Monthly Archives: January 2014

Pause

Work has been incredibly stressful lately. I will not go into the details, but I have a feeling you know exactly what I mean.

This morning D called me at the office and asked how my day was going. You know you’re married to the right person when you tell them exactly how your day is going, complete with colorful description, and that wonderful person responds with love.

D suggested he come pick me up later in the afternoon for a break. No baby, just us.

When D came by we chatted for a moment about what we were going to do during our break. In the old days, before minimalism sparked creativity about how/when we consume, we would have gone to some shopping destination. Maybe go look at tents or kitchen gadgets. Today we decided to do a different kind of consume.

We went for pedicures.

D practically fell asleep in the massage chair. I read article after article in a magazine that had nothing to do with my job. Bliss. Pure bliss.

If you haven’t taken time to sit and do nothing lately, with or without a loved one, now is probably a good time to rediscover what happens when you do.

Closet Space and Other First World Problems

Hello again.

This blog started as a chronicle of my personal journey through the stuff that was making my perfectly-sized home feel tiny. We have about 900 square feet of living space – which means the two car garage, man cave, and woman den are not included in that. Neither are our yards or porches, for that matter. If I am a typical American, then it makes sense why the average new home has 2500 square feet. It is easy to fall into the “oh, it’s on clearance so I’m going to buy it for absolutely no other reason” trap around here and fill your home right up!

Sadly, one of the problems in our home is the closet space. I actually listed that on the “cons” side of the paper when thinking about buying this house (never mind the clay main drain piping). Our apartment had a walk-in closet that could seat six for dinner. The solution D came up with for our closet space dilemma was to put his dresser in the hobby room and use that closet for all of his things (shoes, belts, ties, shirts, leather dyes, you know, normal stuff that someone who wears scrubs to work needs), and I would put my dresser in the master bedroom and use that closet.

We sure have come a long way. Upon moving into our perfectly-sized home, we each stuffed our respective closets full. I filled my dresser too. And a plastic bin for the off-season wardrobe. At the time, I thought that was incredibly reasonable and was kind of proud of myself for using my space well. Ha!

A couple months ago we gave away D’s dresser and bought a little armoire-type thing for him to keep in the master bedroom. He had to reduce his dresser contents down to about a third of what it was in order to do that. His closet now stands about half-full. Mine is even better – as of this morning there are 34 items hanging in it (I still have a bin of summer things to sort). We could totally share the master bedroom closet now without any trouble.

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I still have some work to do on my actual wardrobe. Everything in it is worn now, so that is one goal met. However, I do not absolutely love everything in it. As things wear out I am thoughtfully making purchases to replace them, but it is a very slow process.

As a closing thought, while preparing for this blog post I discovered something that actually helps reduce the closet clutter: take pictures! For some reason, looking at pictures of my clothing made me better able to take a step back and realize some things really needed to go.

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Who needs two grey knee-length skirts to wear to the office? No one I know!

Confession: I have a cluttered kitchen

My kitchen is used. We eat breakfast and dinner at home as a family. I frequently come home for lunch and D is home four days a week with Rie. While magazine photos of simplified, sparse kitchens are appealing in theory, that concept just doesn’t seem to work for us.

Last year I cleared off the toaster, coffee maker, and other junk from the counter, which makes the kitchen feel huge:

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Under the calendar is where the mail congregates. I compromise and keep a little stand for the items that can’t be thrown away immediately. Before company comes over, the little stand can be hidden under the cabinet.

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alphabet magnets are the best!

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Think that is a lot of spices? There are more above the stove!

We store knives and the cutting board on the wall above the stove. This is great for easy-access, but some may feel this adds to a feeling of clutter:

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I actually took some personal things off the fridge before taking this photo – it is usually covered in pictures of the family.

The big plastic container to the left of the sink is used for compostable materials. Yes, it is always sitting out in plain sight:

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View from the staircase. We have a trash can and a recycling bin.

I make no excuses. There are always dishes drying next to the sink, and produce sitting on the counter. We use the microwave, so that isn’t going anywhere. It is what it is!

Untreasured Treasures

Sometimes it is difficult for me to donate or sell something that holds a special memory.

One such treasure is my wedding dress. Actually, it was marketed as an evening gown. It was perfect for my big day and I love it. Well, I love memories of my wedding day. I love being married to D. The dress itself was hanging in our guest room closet, and remained there even after it became Rie’s closet. Not exactly treasured, you might say. This poor dress hung on a plastic hanger, shoved somewhere out of the way of the items used on a regular basis. In fact, Rie’s baby swing was leaning against the dress, and I’m afraid it damaged some of the beading.

Before Christmas I called someone who teaches theatre, and asked them if they wanted my wedding dress and some other odds and ends for their costume collection. Their response was an enthusiastic yes!, but I have yet to send the box of goods to them. Even knowing my beloved wedding dress will be in a better home, I have a difficult time sending it on its way.

Today is the day. All of the items have moved from the house to my car. Next they will take a trip to the post office, and be on their merry way to a new home. As I placed my wedding dress in the backseat, I reminded myself a couple times, “I have 250 wedding photos.” Honestly, it was a difficult thing to do.

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I do, and I’d do it again!

After loading up the car, I went back to the closets in question and examined them. Empty space opens up where unused items used to crowd. I can see everything in my closet – all 40 or so items – and it feels good. Rie’s closet still needs some work, but the extra space available is inspiring. It makes me wonder, “What’s next?”

Our Dining Nook

You may have noticed the half-wall behind my couch (which Rie loves to climb so she can reach anything on said half-wall – another great inspiration to stay on top of clutter). On the other side of that wall is our dining nook.

We have always enjoyed eating together as a family, and now that Rie is here, it is more important than ever. We cancelled our Hulu subscription some months ago, and so it is a rare meal at home that is not spent around the table. My hope is that Rie will look back on her childhood fondly, in part because she has time every day with her parents’ undivided attention.

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Homemade curtains and a table runner keep the otherwise bare room feeling personal. The white wall under the chair rail seems to create space and light.

The table is the one D’s parents used when he was growing up. His dad purchased it at a garage sale back in the ’70s. It isn’t special – just free of charge. One of the table leaves of this drop-leaf is always up. We can easily pull the table away from the window and lift the other leaf, which would then accommodate eight people.

The mission-style chairs were discovered at a tent sale for $20 a piece. Not bad for brand-new, sturdy chairs!

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I like to use a tray for my sugar bowl and salt and pepper shakers. That way, when it is game night, a quick movement clears everything off.

My father-in-law made the stained glass piece. The fish print is a souvenir from when we lived in the Pacific. D made the frame from a wood called monkey pod. He also turned the napkin rings. Each one is different, so we can use the same napkins through several meals and know which one goes with which diner. Even an aspiring minimalist can have some sentimental pieces. 🙂

Want more space? Sell your furniture.

About four or five years ago, long before I started looking into minimalism, I spent the best holiday of the year (Labor Day, for those of you who are wondering), in a humongous furniture store. D wanted a matching sofa and loveseat in brown leather, preferably the kind that reclines and is made well so it will last forever. Oh, and at a super bargain.

Five hours later (that is not an exaggeration), after drooling over the set made for lazy boys, and debating on if the set actually had to match, versus having one leather sofa and a coordinating microfiber one, and turning model sofas upside-down in order to inspect their mechanical abilities (that actually happened), D picked out a set. I was too worn out to argue. We bought it. I wish I could go back in time and use my holiday for something more fun. Live and learn.

The sofa set is freaking huge. As you know by now, we do not have a freaking huge house. After adding Rie to the family, our house only felt smaller. Secretly I have wanted to sell or donate one of the couches in order to create more space. Images of Rie running through our living room, unencumbered by furniture, danced in my head.

On his own, after watching Rie play in the cramped living room, D suggested we sell the loveseat. Who says men aren’t mind readers? 🙂 We mentioned our plan at Rie’s first birthday party, and it just so happened that the family sitting on our very comfortable and huge furniture wanted to buy it.

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The loveseat faced the carpeted area and would have stood with its back to the camera. With it gone, our house feels lighter than ever.

Also, it just so happens, that my father wanted to give Rie a family rocking chair for Christmas. It is a petite thing that will go nicely in her bedroom one day, but for now it sits by the window. The chairs and coffee table move around easily when needed – we couldn’t ask for a more versatile and spacious living room.

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We now have an open passageway from the front door into our living area. Visitors say they feel more welcomed upon entering.

By the way, I know we have a lot of toys out for Rie. I blame the parents. In my defense, most of them were gifts, but I also really enjoy having her toys out. Some parents hate the idea of their living rooms looking like daycare centers, and buy special baskets or ottomans to hide the kids’ toys, but not me. Having a kid is so stinking fun and I love seeing the toys in our home. After all, in our case, we wanted more space in order to provide a more comfortable home for our daughter. Mission accomplished. And we didn’t even have to move.

The Coat Closet

The title of this post is little wishful. I don’t actually have a coat closet – we have a few hooks hanging by the front door, but for the most part everything must fit in the regular ‘ol clothes closet. For someone who is trying to minimize, very little closet space is a good thing, even inspiring.

I’ve been thinking about buying a nice spring/fall jacket for some months now. I have an older lightweight jacket that is mostly cotton, so it doesn’t hold its shape well after washing. A corduroy number that was purchased on a whim off a clearance rack needs to go too, as does a jogging hoodie that is frankly too small: DSCN0738

All of that space was cleared up and made room for one, fantastic, inexpensive, classic, water-proof light jacket:

DSCN0739My closet space, fashion sense, and inability to choose a jacket all thanked me for this purchase/purge.