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.

In which KonMarie accidentally sparks a revolution in the Walker household

Last Friday, we added a Roku box to the household, because apparently our 2011 Wii is no longer able to act as a conduit between our TV and Netflix.

It’s okay, we had a good run. And the Wii still gets used by Eric and Johanna. They’re Mario Kart fiends.

Of course, we could have chosen to let Netflix go … and it’s basically my fault that we are not. It’s also my fault we have Netflix in the first place, since I’m the one who signed us up for the service many years ago, when Eric was hunting and I was left unsupervised.

It’s just that if this is the future — this tiny TV box thing — then so be it. We may not watch a lot of TV or movies, but it’s nice to have that option. Especially since we don’t have cable.

Anyway. Eric got the thing hooked up and I finished the setup part using my phone, which is now a remote. That’s probably old news to many, many people, but to me, it was like, what is this crazy Jetsons future?! I’m scrolling through Netflix options and before I even knew what was happening, we were watching “Tiding Up with Marie Kondo.”

Three episodes worth. And then I finished the series Sunday afternoon.

Eric thought it was boring and Johanna had no interest, so it was just me and the kittens. I mean, it was kind of boring, but I liked how the people featured were from all different backgrounds and places in their lives, and went through the same lessons regarding their stuff: What it says about them and the meaning they place on physical items. And how to get past the attachment.

And I liked Marie’s perspective, so different from the American way of looking at stuff. (Like, actual stuff: Houses and possessions and whatnot.) I liked her focus on keeping what brought joy to a person and working towards a desired future. I haven’t read her book, but I’d made all kinds of assumptions about the KonMarie method based on what I’ve heard about it. Turns out my assumptions were completely wrong.

I found her take refreshing. I can see why so many people swear by her method. It just seems so doable.

Saturday morning, I found Eric rattling around the laundry room making a huge racket. He had cleaned off  the top of the standing freezer and was sorting through items. The gist: He’d heard enough of the third episode, where the mom was responsible for everything in the house and how stressful that was for her, and he’d decided he could take on some of that stuff so I wouldn’t be saddled with it.

I am pro that plan.

And then he moved on to our recycling closet. I let go of some jars I’ve been saving. He sorted out a bunch of stuff that had gotten shoved there for no apparent reason. It was awesome.

That day, I noticed Johanna making several trips back and forth between her room and ours. She was in deep cleanout mode, making piles in my reading retreat (aka the room where everything gets dumped when we don’t know what to do with it): Books, shoes, clothes, random bits and pieces she’d collected. She also filled the recycle bin with old papers.

I guess she got KonMarie-d through osmosis. Not complaining. I can actually walk in there now without tripping over anything. Her closet looks more manageable and her shelves have room to breathe. I’m so proud! This kid is my hoarder; she doesn’t need new stuff, but wow, she sure hangs on to what she does have.

I guess the moral of this story is that even seasoned minimalists can learn new tricks. And those two sorting items gave me enough of a boost to get into my reading retreat and start packaging up items for donation.

My reading retreat is its own challenge … and I’ve never managed to get a handle on it in the 16 years we’ve lived here. I don’t use it as a reading area, that’s why, so it’s become a sort of closet instead. Maybe I need to just embrace that. Regardless, it could use a good cleanout. Again.

Yes, my internet friends, I have my decluttering challenges too. But that’s another post for another time. 😉

Holiday decoration declutter diary: Operation Cedar Chest part II

I woke up Sunday morning ready to kick some ass on the holiday decoration decluttering front. Since my first foray into getting rid of excess holiday decorations — namely peeling off the first layer in the ol’ cedar chest (that depressing post is HERE) — I’ve been mentally preparing myself for layer two.

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the chest back up, though. I had done more last week than I’d thought, and it was great to realize I had much less crap to deal with this time around.

Bean was instrumental in the process.

I had an epiphany of sorts as I was emptying out the chest again: That it’s guilt that has been holding me back from achieving my dream of using the chest to store blankets and quilts. I probably wouldn’t have figured that out without reading comments on the Dec. 1 December Wishes post, which is why, my internet friends, I am now giving you all a virtual hug.

Once it was emptied, I dusted it inside and out, got the very quilts I’d been wanting to store in there for years and years, and PUT THEM IN THE CHEST. Then I closed the lid and wondered what the hell had taken me so long when it was so simple.

Well, maybe not simple. I did have everything that was in the chest now strewn around my bedroom. And what made it worse is that I opened up a hidden cupboard that’s above my wardrobe and emptied that thing out, too.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

Because between the chest and the cupboard, that’s where I store all the stuff that I don’t know what to do with … like my old college papers, the cups and saucers to our original dish set, wallpaper fragments, broken items and other such heirloom pieces. (Ha!) But I had that epiphany on my side this time, and it was time to let go of the guilt:

Guilt over not liking what was given to me, or not fixing what was broken, or wasting the money on some knickknack, or potentially hurting someone’s feelings.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, something I recently realized about my decluttering method is that I like to make piles because I want to get my crap, I mean treasures, into the right hands. Even though I know there ISN’T a perfect scenario and have, in fact, counseled against doing that very thing.

Seeing piles everywhere is overwhelming, disheartening and stressful. It’s December, you guys, so I gave myself a gift instead:

I discovered recently that our town has a Goodwill donation outlet. So on our weekend grocery trip, Johanna and I made a quick stop. A kid actually came out to the car to meet us. It took two minutes and then we were back on the road. I felt such a huge sense of relief as we drove away. Like, I’m actually getting somewhere with this project. That’s amazing.

I now have my favorite fall decorations in one bin in the electrical room, I’ve got blankets in my cedar chest (don’t give up on your dreams, kids), found Eric a white elephant gift to take to his office party and … um, well, still have some Christmas decorations that I need to sort through, but overall, I’m feeling SO MUCH BETTER about the state of the union. 

The real test will come, I suppose, when Eric brings all 12 or whatever Christmas boxes we have downstairs up when we start decorating the tree. But I’ve got a couple of weeks before I have to worry about that.

I suppose it’s good to go through this process periodically, just to remind myself of how far we’ve come on the minimalist front, as well as how difficult it is to purge — which is why we need to make careful decisions on bringing items into the house in the first place. The lessons just never stop coming.

Holiday decoration declutter diary: Operation Cedar Chest

I forgot how utterly despondent decluttering makes me feel.

All this stuff. All this stupid, worthless stuff.

I’ve been putting off decluttering my holiday decorations for years. Part of the problem is that I don’t even know what I have. Our decorations are strung out all over the place: In the cedar chest in our bedroom, in the basement, in unused closet space. But yesterday evening, I was like, “You know what? I am STRONG. I am BRAVE. I’ve, like, given birth TWICE. I can totally clean out the cedar chest and make the hard decisions in an hour and a half.”

Ha ha ha. I’m hilarious.

I forgot to take a before photo, and I didn’t end up taking an after shot, either, because THIS IS NOT DONE. But here are a few from during:

Delightful!
Um … not delightful.
I spy with my little eye something that is Goose.

I ended up making four different piles: One to donate to next year’s holiday bazaar, one for the June rummage sale, one for my mother to look through, and one I will take to work today to see if my co-workers want anything. And at the end of all that, I STILL had a bunch of stuff I didn’t exactly know what to do with … and didn’t want to deal with any more. So I put those things back inside my cedar chest for another day.

(I’m honestly wondering if I just forgo all piles, toss everything in the car and take it to Goodwill. That would get it out of my house ASAP and that way, I wouldn’t have to look at it or think about it ever again.)

So not only do I NOT have a cleaned out cedar chest (my fondest desire: To store quilts in there), but I have NOT even made very many hard decisions. All I’ve done is reminded myself that I have all these holiday decorations … and I don’t even decorate the house anymore.

Ickkkkkkkk. I’m kind of remembering why I’ve put this off for so long. 😉 To be continued.

Embracing the space

“In the west, making a space complete means placing something there. But with tea ceremonies, or Zen, things are left incomplete on purpose to let the person’s imagination make the space complete.” — Naoki Numahata

I was cruising around the internet recently*, randomly searching links on minimalism (like you do) and came across a couple interesting posts. One was AN ARTICLE on Japanese minimalism, and one was from ZEN HABITS about what a minimalist space might look like.

The first struck me because it’s minimalism in the extreme. It’s the sort of thing I fantasize about because it seems so … peaceful. It’s not do-able in my particular world, at least not at this time. And maybe never. Although if I say that out loud, the fantasy goes away, so shhhhhhhhh.

What I liked about the quote above, though, in particular, is that it forces the question, why do we feel the need to fill our spaces with so much stuff?

Why are we so afraid of blank spaces? Of leaving things incomplete?

From the same article:

Definitions (of minimalism) vary, because the goal is not just decluttering but re-evaluating what possessions mean, to gain something else …

I liked this because I think a lot of times, minimalism articles talk about the what — shedding stuff — without talking about the why. Maybe because it’s so much easier to concentrate on one thing at a time, or maybe because everyone has different reasons and they aren’t all tangible, the way that decluttering is. But the why is really the crux of the whole thing. Before you can declutter, you need to find your why.

I know, I know. But so much of this is mental. You can declutter all day long, but if you don’t define your why, then more stuff will come in.

Sometimes I worry about articles like this, though, just because they’re a bit of minimalist porn — those pretty pictures of clean, organized spaces can bring about feelings of inadequacy — but I liked that this one made me think about minimalism in a new way. I liked the suggested questions. The hinted answers, maybe not quite as much. It’s hard to be so truthful with yourself.

Because blank space is scary, yo. (That’s why I am a meditation failure, incidentally.) Although I can tell you this: When my mother comes to visit and inevitably comments on how clean my house is, I get a big kick out of that. My house isn’t clean — there’s just not a lot too look at, which makes it seem tidier than it is.

There’s one of my whys right there.

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The second article is actually an example of the sort of posts I just … I don’t know. There were many times when I started my minimalist journey where I stalked blogs like this, looking for an idea of what a minimalist lifestyle would entail should I jump off that cliff.

It’s another sort of minimalist porn.

But here’s the thing: You don’t need anyone to tell you what they have in their house and what you need to do to get there, and you don’t have to justify your lifestyle to anyone, either. That’s why I don’t write about “The Seven Kitchen Gadgets You Should Give Up Right Now” or “How To Have A Minimalist Wardrobe.”

Minimalism isn’t hard and fast — remember the quote above, about reevaluating what your possessions mean and what you’ll gain from discarding or keeping them? DO THAT.

No, I’m not oversimplifying it. Grab a notebook, or a blank blog post, or the back of your hand or whatever, and ask yourself what you’d like your space to look and feel like, and how you want it to function. Then make it happen. Edit or don’t edit. Reread what you’ve written when the going gets tough (it will) and you want to give up (you will).

THAT’S how you have a minimalist home. And the beauty of it is that how it looks is completely up to you. Minimalism isn’t a game or a competition. We’re all winners as far as I’m concerned.

And if you do find articles like the one above helpful, awesome! There’s more than one way to figure this all out.

* I started this post in June and have been meaning to get back to it since. Still find it fascinating.

P.S. Summer is winding down in the Walker household — Abby has been back at college for a few weeks now, and Johanna is getting ready to go back after Labor Day (we tend to start classes late in Oregon, no idea why). I love summer and am sad to see it wane, but I’m also looking forward to a more defined … routine, schedule, purpose, can’t think of the exact word I want … that fall tends to bring as the days get shorter and cooler.

Ah, time. It just keeps marching forward.

Life in general

We’re a third of the way through 2018 already, and I’ve been taking stock of the goals I set for the year. Some have been easy: Read more books (check!), less social media (easy!), exercise routine (walk breaks at work and morning yoga … sometimes … count, right?), and coffee dates with friends (check!).

Some have been harder: Taking a Spanish and photography class (can’t find either), ordering wooden blinds for the living room (too overwhelmed by my choices to even start), and learn to meditate (you guys, I can’t sit still that long).

Overall, I like my list of goals because it helps me remember what is important to me and what I want to be focusing on. If I don’t have a general idea of what I want to accomplish, then nothing gets done. As most of these are on-going, they’re not exactly something I can check off the list. But it’s satisfying to know that I’m working towards something, and that I’m not spinning my wheels doing things I don’t really care about in the first place.

It’s been a good four months. I feel centered, if that makes sense. It’s the opposite of how I felt at this time last year, so hey, progress.

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Abby comes home on May 10 — yesssssss! — and this weekend I worked on getting her room ready. Johanna has been using it as an art studio, there were dead plants in the window from when she left in August, and a lot of odds and ends that needed to find their way back home or be discarded. I washed her sheets and comforter (so. much. cat hair), vacuumed the floor and dusted everything. I’ve totally locked the cats out because you know what? THIS CAT HAIR SITUATION IS OUT OF CONTROL.

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This weekend, I also did some “reset to zero” housekeeping chores — cleaned our bedroom, got the kitchen in order, and got caught up on laundry. And I made sure to do some food prep too because that always makes the week go a little easier (homemade mac and cheese in the freezer for Jo, lots of prepped fruits and veggies, a rough meal plan sketched out using the never-ending reserves in my freezer). But I also made sure I had time to nap (is there anything better than a nap? Besides coffee, I mean?) and read (I’m halfway through “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng). My to-do lists have evolved this year, from never-ending to maybe three things I’d like to accomplish during the day. I find that’s a little more palatable.

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Declutter v4.0 is well underway at this point, as it should be, since the church rummage sale will start collecting items mid-May. Mostly I’ve been concentrating on the easy areas, like my wardrobe, the coat closet and my reading retreat/family dumping ground. Abby also requested that I cull a few of the items she’d left behind when she went to school in the fall.

When I was in elementary school, I read an article about not putting off the easy homework for last because by the time you get through the hard stuff, your brain is fried and even the easy stuff is hard at that point. Paraphrasing. Anyway, that stuck with me, and is why I like to do the easy stuff first.

I’m going to have Johanna go through DVDs this week and do another sweep of my bookshelves. And then I’ll be ready to go through kitchen cabinets. We must be doing something right on the minimalist front because we don’t have that much to discard, but it feels good nonetheless. Clutter happens, no matter how intentional you may be.

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And in the Ongoing Saga of Trisha and Her Laptop news: Freedom has been rechristened “Frieda” (Eric’s idea, hilarious) and we have had many coffee shop adventures together already. I’ve written three stories for the paper so far — I never have time to write stories because I’m always sucked into working on inside pages — and have formatted countless press releases. And you know what? It’s awesome getting out of the office and just … doing something different. It’s made work more bearable.

Anyway, Frieda is also looking forward to doing some writing outside at the park across the street from our office and in my parents’ backyard this summer. She’s got all kinds of plans, and she’s so excited that I hate to shut her down. 😉

Whatever comes to mind

This past week I’ve been working on giving myself plenty of space for activities that I find most relaxing and enjoyable — basically just reading and writing — after a day at the office. And I’ve been trying to pace myself and set boundaries at work, which means I come home in a better frame of mind.

Instead of a to-do list to greet me when I get home, I’ve simplified it to what I’ve dubbed an after-work routine: Dinner, kitchen/chores, something fun, family time and getting ready for bed. I give myself a time limit that encompasses dinner and chores, and then I’m free to read or write, cuddle with Johanna, chat with Eric and play with kittens.

This means chores are often done to a certain point and then discarded, i.e. dirty dishes in the sink or clutter on the kitchen table. I’m trying to tell myself that means people live in our house 😉 and does not mean I’m lazy. And when Eric takes on chores that I would normally do, I am working on being grateful instead of making excuses as to why I haven’t gotten around to do it myself. Case in point: I’m writing while he’s mopping the hardwood floor. I am making myself sit here and continue. I want to stop and start cleaning the house too. Because I feel guilty.

Nope nope nope.

Anyway, this is why I’ve managed to read a novella, two novels and start another in the past 10 days. It’s been lovely.

Things are getting settled down on the newspaper front, incidentally — we’re getting a new workflow established in light of our new composing system, and while THAT hasn’t completely sorted itself out yet, I definitely do not feel as frustrated or hopeless as I did a couple of weeks ago.

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One of my “chores” has been to go through my wardrobe and cull items I’m no longer using. I ended up with a garbage bag filled with stuff ranging from a bathrobe I got when Abby was a toddler to Halloween-print leggings that were a big ol’ mistake. These are headed to the church rummage sale in June.

This is part of my Whole House Decluttering Project Round Four, and yeah, this is the easy stuff. I’ve found that starting off with what is sure to be a win is a good way to gain momentum for tackling the harder areas, like my books and kitchen tools.

Hey, what the heck am I supposed to do with our cassette and CD collection? We don’t even have a way to listen to these things anymore … but would they be worth donating?

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Speaking of wardrobes, this fall I did something I haven’t done in years: I went shopping.

I mean, I really went shopping. I replaced nearly everything in my fall and winter capsule. I was intentional about it — a couple pairs of pants for work (beige and grey), a skirt (grey, actually a skort, never underestimate the power of sewn-in shorts), a cardigan (dark grey, cozy as heck), a pullover (red), three long-sleeve t-shirts (navy, red and plum), a turtleneck (black), and a new coat (black, puffy, awesome). Everything was from one store — to remain nameless because who cares, really?, but they have tall sizes, which I need and appreciate — and everything goes together. And this little wardrobe has not ceased to bring me joy, even now when I’ve been wearing the same things for six months. I should probably mention this isn’t all I’m wearing (I have jeans, a couple of other cardigans and pullovers, plus a sweatshirt from Abby’s college), and that I have been tempted to order another skort and cardigan in different colors. I haven’t, though, because it’s not so much the types of items as it is these particular items, if that makes sense — I like this cardigan and this skort, and having them in other colors wouldn’t necessarily help my closet any.

I should also probably mention that I’m cool with wearing the same cardigan three times in a week. If that’s what I want to wear, I’m going to wear it. And I like that everything mixes and matches (mostly. I don’t like navy and black together and I have plenty of both) because it makes getting dressed so much easier.

I’m not doing Project 333 anymore, but I did learn a lot of lessons from participating in that for five years or whatever it was.

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What else do we want to talk about today? I rather enjoy just chatting …