Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

I will be taking a (deliberate) break from posting for Christmas. I'll be back when the family goes back to school.

I wish everyone a peaceful, joyful season. Christmas should be more than one day -- I'd like to carry Christmas with me throughout the year, like Scrooge, but for right now I'm trying to keep the magic through Epiphany (January 6th). I'll be spending time with the family, reading books, walking the dogs, playing games. Napping. Watching movies -- we haven't even gotten around to watching A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott) this year, and this Needs To Be Done.

I will take this opportunity to be grateful for my blessing, starting with my family. I little family, who made Christmas cookies by themselves and my husband who wrote the Christmas letter, addressed and sent the Christmas cards. And my big family who have held together this difficult year. And my friends, who held me together when I felt like snarling and snapping even though I knew my family didn't deserve it.

Is simple living carrying the spirit of Christmas throughout the year? It might be. But at least it will be for the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Out With The Old

I should have this down already.

I ended up decluttering my clothes a little, because I bought a couple of new dresses. My new dresses are so beautiful -- I cannot remember the last time I loved clothing this much! They're long enough to wear with boots (and I can wear socks, and not have cold feet!), and made by people who are paid a living wage, and absolutely beautiful in cut and color. (I got them from eShakti, if you're in need to a pretty dress. Or other clothes.

I bought these dresses -- new! -- because I usually feel like I don't have a dress to wear to church. I get frustrated because I feel like I am too limited by the options that I have. So I bought something I feel good about. (I know, this isn't really the insight of the ages, but it's really unusual for me to purchase something new. I usually stick to second-hand, because I can feel good about used as a responsible environmental choice.)

It's been two weeks, and I finally realized that I needed to get rid of the dresses I had before that I didn't want to wear. I had a boring tan business dress that I didn't like because it was so boring. I had a pretty green polka dot dress that will not zip with me in it.

While I was at it, I cleared out a shirt that I just don't like. My family likes it, and always complements me on it, but I don't feel good when I choose it out of the closet. And I don't feel good when I see it, and feel like I ought to wear it, but I don't want to. Who needs this pressure from clothes? Gone. I got rid of a sweater I don't ever choose to wear -- I have one I like better. (I should have gotten rid of this one when I got the new one, but I can't go back in time.)

I feel so proud of myself for being aware of the increase in stuff, and recognizing that I need to pare back. Make space for the new by getting rid of the old. It should be habit now, but "should" doesn't help, so it really has no  relevance in my actions. I do what I can when I realize I need to, and move forward from there.

But I am really happy with my cleared-out clothing storage, and my new dresses.

Monday, December 17, 2018

There is a Season

I was reading a friend's blog (Hi, Trish!), and she got me thinking about the season we are currently celebrating. According to the church calendar, we are currently in the season of Advent. Advent is the season of preparation prior to Christmas.

So why does this matter? Because I always felt a conflict between how I was supposed to feel at "Christmas" and how I actually felt. On more than one occasion I would end up in tears, torn between the stress of the "Christmas" season and the joy I wanted to feel. Christmas is supposed to be joyful, right? So why wasn't I feeling any joy, right up to Christmas Eve or Christmas morning when the joy usually appeared, suddenly and surprisingly.

I was reading a historical novel some years ago (I have no idea what), and the characters were preparing for Christmas during the season of Advent (sewing or whatever historical characters do), then they celebrated Christmas during the twelve days following. And I was struck suddenly that we do not allow ourselves to prepare to celebrate -- we expect to do both things at once.

But in real life, we prepare before the anticipated event happens. I prepared long and hard before my children were born. I prepare before a birthday party, or other family party. My daughter prepares, starting in August, prior to our annual Christmas caroling party. We prepare before finals, we prepare before a vacation. We should prepare before Christmas!

If we waited until the baby arrived to paint the nursery, purchase clothes, acquire a crib, we'd be too busy and stressed to enjoy the baby. (And we'd be too sleep deprived to enjoy selecting colors and all the other things I did.) I enjoyed selecting a paint color, a wallpaper border, and baby clothes while anticipating the arrival of my first child. If I had waited until he arrived, I would either have been overwhelmed by the need to address all the details or I would have skipped them altogether.

So we now recognize that Christmas doesn't start until Christmas Eve. We do fun things to anticipate Christmas, but we don't have to be joyful yet. We watch the Grinch, we make Christmas cookies, we study for finals, and we purchase presents in preparation for what is coming. But by recognizing that  the preparation isn't the goal, I feel free of the pressure to feel differently than I actually feel.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Good News

It's been almost a week, and I'm still off Pinterest. I realize it is such a habit to pop over after I check my email, etc, but knowing that I "no longer do that" halts my click. I don't type in the keystrokes to go waste my time.

It's just willpower, but it only takes a second. I am wasting more time with Ted Talks on Youtube, but since that's educational, I think it's ok. I found a really amazing talk yesterday about stopping desertification of the grasslands, and it gave us a conversational start at the dinner table last night. Sharing good news, hopeful news about the environment is a really nice change from most of the environmental news I've heard lately.

Actually, that's not true. I've been hearing a lot of really hopeful news lately. Morning Edition ran a piece about a company, Carbon Engineering, that is pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. They're currently planning to make that carbon into fuel, to create a closed carbon cycle, but they could also bury the carbon, to reduce the amount of excess carbon that is currently in the atmosphere. I also heard a Youtube about Plastic Bank, an organization that pays people in impoverished countries to collect the plastic litter that washes into the oceans, and Plastic Bank then recycles they plastic.

Because I listen to Ted Talks while I work, I'm also getting more done. Because this time of year, I can definitely find things to do while I listen, rather than mindlessly scroll down. Presents are being made and wrapped while I listen to happy things.

I'm so excited to learn about the good things that are going on in the world. People are working to reduce waste, protect the oceans, reverse climate change. And I have learned all this in the week since I stopped browsing Pinterest mindlessly. I knew in my mind that the endless time was a bad use of time, but I'm so happy to learn the difference in my heart!

Monday, December 10, 2018


Yesterday was amazing, but only by dumb luck. My son had a meeting for one of his activities, so we had to cancel our family plans. We were going to a holiday parade, on the bay, watching the decorated boats float past.

So we changed our plans. We took a nap after church, and watched a Christmas movie. Then my son left for his meeting. Shortly thereafter, he calls to say that he's on his way back home because there was no meeting this month.

I was growl-y. We canceled our plans for him! But you know what? We were better off for it. We played a couple of games (including a new one we got for Advent, El Dorado, which we really like!) finished our movie, munched on dinner (everyone fended for themselves, which largely entailed eating what I made for myself) and finished the night relaxed.

I got my simple night! After my initial growl (how can you pay so little attention to not know there was no meeting!), we realized that we were where we really wanted to be. Needed to be. Not running around trying to fit in all the holiday activities, but home, enjoying family time. We ended up with more happiness, more joy, by sitting at home with the family than by rushing across town to sit in the cold, watching the boats drift by.

I know this. I know that over-scheduling is the opposite of the simple, peaceful life I want. But it's hard to remember, day by day, as interesting opportunities present themselves. So I will just be grateful for the moment of serendipity that allowed me to miss out on the interesting opportunity and enjoy the important one.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

In Which There Is a Chicken In My Bathroom

I have started my Pinterest fast.

I am hooked on Pinterest, and it does not make me happy. I know I spend too much time just browsing, seeing what's new, instead of using it as the tool I originally intended. It's a bad habit, and it wastes time, but I didn't realize it was actively making me unhappy until I watched this video from a couple who took the entire month off internet. The woman commented that it was making her unhappy to see all the terrible things people did to each other, and that really resonated with me. I do feel unhappy after I spend time on Pinterest. So it had to go.

I realized that every time I check my email, or do other necessary things online, I finish up with a quick browse on Pinterest. For a half hour or more (that's not actually quick!). And since I didn't have a book I was interested in, I'm browsing Pinterest while I eat, or in the evenings when my husband is reading before bed. I know it's a terrible habit, and I will have to break it. I just need to develop a new habit to replace my old one. And I need to stop by the library for a new book. (In the meantime I'm reading Your Money or Your Life again. I even heard that a new edition is in production!)

And I think I was more aware of my family. I want to be more involved, since I have so little time before my kids move out, to college and after.

And as for the chicken: last night, when my son went out to put the chickens away, he found one poor hen just sitting in a puddle in the rain, soaked and miserable. Since our coop is unheated (Southern California!), he brought her in, in a cat carrier, and left her in the bathroom with a space heater all night. This morning she was looking dry and perky, but still sleepy, so she remains in the bathroom. I'm saying this because I'm going for realism. My life if weird, and not perfect. But our chicken is recovering, and my kids are happy that she's recovering. And if life's not exactly simple, at least I'm paying (better) attention to the important parts. Or at least, that's what I tell myself.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A New Focus

I fell off the decluttering wagon. Not that I've been ADDING clutter, but I just got to the point that I was no longer finding things to remove. And so I didn't have anything to write about. But that's not really the point of this blog -- I'm trying to simplify my life, focus on my family and move toward financial independence. Getting rid of all my stuff isn't the solution. So I might still post if I declutter a bunch of stuff, but I'm hoping to have insights beyond just the junk.

We're making great strides toward paying off the car loan -- after that, extra money will go to pay off the mortgage. I'd really like to get to a point where we are not required to work 40 hours a week (as a family). The kids are getting older, and college is looming. Our home won't be the same in a few years -- I won't have anyone to stay home with. Having flexibility to do what we need with our time (as a couple) will be easier if we're not required to work so many hours a week to meet our bills. We might even downsize (eventually), pull out the equity from our home, and do something crazy.

To increase our auto-payoff plan I began substitute teaching at my kids' school. My schedule works with their schedule -- I can be there for drop-off and pick-up -- and I can stay home for doctor's appointments, dentist appointments, orthodontist many appointments!

My mom's shop will not make us financially independent, but it's a great opportunity to work with my mom and my sister, and the money does help with debt. Thankfully, we're a little more stable now. I don't have as much clothing all over the house; I have been painting some furniture for the shop, based off what I find on Craigslist (I was especially pleased with a desk I painted). Bringing things back from the brink!

My niece is working with a group of refugees, helping them adjust to the US. I'm facilitating the stuff for them -- finding cribs, high chairs, coffee tables, clothes for them, and spending a little more time seeing my niece. I'm so proud of her!

I know this is long, and not exactly simple, but I'm moving forward in a new direction. I'm still working toward the same goals, but I find that getting rid of things is only a small part of what I really want to do with my life.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Daily Declutter

I have backed off my wonderful "only shop once a week" plan. My son is taking classes at the local community college, and he doesn't drive yet -- so I have two hours to kill, not close to home, not far from shops. The puppy and I hit a couple of shops and didn't buy anything except a Christmas present for my husband. So despite wasting a couple of hours shopping, at least I didn't bring anything home!

I posted several items to ebay -- two of which have received some interest! I am looking forward to those items moving on to new, useful, lives. The things that were posted before are off to the charity shop, and hopefully someone there will appreciate them.

I continue to move slowly. When my son gets his driver's license, things should speed up on the homefront. In the mean time, I am helping my family achieve their goals, which is my ultimate aim. I can declutter later (I'm sure I will declutter later regardless!) Focusing on them, and their activities, will keep me from feeling frustrated that the house remains more cluttered than I would like. But to get more accomplished, I'd have to give up things I want more -- like an afternoon walk by the river.

I just need to keep reminding myself why I don't get more done more quickly -- because I'm busy doing other things!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Daily Declutter

I have been decluttering bits and dabs, but I haven't had computer access. (My son has been using the computer to do homework. As if.) The bits I have been doing feel productive, so even though I haven't had much said, I feel like I'm doing something.

I (bravely) moved most of the things I had on ebay to the declutter pile. I wasn't getting any interest, they weren't high value items, and I can use the space for other things. Like the new items I have pulled to sell. I even posted the first item last night! I have a collectible cup and a couple of bundles of silk yarn. I bought a lot of yarn for the wool in the lot, and I am unlikely to use the silk -- so it can go be useful somewhere else.

I got rid of some picture frames I haven't used in multiple years. Why do I even have those! I gave away some Sculpey clay, brand new, that I bought for a party and never used. Someone else will have fun with that, and I can decrease the size of my craft stash with that one simple deduction. I'd love to reduce all my crafts down to a small plastic box (or vintage train case!) for crafts and another one for paints. (I also threw away a dried up bottle of paint, but I don't feel virtuous for that. It should be obvious. Should.)

I haven't removed any large items. I haven't even removed a lot from the house (a good bit has been from the storage shed). But I am reducing the overall load of stuff I own. Things are moving the right direction (I spent three hours at the mall, waiting for my daughter to attend a party, and I wasn't even tempted to buy anything). I am making progress!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Daily Declutter

The clutter has crept back over the weekend! I did send off one item I sold on ebay -- ebay tempted my to repost my other items, but I will be strong next time! Things aren't being looked at, so I suspect they will just continue to take up space in my barn. I can clear that out this week and move on.

I cleared out the cupboard where I keep jars, appliances and serving bowls (yes, I know there is no overlap in use there. It's a giant, three-door cupboard and I keep things I don't use in the middle of cooking over there.) Jars without lids, lids without jars, jars I don't use and a popsicle maker that I haven't used in several summers all went on the chopping block. I also found a lot of dish towels. I'm having difficulty getting rid of them, because they're useful. And stained, so no one else will want them. If I can soak the stains out I'll put some away for the kids when they move out, and the rest I'll just use up until they get torn or worn through. All in one cupboard! Now I can un-stack my serving bowls so they won't get chipped as much, and they'll be easier to use.

Little steps.

However, there are piles on the counter, and piles on the shelf by the front door. Shopping bags have collected on the shelf. (I probably should declutter the shopping bags as well!) I don't have many responsibilities outside the house today, so I'm optimistic that the ordinary decluttering will get accomplished and make a difference in the house quickly. I think I even have time to put the dishtowels in to soak!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Minimalism and Scheduling

I spent the entire day (well, most of the day) working in the garage, sanding and painting furniture for the shop. Not glamorous. The painted child's table is cute, but I haven't really made progress with my living space.

I read a friend's blog, and she mentioned reducing her commitments as part of minimalism. I really like including that aspect of minimalism. Minimalism isn't just about the physical things; it's about reducing the surplus from your life so you can enjoy your life.

I have a high schooler who attends classes at the junior college, takes a sport, is very involved in 4H and doesn't drive. And another high schooler who is raising a Guide Dog for the Blind puppy (with meetings). And I volunteer at my church, and run a shop with my mom and sister, and try to make a little money on the side. And I'm married, and I'd like to remain so. It's not a simply schedule, and it's hard to determine where to make cuts in order to simplify our lives and our time together.

Part of me wants to make cuts in our schedule. Drop the sport. Don't get another puppy. But this is out life right now. Kids activities are what helps our kids to grow into the people they want to be. Raising animals, helping people are important activities and I want the kids to be contributing members of society.

For now I keep our Sunday separate. We do occasional petting zoos through 4H, attend church and occasionally put on a shared meal, and visit my parents on various Sundays. But we usually keep Sundays as our day of rest, spending time together, playing games or just reading in the same room. It gives us the rest, and time together.

I will continue to look for ways to cut down our obligations, but I don't want to cut things that are important to someone just to meet the goal of minimalism. Minimalism is the tool to make our lives enjoyable, not a goal in itself. If I don't declutter anything on a given day, it might not be a failure. Perhaps I am just doing the things I intend to do in my life.

Perhaps sanding and painting just give me a lot of time to think.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Daily Declutter

The problem with clutter around my house is that the stuff starts off as useful. Then it slowly outlives its usefulness and it hides out in my house. At least, that's one of the clutter problems.

I cleared out the mugs yesterday. There was some grumbling in the ranks, but we no longer have three mugs that no one uses. They are all too small for our giant cups of tea! I need lots of tea to get me moving in the morning. So the cute-but-useless cups can move on to their next life. (The cup in the shape of a dinosaur moved on to my son's memory box. It actually was put away in there. If he has a special child in his life at some point, my son can share his cup with that child. If he runs out of room in the box, he can decide what is really special after all.)

I also found tour books from past vacations. They won't really be useful to other people at this point (we should have passed them on sooner) but they also won't fill up our bookshelves. Our shelves have become over-full, and display items, pictures and things, had been shoved to the side to make room for books. Just eliminating those few books created enough space to go back to displaying pictures from our trip -- a much better use of space in my opinion.

I also spent the morning taking a standardized test for the first time in many, many years. The testing format is exhausting! I will give my kids a lot more support when they have to test in the future. If for no other reason than because it reminds me how hard testing is, I'm glad I did that yesterday. Even if it did prevent me from getting a whole lot of decluttering accomplished.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Daily Update

I have moved every shop-related container out of the house! I have washed and priced and packaged everything, and I no longer have baskets and boxes and bags lying around! Better yet, they are now at my mom's house, to go into the shop and be useful to someone else.

Just getting that done makes everything else easier. The top layer of clutter is gone.

Menus are planned for the week -- no emergency last-minute runs to the grocery. Nothing fancy this week, but no last-minute time sucks.

I  finished knitting a Christmas gift. Now I can get rid of the leftover yarn, since I never really cared for the way it knits (but it will work for the project).

This week I can start to actually work on the second layer of clutter -- the stuff that makes life more challenging. I'll be clearing out the cups in the cupboard -- my husband says they all fit if we just put forth the effort. I'll clear out the ones no one uses, and save the effort!

Not exactly minimalist, but definitely simplifying: the puppy has developed a schedule, and does his business on command! Less time walking him in circles and fewer rags to wash, so I feel highly rewarded!

Today I have a written test, so I can substitute teach at the kids' school, so I won't get as much decluttered as I might other days. However, forward progress is my goal, not perfection!

Friday, September 21, 2018


Well, yesterday I did not move forward. I almost did, a couple of times, but I didn't complete anything. However, I am writing about it, which would not have happened in the past. I'm trying to keep the writing going, even if I haven't done anything to report.

I went shopping, but I forgot my list. So I'll have to go out again for the items I need but which I forgot (I didn't accomplish the "once a week shopping" which is my goal).

I worked on laundry, but I still have a basket worth to fold and put away.

I didn't do anything with the basket of clothes for the shop. (I keep dealing with things for the shop. I may have found a source of clutter.)

I will remain optimistic that things didn't get any worse yesterday. I put away the groceries I purchased.

And that's about it for today.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Daily Declutter


In the last several days, since I have felt I need to have something to write about, I have discovered a lot of clutter. I begin to understand why I have been feeling so...enclosed by the house. There's just so much stuff here, stuff I have stopped seeing but continued feeling.

I noticed a stack of Consumer Reports magazines. I received them as a gift, they showed up in the mail, and I stored them every month! I don't care for this magazine -- if makes me feel I need to go buy things every month, and makes me feel like the things I have are no longer good enough. So I stored the magazine, in case I found that I would need it later. So that's in the car, waiting to be dropped off at the library. If I  -- or someone else -- needs to purchase a new mattress or refrigerator or whatever, it will be there. And not at my house.

I returned the baby-size puppy kennel to someone else who will be getting a puppy this month. It is one fewer thing for me to store, one fewer thing that needs to be purchased. One of the other women in our puppy-raising group was surprised that we didn't have our own. Less to own, less to store is better for me.

I processed two more bundles of product for the shop. I just have to get them into the actual shop, and I will have a lot of storage space freed up.

I'm so optimistic about the bits of clutter that I am suddenly perceiving and removing. Since the beginning of the week, I am much more aware of the sources and piles of clutter I have, and I am taking steps to better my environment. Just knowing that the internet is waiting to see an improvement in my efforts is enough to make me more aware. I don't have an agenda of decluttering today -- today is shopping day, and I still need to make a menu -- but I am confident that I will find things to remove anyway. It's a good way to start the day!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Daily Declutter

I am amazed at how much I can do when I feel accountable!

I posted several items that have been sitting on my "Ebay shelf" since before we left on summer vacation. If they don't sell very soon, I will just donate them and be done with it. Nothing is worth a lot of money, but it seems like too much to just donate. I have not posted the coffee cups from my wedding china, but I hope to do that soon. Maybe someone will want them for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I can only hope someone will want them, and they can move out of my house!

In my peregrinations yesterday, I also spotted several skeins of acrylic yarn. I hate knitting with acrylic, and I accidentally acquired these. I will pass them along to my young niece, who is learning to crochet. I think she will be happy to have anything to practice on, and not care what the material is.

I priced a large box of winter clothes for the shop. I have been ignoring it since last spring; now I have a large empty spot on the shelf, and I have one fewer thing weighing on my mind. The worst part is, it didn't even take that long, but I've been avoiding it -- and feeling the mental clutter -- for about six months!

Even the giant pile of bananas if diminishing. I put a few bunches in the freezer and I gave two bunches to a friend who stopped by and dropped off clothes for the shop. Of course, now I have clothes to sort for the shop, but surely I will get those done quickly, and not let them linger. For I am sure I have learned my lesson on dealing with clothes. (sarcasm font. If not for the sense of accountability I feel when I'm blogging, I'm afraid I would let these items linger -- in my way -- for a week or two!)

I only dealt with a few items around the house -- most things were in the shed, or virtual, but I already feel lighter, as if I'm moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Baby Steps

I didn't manage to get rid of any clutter yesterday. In fact, I accepted a giant mound of bananas that otherwise would have been wasted (I'm really opposed to food waste!) and I will need to deal with them soon. Many will be frozen for baking this winter, but I will also be looking for homes for fresh bananas.

I am working on some of the mental clutter. I finished mending a pair of jeans, and continue knitting a pair of socks I started years ago. I feel guilty about starting the wool if I don't finish it -- no one else will want to deal with yarn of mysterious origin, half knitted into socks. So I knit while waiting at the doctor's office. It will reduce the backlog of projects I am still willing to house, and create something useful, possibly a Christmas present.

I'm also pulled out a box of clothes that need to be priced for the shop. Just moving it out of storage seems like a big move. I will be glad when they are all priced and moved out of my house, and out of my responsibility.

I'm mostly appreciating the patterns that I have set up. Menu planning made yesterday's late afternoon at the doctor easier, because I knew what I was making for dinner, and I wasn't mentally rushed to try and get food on the table (or worse, be tempted to pick something up. If I buy dinner I  make trash and eat something that will make me feel ill). I'm glad I didn't have to worry  about running out of milk and have to stop on the way home.

I need to deal with some of the necessary clutter we've been accepting. I still don't have a permanent home for the puppy supplies, and I definitely need to do something with the bananas! But I did have a clear spot to store the bananas on the bar, so that's a sign of progress!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Trying Again

Because that's what life is about, isn't it? Trying and failing and trying again, until you get it right? So once again, I will pick up my pen (figuratively speaking) and try to record my failures and successes as I work toward making my life fit.

I have mostly been adding to my life, not minimizing. Not in material things, but in activities. My son is taking classes at the community college two days a week -- and he is not able to drive himself. But this is an activity I want to support, so off I drive. I try to fit in errands at the same time, but this is contrary to my "only shopping one day a week" plan that I liked to much. However, two days a week is better than four days a week -- he had been going four, but he dropped a class because it was just too much. I am happier, he is happier, the whole family is happier. So I'll call this a minimalist win; reducing the number of classes so he can be happier is better than trying to cram more classes in, so he can take more credits to college.

I'm taking my friend's mother-in-law to a doctor's appointment. She can no longer take herself. My friend will benefit from not having to be two places at once, and I will make a nominal amount to apply toward debts. Eliminating my auto loan and mortgage is a high priority for me, so the extra money will come out of the simplicity I desire. It's a balance, but it will help out a friend, and that's a benefit as well.

The most un-minimalist thing I have added is a puppy. He is absolutely adorable, in the nature of puppies. He is almost 14 weeks old at this point, mostly housebroken (we're still working on recognizing his signals when he needs out), and he is being trained to be a Guide Dog when he grows up. This involves a lot of extra training! But my daughter wants to train animals professionally as an adult, and this is a good first step for her. So we have barriers around the house (to keep him from foraging in the kitchen) and puddles on the floor, and regular meetings to support us in training him. Again, not minimalist, but part of life.

So, if I want to pursue minimalism, and simplicity around the home, why am I adding so much activity to my life? Because life is about people. The people who make up my life come before reducing the number of table clothes I store (4). I continue to menu plan, and combine shopping trips, and reduce clutter (the puppy does help identify clutter, and shoes left lying around!) so I can help out a friend or support my children in their interests. Hopefully, I will also be able to reduce the clutter and distractions around the house, and I want to record and recognize my improvements.

So once more into the breach! Once again, I will improve my life, and recognize my tiny steps by reflecting and recording them daily.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Daily Declutter

Well, I haven't made a lot of progress with home items, but I have finished a huge project for the shop! I have finally priced everything that needed pricing, and I get my living room back! I know I've worked toward this goal before (and I'm sure I'll get overrun again), but for now I'm back on the ball.

All I really need is to move the baby chickens out of the house, and I'll feel really back on my game. But the point of minimalism (I remind myself over and over) is to make room for the things that really matter. My children really matter to me, and chickens really matter to them.

But as soon as the weather warms up and the rain stops, the chickens are moving out. We'll have a clean, tidy living room, with no poultry in the house, and I'll be able to start clearing up the things my father-in-law sent home when he moved out. <sigh>

And once again, I remind myself that life is a journey, not a destination.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Daily Declutter

I have been working on outside tasks, so I haven't been making forward progress the way I would like.

I have several items I would like to post on ebay, but the weather has not been auspicious for photography. I get better pictures outside, when the sun is shining, but we have been having rain and intermittent rain the last week. I'd rather have the rain than take the photos, so my clutter will sit around, waiting for a picture taking opportunity.

By greatest victory remains my menu planning. I am down to minimal food in the fridge (read: minimal for feeding a teenage boy) and today is shopping day. Very little waste, no excess trips to the grocery, time saved!

Yesterday was one of those days that really make my long for my fantasy life. You know, the easy one with access to good public transit and only one car. The day before my car simply wouldn't start when I tried -- even though it worked fine and hour before. The tow truck driver got it to the garage, and yesterday I was able to pick it up. But I had to get up early to dive my husband in to work, and pick him up later, and pay more than was fun to (hopefully) assure the car will function in the future. Fantasy me doesn't have to worry, because she lives in a smaller house with good buses nearby, and she can maintain a new, fuel efficient car rather than try to maintain the beast. But we got through. And I will continue working on the steps that I need to move forward into my fantasy life. Like selling the clutter, paying off the car, and preparing for a move in a part of town with good public transit!

(When I was in school I lived right by a bus stop, with a beautiful, clean, frequent bus. I loved taking the bus back then! I grocery shopped, worked, did everything off the bus. I know every bus isn't like that, but this is my fantasy life and I get to do what I like here.)

I'm almost done sorting the good clothes from the bad, for the shop. When we bought the shop it came with a bunch of clothes, and we have replaced the un-purchased goods with fresh stock. I am sorting through it, and finding a lot of the things that were left are stained, damaged or otherwise unsuitable. Again, my house looks like the opposite of the clean, uncluttered home I desire. But I am optimistic I can complete this task today, and clear out the boxes from the house! (The damaged clothes will be clearanced for play clothes. Please, please, if you have little kids, buy second hand, and use damaged clothes for play-clothes! Play clothes -- not allowed in public -- allow kids to get messy without worrying what Mom will say. And there are So. Many. Clothes. already out there. We do not need to create more, and we do not need to buy new every time!)

I'm telling myself that, as soon as I get the clothes from the shop sorted, I will get the house in order. I'm not sure I believe myself. But I do know that the bits I have done are better than where we were before! If you're going on this journey with me, and especially if you're just beginning, I want to encourage you to do something -- even a little bit -- every day.

Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Laureate and environmental activist, told a story about a person who found she was on the wrong bus, going the wrong direction on her travels. She said the person had a number of options when she found that she was going the wrong way, but the best reaction was to get off the bus so she can catch a new bus. This is where I am. I have gotten off the bus, and I am walking to where I want to go. Hopefully, I will catch another bus while I am walking, a bus going the correct direction. But in the meantime I am moving toward where I want to go, and I am no longer on the wrong bus!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Change is not simple...but it can be good!

Yesterday, my daughter got her haircut! It is her first haircut, ever, and she is fast approaching her teen years. We got through it with no tears, and I am so happy to finally be done with the struggle.

I expected she would be able to comb her hair out every day. I may be expecting too much of a child in middle school, but that was my expectation. And apparently I was wrong. Because it got tangled. Badly tangled. And I combed it out, with a stern warning to do better. Nothing happened. We repeated the cycle,

So I threatened to have it cut. She cried. I combed her hair out, and warned her sternly. We repeated the cycle.

I gave her a deadline. My husband combed her hair. Nothing happened. Her hair returned to the Horrible Tangle.

Then yesterday, she said she was ready. She wanted it cut. Before Easter. That very day.

So we did it! I took her right away, to one of the cheap places that do not require a reservation. The hairdresser charged double, because she had to comb most of the tangle out (or she'd have to cut the tangle out at the scalp -- a little too short for a first haircut!). And my daughter is thrilled with her new look. The hairdresser spend time talking over what hair care needs to look like (including combing her hair twice a day, to prevent a return of the terrible tangle.)

So, why am I writing about this here? (Other than my glee that there were no tears of regret yesterday.) It was hard making the change, and getting rid of the long hair she has had all her life. But the long hair was no longer serving her. It had a lot of memories, and a lot of her identity had always been wrapped up in being "the girl with all the hair." But it was just bring her down -- it was bring us all down, as a source of conflict. And now we're free!

The Traumatic Hair Event is a metaphor for the sentimental clutter that is clogging homes and lives. It's hard to deal with, it's hard to get rid of, but it's so freeing when it's gone!

I hope this will be inspirational to my family, and to others, to get rid of the emotional clutter that is weighing us down!

Daily Declutter

I was looking through the medicine cupboard and found a bunch of meds from when my dog was a puppy. At least one had expired, and the rest were for I'm not sure what. I know they were for allergies, but I can't remember the dosage. So out they went. I'm surprised they lasted so long.

I successfully came home from my father-in-law's without bringing home any clutter that he doesn't have a use for. That should count for something! It's the first time in a long time we've managed to get away without a box of discards.

I downgraded a shirt to become pajamas, because my old pajama shirt was scratchy. This makes me happy because I always felt frumpy in the shirt, but I liked it because it was so soft. And now, I have fewer things in my closet. I also removed a shirt that I haven't worn in months. It's a pretty shirt, but I never choose it. Now someone else can choose it!

I can see the difference already, even from the little bits I've cleaned up. The microwave looks tidy now -- since the peppers have gone, the other clutter there have wandered off. The bar is (mostly) better.

The baby chickens in the living room are not adding to the tidiness, but they are cute, and make my family (and my dog!) happy. (The dog watches the chicks with a slowly waving tail. Occasionally, he barks at them when he is overcome with emotion.)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Don't Save Your Stuff!

Yesterday, I worked up at my mom's shop. Every time I go there (instead of working from home) I get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that exists. In the shop, in the world, in my house. Sorry, family.

We had one woman stop by who was debating selling back her baby things. She is planning to have another baby in about three years, and she has storage space. So why not save her things,she wondered, so she doesn't have to buy them again?

I have several reasons. Because they will be out of style in three years. Because they may get damaged in storage (my mother knows someone who stored her baby things, but they were eaten my mice in storage. Yuck.) by bugs, rodents or weather. Because plastic deteriorates and becomes brittle when exposed to heat -- and many storage spaces are either very hot or very cold. Because you will be excited, and want to get new sheets or other items (or a family member will). Because you will want fewer, or newer things for your next baby -- manufacturers are innovating all the time. Because someone else can use it in the meantime -- or several someones might.

These reasons apply to almost anything you can store. Your too-small clothes can be worn by someone else until you get back to that size -- and you can buy fashionable things when you meet your goal weight. Your crafting materials can go to someone else, and you can use the new ones you really want (you know that's true, or you wouldn't have so much fabric or yarn stored away!). The books you bought but haven't read. The suitcases for the long-anticipated vacation. The storage jars that might be useful someday. (I'm guilty of this too! I don't try to kid myself. That's why I write.)

My mother-in-law stored boxes of paperback books in her attic for when she was "old and poor." Her plan was to forget the books, and be able to read them fresh in her dotage.  Unfortunately, she passed away sooner than she expected, and never got around to rereading those books. When we pulled them out of the attic this year, they were yellowed and the glue in the binding had deteriorated so much that they are of use to no one. They had to be discarded. How many people could have enjoyed them if she had donated them? (No mention will be made here of her refusal to consider using the library for reading material. Even though her daughter-in-law was a librarian at the time.)

Yes, you might get around to using them after they come out of storage. But it might be too much work to clean them off, remove the stains that magically have appeared, pull them out, and fix the damage. Or you might never get to use them. You might not have another baby -- or your grandchildren might never happen. You might not make the trip you are saving the suitcases for -- or you might have learned to travel lighter.

And during all that waiting time, while you are waiting to get to that future version of you, you'll be pursued by the physical representation of what doesn't exist.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Daily Declutter

I found a puzzle on a shelf, just sitting there since I-don't-know-when. So into the box it went. I realized a little while ago that I don't like working on puzzles at home. Ok, I like doing half an hour at a B&B, which is why I thought I liked puzzles in general. But I like space better.

There are other games nearby that I think we can get rid of -- games we haven't played in years. But I'm going to try not to traumatize my family, so that will happen slowly.

I have more dish towels than any reasonable woman will ever need -- but I am as yet unable to get rid of any. However, I have downgraded several of my "good" dishtowels to "everyday" dishtowels. The good ones are used to carry food to family parties, and basically anywhere they need to look clean and unstained. Everyday towels are used to dry hands in the kitchen, or dry dishes, or ordinary things. They get stained with tea when someone uses a dish towel to clean up spilled tea. I will be getting rid of the ones with holes (they will become rags, the correct way to clean up spilled tea) eventually, but not today.

I found another one of those jars I hate but my husband loves. It is currently in the wash, and will be donated as soon as the dishwasher is done.

I bought a bag of chili peppers for the math teacher's parrot; they have largely sat in the kitchen for months. Many of them have now been ground up for pizza peppers, and the remainder will go to school to feed the parrot. She can store them, instead of us. The parrot (who is adorable!) will be happy, which is what the peppers are for.

It's just a little of this and a little of that. I also spent hours sorting children's clothes for the store, so they can move out of my house! Moving a few items at a time is better than just leaving this stuff to sit for months. I know I'll see visible progress soon.

Daily Declutter

Little bit by little bit, I'm getting back into the swing of things. We got rid of a bunch of magazines -- old National Geographics -- that I'm hoping the science teachers will be able to use. If not, they'll at least no longer be slowly decomposing at my house. (Our library no longer accepts donations.)

My jeans wore out -- not even useful as house-jeans -- but we made it out of the Goodwill without any purchases I regret. My daughter got two pairs of jeans that fit all the way down to her ankles! I got a pair of jeans that do not expose anything that needs to be covered. And my son came up empty, but he'd be comfortable in a pair of 28x34 cargo pants, which I have been told are entirely fictional, so I'm not sure what I will do when he grows again. I'm hoping to get through the summer before I have to make that sort of hard decision.

I also got rid of a storage jar that I have always hated. My poor husband loves it (them) because they match the larger jars, and he keep thinking they will be useful. But I hate them; they are too small to really be useful, I don't like them out next to their big sisters, and I am done. The last one is in the donation spot.

So, not a lot moved out. No nibbles from ebay (darn it). But I'm moving in the right direction, and even better, I wrote it up, so I have a record of my progress!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Back Again

I am sorry I have been so long from blogging. It is good for me to write regularly -- I live a more examined life when I write down my thoughts and activities. Hopefully, if anyone checks in again, they will be happy to see that I am back.

The last several months have been beyond bad. We lost my 15 year old nephew, very unexpectedly. The mourning period has been rough. I have not been focused on my environment, because I have been so focused on my family. That's the way it should be.

But the lack of focus on the house has allowed bad habits to return. I have a (small) pile of clothes staring at me in the bathroom. I have unnecessary objects lying around, waiting for me to decide upon an action. I was given a vintage top, and I need to decide what to do with it -- gift it to someone else? sell it on ebay? Leaving it lying on the counter is a bad choice.

However, I have started making forward progress again. I moved out a bunch of recyclables (fabric, shoes, bags) this afternoon when I went on my weekly shopping trip. I donated a glass jar that I thought would be useful to hold candles, but it just looked like clutter to me. I filled an empty jar with two half-full bags of pasts. I feel like I made progress, even though it didn't free up a lot of space -- the positive feeling can be the basis for further improvement.

If nothing else, writing every day or so will give me an outside impetus to actually make changes in my environment. That will give the people in my environment more space to heal and grow. Doing something is better than doing nothing and just hoping for change.