclined to wash dishes when we were done (it was her turn).

My wonderful, amazing husband made dinner, because I was late coming home from picking my son up at school. It took him an hour to work on his science project, longer than I expected to have to wait. My wonderful husband even used up leftovers to make dinner. Prevented food waste, I didn't have to cook (I'd forgotten to soak the chickpeas for the plan, so it would have been flying by the seat of my pants anyway). But the dishes are still sitting there, waiting for their turn, and looking ugly.

I could go on, but no one needs to hear the depravity to which my house can sink in a day, and I need to clean up, so I can't sit here typing all day.

But here's the point: I know I can get back out of this in one day, and I know that underneath the house is clutter-less. Not clutter-free, but less than there was. So there is less to deal with than there was in the past.

Once I get this layer of clutter cleaned up, we can go back to our routines, and we can go back to the level of tidiness we have been enjoying lately. Late night homework assignments will happen regardless of my schedule. But having minimalism as a goal helps these nights to be the exception, rather than the rule. And minimalism helps me bounce back faster.