Monthly Archives: August 2013

Baby Steps in August

Oh how time flies. The end of August is already upon us. It has been a frustrating and rewarding month.

I’ll start with the frustrating part. As you may recall, July had my family on a de-cluttering high. We got rid of so much stuff and unearthed even more stuff to sort. It felt great, actually it still feels great, to have unburdened ourselves as much as we have. I know there is more to do, but the benefits have been immediately felt.

After so much “success” measured in how many items were removed from the house during July, I expected to see similar “progress” in August. I started a list of items so I could always know how many things were removed, and took before photos of Rie’s room. Then life happened.

The busy season started at work. Rie became sick, and ultimately was diagnosed with a milk allergy. We have been learning about nondairy foods. There was a family vacation in there somewhere. My list stalled at 192 items (64 of which are old clothes hangers we no longer need!). Compared to what was “accomplished” in July this seems very small, and I wondered if I was straying from my journey so early after starting it.

Then I shook myself and realized a couple things (this is the rewarding part). This clutter didn’t happen in a month or two. It took seven years of marriage and some clutter left over from college and childhood to get us in this deep. It is going to take time to sort it all out and this is not a race.

Most importantly, very few items have entered the house. A lifestyle change is taking place. Purchases are more thoughtful. Even groceries have become more purposeful. De-cluttering is great and all, but without an attitude adjustment about acquiring, what’s the point?

Last weekend I saw this label on the underside of a drink cap and laughed. A few months ago I might have been merely disgusted, but now I see messages like this and feel all the wiser for being able to see through them:

Lies!

Lies!

So, yeah, August was a rough one, but D and I are staying the course. Every little step on this journey is a step in the right direction.

Open Road

D worked last weekend. He has been doing that a lot lately, but that is not a complaint. It is just how things have worked out. Anyway, Rie and I were left to our own devices. We received a lot of rain last week, so working on the Woman Den window was a non-option.

We spent Saturday morning playing and doing all two loads of laundry that needed to be done. After cleaning up lunch there were no chores left to do. Thanks to minimizing, the house was already tidy. Sure, we could find a closet to purge, but that could wait for another day.

What to do? We loaded up into the car and took a 20 mile drive to one of my favorite agritourism stops. It is a cider mill that operates in the fall, but also has a fun country store. We found apple butter, fresh local peaches, and still-warm cider donuts. Rie had a bite of a cider donut, which seemed to make her day. No, I take that back. It was watching motorcycles fire up to leave the parking lot that made her day. I need to keep an eye on that girl.

On our way back to the state highway we spotted a winery. I’m prepared to be judged for taking my daughter to a winery because that is exactly what happened. It was more than having a taste and buying a bottle. We walked along the property, taking in the scenery. Rie examined pine needles and pine cones still attached to a windbreak line of evergreens. We found a bubbling fountain encased in local stone. The fountain enchanted Rie. Watching her discover something new was certainly my favorite treat.

I spent little money, and what I did spend went to local businesses. We took in some sunshine. We relaxed and made memories. It was what a Saturday afternoon should be.

Shining a Light on the Shadow

During my journey to reduce my possessions I have come across all sorts of shadows of my past. Violin rosin, a marble egg (long story), a dagger (don’t ask), and other symbols of my youth. Most of this stuff has been easy to let go. But there is one box in my closet I cannot bear to take to Goodwill or post on Craig’s List. It holds my dance clothes, ballet flats, and ballroom shoes.

I used to be a dancer. This statement is difficult to come to terms with. I love dancing. I might have been a rotten violinist, or a passionless martial artist, but I still love to dance. It was cost-prohibitive when I was growing up to take lessons. After marrying D, one of the first things I did was sign up for a ballet course at the university. I also found a dance sport club and went to meetings twice a week. It was the time of my life. My partner and I won a waltzing competition and I still have the plaque. In fact, I still have the desire.

Maybe this is why I have been minimizing. Reducing expenses and clearing out the clutter has made me realize what is easy to throw away and where my passion lies. I found a barre class and hope to post all about it soon.

I’m thankful for this minimalist journey. Without it I would have continued to waste time watching reality television shows and left my ballet flats sitting in the closet. Life is so much more vibrant now.

Master Bedroom

Here is one area of my home that has pretty much always been uncluttered. So the bed is not made every single day and sometimes the hamper is full of laundry (but never overflowing since I pared down the clothing), but this is pretty much how it looks on a daily basis. To me the bedroom feels light and airy. No matter how much chaos may be waiting in the garage or hobby room, this room is generally in order.

Entry is on the east wall. Opposite the entry is where I hang my scarves and Maile hangs her hat:

Entry

On the north wall you can see the closet, which is only half-full nowadays.

north wall

The west wall is bare, except for the mirror and window. My dresser backs up on the south wall:

dresser

There is another window on the south wall. Finally, there are three pieces of furniture on the east wall. My nightstand, the bed, and D’s nightstand (which he made):

my nightstand

bedDarrell's nightstand

I am not crazy about the artwork. It was all given to us, gold colored frames and all. The nightstand lamps were also a gift. One day we’ll do something that represents our personality as a couple, but for now this works. Overall, it is still my favorite room in the house.

Looking back on July

What a difference a month makes. At the beginning of July, an online friend challenged all of us minimalists and minimalist-wannabes to clear out 237 items of clutter. The idea was to be liberated from clutter (a nod to our country turning 237 years old).

I did not like the idea of counting every item that went out the door, or keeping a list. My process in the couple months before this challenge had just been to purge and move on. Also, I thought 237 items sounded like a lot. There was no way I would find that many unused/unloved items in my home in such a short amount of time.

Once again, I eat my words. If there is a theme to this journey it is that I seem to have had (or still have?) my eyes closed to how much clutter is in my house. This month I weeded through the medicine cabinet, the junk drawer, the hobby room, my closet, the kitchen (78 items from the kitchen! who knew?), pet supplies, and the bookcase. D sorted through his own clothing and found 22 items he could live without. Rie tried to eat everything we were tossing. She does what she can.

Counting the items and posting lists online actually motivated me to continue. At the 100 item mark I felt a surge of energy. At 138, less than 100 items to go, I felt amazed. By the time I reached the goal, in the middle of the month, all I could see in my house was clutter. All sorts of things we don’t need or love were hidden in cabinets, lying on countertops, or in piles around the house. How is it possible that I had never noticed the piles around the house before? Rather than feel depressed, I was inspired.

The house feels great. The rooms feel larger since D and I took everything off the walls so we could only hang up what we really love (removing piles of clutter helps too). Thoughtfully placing a few pieces of artwork has shown much better results than trying to cram all things we have that can be displayed into a small space. Once again, I feel a little silly for not realizing this before.

So, do you want to know our number for July? Maybe you won’t believe me, but it is true when I say we only purged the “easy items”—the things that are no longer used or loved. Sentimental items have a free pass for now. We donated or trashed-drum roll please!-560 easy items this month.

You read that correctly.

Last night D eagerly asked what our August goal will be.

“Anything you want it to be,” I replied.

“I want to clean up my dresser,” D said after some thought. That would be the same dresser I have loathed from the day we married. It is so crammed with stuff that you cannot put the clean laundry in it. My heart did a happy little skip at the prospect.

It seems that in a month we have de-cluttered, saved money, spent more time together, and grown closer as a result. Our home certainly does look different in more ways than one.