Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Woman Den Part II

The last weekend of July was bea-u-ti-ful. Here in Kansas we had highs in the seventies, no humidity, and just the perfect amount of breeze. Somebody with clout had their prayers answered this weekend.

I began on Saturday by finishing the doorframes started several weeks ago, before all the glorious rain put a temporary halt on the project. Painting the doorframes and fascia board for the north side was a cinch. Of course, this is all thanks to the help of my fantastic in-laws, who came over to entertain Rie. (D decided to go shooting with friends, which I fully endorse. A husband who pursues his hobbies is much more willing to lend me a hand later on.)

Sunday morning was chilly. We put on jackets and walked to church. On the way home Rie fell asleep. In an effort to prolong her nap D and I ambled among the neighborhood, admiring houses and gardens. We stopped at home to pick up our loyal hound, Maile, and continued our walk to a local lake where we could birdwatch and talk each others’ ears off. I love having time to spend with my husband to do the things we dreamed about doing when we first married.

Once home D went to work putting up the new fascia board while I worked on the east window. The old moulding was so rotted that I was able to pull most of it off with my hand.


D came over to watch, with Rie in his arms, when I started trying to pry nails out of the metal siding. It happened in slow motion. I yanked a nail out with the wrecking bar and immediately swung my arm forward to break a pane of glass. My first broken window. Ever. I was kind of shocked, I think. This fact was surprising to D who has broken many windows throughout many adventures. He stood there, holding Rie, chuckling and teasing mercilessly.

D was in charge of measuring and cutting the new moulding, which is vinyl that will never need to be painted. By the time he had it all up we realized there was about an inch and a half gap on the upper left corner. According to D, a lot of caulk is all the spot needs in order to keep water out. Because the window is on the side of the shed no one sees (including neighbors), we decided to call it good enough:


Next we will paint the north window. And use about a tube of caulk on the east window. And replace a pane of glass. This home repair thing is turning out to be a lot fun—who knew?


Wrestling with Temptation

This past Sunday Rie and I headed to my sister-in-law’s house to visit Rie’s cousin, and so my sister-in-law and I could practice yoga. She has a new workout DVD and I am a sucker for new fitness routines.

The yoga workout was stellar. Certainly among the best yoga workouts I have ever had. (After we were done I joked that I needed a cigarette—yes, it really was that good.) Naturally, I found myself wanting the DVD, and not in a small way. On the way home that afternoon I was tempted to stop at the large general store “just to see” how much the program cost. Surely I had enough money in my wallet to pay for it. There would be no harm to the family financially, because I would use my own cash.

This was the first time since I started purging unneeded items that I wanted something and the internal wrestling match was intense. In my mind a fantasy played out of waking early every day of the work week to practice yoga. If I had this DVD, then I might practice more often. It would be so peaceful and perfect, right?

Upon reflection, I realized that I have three yoga DVDs that are not used on a regular basis. Ok, so one of them is maternity yoga, but that still leaves two others that are not being used. How would I approach this issue if it were Rie asking for something, say a new coloring book, when she doesn’t use the one she has? Most parents would say, “If you finish your other coloring book, then you may have a new one.” Sorry, that is a terrible analogy for a six-month-old. Work with me here.

Anyway, I decided to take that same approach with myself. The deal I came up with is “if I practice yoga three times a week for three weeks, then I may consider buying this new DVD”. You know what? It is Wednesday, and I haven’t practiced yoga once this week. I guess we can see where this is going. I am so glad I controlled my impulse and saved the money.

Hobby Room

It is another rainy Saturday morning and I cannot work on the woman den, so my efforts have turned toward the hobby area. Once again, my eyes were not open to how bad the space was. The lack of a place for my serger on the shelves should have been an indicator. This before picture makes me cringe:

1074945_10100652444857266_1862875529_oI didn’t count every scrap of fabric or every piece of stationary, but what I did count came out to 133 items. I’m not even finished yet. Clearly, this space is going to require more time, but so far you can see an improvement (at least you can see more of the floor):


Rie helped.

Reaping the Benefits

A week ago I cancelled our Internet-TV subscription. Every moment of our day has been impacted by minimizing this sort of clutter that takes up so much time, rather than space. We have more conversations, play more often with Rie and spend more time on hobbies or projects. In the last week I started a fantastic book that has been sitting on my shelf for two years. I have finished a knitted afghan, and embroidered Rie’s monogram on a cloth diaper (it’s what I do). 

Also, D no longer poses the question at dinner, “Shall we watch a show or do you want to eat at the table?” I’ve always wanted to eat at the table, but somehow we would frequently end up in front of the computer. That is not the sort of behavior I want Rie to imitate. Instead, we have had dinner as a family every night since we no longer have access to the shows we were watching. We have been rewarded with adorable scenes like this one:


Last night, D and I were not able to eat until nearly 9 o’clock, due to his coming home late and Rie’s bath and bedtime routine. We sat at our patio table and enjoyed the garden, clear weather, and each other’s company. It was the best dinner we have had in a long time; it felt like a date. I might not have remembered the details of a reality show the next day, but I will remember spending time with my husband on a beautiful summer night. It seems that it is one thing to be blessed, but it is another to realize you are blessed.

Feeling Refreshed

Things are rapidly changing as a result of simply identifying my priorities. Before starting this journey to maximize life experiences, I went about my free time in a bit of a frenzy. D works every third weekend, and without him around I tended to fill up my time with any ol’ distraction. Shopping, eating out, and going to the salon were high on my to-do list. Now that I am putting conscious effort into minimizing stuff, fixing up the woman den, and spending more time with family, everything else is falling into place.

As an example, this morning I checked the credit card balance. We have always been able to pay it off each month, but this month I found the balance to be only 60% of what I had come to accept as normal. In my first month of really trying to minimize the expenses have almost been cut in half.

Another victory was claimed when I went to the hardware store this weekend (while D was working, which is unprecedented behavior) to buy razor blade refills so I could scrape paint off the French door windows on the woman den. One item on my shopping list. One item purchased. No cold drink swiped at the counter. This all sounds very simple to you, but it is a big deal to me. It is a big deal to change how you are programmed.

Also this weekend, in the name of de-cluttering, Rie and I took a box of blankets, pillows, tennis balls, stainless steel bowls and other things to an animal shelter (we apparently had a lot of extra pet stuff!). I told a volunteer that my baby had never seen a cat. She brought one out for Rie to touch. Her little face lit up with wonder when she heard the kitten purring. It was so sweet. A free moment like this is a hundred times better than walking out of a boutique with a new purchase.

A dip in the pool with a cousin. How delightful!

In one weekend, I de-cluttered, gave to charity, gave my daughter a new experience, worked on a home project, met with extended family (three times!)…and feel perfectly refreshed. It is a good feeling. Everything is falling into place beautifully.

*Looking for a small place to start? An online friend suggested cleaning out the junk drawer this week. Here’s mine:

Yikes! How did this happen?!

Ahhh, that’s better.

De-cluttering Time

The physical clutter is not the only impairment to living a full life. I don’t know about you, but television has been part of my problem as well.

As a kid we usually had cable. My sister and I would fill the space between coming home from school and our mother’s arrival from work with television. About two hours. After dinner, Mom would want to watch some news shows or sitcoms, so that would add another three hours or so of television. Looking back, it is shocking to realize I spent nearly thirty hours a week watching television. It is a miracle that I ever rode a bicycle or found time to learn how to knit!

This is in no way a slam on my mother. Television is addicting. It is fast-paced and entertaining. Once you introduce it into your life, it can be very difficult to learn to slow down and live without it. But the television is actually slowing down every other opportunity to enjoy life.

In March of 2010, D and I attempted to reclaim our time. We cut the TV service because it was expensive and D was a student who would be more successful without the distraction. When I went back to school that fall, I was grateful to already have the space in my daily life for reading and studying. We were not completely without TV, however. We would occasionally find some shows and movies on the Internet.

In May of 2012 we both graduated and a friend gave me a subscription to Hulu to celebrate. The message was loud and clear, “You have more time on your hands. Fill it with TV!” And I did. I became addicted to a crime-drama and could watch two or three episodes of it a day. This amounted to up to two and a half hours of screen time a day, just watching shows. Before graduating, I had fantasized about all the books I would read for pleasure, but that didn’t really happen with my new addiction in the way.

Around November I decided the show was becoming way too violent. It presented rape, murder, mutilation, and other horrific topics the way you might ask someone to pass the salt. Each show was progressively more shocking and I found that I no longer wanted to know what happened next. I replaced watching that show with a reality show about weight loss, which was at least positive and encouraging, but it still sucked time out of my life faster than any illness or cluttered garage.

Last night it occurred to me that I am happier since I quit watching the crime drama eight months ago. My stress and anxiety have gone down. It cannot be coincidence! It also occurred to me that while the weight-loss reality show is not exactly poisonous, it does consume an hour and a half with each episode.

This morning, the subscription to Hulu was cancelled. This will mean more quality time with Rie, less clutter on my mind, and less exposure to advertisements to tempt me into buying stuff I don’t need. By cancelling the subscription, I am creating an environment where I can be successful with this maximized-life thing. In other words, I am making the conscience choice to be in charge of how my life is lived. It is a great feeling.

To top it all off, I found this blog post, 10 Reasons to Watch Less Television, while contemplating today’s subject. Enjoy!

Medicine Cabinet Paranoia

An online friend suggested attacking the bathroom cabinets this week. That sounded sooo easy. I thought I could do that with my eyes closed and one hand behind my back. D and I are pretty healthy, so it is pretty rare for us to buy medicines. I don’t wear make-up or put any stuff in my hair (at least not on a daily basis–those things are reserved for special events). How difficult could this be?

How much stuff can be crammed into such a tiny space?

25 items purged later and I am starting to think maybe the clutter is worse than I thought. TWO empty make-up bags I hadn’t seen since we moved into the house, a nail brush still in it’s packaging, 4 toothbrush heads still in their packaging (I don’t have an electric toothbrush), hair products not touched in over a year, a nasty old plastic massager, and peroxide that had long ago turned into water are just some of the items found and purged.

Underneath all the stuff was a dried patch of cough medicine that took some scrubbing. So much for being able to do this with one hand behind my back. Oh, the old cough medicine was nasty. It smelled like sickness. Maybe I just felt sick because the medicine had toppled over and made a mess I couldn’t even see.

Finding the innocent bathroom cabinets in this state has caused paranoia to set in. How much more space in my shrinking home is being held hostage with garbage? Of course my home is not shrinking, but is buried with unseen trash. (That may be the paranoia talking.)

The sad thing is that I actually went shopping for a new make-up bag that was never used. Two, in fact. I paid good money for cough syrup when I already had two bottles of it at home (now all expired).

Some items are difficult to part with. My mom gave me a decorative tin when I rented my first apartment that I still like. I used it for band-aid storage (seriously). It has sat in the cabinet since we moved into the house because it doesn’t go with my decor. Donating the tin does not mean I don’t love my mother, but I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Then there were the items that I probably could purge, but decided to keep. I kept some make-up, one bottle of hairspray, and one of mousse. Though I rarely use these things, I figure it is cheaper to have them on hand than to run out and buy them the morning of a cousin’s wedding.

The bathrooms are ready to astonish snoopers. Now, what’s next?