Mar 28 2011

mental gymnastics [day 305]

Buy one, purge one.

I’ve been practicing my “buy one, purge one” philosophy and it’s going well.  I was hoping to photograph all of the items, however that would take a lot of time.  I am doing it though.  I don’t shop near as much as I used to.  Even though I purchased things from a thrift store, it was still buying a lot of junk I didn’t need.  Now I’m much more selective and I buy much less, especially knowing I will have to get rid of something every time I buy something.  It’s a good plan and it’s not been a struggle at all.

I bought 2 pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans and a pair of swim trunks at the thrift store a few weeks ago.  I needed a pair of dress shoes that were comfortable.  I found just the right pair and I bought another pair that were on sale for $2.00.  I came home and got rid of 2 pairs of shoes.  The jeans, girl’s size 16, fit me, but a little snug.  I bought them with the intention of wearing them if I could, but if not, using them to repair some of my other jeans.  The boys needed a pair of swim trunks, as they’ve been fighting over the one pair they have.  I actually got rid of a lot of clothing, not just 2 pieces.  I’ll be blogging that soon.

Just a few days ago, I bought some throw pillows for my patio swing.  I’ve been wanting some because I love the swing this time of year and I like to lay on it and read.  Considering I got the swing for free from a friend and the cushions free from a dumpster, spending a few bucks at a thrift store on pillows seemed okay.  They’re the same fabric as my patio chairs and are from Pottery Barn, so they cost someone a lot of money.  I plan to dye or paint the unbleached cotton cushions.  So what am I getting rid of?  My colorful tile pot (that’s broken), some of my solar lights (a few that don’t work) and the shiny rocks (that are serving no purpose whatsoever).

Buy one, purge one is not difficult.  It’s a good feeling to know I’m not going to be accumulating more stuff when I do shop and it makes me walk away from many things I would have purchased with my old shopping habits.

Snap one, show one.

I started a quirky little habit.  I take photos of the things I considered buying, but chose not to.  I snap a photo and I show it here on my blog.  Here’s a couple of pics.  To the left are 4 square glass tables.  I thought these would be nice for my patio.  Mental gymnastics:

  • What would I get rid of?
  • Do I want to clean these?
  • Will I maintain the plants I want to put on them?
  • Where will I get the plants?  The pots?
  • Are these made for outdoor use?
  • Do I really want to spend $70?

I thought about all of that in less than a minute and easily decided against them.  Next was 2 latte mugs, the polka dot one and the orange rimmed one.  It’s rare to find oversized mugs.  Here we go again.  More mental gymnastics for he sake of consumerism.

  • Do I like these mugs?
  • Do I need these mugs?
  • What will I get rid of?
  • Do I need more dishes to wash?
  • How many cups can I use at one time?
  • How do these fit into my minimalist approach to downsizing?
  • Do they coordinate with my mismatched collection?
  • Do I really want to spend money on these?

Again, in less than a minute, I walked away from these.  I like the new habits.  They aren’t painful at all.  I haven’t quit shopping, but I’m spending my money less frequently and more wisely.  Time to kick it up another notch?  Probably so.


Feb 21 2011

where did all this stuff come from? [day 271]

I spent a few hours yesterday in my garage, again.  I’m making progress and getting rid of a lot of stuff I don’t need, or even want for that matter.  So this begs the bigger question.  Where in the world did all of this stuff come from and why do I have so much?

Space. Maybe it’s because I downsized from 3,300 to 1,780 square feet, but that was 4 years ago.  I took everything from my old house because I could, everything but the furniture.  It wasn’t my style, so I gladly left it.  The photo is of my ‘formal’ living room in the old house.  A useless room that was used once a year at Christmas time.  I loved the red walls, but I couldn’t take those.  I hated the coffee table so much, I listed it in the divorce decree as the ‘ugly coffee table’ that he could keep.

I’m realizing the I don’t need this much stuff to live or to be happy.  I don’t need to keep a lot, I don’t need to buy a lot and I don’t need to pack every inch of my house with stuff.  My neighbor saw my master bedroom closet and said it’s the smallest she’s ever seen.  It’s small, but it’s only about 1/3 filled, and that’s with the shelf I took out.  Empty space is good.  I want more of it.

Personal attachment. I don’t have many of these items.  Some would say it’s because my heart is 2 sizes too small.  It could be.  I do keep a few things.  My kids each have one plastic tote in the attic.  I place items in there that are meaningful to them like their favorite outgrown toys or art projects.  I kept one thing from my grandma, her turquoise blue double boiler pan.  Useful, and it reminds me of her cooking french toast for me when I visited.  It’s about the memories with a person, not the stuff. Continue reading


Feb 16 2011

my new minimalist challenge [day 266]

I’m not sure how many challenges one person can have going on at the same time, but I’m willing to break a world record on it.  My recent wardrobe downsize was just the beginning of downsizing my entire house.  This has not been a super easy process, but I sure learned many things that could potentially make it easier for me and easier for anyone to downsize.  Now, you have to understand something.  When I get motivated to do something, there’s no time for grass to grow under my feet.  As a friend of mine fondly labeled me a few weeks ago, “a freak of nature”, I clearly live up to that when it comes to just doing anything without hesitation.

My new challenge is this: Maintain my downsized quantity of material possessions and continue to downsize on a regular basis.

Simple.  Sounds simple, but will it be that easy?  The first part of the downsize took a lot of time and effort, but the rewards are huge!  You probably won’t believe this, as I would not have believed it myself, but an astronomical amount of stress went out with all of the material things.  For one, ownership is responsibility.  Most of the things we purchase are bought with the intention of making our lives easier or better, however living in a sea of gadgets places us in gridlock, as we desperately speed up this vicious cycle of spending more and wanting more.  There is no magic gadget that will make life easier, but there is a way to make that happen, it just takes a little bit of sweat equity and a desire to create change.

When purging things from my garage, I had 3 books on organizing.  Seriously!!??!  Here’s how I will do this new challenge.

Maintaining my downsized quantity

Simple.  Every time I buy something, I have to get rid of something.  If I come home with 3 new (used) things, 3 thing have to go.  I won’t do this with groceries, as I already have a challenge there that is working wonderfully.  Once I get to my desired allotment of stuff, this will help me maintain it.  If you plan to do this challenge, this part is good to start immediately, as your situation won’t get worse, it will stay the same until you begin your downsize process.

Continuing the reduction of material possesions

For one year, I will get rid of one item per day, in addition to the maintenance plan.  I’m haven’t reduced to the level I want to yet, and this should get me there.  Slowly, but I’m doing it so I can blog the process, recording why I still have the items and why I made the decision to give it away.  It’s also a good accountability process to blog these things.  It takes a little time, but you can do that too (for free) on WordPress.  Just take photos with your phone, write a sentence or two and post it.

Tips on downsizing

Here’s a few tips to get you started in your venture to simplify your life by owning less stuff.

  • Minimalist mindset. You have to be motivated on some level to do this.  You might not be 100% convinced that this will change your life for the better, but if you believe it even the slightest little bit, then you have enough motivation to start.  And for my friends that will say, “I can’t do it because my family won’t help, they won’t participate…”, just to it.  If they can’t beat you, they’ll have to join you.
  • Staging area. Having a staging area is hugely important.  I’m using my garage right now.  Everything goes out there into pile of where it should go.  You must quickly get it out of that area of it will start to migrate back to places where it shouldn’t.  I purge to the garage, then at least once a week, I list things on freecycle or make a trip to the thrift store.
  • Storage areas. You do need to have some empty storage space, but not too much, as you will tend to fill it back up.  As soon as I emptied the 100+ cans of paint of the 5 tier metals shelves, I gave the shelves away.  I don’t need them and I’ll just add more organized clutter to my garage.
  • Clean slate. Yes, I need to clean my slate patio, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  When you start with any given space, clear it all out of the space first, then organize it back into the space.  You’ll be motivated to get rid of more things and your time will be better spent, rather than just shuffling things around.  It’s like those little number puzzles, the ones with the frustrating little plastic tiles.  Wouldn’t it be easier to pop them all out, put 1-6 back in order and donate 7-15 to someone who would be blessed by your extra stuff?
  • Deciding what to get rid of. This seems to be the hardest part for everyone, myself included.  Ask yourself these questions when going through your stuff.  Is this an extra or a spare?  Do I need more than one of these?  Do I need this at all?  When is the last time I used it?  Could I borrow one or share this with somebody?  Does it have more than one use?  If I keep this, can I get rid of some other related  things?  Is this something I can get easily in the future if I get rid of it and find I need it?  This new mindset has helped me part with things.  I’ve been working on this slowly for 4 years, but power working it recently.  I have no regrets about the things I’ve gotten rid of.

If you do participate in this minimalist challenge in any way, please let me know how it goes.  If you do the blogging, please send me a link and I will add it to my site.  Have a happy, stress-free day!  :)


Jan 26 2011

recycle freecycle [day 246]

Freeycycle is the modern day dumpster diving, without having to touch a dumpster or trash can.  From the freecycle site: It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

I had my first free items from freecycle.org a couple of weeks ago.  Three empty 5-gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  I really needed just one, but the others will come in handy too, as I need to get rid of most of the paint I’ve been hoarding for years.

A few days ago, I got 3 lamps from freecycle.  One of them being a really cool, ultra-modern lamp, but needing repair to the on/off switch.  I haven’t repaired the lamp yet, but I can use the electrical from one of the other lamps that was missing a shade.  This lamp was not cheap and is probably the nicest lamp I own now.  The other small lamp, also missing a shade, will be my new energy efficient light in the nook on my staircase.  I ran electrical to that a couple of months ago since there was electrical in the closet underneath the stairs.

I’ve also gotten rid of things that I don’t need anymore.  Clutter is not my friend, so this made it easy.  I had some fence boards that I had no place to store.  Someone on freecycle was getting as many fence pieces as possible so he could build a new fence.  Smart dude, as he probably saved $5k and kept a lot of wood out of the landfill.   Continue reading