5 Easy Tips for Simple Christmas Decor

Here’s some pics from my home last year (I’m a year late…shrug).

1. Use what you have

A guiding principle of simple is to leverage what you have on hand. For me it is fallen things in the yard (pinecones and branches). Beautiful paper (old calendars and last year’s holiday cards) plus some flea market finds (metal letters, pedistal dish).

2. Work with techniques you enjoy

I can’t say I’m great with origami or paper arts, but I absolutely love the simplicity of paper. I also love anyting I can clean up with a vacuum. Here’s a tree-folding technique I’ll probably do again this year. Looks great with newspaper or pages from an old book (that would otherwise be thrown away). Window displays at Anthropologie and Light by Coco have been big inspirations.

3. Falalalala Fragrance!

The natural kind. Here’s a pot of clipping from the garden center. So wonderfully smelly! Very inexpensive too ($4-6). Place in water, lasts for weeks.

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Love these colors! #holidaypalette

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4. Hang things from the ceiling

This mobile created from a branch, paper trees and thread is very light. The placement above the table gives it more visual emphasis.  Anything in your home that creates shadows and movement will change throughout the day. Such an easy way to add interest.

5. Fill your space with music

Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, Jingle Bells

 

José Feliciano, Feliz Navidad

 

Lou Rawls

Minimalist May with Becker, Fields & Nicodemus

Books, movies, podcasts, online communities, oh my! So many ways to get motivated by (and learn about) others and their experiences with minimalism.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker just released. It got me taking the bus again (so I can read on my way to work… funny how certain changes can improve seemingly unrelated habits). If you’re not familiar with Becker, here’s his blog, Becoming Minimalist. He has a deeply relatable way of processing the world, getting in touch with your values, and creating a life that fills your values (and it all starts at home).

On a recent Smart and Simple Matters podcast, Becker described his focus on creating a community. He gave examples of why it is so beneficial to tap into the support of others when making a change. I never really thought about that before. But, ever since, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Combine this suggestion with some Deepak Chopra meditation and a saying on my teabag “let things come to you”, and before you know it I’m approaching people and chatting them up about their lives, daily habits and what matters most.

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Millburn (left), Nicodemus (right), introducing their film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. May 3 at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA

My focus on minimizing began in October 2014. It’s now May 2016 and for the first time I’m tapping into community.

May 3 Somerville, MA — Showing of Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things followed by a live podcast by The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus). The show had been sold out. 800+ seats! I couldn’t believe it.  That many minimalist enthusiasts around me? I had no idea because I wasn’t tapped in. Thankfully I had the chance to hear about some other minimalists goals and stories while waiting in line, and even about the local meetup group.

Now I’m part of two minimalist Facebook groups. I’ve seen the movie and I’m reading a book. And Joshua Becker’s Uncluttered Course starts today. It’s spring cleaning season!

 

 

Progress to Date — 1,881 items purged.

 

1,881 items have been removed from my life!

It can be a challenge to actually stop the purging and share the count. The next milestone always feels so close! 2k for example. I’m so close to 2k! However, I’m long overdue from commenting upon 1,500 so here I am.

Today is April 28, 2016. I began my minimizing project 1.5 years ago (October 2014).

I’ve tracked (almost) everything I’ve purged. Why?

The short version

  • Awareness—Which is paramount to habit breaking. Awareness for what I had, why I acquired it, why I got rid of it. What types of things do I tend to accumulate and why?
  • Taxes/Donated Goods—Not a good enough reason. Won’t be doing this again. Filling out the forms added a ton of work to the inherent joy of donating. In my case, the monetary gain did not offset the effort (most stuff I let go of was only worth 50cents-$2 at best…that included brand new beautiful clothes that were in great shape, but too far off trend for the local consignment shop to want them).
  • Sense of accomplishment—I’ve been minimizing since October 2014. After a while I started to lose sight on my progress. Was it so bad before? Have I really changed much? As soon as I access my database of the 1,800+ and growing tally of purged items, I start to remember again. It’s pretty exciting! Recently I modified it so I can start tracking purchases too.

 

The long story

Do you avoid your basement because it’s too full of junk? Do you wonder why you never just own up to the mess and clean it? Have years gone by living this way? Do you make frequent (and justifiable) purchases from Amazon? Do you shove all the empty boxes into your garage, (instead of diligently break them down to recycle)? When your house gets messy, do you intend to make cleaning a priority, but instead you go shopping for organizational or cleaning supplies (supplies you don’t really need)?  Do you buy new clothes every time you have a special appointment, or maybe just because you feel blue?

I did. I did all these things. For years. I spent way too much money on stuff. I wanted to stop. I didn’t know how. I knew I had to stop, save my money, and to get rid of things that I didn’t love. However, I was apprehensive because I’d gotten rid of things before, only to acquire them again. It usually only takes me four to five years before I’m back in the mess I vowed to tackle.

This time I knew I needed to bring in a new technique that would get deeper into my psyche. I decided to track everything I donated or discarded. I reflected on two important dimensions; Why did I acquire this thing, and why am I letting it go? Doing these two things really allowed me to connect with what was going on inside of me, so I could examine my life and my behavior from a more meaningful perspective.

 

What else did I track?

Basically, anything that seems to help keep me motivated. Here’s a few of the key areas:

I gave every item a status: Every thing I get rid of is flagged as a Goodbye or as Store/Decide Later. Anything that I acquire (a purchase or a gift I keep) is a Hello.

  1. Goodbye — Applies to things that I donate or throw away.
  2. Store (decide Later) — Applies to things that I want out of my living space, but am not ready to make a permanent decision on where it goes.
  3. Hello — Any thing I bring into my life. I’ve made so much purging progress, that I fear sliding backwards (I’ve done it before). So now I’m tracking my purchases. I don’t track food or consumables like soap or paper towels. I just track the things that could easily become clutter in a year or more.

I categorized all the items: A way of thinking about the types of things I tend to accumulate.

  1. Office Supply (paper clips, stapler, pens)
  2. Papers/Files (anything paper-clutter related, junk mail, stationery)
  3. Clothing (shoes, shirts, jackets)
  4. Decor (picture frames, wall art, candles)
  5. Furniture (chairs, shelves, side tables)
  6. Trinket/Small item (knick-knack, fridge magnet, party favor)
  7. Kitchen Item (spatula, timer, plates)
  8. Pantry/Food (stale crackers, expired canned goods, empty tea boxes)
  9. Toy (lone Barbie roller skate, doll missing an arm, deck of cards)
  10. Holiday/Special Occassion (ornaments, party hats, paper table cloth)
  11. Hardware/Tools (packs of screws that come with everything, and I never use)
  12. Electronic (clock radio, document scanner, printer)
  13. Organizing (jars, baskets, file box)
  14. Linens (bedding, towels, dishrags)
  15. Craft/Art Supply (buttons, glue, glitter, paint)
  16. Books/Media (Books, Manuals, CDs, DVDs)

I documented the reasons the item was acquired: Helps with “facing the music” and being honest with how the clutter is getting created. (Numbers 8 & 9 stole the show)

  1. Freebie/Swag (anything that comes home with you because it was free).
  2. Needed saving (anything that inspired you, but needed work to be useful)
  3. Imagined different priorities (I had all kinds of handbag-buckles, handles, snaps and straps because I thought I was going to be a purse maker. That was years ago! I loved it for a month. I no longer have that dream).
  4. Deal/on sale (anything you buy because it made you say “only $5!!!”). You could even add another category related to this—Couponing. If you have a stock pile of stuff you don’t need because you had a coupon for it, acknowledge that.
  5. Determined to buy something (when you can’t leave the store because you came for something, and your brain keeps telling you that this means you need to leave with something)
  6. Gift (a thoughtful person gave you something)
  7. Gift requested (acknowledges that registries don’t always mean you get what you need)
  8. Emotional/Impulse (if you feel an impulse to buy something, it’s often coming from some place of emotion)
  9. Emotional/Sentimental (anything you brought home because it sparked warm memories of your Nana, and for no other reason other than that)
  10. Don’t know (when you don’t know where that thing came from)
  11. Spouse (things that came with anyone you merge homes with). Note: This is used only if that person decided to get rid of something. No getting rid of other people’s things! That’s a rule.
  12. Needed at the time (exhausted and purchase a neck pillow at the airport…this could also go in the next category, it’s all how you think about things, and how you felt in the moment that thing came into your life).
  13. Emotional/Justification (just about anything I ever picked out for the cat, and didn’t plan on)
  14. Came with something else (an extra button or set of extra screws with DIY furniture)
  15. Felt obligated (charity events with auctions or raffles)
  16. Something I created (art that was fun to make, but awful to look at)
  17. Inventory awareness issue (we tend to buy crackers, without checking the pantry first, then they get stale)
  18. Attempt to solve a problem (for me it’s usually hair products with promises of volume)
  19. Wanted to try (eye pillow, fancy lotions)
  20. Wardrobe refresh (when you hate your wardrobe, and you attempt to spruce it up without sticking to the plan)
  21. Loved (anything you buy because you can’t bear to put it down!)

And finally, I track the reason I’ve purged an item. This helps me bring my thoughts full circle.

If I acquired something because I loved it, and I purged something because I no longer liked it…what was going on here? It’s helpful to evaluate my thoughts around stuff so I don’t keep repeating the same disruptive patterns.

 

 

This post was originally created Oct 2015… above is updated.

 

Chalk Mural for St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’d like to share something that I’m passionate about, being creative. This week I had this urge to draw. Really draw. To go big or go home. I had a burning need to plan and sink into the process.  One of the most valuable aspects of art and creating is about the process. Never be afraid or self conscious to create. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but creating art can be very personal, spiritual, introspective and uplifting. This is why I love working with chalk. Chalk is forgiving and chalk is temporary.

Here’s some perspective on the space and scale…

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What’s this mural about?

  • This mural is for the people at QuickBase, Inc. to make them smile! Put something happy and bright in their day (our initials as a 60s rainbow ligature).
  • It celebrates a weekly office event—Waffle Wednesday (golden waffle at the end of the rainbow)
  • The art is themed around St. Patrick’s Day (rainbow, shamrock, leprechaun)
  • Working towards minimalism has taught me about all the joys of letting go. What a shock! World’s best kept secret. Now that I know about this secret, I can create with less fear. It’s not about putting in hours of work that will soon be erased. It’s about knowing that only the physical footprint will be erased. My experience has been created. It’s a part of me forever.

What’s the process?

  1. Get your inspiration. Mine came from Jessica Hische. Amazing artist (hand letterer). Exceptional teacher (Skillshare course on Drop Caps). The culture at my office is supportive of this type of thing too. It wasn’t my idea to bring chalk art to the office, it was encouraged by our Waffle Wednesday chair.
  2. Ponder & Marinate. It starts with the simple question “what am I going to do?”. Let it swirl and brew.
  3. Research to narrow the clarity. I googled for a visual reference “rainbow letters” and found a very close proximation
  4. Sketch. I started to sketch out Qs and Bs and rainbows… and had to think about how to tie in a waffle (that is the one rule of our murals).  Before I knew it I had a layout I used color pencils to choose a palette. I checked my chalk supply to finalize color choices. Decided on 4 (hot pink, yellow, green blue)chalk_sketch
  5. Go time. Grab your tools, go to the wall. First items used, a yard stick and a level. Use to draw a 3′ straight line in the middle of the board. I took a cereal bowl (from the neighboring kitchen). I used it to trace, creating 3 circles, using the line as my horizontal guide. Knowing how all the stripes would work together was key. I started to fill in the main shapes with the inner most stripe (hot pink)
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  6. Go slow and focus on your breathing for getting the circles filled in right. I noticed this made the arcs a lot cleaner. Far less lopsided than I usually do.
  7. Put your body into it. For the big arc (rainbow), I started on the left, visualized how it should go, used my shoulder as a pivot, and put my whole arm into it with a really good exhale. Exciting! It worked! A little off, but fixable by shaping.
  8. Create a skeleton first, build the forms on top (sketch then sculpt).
  9. Reassess. When it was almost done, I realized that it needed a Leprechaun. I searched for this on Dribbble.com. Found lots of great inspiration (never steal from these artists! this is their life and they are sharing it with us). I looked fast (as an exercise it can be fun to go quick) came away with some ideas for very graphical beards. Made the guy really hairy so that I didn’t have to get into the details of his coat and face.
  10. Use a damp Q-tip for details. Damp. Wet will drip. I use damp Q-tips for detail work like eyes and cleaning edges. Eyes are generally more pleasing when dark. So, I’ll create these by erasing what is already there.

What did I get out of it?

  • Meditation—I let myself sink into going slow and breathing with intention (as one might do with yoga)
  • Experiencing that a little planning does go a long way.
  • Noticing that this was part illustration (the planning and the skeleton sketch), part sculpting (filling in the parts of the shapes that felt off, redirecting the bend of the line, without having to erase).
  • Walking the line of complex and simple—There’s a lot going on here… Rainbow, Letters, Leprechaun, A Waffle, A Shamrock, Stripes that drip like Maple Syrup! Complexity and trying to say to much is a definite no in graphic design. On the flip side, know the rules to break the rules. All these details being grouped as one (more or less) element works for me.
  • A piece of art I love looking at. Something I am proud of.
  • Learning how to spell “leprechaun”

Can you get rid of 1 thing?

That’s what I kept asking myself in the beginning (after I acknowledged my problem, but before I started addressing it). That’s what started all this.

So, maybe you feel weighed down by too many things too. Maybe you’ve read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying up, and feel that a six-month process (no matter how amazing the benefit) just seems too overwhelming.

You can start simply.

Here is one very simple way to begin decluttering your home

  1. Open up a shopping bag. Label the bag “Donations”.
  2. Keep it off to the side in a central area of your home (so that it’s not a chore to find).
  3. Every day put one thing in the bag that feels excessive in your life. Something that you just don’t care for or often gets in the way. Just one thing. Tip: a dried out pen in your junk drawer is an easy place to begin.
  4. Let the bag just sit there until it fills up.
  5. Drop the bag off at a thrift shop or church in need. Note: If you feel hesitation, second thoughts, or you’re just not sure you’re ready to let go, put the bag in the back of a closet or something. If a year goes by and you forget all about it. Get rid of it! You’ve already let go mentally, why not follow through physically?
  6. It’s that simple.
  7. Questions? Doubts? Let me know below.

 

That is the process I used which led to this…

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Additional Resources

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Purge your cleaning supplies!

I just rounded up a house’s worth of cleaning supplies. At least 35 different products here! Overwhelming. Is this volume normal? It’s nuts! I bet my grandma would’ve had just 3 products, (and a much cleaner house).

I discarded 1/3 of this mess, and you can too! Here’s how…

First, round up all your cleaning supplies. Scour your house for all items in this category (thank you Marie Kondo). I rounded up supplies from the bathroom, the laundry room and a hall closet.

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Next, group all your cleaning supplies by subcategory (gloves, sponges, soap, oven cleaner…etc). This is to help you better understand what you have. Now, you can make informed choices about what to let go of.

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Then, get some focus, pare down and purge! I used this cleaning mag to focus my needs (remember, minimizing is all about working to disassociate need from want). Don’t have a mag? You could search online for a good list of basics. You could also sit, and visualize your cleaning rituals then list out all the products you use.

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Lastly, put it all back. Be proud! Enjoy the thrill of being able to find things. Enjoy being able to grab (one handed) what you need. Enjoy having nothing topple over!

See, cleaning is really all about strategizing so you don’t have to actually clean or pick up so much.

Ta da! Everything I kept, put back. FullSizeRender (1)

I did end up buying some baskets. IMG_0235These fit the space well and I can slide them out easily. I also use binder clips and clothes pins to hang items, such as the rubber gloves.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if this helps you out. Post any comments/questions below.

 

Tossing Basement Junk (Legally)

Sometimes we let garbage live in our homes, because we don’t know what else to do with it.

IMG_9913Today our Department of Public Works hosted Oil and Latex Paint collection. This was hugely motivating! I discovered nine containers of old old paint. NINE! It was just hiding out in the basement. Luckily I’m somewhat organized, and although the basement is a bit of a disaster, like items have been grouped together (that’s a good starter tip).

This is the type of thing so many of us hang onto because we don’t know what to do with it.  If you have things like this, find your town website. Look up the DPW (Department of Public Works) or similar. Find days with special waste-removal events (toxic waste, computer monitors, recycling, large trash items). Mark the days on your calendar. Block off time at least 1 week before to ensure that you’re prioritizing any time required for pre-work. (This morning I almost missed my drop off window because I didn’t give myself a comfy-cushion of time). Follow through with whatever process is needed. You’ll learn a little bit more about the workings of your town, and you’ll get rid of junk!

Best of luck, everyone!

Lisa

DIY Paper Christmas Tree

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After an entire November of minimizing, I felt especially inspired to create something. This tree was a lot of fun to make! Even better, I didn’t have to buy anything. Being festive with what is easily available is a holiday tradition. Scrap paper, scissors and painter’s tape are the basic supplies. It’s a wonderfully forgiving project.

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First, I cut something around 100 leaf shapes out of scrap paper (sewing patterns, old calendars, shopping bags, tissue paper… you get the idea).

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Then, tape (painter’s tape) several horizontal paper strips to the wall. It helps with space planning. This also reduces the number of individual pieces of tape I had to stick to my wall.

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Taping out the perimeter (big blue angled line, right) also helps get an idea of space. I ended up using it as a loose guide.  A super straight edge or a triangle-tree can look a little stiff, especially since my “building blocks” were on the more rustic side.

Finishing touches include those easy-to-remove adhesive wall hooks, for hanging ornaments (see that one almost hiding in the photo below?) and lights. Lightweight lights! These are LED on a thin wire string. They’re easily secured with tape. You can hide all kinds of less-pretty tricks behind those leaves.

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For more minimalist decorating ideas, visit Light by Coco. She is such an inspiration. Not to mention, one of the biggest most positive influencers on my massive decluttering initiative.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my DIY paper tree! Have a happy holiday (and crafting) season.

1 Month of Daily Minimizing—The Results!

During the month of November 2014 I got rid of 662 items from my home. 411 donated, 244 trashed (they deserved it), 7 consigned. This does not include the 136 items I put in my basement for storage. I still have these, but now they’re out of my everyday space, and part of an ongoing what-do-I-actually-need experiment. I will revisit these items after the holiday season (February).

 

Here’s an image of what 30-days of minimizing looks looks like:

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For feel-good donations (things I gave to Somerville Homeless Coalition, to help set up apartments for families) the benefit was incomparable! All those donations made me feel great. I’d do it all over again.

For laundry, I got so rid of so much excess clothing and linens that I can easily get by only doing one load of laundry per week. Minimizing means I spend almost zero time sorting. I’ve also removed all the pile-up potential. Liberating!

For tax deductible donations I estimate $236 (Not bad considering almost nothing was of any real monetary value.

Update: For consigned items, $196.80.

What a wonderful month! It really did get easier. It also paved room for me to get creative with some Christmas decor. The last few days of the month were focused on junk mail and paper purging, so it seemed wonderfully appropriate that my creative outlet was all about paper! I’m working on a wall tree made entirely of scrap paper.

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Here’s a pic of my final drop off at Salvation Army this month! It’s always thrilling to see what is no longer in my living space.

And for the final daily purge of the month, I got rid of…

Five junk mailings & six Christmas ornaments

Thanks so much for reading!

 

MP3s Don’t Need Shelves

I did get rid of my standard five+ items today (blah blah blah)…

  1. 10 pieces of mail
  2. two old dining chairs
  3. a plant-hook stand
  4. a lampshade
  5. an old fireplace log holder… that was appraised and not worth anything

BUT, the real HOLY SMOKES award goes to my husband who consolidated the volume of his entire CD collection

from this…

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Shown above: 15 bags FILLED with unwanted CD jewel cases, and the shelves they once lived on.

… to this!!!!

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Shown above: FIVE books. Each filled at 75% capacity, to provide room to grow. This is some dramatic space reduction!!!

I want to linger on this point a little while. Look at that purged pile of shelves and jewel cases again. See how much space that is!!! This is the size of a beautiful big closet. I can’t get away from this thought. I feel like we just paid for an addition to our home. I feel like a carpenter was interviewed, hired, here and gone. Leaving in his wake one big closet, freshly built!!! But, it’s dreamlike because all this extra space cost only $150 (five big cd cases at $30 each), didn’t require any labor research or disruption in daily life. It required several hours on the couch, transferring CDs while watching House Hunters and other TV favorites. It can be kind of therapeutic to do this sort of sorting (I didn’t do any of it, I’m just thinking back to the last time I did anything like this, which was possibly about twelve years ago).

The shelves, we no longer need, are awesome. They seem super useful. I thought of keeping them to store my tchotchkes (oh wait, I got rid of most of those) or some toiletry products (ug! got rid of those too)… ok, ok, I’m illustrating a point in a rather goofy format. These shelves are great! But, shelves are for shelving things. If you don’t got much in the way of things, what good are shelves?

Happy November 29, Everyone! I’ll see you tomorrow for the final day of my November Pact to Purge. WOW! Really? Just for your info, I do keep checking the calendar to confirm November does only go up to 30!!!! HAHHA, this is how psyched I am.

Shopping While Minimizing

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Now that I’ve been unlcuttering for 27+ consecutive days, shopping is somewhat bizarre. Especially Whole Foods—masters of merchandising.

On the one hand I felt my head was going to explode surrounded by all the options. But, not like I was tempted, more like I was from another time and observing American culture.

Then, on the other hand I felt happy about my list (a few simple things so I could make what you see in the photo. Cranberry Pear Sauce.)

Before long I found myself staring at all the beautiful seasonal and holiday specialties like mini purple brussels sprouts and fancy mushrooms! Every thing that spoke to me, I caught myself writing a story for … “oh that would be so good roasted!” or “if I bought stroop waffles we could enjoy them with …”. That really woke me up. I was not there to fulfill a multitude of food fantasies, I was there to get the stuff to make Cranberry Sauce. I stuck with that. I left the store feeling proud. (Not to mention in an amazingly short amount of time).

Since minimizing I make sure I know why I go into a store. I feel more honest about this (that’s another challenging part of it. No emotional justifying). Shopping is fast and deliberate. It is also a bit exhausting (because I do lose focus around beautifully well-done merchandising). It feels a bit like I dropped something valuable in a lake and I have to hold my breath and go under super fast to try and find it. This is the part that worries me, although I’m proud of my project, is it sustainable long term? I believe it is, but how can I keep focus? I’m hoping that with practice and reminding myself of the value (which is so obvious and everyday. My husband and I are so much happier, for example…that’s another topic, but it is very powerful how my tackling clutter turned into our tackling clutter, and I’m thankful for that).

Oh, and today I got rid of five things from my paper drawer (most of which were pieces or mail from 2010!!)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unclutter Mail, Part 2

FullSizeRenderGrabbed a handful of papers from the “I’ll get to that at some point” pile by the front door Left: 29 pieces in today’s unclutter pile.

Weeded out the junk. Felt manipulated by some charity freebies (a calendar, some Christmas cards). Really don’t like this, or how it makes me feel. I put those things in my goods-to-donate pile. Not good to have this vibe living in ones home. It’s out!

Poured a cup of coffee (Barrington Roasting, really been enjoying their beans)

Sorted through the important stuff. Paid two bills! A great reinforcer to the necessity of clearing the clutter.

I couldn’t tackle as big a pile as I set out. I finally decided this was ok since my objective is to address the paper clutter. As long as I make progress and do at least five pieces/day. This is what I’ll commit to. I’ve exceed that.

I got rid of 22 pieces of mail today!!!

Thanks for your support. See you tomorrow!

 

 

The home stretch! (and it’s paved in paper)

The most positive thing I can do for myself (today and for the rest of the month) is to purge the paper. After 24 consecutive days of uncluttering  (kitchen things, linens, trinkets, clothes, etc) it is now the paper that is causing me the most mental unrest.

Let’s tackle this!

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To ensure follow through, I started off simple. I went to our mail caddy (upper left). I did a quick sort of mine vs. husband’s. I found a great coupon (upper right). I felt a little sad for having missed this, but reminded myself that staying away from stores when I just don’t feel the need to shop, saves me more money than any coupon ever could.

I got rid of 13 pieces of mail today!!!

Yup, proud.

Thanks for your support. See you tomorrow!

Lisa

 

Day 24—It’s expired

I must have known these meds were in the cabinet. Today is the fourth time (give or take) that I’ve de-stuffed from our big medicine cabinet. Did it take three previous purges to even be able to notice this batch? Seeing with the brain is the name of the minimizing game. It’s all expired. What will I find if I open the cupboard tomorrow?

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What I got rid of today

  1. Expired prescription #1
  2. Expired prescription #2
  3. Expired antacid tablets, box #1
  4. Expired antacid tablets, box #2
  5. Expired mouthwash
  6. Expired antacid controller, pills
  7. Expired Slippery Elm supplement
  8. Expired Robitussin

The good news is, all this went unused and lurked around because we generally feel well (and almost never go through our med cabinet).

Goodbye unwanted stuff!

Day 23—Paper clutter

Today is day 23 of my November Pact to Purge. Today is also the first day I’ve even touched, or addressed paper. I hate it! Can you relate? I hide it. I typically glance at it, shrug, think I should probably hang on to it, then shove it in a drawer. Last night, right before bed, I emptied (the smallest) drawer I tend to shove stuff into. I left the clutter on the dining table.

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The next morning, it was there waiting for me.

Over breakfast, I sorted through this small pile. I focused on my original commitment—just five things. I knew this was simple enough. I used it to motivate me.

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Here they are! The five things I got rid of today. Plus, why I hung on to them, and how I’m getting rid of them.

  1. Feline dental kit. Uh…how is this paper clutter? Yes, yes, good question. I guess I can only respond with a “see! This is exactly how messed up my paper clutter is!” ;) … moving on … I kept this for a while since I thought we’d maybe give this a try. Then I decided not to put our sweet 12-year-old kitty through this. Since it is still sealed, I threw it in our donate pile.
  2. Feline dental cleanser. (same reason and discard method as above)
  3. Empty peripheral containers. I find I always hang on to these just in case I need to return. These two things are well beyond that timeframe, therefore tossed in the recycle bin.
  4. Gift bag. I hung on to as a “what if…” but it’s probably been in that drawer for over a year. It’s still useful, therefore added to our donation pile.
  5. Pile of papers! All the papers went one of three ways (recycle, shred, or file). I recycle things like assembly instructions for a coat rack I put together almost two years ago. I shred anything that has my personal info on it (like packing slip from an old delivery). I file anything I want to keep (like the owner’s manual for our dishwasher).

I’m so glad I did this today! Papers are always on the back of my mind. Also, for me, starting off small is the key. If I went any more ambitious with the size of my pile, I’m pretty sure I would’ve just watched TV instead. Now, I feel so good that I think I’m ready to tackle a second—mini—pile!

Until tomorrow  . . .

Lisa

Day 22—Consignment Shop

It went pretty well at the consignment shop this morning. They took seven things plus a ton of jewelry.

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November 10 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Two sweaters
  2. Two scarves
  3. One jeans
  4. One shoes
  5. One belt
  6. A ton of my mom’s jewelry (not shown). She’s minimizing too!

What’s this all about? Check out my November pact to purge

5 Things Gone—Nov 21

November 21 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Shower cap (Never knew I had this! Too bad, I ended up buying a few as a result. They’re handy for containing shoes in your suitcase. I already have enough for that, so goodbye to this one)
  2. Sponge holder thingy (Broken. Saving because it could be fixed. But will I? I don’t need to, I have other dish sponges. It’s clutter)
  3. Soap dish
  4. Soap dish
  5. Soap dish

What’s this all about? Check out my November pact to purge

Day 20—Even more personal care clutter!

Nothing wrong with this batch. It’s all just stuff I have too much of. I want less of this! Less stuff evolves into more thinking space. That’s the catch 22. The more you’re able to say “this could be useful if …” The more you will actually never use that thing. This is because there’s too much of it. It’s either overwhelming (so you just spend your time Netflix watching), or you have too many things to manage so you never remember you were saving it when (and if) the moment actually pops up! That’s the catch. You actually have to get rid of it to need it. At least this has been my experience. And that’s ok. I’m ok with this because I’ve made peace with this. It is a necessary part of the balance to the clutter situation.

5 things are
• John Masters sea mist (highly recommend travel staple
• Shampoo
• Face mist
• Makeup sponges
• Contact lens case

5 Things Gone—Practice Art

Not all art is sacred. Not all artists are born with talent, either. Therefore, practice art! Today’s purged stuff dates back to 1992-1998. I can’t say my newer art is light years ahead, but at least I know it’s time to let go of these very important (to my development) practice pieces.

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5 pieces of practice art gone today!

  1. Practice painting, lady
  2. Practice painting, fruit/still life
  3. Practice painting, dream scene
  4. Practice pad #1
  5. Practice pad #2 (Referencing my definition that a “thing” is a decision (every decision to toss equals one thing) this pad might count as 30 decisions (the number of sketches I flipped through, and decided to discard).

Have a nice day, everyone! I’ll see you tomorrow for day #20 of my November Pact to Purge

How Many Dishtowels Do You Need?

How many do you think you have? How many do you want?

FullSizeRenderIf I hadn’t been minimizing, my guess would be around 20. Because I actually laundered (finally) and folded every single dishtowel in my house. I now know I have (had) 33! That’s a little excessive, wouldn’t you say? Even worse, this suggests some big pile-up potential in the laundry room.

My new goal is to never let laundry pile up. I thought about this and how I could only minimally alter my habits to get this to be easy. This brought me to ask “How many dishtowels do I actually need?”

Every Saturday I’d like to routinely do 1 load of clothes and 1 load of household. The household would consist of something like; 1 set of queen sheets, 3 additional pillow cases, 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, 2-5 washcloths, 1-2 dishtowels, 1-2 dish rags.

The good, I edited my kitchen down to 12 towels (7 towels, 5 rags) to support this new method. Here’s how it looks!

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The bad, I know I need to get that number down further. However, it seems that trying to manage a balance of festive (those bottom two are ready for the Christmas season) with “ok to get dirty” is getting in my way.

This is exactly the benefit of committing to getting rid of only 5 items/day. It allows you to get momentum without going too far and feeling overwhelmed.

Regarding the dishtowels, and what they symbolize for me, I’m working on detangling like and want. I’m working on appreciating a thing in the moment and not bringing it home because it made me smile for a few bucks.

All that and I was only able to get 1 towel out of the house! The remaining 20 are shoved in a plastic bag in the back of my closet.

Here’s what I was able to get rid of today

  1. Sunny-side dishtowel (because folding it to look right was more complicated than I’d like)
  2. Duvet cover
  3. Pillowcases that match the Duvet cover (note: separate decision equals separate item. I thought about keeping these, at first. Feeling great about letting them go!)
  4. Flannel pillowcases
  5. Queen top sheet (fitted fell apart years ago)

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Minimizing. Day 17—discovering a smarter laundry strategy.

That’s what lazy people do, right? We sit around and think about different ways to do things.

All of today’s items are duplicates. Regarding the two little towels, I have this idea that if I reduce my volume of clothes and linens, I won’t need to do so much sorting and thinking. That is the part of laundry I hate the most! Who wants to think about details of laundry? Yuck! Just do it. Shove all the towels in one load and be done with it. If I edit my collection to be one load/week and only things that can all go in one load together (same temp, same color) then that sounds pretty sweet to me!

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Today’s purged five are (it’s Monday, I went easy, just five items).

  1. Broken cooking thermometer
  2. Duplicate steak thermometer #1
  3. Duplicate steak thermometer #2
  4. Face cloth
  5. Hand towl

Day 16—More Square Footage!

I’m not a scientist, but I did enjoy Jr. High physics class. It’s the first time I heard “matter is neither created nor destroyed”.  It feels that way at home now. All the time I’ve invested in removing excessive things from my home, is coming back to me. For more than two weeks, I’ve been going through daily clutter purges. I did not lose, or waste, that time at all. It just shifted. Removing stuff means you’re removing choices. Fewer choices means fewer decisions. I’m talking about trivial choices and decisions. Ones that don’t matter one bit. For example, should I moisturize with coconut oil today or sesame? Who cares!!! right? This is exactly the type of choice that brings a false sense of freedom. I removed it, therefore I have more freedom. I have more time. I have more square footage in my house! Look at these piles I dropped off at Salvation Army yesterday (batch one above, batch two below). Does it seem like an insignificant volume? It is the size of a small hall closet. I just increased the size of my living space and removed brain tax. Ahhh! Hello Sunday!

Since yesterday, I have said . . .

  1. Goodbye Marimekko paper placematts that I forgot I had
  2. Goodbye THREE decks of cards. Because the two decks my husband added  weren’t enough . . .
  3. Goodbye six bath and body products that I never liked using (Moroccan hair oil scent goes from lovely to OMG WTF really really fast)
  4. Goodbye umpteenth med item that expired in 2010
  5. Goodbye unneeded tablecloth that I always idealized for being classic white, but ultimately was also too fearful to use

Here they are, forever in photography…and thankfully no longer in my home.

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Hats off! (then out the door). Today’s purge, hall closet.

It’s Saturday! Naturally I do bigger purges on days I have off. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. I thought it might be useful to document my process.

Step 1 (it’s a two parter)—Find a space you care about (that is also driving you a little crazy), like a closet shelf (with an avalanche issue). Then, clear it out! (There it is. My clear shelf.)

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Step 2—Dump the stuff on a work surface (such as your dining table).Step 3—dump the pile on a work surface (like your dining table).

Step 3—Sort. Sun hats, mittens, gloves, baseball hats . . . etc.  A lot of “what ifs” here clogging up my valuable space.

Note: a “what if” applies to anything you rarely use but keep it just in case “what if a group of friends stop by and want to go for a walk and it’s cold out and none of them have hats! I better keep all these hats just incase that happens.” That’s not gonna happen. Don’t keep the hats for that reason.

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Step 4—Inventory. Use this to help you identify your excess items. Make decisions like “I will keep 10 hats” (or more, or less. This is a personal choice). Pick your favorites. Take the rest to Salvation Army.

I’d like to emphasize how valuable it is to confront yourself with the question of “how many _____do I need?”. This type of question gets you focused on you and your home (not the actual things cluttering it up). What you don’t want to do is emotionally connect with every hat you evaluate (“oh this would look so cute if I ever find that green plaid coat…”) This is the most challenging part of decluttering (or any change of meaning in your life), you have to change your thought process.

Also, if you’ve ever had a close relationship with someone who lived through The Depression (for me it’s my grandparents), this can make you feel ungrateful when you decide to let go of anything. You’ll need to work to get over this hurdle. Remind yourself that 2015 is a different time, with different challenges. Call upon others’ lessons who have also learned to let go, or embrace a life with less stuff. YouTube is full of tips. Here’s a video playlist of some of my minimalism favorites. On a few videos (may or may not be on the playlist) it was pointed out that just because you have it, doesn’t mean you’re using it. So many people in this world don’t have what they need. You hanging on to excess is preventing others from benefitting. This really spoke to me. I used this to motivate me. It really worked. Especially with the hats and winter approaching.

Step 4—Inventory

Step 5—Put all the keepers back. Woah. Lookin’ good!

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What did I Get rid of today?

  1. Eight hats (3 baseball, 3 winter, 2 summer/sun). Not great, considering 29 was the start. Still good. No shame in baby steps.
  2. Three, and a half, mitten/glove pairs (trashed the poor loner “half”, donated the mittens that still looked good, trashed another . . . placed the remaining one with my crafting supplies for the wool (shrug). Ok, ok. That one doesn’t count as a purge (focus on the other ones).
  3. Desk clock (not shown). Super cute, but loud as a knife stabbing your eardrum (at consistent intervals). Horribly unpleasant.
  4. Bathing suits (not shown). Some trashed for being old, others donated for looking new.
  5. Tights/stockings (not shown). “Hosiery” as my nana may have said. Basically, they were old, never used, duplicates or just no good.

Enjoy your weekend! Will these leaves ever finish falling?

Until tomorrow . . .

Two weeks of daily minimizing

I’m halfway through with my November pact to purge! Yipeeee!!! It’s been tough. Mostly, it’s tough in the moment of the purge, rewarding upon reflection and blissful in the now.

I feel

  • Lighter (thank you Coco)
  • Cleaner
  • Less stressed
  • More responsible (I’m able to manage my possessions. My laundry piles are waaay smaller. I’m perceiving my things as my responsibility to care for. Having too much goes hand in hand with disposable-culture/lifestyle. I’m just seeing this)
  • More aware of what is an essential item for me

Why do I keep going (even if I sound annoyed at times?) 

  • I made a personal commitment.
  • I have a clear and positive reference point (my garage). I want more areas of my life to feel as deliberate as this space turned out to be.
  • Because I committed to one lifestyle change (removing 5 items/day), I feel my goal is obtainable. The rest of my life and my habits are the same. Except for daily blogging. This just kind of happened naturally. Interesting.

Concerns

  • Whether I shop or purge, I feel like the focus of my life is still on “stuff”.
  • Can I come up with a successful December plan to shift this focus towards things I truly love doing (more painting, more reading, more guitar practicing)?

The experiment continues …

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It can be challenging to decide which items to get rid of. It can also be challenging to stop at five! Last night I went for it. Not only did I choose my normal five things, I also kept going and added four more and bagged up 40+ additional articles of clothing. I’m gonna shove that bag in the back of my closet for a while. Sometimes it’s tough to get perspective on what is needed and what is in the way. Restricting (temporarily) my clothing options, might help me to see better.

Five of the things I got rid of today (Nov 14)

  1. Belt (hadn’t worn in forever. somewhat cheap, looks a little damaged in spots)
  2. Scarf (bought for all the wrong reasons, bad splurge habits I’m trying to break free from)
  3. T shirts (I have too many. These were all either very worn, unflattering or just not being used)
  4. Corduroys (Suddenly I feel frumpy in corduroys. Maybe they just don’t fit right)
  5. Towel (for a household of two people—with an average of two overnight guests at a time—how many towels do I need? The number six just came to mind. Six bath towels! Plus hand towels, plus washcloths. Does that sound good? It sure sounds good when I think about how small my laundry piles will be!)

Thanks for joining me on this journey! See you tomorrow.

Day 13, storage purge (essential vs. excess)

Yesterday I came across Thrive With Less. The documentary, by a group of college students, who give themselves challenges to live with less (for example fewer clothes, less driving, no eating out). During their clearing process one gal used the criteria essential vs. excess. Just two criteria to think about when discarding. Just hearing it feels simple and reassuring. I feel calmer imagining my goal as living in a home with more essential, less excessive.

Excessive is one way to describe my basement storage area of kitchen things. Though, before hearing these terms, I might have described the contents as essential. It is practical in that it holds what feels essential, but only for special occasions (serving platters, cake stand, enormous stock pot). I guess that doesn’t sound very essential.

Today my five items come from this storage closet, but this time (unlike cow creamer) I really am getting them out of the house. I never use these things. It is still challenging to let go. I’m hopeful (fairly confident even) that once they all leave the house, I will feel relief and freedom.

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Today’s items I’m getting rid of (Nov 13)

  1. Popcorn popper—I’ve hung on to this for so long because it’s really cool! It works great, I bought it for cheap. However, I never use it. I try not to use the microwave. I need to cut this.
  2. Muffin baking dish—Again, super cool clay baker. I used it once two years ago (I’ve had it for 10). I used it because I was trying to prove to myself why I needed to keep it.
  3. Jelly glass—Such a great shape! Plus it was free. We have far too many glasses. Goodbye.
  4. Silicone ice/cube or baking trays—used once. Had high hopes for these. But, found the whole process really awkward.
  5. Oven mitt—This is another wonderful reason to decide to minimize. It forces you to assess your stuff. This thing was hanging on a hook near the stove. I can’t remember the last time I used it. Look at it! The tip is all gross and deteriorated. I can’t donate this. I’m trashing it. I was hanging on to garbage and I didn’t even know it!

I’m realizing that writing here and confronting myself (and my thought process) really helps me to see things with more clarity. I’m feeling better about letting go of these things already!

What’s this all about? November pact to purge

I rest my case (Ughhh! Not for 18 more days.)

Today marks day 12 of my November pact to minimize. Basically it sucks! And, it is amazing. But, it really does pretty much suck and I can’t wait to push through this. To date I’ve gotten rid of 430+ items (just this month).

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Every day I feel free and accomplished and motivated. Then I get home and suddenly I’m grumpy. The second I decide I’m going to cop out I miraculously get hit with a eureka moment and find something else I’m willing to get rid of. Then I feel guilty and doubtful. Then I remind myself I don’t need 20 blankets or 30 pillowcases. I move forth with my choice to liberate and I feel free. I feel like I’m in control and my newly edited house of things is here to serve me. That’s when the jaw drop happens. At this moment I realize most of what I’ve been struggling with is the feeling of obligation. Getting rid of things doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate things. It took me a while to grasp that. What I’m feeling is that I do greatly appreciate things. I’m just not putting things on a pedestal. Me, my husband, our cat, our friends. Me having a space to get arty. Us having room to get comfy and relax together. It’s pretty cool to be here.

5 things I got rid of today, Nov 12 

  1. Waffled and piped pillowcase
  2. Flannel pillowcase
  3. Home made pillowcase
  4. Quilted sham
  5. Pair of squiggle-flower Euro-shams

5 Things Gone—Nov 11

I’m excited about this one. Blankets.

November 11 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Blanket
  2. Blanket
  3. Blanket
  4. Blanket—It’s the right time of year. All these blankets were washed, neatly folded and stored. It’s been at least one year. I never touched any of them. They’ll do someone else far more good, than our linen closet.
  5. Tote bag—Came free with an online order. I have so many,

What’s this all about? Check out my November pact to purge

5 Things Gone—Nov 10

Time to purge some clothing.

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November 10 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Plaid shirt—already I’m having doubts. I keep picturing myself on a 60 degree beautiful fall day, raking leaves while wearing this quintessential midweight-autumn-day fabric (cue the record-scratch) whauuuh!!! Sounds like a nice photo opp. I’m not doing this. I always grab the same crappy sweatshirt/t-shirt combo for this.
  2. White long sleeve T—I have three others. Here’s the first to set sail.
  3. Sparkly black shrug—I feel matronly in this. Everytime! Every single time.
  4. Fabric belt—high maintenance. Always cinching it shut. Always, always, always.
  5. Suspenders—These are from Sears. They don’t even get me close to feeling I live a life parallel to Janelle Monáe.

What’s this all about? Check out my November pact to purge

More Shiz Gone!!!!—Nov 9

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November 9 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Toiletry bottles—last night I went around the house and collected all my travel bottles. 72! I had 72 toiletry bottles. Now I have 50. That is still too many, but tossing 22 is a big step forward.
  2. Wire tree—it’s cool! I wasn’t using it. I just kept moving it around and hanging different things off it. It kinda stressed me out.
  3. Misc bathroom stuff—plastic cups that came with the house (I’m not touching these. Why did they take me four years to trash?), hair brush (I have about six more to figure out), unopened blotting papers.
  4. Expired meds—more than one thing expired in 2007. We moved in 2010. Yup, that means I packed this junk.
  5. Big plastic wine glass—I thought was going to artfully display cute soaps in the bathroom . . . huh? I dunno. Anyhow, the cup is in the donations bag now, ready to move on.

Well, that’s today’s purging effort (looks like I knocked out 31 items). It is rewarding and pretty overwhelming at times. That’s why I began experimenting with the limit of 5 items/day…but what I’m discovering is that opening your eyes to clutter awareness is like exerting force on a huge boulder. It’s just not simple to stop or control.

Curious about what this is all about? Here’s my November pact to purge

5 (small piles of) Things Gone—Nov 8

Truly, 27 things gone! Basically a “thing” is a decision. That pile of pouches, each pouch was a bit of a decision. I collect these things. Not sure why, most the time they just sit in a drawer. I’ve never needed this many at once.

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November 8 — Five (piles of things) things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Toiletry bag and pouches—I have so many of these things! This is the pile of where I drew the line.
  2. Beauty supplies (brushes, headbands, sharpener)—all duplicates
  3. A glass—nothing wrong with it, other than the memories it triggers. Not bad memories, just odd. This is another Crate&Barrel thing I shouldn’t have bought. I used to work near the outlet, as I result I always did deal-focused retail therapy here. As a result I unintentionally conditioned myself to dislike Crate&Barrel as well as deals.
  4. Ear buds & cord holder—Is three sets of ‘buds enough? Hope so, that’s what I kept. The cord holder I was briefly excited about, but it didn’t work well (bulky and cord often popped loose)
  5. Trinkets and doodads (a silly cardboard sign, mini picture frame, magnets, lighter—the lighter was by far the most challenging choice to purge. I don’t remember why I have it. But, it has been with me a long time. It has a working traffic light design. Click it and all the lights blink! That was the why I was keeping it. But, I knew I needed to get rid of it because, as cute as it is, it kept hogging my attention in a way I did not value. As soon as I removed it from it’s home on my desk (placing it in the discard pile), it lost all it’s magic. This happens a lot. It might be the most powerful technique I’ve discovered yet.

What’s this all about? Check out my November pact to purge

5 Things Gone—Random Assortment of Containers

Plus,  few more insights and actions behind the mindset of letting go.DSCF0024

Not only is it Friday, it is one full week since I’ve been doing this daily. It feels amazing! This is the first time I’ve documented my purges. I was afraid to do this. I had thought it would get in the way of my momentum. I also thought that seeing what I removed (forever living in a photo) would make me yearn for what was no longer mine. Exactly the opposite. I look at all these photos and think “What is wrong with me? This is junk! What took me so long to let these things go?”. Combined with this purge, I’m actively addressing why did I have X item to begin with. Why did I acquire this bowl? Most of the time my answer is emotional justification. Emotionally, I just had to have it. In order to feel like I was being responsible I’d justify that need/reaction with “oh, I can use it to cover up ugly plant pots. This will look so much nicer!”. Really, really eye opening to confront myself this way.

Combined with this purging of physical things I’ve also been purging of email subscriptions. I documented those too. I unsubscribed from over 50 retail-based emails. Shocking! My perception was that it would be something like ten and that 10-15 was a lot! I had more than 50 (Crate&Barrel, CB2, Banana Republic, Artifact Uprising, Walgreens, Joss & Main, Everlane, it goes on and on and on). I’m a visual designer in the digital space. There is a ton of value in seeing what other big corporations (and smaller ones) are doing to influence their audiences. And many of them are really good at this! Most of these emails would have me considering buying something that I otherwise would have never thought of. It is shocking how the power of suggestion, combined with a deal, can get some of us to change our thoughts. Therefore, I deleted. I had more than 35,000 unread emails. The majority were advertisements.

November 7 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Canning jar—too many.
  2. Big bowl—wasn’t using. Had for 10 years. Every time I see it I think “that’s the item I was too chicken to get rid of”. I kept “what if’ing” That’s no way to live! It’s gone.
  3. Assortment of baggies—I seem to mindlessly hoard these with other travel things. I don’t need so many. I don’t want to too many “what if” things hanging around.
  4. Memo-note holder—wasn’t using.
  5. Small jar—Way too many of these! I have a 1 gallon zip-loc full of toiletry containers. Maybe I’ll address that tomorrow…maybe.

What’s this all about? Check out my November pact to purge

5 Things Gone (plus 9 more!)—Nov 6

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November 6 — Five 14 things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Old powders (3)
  2. Unused brushes (4)
  3. Expired blemish stick (1)
  4. Eye and lip pencils (5)
  5. Sharpener (1)

Everything was either old, expired or just not used. The artist in me loves makeup! I just rarely have the interest in spending more than 2 minutes in front of the mirror. This purge has me pretty excited. The things I’m keeping just feel that much better!

What’s this all about? Check out my November pact to purge

5 Things Gone—Nov 5

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November 5 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. My Fair Lady (been meaning to watch this for 10 years and still haven’t)
  2. Funny Face (can find it streaming if I need to see again)
  3. Sabrina (also been meaning to watch this for 10 years and still haven’t)
  4. Roman Holiday (Seen plenty! So beautiful.  Regarding all these movies, and minimizing in general, one thing I’m learning is to disassociate “love” and “need to own”. It sounds odd when dissected that way. I’m pretty convinced that’s exactly what is going on inside me when I shop.
  5. Best In Show (had good laughs with this, but that doesn’t mean I want to own it)

I’d like to thank technology and the convenience of streaming for today’s purge.

Here’s my November pact to purge