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 20 2011

what does an organized hoarder look like? [day 270]

I’ve used the term “organized hoarder” in conversations about hoarding, and it usually provokes some strange facial expressions.  These photos were take many years ago in the house of an organized hoarder.

Dining room

Guest bedroom

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!  :)


Feb 14 2011

I’m the ugly neighbor [day 263]

I know my neighbors must cringe when they drive by garage when the door is open.  I’m clearly the ugly neighbor.  Since I’ve been downsizing in the cold weather, everything was pitched out into the garage, in anticipation of some warm weather to get everything to the appropriate places.  Where are those places?  Anywhere but a landfill… the thrift store, the food pantry, craigslist, and last but not least, freecycle.

I needed to not only get the stuff out, but I needed to find one specific can of paint in the vast mountains of paint cans in my garage.  Well, after pulling all the paint out onto the driveway in preparation to give it away, I could not find the one can I needed for my kitchen ceiling.  Seriously?

I didn’t count, but I know there was well over 100 cans of paint.  I got rid of 99% of what I had.  I really wanted to do something fun and creative in the process of getting it out of my garage, but I found myself in gridlock, paralyzed by the sheer amont of stuff in my garage.  There’s just no time to creatively get rid of my stuff, so I started placing all of it on the driveway and listing it on freecycle as I cleaned it out.  About 80% of the stuff is gone already, in less than a day.

I collected coats, blankets, food and miscellaneous stuff from friends an neighbors to donate to the homeless and impoverished.  All of that is in my car and will be delivered to the appropriate destinations today.  It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Less stuff feels good.  And just so I’m not tempted to collect more junk, I gave away the shelving unit that I cleared off yesterday.  No empty shelves to refill, just nice, clean empty s p  a     c         e.   Continue reading


Feb 10 2011

the desire to get new stuff [day 260]

After having my house painted, and having everything moved, I was very careful with what I moved back into my space.  I rearranged a few things, but mostly, I purged a lot of stuff.  Unfortunately, because of the weather, it’s all sitting in my garage.  My new “minimalist” approach to my space is nice, but yesterday, I did have the desire to buy a few things.  I didn’t, and I won’t, but I thought I might share what I wanted to buy.

New lamps. I need a couple of more lamps, as my house is still a bit dark.  I wanted some hanging lamps for over my bed for reading lights.  Right now, I’m using a nice looking lamp, but one that doesn’t really fit in the space.  But it’s light, I can see and it will work for now.  I also have a matching set of lamps that were out in the garage and I decided to bring them back in the house.  The bottom is busted out of the floor lamp and I got tired of cleaning up the sand from it.  It’s in a fixed place now, still broken, but not causing me any hassle.

I will still keep looking on eBay and craigslist for one or two more lamps, but I’m in no hurry and I will only buy what I want… pre-owned.

Bedding. Mine is still in perfect condition, but I want a new color.  There.  I said it.  I had a desire to buy something I completely don’t need.  So I’m not, but the thought did cross my mind.  How many times in the past did I want new bedding and I actually went out and bought it?  How many times have I done that with other things?

Door knobs and broomsticks. Okay, so I really don’t want any broomsticks, but I do want new door knobs.  My house is 17 years old, a couple years older than my car.  After having all of my doors painted, I have no desire to put the shabby looking gold knobs back on.  As a matter of fact, I’m leaving them off until I find the ones I want to put on.  I’d rather look at the holes in the beautifully cream colored, satin finished doors than to see them with the ugly brass-gold knobs.  My house is very modern and that’s the last detail item that needs changing.  Need… probably a strong word there.  They don’t really need to be changed, but I want them to be changed.  I’m going to hold out for the brushed nickel ones, looking daily on craigslist and eBay.  I’ve found some, but they were too far to drive.  I’ll probably check the Habitat Restore too.  I’ll also make sure my old ones go to a loving home, a home that likes that style and color.

I’m not going shopping, and the funny thing is, I will probably forget about the bedding, I will get a lamp when I see one I like and I’ll probably get used to the holes while I’m looking for knobs.  By the way, the bathroom door still has a knob, so you can come visit and use the bathroom without it being an awkward situation.  😉


Feb 7 2011

downsizing the kitchen & food supply [day 256]

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing lately.  Right before snowmageddon, I decided to clean out the kitchen, not just utensils and cabinet crap, but food.  I don’t like being wasteful, and although we waste a lot less than the average American family, I felt that we needed to make some changes.  We made some radical changes and some subtle changes, and the results are proving to be really good.  I’ll share the overall goodness of this, the process of cleaning out the kitchen and a couple of mini-challenges.

The big picture.

We haven’t died of starvation. Again, we started this a couple of weeks before the ice storm.  We have much less food in the house, but we had plenty to eat during the 4-5 days at home.  I didn’t buy extra, in fear that we would starve and have nothing to eat for a week.  I bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread the day before the storm hit.  We had plenty, and I was even able to feed the two painters working in my house a couple of times.

Airstream… I mean streamline. Okay, I want an Airstream, but that has nothing to do with my kitchen.  The tasks of cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen is much easier.  Cooking is easier, as there’s less stuff to shuffle around and I know what ingredients I have on hand.  Grocery shopping is easier, again, because I have less and I know the few things I need.  Cleaning is easier too, as I have a lot of extra pantry and cabinet space.  So much extra, that I was able to move all of my pantry items into empty cabinets while the oil paint takes 5 days to dry.

Here a snack, there a snack, everywhere a snack snack. My kids will open every bag of everything we buy at the store.  We could have, and have had, a pantry overflowing with food, and yet the kids can’t find a thing to snack on.  With much less in there, this is not a problem anymore.  It’s easy to see we have two open bags of crackers or pretzels.

Waste not, want not. We are wasting very little food these days.  Not that we wasted a lot before, but it was still more than I was comfortable with.  Waste is unnecessary, and by making some small changes to lessen it allows us to save a little money, be better to our environment and enables us to help others that don’t have enough to eat.

What did we do?

Downsized the pantry. If you have a smaller house like mine, the pantry is a small closet.  The picture is my “before” picture.  I don’t have an after right now, as the oil paint is still drying.  Whether your pantry is large or small, stuff always gets hidden in the back.  My pantry wasn’t horribly unorganized, it just had too much in it and could use a little more a system of “first in, first out”.  We took everything out and carefully selected what would go back.  I had cedar balls that didn’t smell like anything anymore.  Out.  Ridiculously expired stuff?  Out.  Open bags of stale crackers and chips?  Out.

We broke down the boxes and recycled them.  We couldn’t see all of the food behind the big boxes of crackers and cereal.  The boxes take up a lot of space.  I found it best to use see-through containers and baskets as much as possible.  Most of the stuff I didn’t know I has was in these black plastic crates and could not be seen. Continue reading


Feb 3 2011

hello, my name is jody and I’m a hoarder [day 252]

So this is the third day we’ve been “iced” in.  This is clearly not snow, as you can walk on top of it.  I even saw a video of a kid ice skating in the street.  My kids are bouncing off the walls and I’m so ready for this mess to go away, and them to be back in school.  I’ve been working from home most of these three days, but I’ve also spent a little time cleaning too.  It’s forced cleaning, and here’s why.

I finally hired someone to paint all of my doors and baseboards.  As much as I would like to do this myself and save the labor cost, I simply don’t have the time, or the desire, to do it.  My time will be better spent doing other things and the guy I hired really needs the work, so much that he drove here in the icy crap to work in my house.  It’s a win-win.

Having baseboards and closets painted is basically like moving.  It’s a good opportunity to not only clean everything, but to purge.  I still have way too much stuff and I need to keep downsizing.  I’m a hoarder.  Not to the extent of the people on the TV show, as those are the most extreme cases, but I’m a low level pack rat.  The few rooms I have downsized are really making me think how much stress and hassle it is to own so much stuff.  It’s simply not needed.  I listed a bunch of stuff on freecycle and it all went within a day.  I have so much more to get rid of!  Being in my house with all this stuff is making me crazy!

My garage is now the “last stop” in the process of purging.  Everything from my house is going out to the garage, from there, it will be sorted, purged then the remaining items will be organized, cleaned and brought back in.  I can honestly say, not much as come back in.

When purging and organizing you stuff, here’s a few tips that might help.  I could write a whole book on everything I’ve learned through this process, but I’ll just share a few of the major points.

Sort the mess.

Have bins or boxes set up for all of the “stuff destinations” you have planned.  You’ll stay in gridlock, shuffling things around with some basic sorting plans.  Here was my destination list:

  • freecycle
  • eBay / craigslist
  • keep
  • thrift store
  • recycling
  • trash
  • someone I know that wants this

Waste not, want not.

Keep in mind that you might not want this stuff, but that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be blessed by having it.  It’s not any additional work to take things to a thrift store versus the city dump.  And freecycle?  People will come get it right from your house, you don’t even have to take it anywhere!  Less physical work and just a small amount of time on the computer listing it on freecycle.org.

What to keep, what to part with.

This is the most difficult part of the process.  My first question to myself is, “Can I easily get this again if I need it?”  Other questions might include, “When is the last time I used this?” or “Do I see a need for this in the near future?”  Go through this process.  If you’re hung up on an item, put it in the keep bin.  Once you’ve done this process once, go through it again.  I sometimes make 4 or 5 passes through my stuff.  I’ve purged a lot and so far, I’ve had no regrets of anything I gave away.

Staying organized.

Once you’ve purged a room, keep the clutter out by having an area to put things.  My garage is the “catch all” for every room.  The clutter goes out there in a designated spot, and rarely does any junk make it back into the house.  When organizing a room, don’t pack everything in, leave space for a few new things and space to stay organized.  Also, when cleaning out a room, take everything out.  Start from scratch.  It’s easier and you will be able to purge more and organize more easily.

Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a few of the biggest helpers in downsizing.  I have to say, it’s a long process, but it feels really good!


Jan 1 2011

new year's resolutions [day 219]

I don’t have any resolutions for the new year.  I’m doing the no shopping challenge, I’m getting a lot of things done in my house and I’m doing most of the things I want/need to be doing.  One thing I do want to change is my cooking habits.  Cooking is not fun for me, but I’m trying to be better about cooking more and eating out less.

I upgraded my kitchen this week so I have more counter space and I bought the final piece of Le Creuset cookware to complete my collection.  Yes, all of it was used.

I found an island for my kitchen on craigslist.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for about a year now, but the island has to be on wheels and a very specific size to fit in my kitchen.  Color is no problem, as I can redesign it.  I needed something solid so I can tile the top of it.  After looking at islands, I think this one retails for around $150-$200.  I paid $60.  Here it is after the makeover.

The drawers are on the other side.  I have the tile to do the top, but I didn’t have the setting materials or grout, so I decided to do an artistic treatment and collage artwork on the top.  It’s a great thing to do to recycle and reuse books or magazines.  It’s easy to do, just use spray glue for the artwork, layer it until you’re happy with it and paint a couple coats of clear acrylic over it.  It’s very durable, as I have a bathroom floor done this way.

The next item I purchased (Merry Christmas to me) was from eBay.  It’s the final piece to my Le Creuset cookware.  I bought a steamer insert 6 years ago and the guy at the store told me it would work with a pot I already had.  It didn’t.  So this was not an impulse buy, as I’ve been planning to buy this for a while.  Why?  Let’s just say my MacGyver steamer rig didn’t work out so well.  It steamed great, but it took about 3 hours to clean up and luckily didn’t ruin my stove.  It was pricey, but it works into the no retail thing.  $188 including shipping.  This pot retails new for $315 and you can’t kill this stuff, it will be passed on to your grandkids.

I didn’t pay a lot for most of my pieces.  I got my first one at the thrift store for $4.  I got a set for free with my AMEX points.  All of the others were eBay or factory seconds, and I got their coupon calendar, so I paid next to nothing.

I guess I really didn’t need any of this stuff, but it’s all used and because I was not in a hurry, I found exactly what I wanted and for a good price.  Value might be a better word.  Happy new year.


Sep 13 2010

fun photos [day 109]

Not much to report on the shopping front, so I thought I would just share a couple of photos.

Recycled art project:  These were donated to FFS, cute bags of flour that were used for a school art project.

Plane trip:  I’m sure glad they told me that I can’t bring my gallon of bleach on the plane, because I always travel with it.  😉

Smallest closet EVER: Not sure why the image is sideways, but you get the picture.  (pun intended)  If we had tiny closets like this, maybe we would thing twice before buying some of the things we do?  The newer the houses, the bigger the closets.  In my last house, the master bedroom closet was bigger then my bedroom as a teen.  No wonder we buy more stuff, we can store it and not have to look at it.


Sep 7 2010

insomnia. informercials. insanity. [day 104]

Insomnia. I don’t like it, but when I get it, I deal with it.  Sometimes that means watching TV at 2:00 am.  Infomercials. Are you really awake and seeing this or is this some crazy dream?  Maybe I’m still asleep, becasue there’s no way that could exist.  Insanity. The realization that the robotic popcorn hand eating device really does exist and people are actually buying them.

Two specific commercials jumped out at me.  I really have to wonder (a) if people really buy into this stuff and (b) what in the heck they’re thinking if they do.

Space Bags

These aren’t such a bad idea for long term storage of garments, but for everyday use?  So if we tightly shrink wrap all of our stuff, we can make space for more stuff.  So let’s say I want to wear that blue sweater in bag number 9 (because for $19.95, they triple the order of 3 sets if you call right now), that would be a lot of work to decompress the bag, get the sweater out, re compress my other stuff so I can still fit lots more in my closet and then try to make the sweater fluffy again, with no wrinkles.  Seriously?

“And yes!!!  This is a great thing for travel!  Imagine being able to fit all your clothes easily into your suitcase…”  Last time I stayed at a hotel, I’m pretty sure they don’t give you vacuums.  So let’s imagine trying to get it all back in the suitcase without the space bags!  No thanks.  Time to clean out the closet, get rid of what I’m not wearing and stop buying so much.

thinkcash.tv

This is unbelievable.  So unbelievable that I can’t believe that even one person has done this.  Check out the terms of your loan:

The cost of your loan is based on the size of the loan you are approved for. It ranges from $0.90 per day per $100 borrowed (324.1% APR) for small, short-term loans down to $0.28 per day per $100 borrowed (98.7% APR) for larger, longer-term loans for customers with successful payment histories or higher credit scores. While these rates are lower than the rates charged by many other short term lenders, they are higher than some other forms of credit, so we encourage you to pay off your loan as quickly as possible. For a typical transaction, the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a loan of $1000.00 is 198.5% with 18 bi-weekly payments of $104.00.

There are no hidden charges or fees – you only pay interest for the time you keep the loan. You can reduce the cost of your loan by paying down or paying off your loan early – there are no prepayment penalties. However, if you make a late payment, skip a payment, or your payment is returned, you may incur additional fees.

Hidden fees?  Clearly they’re not hiding anything, except for the amount if you’re late with your payment.  I can’t even imagine how much that might be.  The funny thing about this is the infomercial.  They suggest reasons why you might need cash from them.  To pay your bills, to get you through to the next paycheck, car payment, food or to just buy things.  I would panhandle before I would pay 324.1% on money for food.  I’m pretty sure I would have to be on my death bed and need that money to save my life before I would borrow it… and even then, I would have to really think about it.

The other funny thing about this is the link on their website about a 12-step get out of debt program.  Not once do they say debt is bad, they just suggest you pay your debt payments on time.  And they send you to the government for assistance instead of telling you you’re an idiot for paying this type of percentage rate to borrow money.  The list is funny if you want to look, click here.

I just hope I can sleep tonight, I should be able to knowing I have plenty of storage space and no debt.