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 19 2011

the clothing experiment update [day 237]

Here’s the experiment.  I decided to reduce my wardrobe by 50%.  I also threw out a mini-challenge.  Take 25 pieces of clothing from your closet, place them in a box or plastic tote.  Put it away for a month and see if you miss any of the stuff in it.  If not, take it to the thrift store.  If so, take out the item(s) you missed.  Here are some updates.

50% reduction

I still have a long way to go on achieving a 50% wardrobe reduction.  I’m close, but I still need to purge some more stuff.  I went through my drawers and got rid of about 40% of that.  I need to make my 2nd and 3rd passes there.  I also had 2 loads of dirty laundry that were not included.  I didn’t count the pieces, but just guessing, I need to get rid of about 75-100 more pieces.  I’ll do that later in the week.

my boys did the mini challenge

I had both of my kids pull 25 clothing items out of their closets.

My youngest, 10, has some emotional attachments to his clothing, and to stuff he’s never even worn. Wow, we all start this process early. He has a lot of hand-me-downs that he intends to wear. The process was not easy for him.

My oldest, 11, is way pickier than I thought. I learned a lot about him in the process. He hates yellow and thinks it makes him look like a clown. He won’t wear anything with a collar. He had a lot of clothes in the back of his closet that were too small, and some clean laundry. I thought he had a lot of clothes, but he doesn’t because his brother, being the same size, has hoarded them all.

50 pieces of clothing is going to the resale shop.  And my boys? They feel good about it. It’s easier to keep their rooms clean.

others taking the challenge

I have gotten some great responses to the mini-challenge.  Besides the several people doing it, here’s some great feedback.   Continue reading

Jan 17 2011

airing my dirty laundry… and clean laundry [day 235]

I promised you dirty laundry, so here it is.  There’s actually more of it, but this is my basket.  My kids have one upstairs too.  So why an I showing you this?  I have no idea, other than it seemed like a fun title for this blog post.

I was thinking a few days ago how ridiculous it is that I have as many clothes as I do.  I have a relatively small closet, at least considered small by Frisco standards.  It’s a walk-in for skinny people.  I thought, “What if I got rid of half of my clothing?”  Helping my friend move back into her house, and helping her purge clothing from her son’s outgrown wardrobe, was the final push I needed to do this.

I decided to do it.  Get rid of half of my clothes.  Going into this, I had no idea if this would be easy or difficult.  Will it feel like a sacrifice?  Let’s see…

Let’s start with my closet.  I have approximately 278 pieces of clothing in there, so I will need to purge 139 pieces.  The first pass through the closet yielded 84 pieces of clothing.  Not bad for a first pass, but still a pretty long way to go.

The second pass, which was a little bit difficult, yielded 28 pieces of clothing.  This pass felt a little bit like a sacrifice, but when I thought about it, most of this is stuff I don’t wear anymore.  This batch included my pair of mismatched shoes, as they’re too small and hurt my feet.  Sad about those, but it makes sense to pass them on.  These will go to the first person that asks for them (size 7.5), as the thrift store would pitch them in the trash thinking they need exact matches.  Continue reading

Jan 9 2011

are you expressing yourself or propagandistically supporting financial insanity? [flashback – day 227]

n1355929489_107613_2584Original post: January 1, 2009

About two months ago, I got a really cool pair of shoes from a friend’s teenage daughter.  She said she was not wearing them anymore, so I took them home with me.  The shoes were awesome, great colors and artwork!  As soon as I got home, I put them on and went outside to play with the boys.  We got out the sidewalk chalk… well our version of sidewalk chalk… and started the outside art process.  I drew the skull that was on my shoe.

I had seen lots of merchandise with artwork like my shoes, but I didn’t really know much about it.  Ed Hardy.  Stuff that people are paying insane amounts of money for.  $109 for a short sleeve t-shirt?!?!?!?  Are you kidding me?   Continue reading

Jun 19 2010

playing dress up [day 23]

Most people would argue that I’m an extravert, and although I do have those tendencies, I’m very much an introvert.  On the continuum of ‘E’ to ‘I’, my slider is much more toward the ‘I’, which is one major reason I’m not comfortable in large groups of people.  I feel exposed and awkward.

Last night I had a wedding to attend.  It’s not only the large group thing, but I also don’t like to wear fancy, dressy clothing.  I know this because I really don’t own anything besides casual clothing.  I also know this because of the bulging eyes and gasps from my friends last night, as they’re scrambling to find their cameras, in complete disbelief that I was wearing a dress.  That is, my $3 thrift store dress with sandals I dug out of the back of my closet, that were broken and stapled together to stay on my feet.  I guess I fit in well enough with the current trends in clothing, which was good, because a wedding is no place for me to make a statement about society’s pressure to conform to ‘socially acceptable’.  The photo on the ‘right’ shows how I feel about fashion.  This was part of a gallery showing I had a few years back called ‘excessable’.  It says more than I could ever put into words.

I’m quite sure my feelings on clothing stem from my childhood.  My mom had me in beauty pageants and I was never allowed to choose clothing I liked.  I was taught from an early age that you are judged by your appearance, which explains a lot about the way I dress myself today.  If I’m going to be judged, I do not want to be thought of as a conformist to our culture.

Don’t get me wrong here, I like style and a lot of my clothing is what would be considered ‘in style’ by our current fashion trends.  It’s the excessiveness, the name brand gods and the financial prostitution that bothers me.  Yes, I know those are harsh words, but allow me to explain.  I really wouldn’t mind having a new top, or for that matter, a whole new outfit.  The excess in this industry makes it difficult to choose an outfit, and if I can finally select one, it becomes my identity.  People don’t see me first, they see what I’m wearing.

The financial part?  I use the words financial prostitution because it means money and using your talents for an unworthy cause.  80% of my wardrobe is from thrift stores and the rest from discount stores.  Sometimes I wish I had a new outfit, but I’m not willing to make the financial commitment that is associated with it.  The retail establishments are making a killing off of clothing, many of them using cheap labor overseas to make it even more profitable.

Finally, the name brand god.  One of my favorite pairs of shoes are my Ed Hardy shoes, although I only wear one at a time, the other being a Converse or Sketcher.  My EH shoes were free, but they make the statement that I spend a lot on my clothing and that I support major retailers.  I like the artwork on them, but I think people see the name, not the art, then they judge.  Cynically, I do this too.  I see name brands and here’s the process I go through.  First I judge them, thinking they have spent a lot of money and have been sucked into the excess of our culture.  I get angry with them for being wasteful with their money.  Then I get angry with myself for judging, as it’s not right, I should treat others like I want to be treated.  I don’t like being judged so I shouldn’t do it.  After my conviction, I realize I don’t know their story.  Maybe their stuff was free, maybe they paid full price, not for me to worry about.  I need to worry about me and my actions, which brings me to my latest experiment.

My most comfortable pair of shoes is a beat up pair of Nike shoes.  I’ve had them for about 6 years?  I paid full price for them when they first came out.  I’m not sure it was money well spent, but I have gotten a lot of use out of them.  I was looking at these shoes one day and realized I’m a walking advertisement for Nike.  Each shoe has the name or the swoosh on it five times!  I got a razor blade and cut all of the logos off.  Sadly, they still look like brand name shoes, even with giant holes in them.  I’ve worn them at least five times, in different settings.  Not even one person noticed anything or said anything.  It really makes me want to go cut all the logos off ALL of my clothing.  Don’t be surprised…  Oh, here’s a pic of the shoes.

Society’s expectations of style and fast moving trends are a reality, and not something I want to eliminate.  What I would like to see?  Balance.  (you just thought of New Balance shoes, didn’t you?)  Money spent wisely on sensible clothing purchases, supporting companies that support fair labor practices and all of us, including myself, not to judge people by what they’re wearing.

I have to wonder if I would be as uncomfortable in large groups if I knew we all embraced each other’s outer and inner individuality, without judgement?  Probably not, but it might make it more tolerable.  Am I the only one that struggles with this?  I would love to hear your thoughts.