Friday, April 28, 2017

Daily Declutter

I started making wool felt balls out of the "craft supplies I need to use up or give away." I also realized that I like browsing Pinterest more than I like actually making things. And I like making things because I need to use something more than I am apt to find a pin, then gather the supplies and go make something. So forcing myself to use up supplies is beneficial in a couple of ways: I will have Christmas presents completed before Christmas, I will clear out clutter, and I am learning about myself. All good things!

However, craft projects are fairly messy. I have felt balls drying on the window sill in the kitchen, and wool roving sitting around waiting to me made. I wonder if making "things" will be something that will fall by the wayside as I become more minimalist. I do know that I am having a harder time finding things to make that don't seem like clutter.

I also am making dried loquats and loquat liqueur. The dried fruit will be for snacks, the liqueur will probably be for gifting, depending on how it turns out. One year the liqueur turned out dark brown instead of lovely golden. I still tasted good, but it wasn't lovely for gifting.

This is the weirdest declutter project I have heard of, but while I was rummaging around to see if I had enough vodka to make liqueur I decided to declutter my wine store. No, not like that! Seriously, I have several bottles of wine that I know have to have been there since at least last Easter, if not the year before that. These are not vintage bottles that I will save for my grandchildren's christening -- they need to find a home. I cannot offer them to family, since family gave them to me, so I will be offering them to the other moms in my daughter's dance class. (I envision myself standing by the trunk of the car handing out bottles of wine, and it is not a pretty picture.)

I made blueberry vodka for a nephew's birthday. I'll pack it with the recipe for blueberry vodka lemonade (how's that for a summer refreshment?) and some chocolate port I found, I know port's more of a winter drink, but it sounded too good to pass up. I'll be packaging the vodka in a cute bottle I've been saving for years, so that counts as decluttering as well. (Bonus: the aging vodka is in the cupboard, so it doesn't look cluttery as it steeps.)

Are you getting rid of things? Let me know!

Minimalist-ing to Self-Discovery

I don't actually know if it's a matter of minimalist-ing alone, or if writing about it is more important, but I find that I am getting to know my likes and dislikes better as I examine my possessions with an eye to decluttering.

As I worked at decluttering my craft supplies I realized I don't really love the idea of coming up with ideas for the supplies I have; I'd rather have a vision of something I'd like to make and improvise materials to create that vision. This past Christmas I enjoyed making gift tags and ribbon out of found materials much more than using up felt to make a trivet. (Although I love the way the trivet looks!)

I also am beginning to realize that I would rather give clutter-free gifts, rather than clutter-y gifts. This means I'd rather make seasoned salt, flavored sugar, fruity alcohol, soap, jam, crackers, peanut butter, lotion , bath salts, knitted socks or something rather than give a gift that will sit forever. Since most of the things that are consumable require few permanent supplies, I can get rid of a lot of the supplies I have saved.

I also can spend time throughout the year making alcohol, jam or socks instead of stressing out in November and December. I've always known I like that better.

I'm willing to give away books that I do not reread regularly -- and I'm willing to give away those books I do reread regularly if I'm able to get them easily from the library. (Frankenstein is always checked out in October, so I do need to own it.) The same goes for seasonal movies -- I'm much better at anticipating a need for them.

I find it is interesting that I do not know myself as well as I should; it is interesting that I can get to know myself better by looking to get rid of the things I do not want to keep. I guess it means the real me has been covered in clutter.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Daily Declutter

I did stuff today! I'm much more proud of myself than I should be, but this is the first time in a couple of weeks that I have been able to make a concerted effort to declutter an area. I went out to the shed yesterday, and was faced with the horror of other people not putting things away. I put out of season sheets away in their boxes (I love flannel sheets in winter!), mended a sheet that got torn (on an edge where it doesn't matter for feel but it does matter for wear, and generally put things away.

Then, I started clearing up the craft supplies. I have a really hard time getting rid of these because I feel that they might be useful for a gift, or for a school project. But honestly, my kids are past the age when they need to make a lot of school projects out of cotton balls and popsicle sticks. I threw away baby food jars (but I don't have a baby! If I need them, how will I get them? --- I haven't needed them in 11 years, I'll probably live without them.), lids to jars I no longer have, dirty cardboard (?!). I donated fancy cut-out confetti, modeling clay, flat marbles, a cute basket.

I also created a container of "If I don't use it this year I'm giving it away" stuff. If I found something that is just too useful to give away right now, I put it together. This will be my first line of attack when making gifts for people. The three single pompoms that can be used on a birthday gift tag? Use 'em or lose 'em. The bag of rainbow colored wool fleece? It will become a trivet this year or never. I feel too tense to get rid of this stuff without giving it one last chance, but I also don't want to keep everything forever "just in case." Make the decision now and don't keep everything always.

I know it would be cleaner to just get rid of these supplies and replace them or do without. It would be more "minimalist." But I also want to be true to myself, and I like making personal gifts for people. I like the creative process, and I like having a low impact/zero waste gift giving style. I figure the compromise will be beneficial by the end of the year. Since I've taken so long to collect all my clutter, it's fair to take some time to streamline without making myself or my family feel deprived or pressured to get rid of things to meet an outside standard.

Clutter-free Mother's Day Gifts

I found gift giving really difficult ...ok, always. I have a hard time choosing things for people. I'm a little like Shrek, "Well, I don't really like it, but I thought you might..." I'm also not great at receiving gifts, but I think I fake it pretty well. (I hope so!)

As I embrace minimalism, I don't want to get someone else something that will sit around someone else's house, collecting dust and creating guilt. Another blogger referred to these items as a "clutter burden," and that exactly describes how I feel about some gifts I have given or received. So I've been trying to create a variety of consumable gifts. At Christmas I gave handkerchiefs, body scrub, homemade Nutella lip balm, knitted socks, things like that. I figure they'll get used, used up, and (hopefully) recycled at the end of their lifespans.

But, Mother's Day is coming up, and Father's Day after that. I need new inspiration, and you probably do too. I don't want to just get whatever the radio station is pushing this year. (My radio stations have already started with Mother's Day ads. My mother does not need jewelry or shampoo, but thanks for asking, radio station.)

This year I'll be making flavored salts for a variety of gifting occasions. They're interesting, unusual, and very low waste. Chili-lime salt, on roasted potatoes, sounds amazing to me! Red wine sea salt looks beautiful, and Sichuan- sesame salt is supposed to be yummy on watermelon and mango, and those are just coming into season. I think that would be a great set, and it will end up in a variety of people's gift boxes now and through Christmas this year.

If your mom is more sweet than salty, flavored sugars might be the gift for her. Lemon, orange, vanilla, mint, cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar on toast or cookies, or stir it into tea for a flavor boost.

Bath salts are classic, but there's a reason. I prefer to package them in reused plastic containers (because I don't want to drop glass when I'm barefoot), but if your mom's not clumsy, a pretty glass container is more elegant. I've also made this for my daughter's male dance teacher, but we relabeled it "muscle soak" to be more "manly." If you have a dad who suffers from sore muscles often, this might be something he'll appreciate.

Of course, if you'd prefer to buy something rather than make something, I like experience gifts. A massage, dinner out (on a day that is not Mother's Day!), someone to clean the house -- any of these would be a hit for me. Of course, you know your mother better than I do, so think of the things she does, and either get her something to make her regular activities easier (house cleaning service) or encourage an interest she has. I've seen a lot of Groupons here for wine tasting and painting classes (together), so if your mom is creative, this might be the gift for her. I really like Groupons because they present ideas that I often wouldn't have thought of otherwise, and they get me out of my rut.

I'd love to hear other ideas for Mother's Day gifts, from mothers and not-mothers. I love hearing new ideas for things people can use without making clutter.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Daily Declutter

I'm working to get back on schedule. I shopped for meals through Thursday, and I will be going shopping Friday as usual. In menu planning I cleaned out the pantry (again), getting rid of a couple things I didn't want, and using empty space better. I have open shelving in the kitchen; as I use up the contents of the jars on the open shelves I have not been replenishing as I once did. I will likely not be making chili for the next several months, and I will buy chili beans when autumn approaches. Right now that jar can be used to hold pasta. Thus, the pasta shelf is emptier and more easily examined and things are less likely to be overlooked.

I also looked at a couple other ingredients I primarily use in winter. Dried mushrooms will be converted to mushroom powder or mushroom salt and used up instead of sitting on the shelf for six more months. Coconut flour will become muffins this weekend.

However, when I was putting the suitcases away in the shed, I found a scene of horror and desolation. Ok, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it sure felt like it! People have been shoving things in the shed, and it's virtually impossible to walk around in there. At least I know what I need to work on next! I hope to spend some time out there tomorrow, and in the coming week, to determine what is necessary or desired by my family and what can be donated. Desired things will be stored effectively. Although storing things is less efficient than just getting rid of stuff we aren't using, it does allow my family time to become detached, so they don't rebel against this whole "minimalism - thing" I've introduced.

All in all, things are back to the way they were before we hosted Easter dinner and went on vacation. I now feel I can move forward again.

Minimalist-ing Vacation

I've mostly recovered from our vacation. (Which seems like a ridiculous thing to say, but after our flight, staying up until 1 am, then having to get ready for school the next, I do feel like I need to recover.) I don't have much laundry left to wash, and much of what's left is leftover from Easter dinner. I think I had one extra load from the vacation, consisting of swimsuits.

I'm really happy with what we pack, and what we brought home, for the most part. We went to Hawaii, courtesy of my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), so we didn't need much in the way of warm clothing. As I mentioned before, we brought two backpacks, two carry-on suitcases and a dufflebag of snorkel gear for a week. I would leave the snorkel gear next time, and just rent it there. When you add up the number of days we spent snorkeling vs. the price of buying the gear and paying for checked baggage (both ways), it wasn't worth the cost, and I do not see myself snorkeling here.

I will bring an umbrella next time (we ended up buying some there) because, although rain is usually light, it isn't always. I did bring a sweater (against advice) and that was useful, both on the flight and one or two evenings. It seems like Hawaiians air condition the buildings a lot, and I got chilly indoors, even though it was nice outside. But that's just me.

For the return trip we dropped off a couple things at a thrift store. It gave us space in our bags for the things we collected on the trip (I hesitate to call them souvenirs, but they came home anyway.) Four or five shell necklaces, from the luau. I left mine behind, but the rest of the family seemed to need to take them home. Several boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, and a bag of plain macadamias. A couple of pens with faces and fluffy hair that the kids were given at a show. Palm frond fish that we made at the Polynesian Village (a great outing!) and a couple palm frond headbands. Really, not that bad, although several of these things I wouldn't have brought myself (I would rather then necklaces have been left at the luau, but I'm trying not to make my family nuts with this project, so I didn't suggest they leave their necklaces behind.)

In all, for one week in Hawaii, I packed:
3 dresses (I wore one on the plane, for four dresses in total. One was a "luau dress.")
1 sweater
2 swimsuits
pajamas and robe (because I have a phobia of having to evacuate my room in the middle of the night. It's happened a couple times before, for fire alarms, and I am NOT going out without clothes.)
2 pairs of shoes

The rest of the family packed similarly, with two pairs of shorts and 2-3 t-shirts and 1-2 collared/luau shirts for the guys. We hung up our clothes to air, after wearing, and didn't feel grubby for wearing the same thing more than once. Backpacks contained a reusable water bottle, books and entertainment for the plane, and snacks.

We absolutely did not feel that we needed more, and we thrilled to have a minimal amount of stuff to transport. I hope this information is helpful to you if you're planning to go away for a while -- I looked at a lot of "packing tips" sited before our last vacation, to make sure I wouldn't get there and not have "enough."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Home from Vacation

I spent the last week on vacation with my parents. I lied to myself, and thought I'd post while I was gone, but we were so busy I never thought of it. Not once, until I was in the airport on the way home. Sorry to leave without explanation!

My parents treated us all to a week in Honolulu. It was an amazing experience that we could not have afforded on our own. I am so grateful for my parents, this time together, and this amazing gift!

Traveling by airplane and living in a hotel for a week emphasized how I love minimalism! For the four of us we packed two backpacks, two "carry on" luggage pieces and a dufflebag of snorkel gear. Moving around the airport was great, with each person having one bag to carry. I also learned some things about traveling -- in the future I'd leave the snorkel gear and just rent it there!

Having so few bags meant we had few items to clutter up our hotel room. My kids slept in my parents; room, and their space got pretty cluttered with twice as many people, and my parents had brought more luggage than we did. Enjoying the clean space was very nice! However, we did get rather cluttered by the end of the week because we had purchased things but those things didn't have a "spot." For example, we bought crackers for lunch (crackers, cheese, almond butter and a pineapple make an easy picnic lunch) but there was no kitchen in the room, so they just sort of sat out and shifted around until we finished them up.

I think I could have brought less, and been equally happy. Having less to transport, maintain and collect certainly is easier and more enjoyable than having more.

I will write more about minimalism and this past holiday, but today will be spent in recovery. We need milk, fruit and clean laundry, and that will be my focus for today.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Daily Declutter

Still sick. I've taken a nap every day this week! And not in the good, "I feel lazy I think I'll have a nap" sort of way; more in the "If I don't go lie down I'm going to fall down" sort of way.

However, Spring Cleaning must progress because we have people coming over for Easter. The kids' bathroom has developed an odor (other than usual kid bathroom smell) and we must track it down and destroy it. As a part of that effort, we (and by we, I mean one of the kids because I'm sick and can't smell the smell if they find it) cleared out everything under the sink -- lots of clutter removed there. I'm not sure what everything was, but I know there's a lot less in there now.

I also washed the shower curtain with vinegar, removed the bathmat to wash (not done yet, but it is planned, with the cleaning rags and other gross things) and the odor is now gone. Two benefits in one!

This year, despite suffering from the terrible virus of Terribleness, getting ready for Easter has largely been easier than usual. The flat areas that usually collect so much debris are already clear. Lots of areas are less cluttered, and habits I'm implementing seem to be making a generally favorable impact overall.

Not minimalist, but definitely better than it's been in the past.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At least we're not falling behind

I have been sick with a horrible cough. It keeps me up nights, so I'm exhausted as well, from not sleeping. (Duh.) I've been doing things like...sitting on the sofa reading books, and napping. Not exactly making a lot of forward progress. Oh, and laryngitis. So I've been practicing my charades skills. (Not as much fun when I'm acting out "go empty the dishwasher.")

 I was planning to spring clean and get rid of some family possessions, but my current plan is simply to make the house clean enough to host the family on Easter. Thankfully everyone is bringing something to share, or I'd have to cancel, seriously. However, the doctor says I only have a virus, and it will pass in two weeks, at the latest. In case you're keeping track, that's exactly the length of Spring Break, so that's comforting.

And I'm crabby. Did I mention I'm crabby?

Yesterday my husband went to his dad's house to clear out the attic. His parents stored everything in the attic. Taxes from their parents, greeting cards, collections they no longer collect, two toaster ovens, pillows, photographs (please, please don't store your photographs in the attic! If the heat doesn't get them, the silverfish will).

My wonderful husband did NOT bring home a lot of things to keep. A plastic trash can to replace one in the garage that is broken (one in, one out). A few books. Two old suitcases (which I use for storage, instead of plastic totes. I'm hoping the train case can replace my plastic bin of craft supplies). His school records, which he plans to look through with the kids, then recycle. A few other things on that line.

I'm so happy and grateful that he did not come home with boxes of things that had been important once, that no longer have utility to my husband or anyone. It is so easy to look at that sort of thing, remember the memory and suddenly become unable to get rid of the item. Although we've been living happily without a memory of his third grade teacher, or the coloring book from the trip he took in 1981 (I'm not making this up), it is easy to get bogged down with the memories.

So, although I'm not doing anything useful right now, I will be grateful that things aren't getting worse while I lie around looking like furniture.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Daily Declutter

Yesterday was win some, lose some. I got rid of a couple more pitchers, a beautiful blue glass bottle that I never use (but it would look really pretty with a couple yellow daisies sticking out of it. Not that I do that. So out it went), a couple of clear glass Pyrex bowls (the one used for school went out to storage with other school stuff). Laundry was washed, folded and put away.

I also emptied the dish drainer and put it away under the sink. The kitchen looks so much tidier without the dishes piled up all day, so I will try to implement this as a new daily habit. (When the dishwasher gets emptied people put things on the rack to finish drying, and the drying rack has developed a habit of always sitting there, full of clean dishes, until the next load of dishes need to be dried. Not lovely.)

However, the decorations above the kitchen cabinets are going back up. My family missed them, and asked for them back. I will put that back this morning, as they live here too, and they get a say in what the house looks like. This is part of the reason I am decluttering so slowly (I remind myself), so my family can participate in the process and also be comfortable at home. But I'm pretty disappointed that they noticed, and resisted.

Still, the amount of stuff I got out of the cupboard was significant, and those cupboards continue to become more functional.

Today is shopping day, so I will be running around getting all my errands done. I already emptied the dish rack and my menu is mostly made for next week (Spring Break! Hooray!) so I have a good start on today, and I am optimistic that the day will be a productive one. I might even be able to get the shelving unit and the weed trimmer posted to Craigslist, making a lot more storage space and room to park the truck in the garage!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Catching Up

Sorry I've been absent. My daughter borrowed the computer to work on a project at a friend's house, and while she brought the computer home, she left the power cord. So I've been without access to the internet for a couple days, while we waited for the cord to come home.

I made good use of the time, however. We went to Disneyland (our last time on the Southern California pass), then came home and spent the day at the theatre, with my daughter's dance show. So I wouldn't have had much time for writing -- I haven't had time for decluttering, either, so I wouldn't have had much to write about.

I feel so motivated, though. My daughter's friend had an absolutely beautiful, minimalist home. I even got to peek in her pantry, and that was not cluttered, either. The house felt calm, and tidy, and spacious -- even with a bunch of middle school girls working on a project. I know my home feels cluttered and untidy because I feel the need to deal with a lot of the clutter that lies around here, but I'd like that feeling of calm to be part of my home. I'd like to get rid of pieces of furniture to make the house feel more spacious -- but I'm pretty sure the calm wouldn't happen in that case, because my family would rebel against the changes. So I will soldier on, but more aggressively, I think.

I did remove all the decorative items from above the cabinets. No one has noticed, but I do like the clean look of not having stuff up there. And if no one notices, no one must mind, right? Or maybe it's because no one had been home.

I'm also planning to move the things we use once a year out to the storage area. My husband has a couple of household items that he uses once a year for school. I can move those outside, making better use of living space and still have the things we need. A compromise that will keep both of us happy.

Other than that, I'm just doing the things I need to do to keep the house running. Laundry, menu planning, cleaning. Hopefully I can declutter a little while I'm at it!