Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Becoming a minimalist

There is no clear definition of what a "minimalist" is. Because minimalism at its very heart is about not falling between exact definitive lines. Its about changing your perspective on compulsory consumption and living a life more uncluttered and simple.

Think back to a niece/nephew, a son/daughter, sister/brother or anytime you observed a toddler opening gifts. Inevitably the adults coo about how "they like the box more than the gift" or everyone laughs when ripping the gift paper has occupied the toddler's attention more than the present. Think about how having a sprinkler on your lawn in July was the best ever! What about when mom helped you pour juice into ice cube trays for Popsicles? Or when you got a postcard in the mail? These events and memories were so simple, yet they hold the most impact on fond memories.

I bet you can't remember what you got for Christmas when you were 8, but you remember your first tooth coming out. How wonderful to go back to simple joys. To enjoy your Iphone 5 and laugh about the Nokia you had in college and not to go into 30 months debt payments of $30+ a month for the newest "gadget".

Minimalism can encompass all kinds of living situations. If you went from a 3,000 sq ft house and downsized to 1500 sq ft, go ahead call yourself a minimalist! If you decided you only need 2 spatulas from the 8 in your utensil drawer, guess what, you've minimized your foot print as well! You don't have to live out of one bag, sleeping on a yoga mat and when last counted you had 42 items. That is someone else' definition of minimalism. It is about changing your shopping habits, changing what you have in your home and asking yourself what does your stuff do for you? Does it add meaning to my life or does it serve a purpose? Are you working for your stuff? It should be working for you.

Monday, September 5, 2016

My "aha moment"

Sitting on my ottoman with my head in my hands overwhelmed with all these things, I suddenly realized that my room was truly a metaphor for my thoughts. That I had to change the way I thought about things before I could clean out or else I would just fill the space up again.

People can tell you that you're a hoarder, a shopaholic (they go hand in hand) that you have too much stuff, but until you have your own "aha!" moment it won't sink in. In fact, I used to get very defensive and upset at people. I would say, "I have moved so many times, my stuff is home for me". I would shop and say "well I need this for _____" reason, let me tell you guys, you can always find an excuse to buy something.

For me it was getting things just because they were a good deal and not because I actually needed them. Also it was "the perfect outfit", come one ladies, you know what I mean! Guess what, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE PERFECT OUTFIT. Companies spend millions of dollars inundating you with advertisements convincing you that your life will be complete with _________ (insert item). There is so much subliminal advertising .we don't even realize how much it affects literally EVERYTHING we do. How we vacation, what kind of house to buy, where to live, retirement, job choice, car choice, hell even college choice. Enough ranting on the commercialization of America, there are better experts out there than I on the subject.

Back to the ottoman, suddenly freed and instantly scared, I had no idea where to start. The idea of giving away things almost caused panic attacks. I knew I needed help and luckily we have great tools right at our fingertips via the internet. The biggest help and tool for me, was blogs just like this one. People who had taken there own journey towards a more simplified existence. Googled organizing tips (because I still thought I just needed organizing help) and one of the first blogs that popped up was Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (http://www.theminimalists.com/) They talked about the same thing, working a million hours a week to buy the things that filled up their lives and one day waking up and asking themselves "why?". Ryan Nicodemus had what is called a packing party. He literally packed up everything he owned like he would be moving and only unpacked things as he used them. Imagine his surprise on what one actually uses on a day-to-day basis. Read their blog for details. I thought they made interesting points. The next one though affected me to most, and it was so simple.

Courtney Carver, creater of project 333 wrote on her blog (http://bemorewithless.com/about/) don't organize, have less stuff. That seems so simple and yet it spoke volumes. If buying conatiners and things would make me organized, I would be organized by now! I have spent years since college buying organizing items, but it never seems enough. to quote Miss Minimalist (http://www.missminimalist.com/2009/12/minimalist-strategy-dont-organize-your-clutter/) "In reality, all those lovely boxes, bins, and drawers served no higher purpose than to hide my junk. At some point I realized that I wasn’t organizing my life; I was organizing my clutter." How poignant. 

The number one tool I wish I had discovered was Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing magic of Tidying up-The Japanese art of Decluttering. She emphasizes a relationship between you and your things, which may sound silly, when you think about though it is one of the reasons why we have a hard time letting go of our stuff because we do in fact have a relationship with them. The right shoes to compliment an outfit will make you feel like a million dollars. A soft blanket and you feel safe. Jeans make you dumpy or cute, that just so soft tee and you can run a mile. I bet when you cook, you go for the same spatula and pot every time, whether you own 2, 5 or 10 of them. Marie Kondo's idea is that you should only keep the things that spark joy, your favorite things that we use, wear watch and read every time.

 Lets be honest, we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. The rest is "just in case" or in my case was guilt over spending the money on it and not using it. How awful, to force yourself to wear a shirt to justify your purchase and be uncomfortable the rest of the day. Or waste an entire kitchen cabinet to store China plates you use maybe twice a year. The secret is folks, that when the family comes over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they would be just as happy using paper plates than worrying about breaking your $100 antique plate. They are just happy to be celebrating with you.

With my kindle never more than a foot away from me for blog/online support, I started my clearing of the mind, starting with the wardrobe. First rule for myself, was any new items had to serve multiple purposes and replace at least 3 items. Second, I was going to do it in stages. Everything I packed up went against the wall in a bin for 30 days, If I didn't go back for it, than I could donate it. Third while I did try to make some money back by using consignment stores and platos closet, I was not going to ebay and craigslist everything, it wasn't worth my time. Fourth, I had to work on my shopping habits, it is still something I struggle with. I have made great strides, but also gotten really good a returning things if I do slip up. Fifth I was going to take my time and not stress myself out with a timeline. Lastly I was to forgive myself for past purchases and not let the guilt over take my efforts. Here is where Marie Kondo would have been best. She says when you get rid of something to tell it thank you, and not to feel guilty because at the time it did spark joy, it was something you needed at that moment in time and it's time for it to move and spark joy in someone else's life. 

More to come in the next blog :-)

Back up your photos, you never know what life will bring

I am sitting here by my window looking outside at day two of rain. It may not seem abnormal, but in Alabama it typically only rains for 15 minutes to an hour, so an all day drizzle is rare. We were lucky this week, Hurricane Hermine was originally projected for this area but veered towards Florida after it hit the Gulf of Mexico. Our neighbors in Louisiana were not as lucky and got hit hard with rains a flooding. Living along the gulf coast there is an ever present knowledge that you could potentially loose everything in the next storm. Everyone here remembers Katrina with very real clarity.

One of the steps I've taken during my clean-out was to back all of my photos on to dropbox. This meant sorting through all of the photos I had to delete the bad ones. The negative side of having digital photos is we feel we can take as many as we want because they don't take up much memory. The issue is we rarely go back and delete the bad ones, or the unnecessary ones. In essence I was a photo hoarder, because I had 40 gb of photos!!! I mean really? I wasn't even looking at these photos!

What is the point of keepsakes if we don't actually look at them? I have a small decorative shelf I have put up in my room to display my tchotchkes (little souvenirs). Decreeing that they must be seen or used in order to keep, I have selected my favorites and the ones with truly sentimental meaning to be displayed and let the rest move on to a new home.

Back to the photos I really struggled with them. The idea that if I delete them they are gone forever really haunted me. What if I changed my mind? What if I needed them? It wasn't like clothes where you could find something else, these were memories!

Putting off sentimentals and photos, it wasn't until I read Marie Kondo's book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of Decluttering and Organizing" , that I had the tools to clean the hardest things to let go of. Marie Kondo's philosophy was truly inspiring. She talks about keeping only the things that spark joy and create an air of positivity, rather than seeing it as having to give away your things.

I created a file within my hard drive called "photos to keep' and I went through 40 gb of photos over a few weeks working on it a few hours at a time. I got it down to 4.2 gb of photos, Roughly only 10% of the photos I had stored for nearly 10 years were usable and nice. I uploaded these to dropbox, giving me piece of mind that no matter what may happen my memories are preserved. Utilizing an old 4 gb memory card I now use a digital photo frame to display my memories. Now everyday I get to see all my photos, those who come by to visit get to see them too. It has been lovely to sit in my room reading look up and see my brother, sister and I at the Grand Canyon or Elsa and I in Hong Kong or the ducks on Boston common.

Marie Kondo's book is amazing! It is the number one thing I recommend to people looking to clean out. Imagine coming everyday and using your favorite mug, cuddling with your favorite throw blanket and wearing only your favorite sweats. All day long I am surrounded only with things that spark joy!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

7 years later...

Oh gosh...seven years!!! How readers, did your survive near a decade without my snarky written sarcastic New England dry humor? Oh yeah, you probably watched Fox news. Haha, NOT!!!

So, seven years. Where to start? It seems I left the last post off at a bit of a cliffhanger. Apologies all around. I am back and hoping to make this more of a regular thing. Once-a-weekish is what my goal is. Readers, you may be wondering where I have gone and why I lost "interest" in writing. Truth is I didn't, but it definitely went on the back burner for quite awhile. I suffered a series of ego bashing events and I really questioned my future and future plans. I had always known that the typical path was not one for me, but I found myself living it and setting my goals to the "American Dream" nonetheless. It was not for me. What was for me? Well that became the question and so I decided adventure was in order to find it.

Fast forward seven years and here I am, I became a minimalist (what?! weren't you a closet hoarder?!) Two years ago I was sitting in my room (large 18 X 18ft room) looking at a bakers rack with 3 cubes (better homes and garden kind from walmart) and the 4th corner on all three draped over the edge of the shelves. It looked sad, and pathetic. Like a poor attempt to look organized. I remember taking a 360 degree view of the entire place and assessing. At first it seemed normal, 2 dressers, a closet, an entertainment stand with built-in drawer, bed, nightstand, 2 ladder bookcases, bakers rack, sofa, recliner chair, side table and papasan chair. But the more I looked the more overwhelming it got.

I had A LOT of stuff. The closet had 50 hanging items at least (my one regret is not taking a picture before I started the clean out). It wasn't just hanging items though, it was 2 more of those walmart bins sitting side by side at the bottom of the closet. It was costume type stuff sitting on top of the closet. Both dressers were so stuffed I could barely close the drawers. The tops of both dressers were covered in things, There were so many throw blankets I had an ottoman to store the extras in. I had 6, yes 6 large 20 gallon rubber maid tubs containing "storage". I could go on and on, but frankly its embarrassing. Sadly the worst part is I still shopped. For no reason other than I wanted to. It was aimless and most of the things I bought were because they were "a good deal".

I had that rock bottom head in my hands full of shame moment. It changed my life.

More to come in the next blog :-)