Decluttering v758.0

Let’s see here: I started my minimalism journey in 2012 and began decluttering. I started Project 333 in 2013 and eventually made two more passes through the house, particularly my kitchen, before starting a zero waste year in 2016.

And here we are, 2019 and I’m starting to declutter again. Um, how many times am I going to have to do this?

Never mind, rhetorical question. All of that is just to say, here we go. One more time. And probably not even the last.

I’m actually a couple of months into this and, wardrobe aside, it’s going fine. What’s really helped me is following the FlyLady zones because it gives me a set area to concentrate on with the added bonus of mini-missions. I can’t say I follow what she prescribes each week because I have a different agenda. But I do give myself five chores at the beginning of each week that can be accomplished in 15 minutes.

Spoiler alert: I generally manage to get four of the five done, which I count as a success.

Anyway, it’s been quite helpful in getting down to the nitty gritty of cleaning and purging that I haven’t had time for / haven’t wanted to deal with in the past. I’ve cleaned under the bathroom sink, tackled the top shelf on my side of the closet, gone through and wiped down cabinets in the kitchen and started in on the hutch. I kind of like the hopping around from space to space because then I don’t get bored. And because I set a time limit, I don’t get frustrated or bogged down.

One thing I’ve learned in all that past decluttering is that you can burn yourself out quickly if you try to do too much to fast. Which is why I am a big fan of this slower route. 

It amazes me how much cleaner a particular area can look after each of these small sessions. How it all adds up. And how accomplished I feel. It’s not all about decluttering for me, per se — it’s about getting a handle on my home. Getting rid of stuff is just an added bonus.

I guess my point is this: No matter where we are on our minimalist journey, there is still work to be done. And half the battle is starting. AGAIN.

More changes

The day after my darling daughter, Abby, moved back home for summer vacation, my equally darling 95-year-old grandmother moved to town to be closer to my parents.

Gram came from an apartment in a senior living complex, and the room she has moved into is probably half the size. Well, maybe not quite that small, but it’s got half the closet space, easy. My father filled a U-Haul truck with her furniture and boxes … and then had another pickup load with more stuff. And that was after she’d downsized her possessions.

And here I thought Abby had a lot of stuff.

I came by in the afternoon to help with the move, and then came back while Johanna was at basketball practice to unpack. Grandma was looking at her stuff and her storage space, and was feeling a bit defeated. It became fairly obvious fairly quickly that she was going to have to discard even more in order to fit into her new space comfortably.

“We don’t have to make hard decisions tonight,” I told her, and she agreed that she could look through items as time allowed and make piles for the annual church rummage sale, happily coming up next month. Still, whenever she decided that she didn’t like or want something, I put it in a bag and brought it home — to either rummage or toss, depending on its junk quotient.

I’m very pro-rummage, but I’m also realistic.

Anyway, Grammie has been here for a couple of weeks now and she’s definitely settling in. She’s amazed that the food they serve in the dining room is hot (um, that broke my heart) and that she’s sleeping so well because it’s quiet (the last place had 22 trains going by day and night, and apparently, she heard every one of them).

And it’s nice, having not lived by any extended relatives since I was 9, to be able to swing by and see her whenever I want. “I love you, sweet girl,” she told me a couple of visits ago. That made me laugh. Only a 95-year-old would think 46 is a girl.

P.S. My grandma is such a trooper. She’s lost two of her kids and her husband within the last four years and had to move out of the home she’d been in for 60-plus years for assisted living (when my grandfather was alive) and then into an apartment (after he passed). And now she’s here. She’s got arthritis and macular degeneration AND diabetes. But she just keeps going. She’s joined an exercise group and sits with new people every day at meals and stays positive. I tell you what, that is a lot of change and I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle it as gracefully as she has. To say I admire her greatly is an understatement.

Introversion

I’m an introvert who happens to have a very busy, people-oriented and event-laden job as a journalist for a small town newspaper. That alone makes me want to crawl in a hole, aka my house, and shut the shades when the day is over. Actually, that’s exactly what I do.

There’s a myth that introverts aren’t good with people. I was in a coffee shop (obvs) a few weeks ago and ran into an acquaintance, and I was complaining about the lack of introvert time I’d had that week.

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Photo by Anusha Barwa on Unsplash. The cat is all like, “What do you mean, you’d rather go out tonight?”

“That’s interesting to me, when people who are great conversationalists say they’re introverts,” she said. That was interesting to me, that introverts aren’t supposed to be able to talk. 😉 I wasn’t offended, of course — she’d just said I was a great conversationalist! I was mostly just relieved to hear I don’t come across as an idiot because I tend to ramble.

What is true, however, is that I’d rather be at my house than be out in the world. I even consider grocery shopping or getting my hair cut as social events, which greatly amused my extroverted co-worker when I was recounting my weekend one Monday morning.

Basically, if I’m not in my house, I consider whatever I’m doing to be social. And that’s fine, but there’s only so much of that I can take.

I’m good at being by myself. That’s never bothered me, even as a kid.

The awesome thing about being married to an introvert is that, when we get home, there’s no questions or hard feelings when we both veer off into separate corners to gather our wits at the end of the day. And we’re both on the same page in that we prefer our house to going out. Maybe that’s why we’re not big on dates. We’re already in the best place in town! Why would we leave?

“Where have you guys been?” Eric and I have been asked more than once when we actually make a pubic appearance. “At our house,” is always my honest answer.

It’s also true that I prefer the world in my head to the world that’s out there. That’s why I read and write a lot in my free time (also, as it happens, what I do for a living. Hilarious).

And I get uncomfortable when I’m the center of attention. I am a GREAT backup, and that No. 2 position is right up my alley. I try to blend into the scenery, which is sort of difficult when you’re 6 feet tall. Give me a one-on-one conversation any day of the week, but when it’s a crowd (two people plus), I’d rather listen.

So I suppose it’s ironic that I’m in a public job and that I blog. I just pretend no one reads what I write. Otherwise I’d never be able to do it. I have no desire to ever be the editor of our paper. That doesn’t appeal to me at all.

Extroverts fascinate me. Are you telling me that you actually LIKE being with other people? That you’d rather be at a party than in your own living room?

I’m honestly not even sure how that’s possible.

Of course, there are the hybrid introverts amongst us — my oldest being one — who thrive in social situations but also need time to decompress.

Which I suppose means there are hybrid extroverts.

We’ve had a lot of changes recently and my introvert time has been greatly diminished. Which, on one hand, that’s fine. On the other, I know I need to be more protective and proactive when it comes to finding time to recharge. Which is why I’m writing about this today, I suppose. It’s on my mind.

Wardrobe woes

Once upon a time, I really had a handle on my wardrobe (thanks, Project 333!). It’s been a year or so since I stopped P333 because I felt like I’d learned the lessons I needed to and, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter how many items were in my closet. I’m a minimalist. I gravitate towards minimalism.

Ha ha ha, isn’t it HILARIOUS when you get all cocky about being a genius and then the world knocks you down? Karma in action! Because:

Johanna and I hit the Goodwill in the town next door a couple of weeks ago — the weather had turned quite warm and I wanted some “spring-y” t-shirts. Johanna just enjoys thrifting in general and always finds something. The problem is that once she finds it (and buys it), she doesn’t always like it later on. This is actually called “pulling a Johanna” in our household.

My “spring-y” t-shirts ended up being burgundy, gray and a black/white patterned tank — I guess I’m not cut out for bright colors. (I saw a pink cardigan that was kind of cute and asked Jo what she thought, and she was like, That’s not even you. True, kid, thanks for the wisdom. Gray it is!) When we got home, I began organizing my closet for the warmer months. Johanna decided to go through her closet and got rid of a couple of items, one of which was a striped navy number that I decided to add to my closet instead of the rummage sale bag.

My spring t-shirt situation was really starting to look up, but my closet was getting away from me. I started running out of hangers. And I refuse to get more hangers. I have more than enough if I keep my closet to 35 or so items. Um, that ship had sailed, so I solved that problem by folding sweaters and long-sleeve t-shirts and storing those in my standing wardrobe. Not ideal because I tend to forget about what I can’t see hanging in front of my face. On the upside: It did make things look more manageable, at least.

And then Abby came home for the summer — P.S. YAY — around 6:30 p.m. last Monday. She decided she needed her room completely clean before she went to bed (she is the most organized teenager ever), which seemed to me like an impossible task, just looking at all the boxes and bags and suitcases she had strewn around the place. I was tasked with hanging up her clothing.

“I have a lot of clothes,” she said, “but I love them all.”

No judgement, kid. It’s your life and your closet. I’m just over here, hanging it all up.

As she went through her suitcases, there were a few items she decided she no longer wanted … one being a baseball-style t-shirt she got in high school that I’ve always thought was adorable. Um, so that’s now in my closet.

And then the weather went from 90 degrees F last Saturday to 65 degrees by Wednesday. So all the sweaters I had folded KonMarie-style (damn you, Netflix!) are now hanging across the bar in my closet. So I can get to them. Because I’m out of hangers.

What were the lessons I’d learned about minimalist closets again? I’ve clearly lost my wits.

Anyway, here’s my solution, and I will tell you right now that it’s lame, but it’s what I’ve settled on so whatever: When I wear an item, I turn the hanger back-to-front (putting it in backwards?) so I can see what I’m actually wearing. Of course, whatever I’m wearing out of my standing wardrobe doesn’t get the same treatment, but I’ve decided that isn’t so much of a problem because it’s not prime real estate like my closet. At the end of the month (which is coming up surprisingly quickly), I will reassess.

Um, so the moral of this story is that I’ve got a little work to do. 😉

P.P.S. Some links on my experiences with P333 (that maybe I should read myself):

HERE (Just beginning and the issues I ran into right off the bat)

HERE (Putting together a spring and summer wardrobe)

HERE (Lessons learned from my winter wardrobe)

A belated Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in the U.S. was Sunday, but for me, it’s going to be today — because Abby comes home from college and I’ll have both kids under one roof again. And that’s my favorite. I know that we’re getting to the end of the line as far as frequency of this happening, so I just enjoy it and see it for the gift that it is.

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Where on earth has the time gone?

The words are telling me to share this Mother’s Day story: Abby was two months shy of 3 the first Mother’s Day she really understood what was going on. She had a terrific gift for language even then, and loved to talk. Eric and Abby had a whole day of surprises for me, one of which was to go to the town next door and do a bit of shopping. The entire trip, Eric kept saying to Abby, “Aren’t we lucky to have Mama? Don’t we love Mama so much? Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!” For her part, Abby would just beam at Eric and say, “I love YOU, Daddy!” and wish him a happy Father’s Day. Each time, Eric would look sheepishly at me — he was trying SO HARD — and it would make me laugh.

He never did get her to wish me a happy Mother’s Day.

Fast forward to July or August. Abby is now 3, and she’s running through the sprinkler with a banana-flavored popsicle. During one of her breaks, she looks up at me and says, “I love you, Mama. Happy Mother’s Day!” And I was like, wow, do I have a story for your father tonight when he gets home.

One of my best stories. And one of my most memorable Mother’s Days.

*

When the girls were younger, I’d get the day off and they’d do all the chores I’d normally complete on a Sunday. It was heaven. I’d read on the deck and the girls would run out and give me periodic updates on any catastrophes going on (like when they used powdered sugar instead of flour in a cake they were making). My gift was generally a new book to download to my Kindle. Perfect.

This Mother’s Day was a little different: Writing on the deck in the morning, a family barbecue at my mother-in-law’s that included my parents in the afternoon, basketball practice for Johanna in the evening. And that’s okay. I’m on the cusp of a big life change — Abby moving back today, my 95-year-old grandmother moving to town on Tuesday, and then the realities of my widowed mother-in-law — and I’ve decided that instead of trying to plan my way through it, to just let it come.

I’ll have three very darling people added to the fabric of my days. That just means more adventures.

Restarting routines

I am a creature of habit. And I know what they say about routines cutting down on decision fatigue, but really, my days are all the same because that’s the way I like it.

Surprises? No thanks.

Our lives have been, shall we say, a bit on the rogue side lately, with routine completely out the window. And that’s been hard. So this past week, the focus was settling back into normal life. And I mostly succeeded. I worked a full week and managed to cross a few projects off my list. While I didn’t do any FlyLady zones as planned, I did get some general cleaning done, which always makes me feel better. The sun was out and I took lovely lunches out on our deck, soaking it up with an army of cats.

There were a few glitches, like there always are: Jo called in the middle of a coffee date because she wasn’t feeling well and needed me to pick her up from school; not a glitch, just that my grandma was in town and I visited with her instead of doing all that other stuff that needed to be done (eh, sometimes the ol’ list can wait); and everywhere I went, people wanted to ask about my father-in-law and how the family is doing, which comes from a good place on their end, but it’s exhausting retelling the story over and over.

Part of my morning routine involves writing — getting out my planner and seeing what’s on the docket for the day, as well as my main journal to process thoughts and feeling and whatever happened the day before. I’ve been resisting this for the past three weeks, although the rest of my routine is fairly solid. I rarely reread what I write, so it’s not that I am afraid of bogging my future self down with bad memories. I think it’s more denial. Once I write it, it’s real.

This week I’d like to get back on track with ALL of my morning routine … and my evening routine, which I haven’t bothered with for quite some time. I’ve also completely stopped my walk break routine at the office, and that’s going to be a priority as well.

I want to feel normal again, that’s why. I want to feel in control. And I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.

April books

I started April strong on the book front, stalled in the middle, and regained my footing at the end. Lesson I keep learning: If I’m resisting reading a particular book, it’s because it’s not for me. And it’s okay to let that one go.

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OF COURSE this is taken from my real life, what are you even talking about? Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Unsplash.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvatar. This was the fourth and last book in a series, but the first one I read. Like, ever, not just in April. I must have heard good things about it because it made my “to read” list. This is one of those magic/teenager books that are popular at the moment, but you know what? The writing was good, the plot kept me interested and I didn’t seem to lose anything for coming in at the top floor instead of starting at the bottom. I’ll probably read the entire series just for something to do. (I’m no purist on my book choices. Give me entertaining any day of the week.) No regrets.

Educated by Tara Westover. (Nonfiction.) Where to even start? This book is absolutely fascinating — Westover comes from a large, devote Mormon family, was barely homeschooled, had her life endangered practically daily by her father and/or brother, was mentally abused … eventually went to BYU against the family’s wishes, where she had to learn basic things like hygiene and how to take a test, finally earing her Ph.D. after a serious bout of depression. So just, like, props to her for managing, seriously. What made this book hard to read, however, were the pages upon pages describing the messed up antics of her father. The guy is probably bipolar, but it’s infuriating to witness someone with so little regard for anyone else — who purposely puts his wife and kids in dangerous situations because he’s got a Jesus complex (and a unhealthy distrust of the government, medical care, even dance lessons). That’s abuse. I was glad to see that Westover finally escape and prosper, but damn! The cost of her education was so high. Definitely recommend.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. This was okay. It’s a book on writing and grief and dogs. No characters are named. I felt it was a bit too hyped, but eh, I made it through and it was fine. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend, but that’s more because of my personal tastes than anything else. It’s clever enough.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. (Nonfiction.) Holy shit. This book crushed my soul. It’s nonfiction and well researched, but written in story form. That made it very easy to digest. I felt like I got to know the girls who worked painting radium on watch dials to make them glow in the dark beginning in 1917 — and it was devastating to see them suffering so greatly because of company negligence. Well, beyond negligence, really — calculated cruelty. What absolutely floored me was how, after everything these women went through to bring the company to justice, radium was STILL being used and other women STILL being exploited doing THE VERY SAME WORK as late as the 1970s. (All caps because WHAT?!) I mean, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. We think that businesses/government agencies have our best interests at heart, but most do not — the bottom line means more than human life. (If you’re charging almost $1,000 for two EpiPens, then you clearly value something, but it ain’t people.) So now I’m all fired up. Definitely recommend. Because knowledge is power.

Books I tried to read but couldn’t:

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I just … I didn’t make it very far into this book, which is too bad because I could have used a good distraction as I was sitting for hours at a time in the ICU waiting room with Eric’s family. I felt like the writing was fine and the storyline had potential, but got tripped up on the actual reading part. Not for me.

On my list:

I’ve got six on hold from the eLibrary — but it might take a while to get any of them (like, six months for some of these): The Wicked King, The Good Neighbor, Becoming (by Michelle Obama, I love her), Stardust, There There and The Invention of Wings (recently added to my list via a recommendation last month).

Which means I might just go on Amazon and buy something. Feeding the beast, but I love my Kindle so much. I think Abby has a couple of real books she wants me to read, but she won’t be home from school for a couple of weeks and I can’t wait that long. 😉 We’ll see what I settle on. There’s a long list of books that aren’t available via eLibrary that are in the running.

Now I want to hear about what you’ve been reading. Because I have plenty of room to add to my list.