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)

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Let’s get happy*

Spring has never been my strong point.

I’m not one for change — give me sameness any day of the week, and preferably every day of the week — and this includes the seasons. Spring in Oregon is a mixed bag, and that’s hard to plan for: Do I need a rain jacket today or can I get by with a light sweater? Do I dare wear my pretty new mary janes or should I opt for my ankle boots AGAIN? It’s also a busy time at the newspaper because we put out a four-section special insert to coincide with blossoms on the fruit trees … as well as a home and garden insert, a review of business stories and, you know, our regular biweekly editions.

Spring break passes and everything I want is in the future: Abby will be home from school around Mother’s Day and I’m counting the days until the Walker Four is all under one roof again. I’m looking forward to the long, hot, lazy days of summer.

I strive for contentedness each spring — hey, winter is past! The hard part is over! The sun is coming! — but mostly I feel out of sorts, anxious, overwhelmed and detached.

I’m never going to be happy in the spring — I feel like I need to grit my teeth and just get through it — but this year, I am trying something different: Tackling a spring cleaning project.

I’m looking at this as a way to give myself something to focus on that produces tangible results but doesn’t take up a lot of time.

One thing that DOES make me happy is how my house looks when it’s freshly cleaned. We don’t have a lot in our house (thanks, minimalism!), but we live with three cats (hair and dust) and a kid (art projects). We have a woodstove (ash). We live here (a stack of my journals is currently taking up half of the dining room table)!

Which is how I decided on the spring cleaning project: A clean house makes me happy. I am feeling out of sorts. Plans and schemes help me feel more in control. Crossing items off my list makes me feel productive. And I don’t even have to think too hard about it, because the FlyLady already has.**

She has the entire house broken up into sections; each section is the focus of a particular week. The order of the sections never changes. You set a timer for 15 minutes and focus on one task in that one area each day. What you don’t get this time around, you’ll get next time.

I don’t know, I find that very comforting.

I found myself looking forward to setting my timer and tackling a job in the front entrance or dining room (week one zone). I detail-cleaned our main light switch. I cleaned out five drawers in our hutch and polished the (bottom) front. I dusted underneath the thing (and found a couple of cat toys, which Bean and Goose thoroughly enjoyed for 10 minutes before losing them again). I wiped down moldings and doors and knobs. I got rid of a couple of candles and a wobbly platter that I’ve been hanging onto out of guilt (I spent A LOT of money on that thing and have always regretted the purchase).

This week is the kitchen, and I already know which areas I’m going to focus on for some serious cleaning and decluttering: Two catch-all cupboards, one by the fridge, the other by the stove.

I may not be happy this spring. But I feel like I’ve at least got a plan to get through it until summer hits and I can breathe again.

*My title today comes from a song by The Cure: “Doing the Unstuck” from the 1992 “Wish” album. I like the manic hopefulness of it. Sometimes you have to talk yourself into being happy.

**When the girls were little, I found FlyLady — which is also what led me to minimalism. I haven’t followed her system in years, but I remember how helpful it was and am grateful to have it as a resource. I also like how it’s not about perfection, but about getting shit done. I can get behind that.

Five things challenge

This week I’ve been working on a simple decluttering challenge: Five things a day, out the door.

Doesn’t that sound so manageable and innocent?

I’m keen on this project because we’ll be hosting a couple of middle school Japanese students next week. Nothing like strangers staying in your house to make you look at it with fresh eyes. Plus Eric and I have always done our best cleaning when guests are involved.

We’re minimalists and aspiring zero wasters, but we still have stuff. Some of it is from before we knew better; some of it we should have known better than to bring home but we did anyway. Some is because someone else didn’t know better. 😉 And of course, we’ve got three people in the house fulltime, and all of us have different ideas on what minimalism and zero waste means.

So paring down five items a day seems like a great challenge — it doesn’t take a lot of time but you can still see results. I gleaned this from my friends at Nourished Planner (okay, imaginary friends); they suggested putting a box or basket someplace inconspicuous, adding items each day and, at the end of the week, taking the whole ordeal to the secondhand shop.

Um, I’m not quite doing that.

I am loathe to admit this, but most of my five items each day are ending up in the recycling or … the trash.

Here’s why it’s happening:

  1. There are items I should have recycled or  thrown away ages ago, but didn’t because of environmental concerns.
  2.  Um, I guess that’s pretty much the only reason.

It’s an easy thought process: If I don’t throw things away, then they don’t get added to the landfill. If I don’t recycle, but simply reuse, those items also don’t get added either. *

And yeah, I mean, that’s one way look at it.

The problem with this approach is that my house is being taken over by stuff we don’t want, don’t need and don’t use. (Hello, glass jars from my sunflower seed butter!) Mentally, I also do better when I don’t have a lot of clutter, or projects, or anything, really because “things” tend to trigger my anxiety — when things are crowded or left undone, I can’t breathe.

So there’s some landfilling going on in my house this week. Case in point: Five kitchen towels that have seen better days. And the last time I was at Goodwill, I asked if they took rags and was told in no uncertain terms that THAT is a lie. Okay then. Trash it is.

I’m disappointed in this result, the landfilling of items. I’m disappointed in myself. But … I came to the conclusion long ago that there are no best-case scenarios when it comes to environmental solutions — we’re just making the best choices we can from a list of really bad options. That doesn’t mean I just toss things into the trash without thought. I’m just not sure what to do about it: Continue to hoard it and delay the inevitable, or get on with it and appreciate a clutter-free home.

I’m going for the latter. And feel like a jerk. But wow, my anxiety is doing awesome!

* HERE is a rather depressing article by The Atlantic about the recycling situation in the States right now. Recycling pretty much equals throwing away at this point.

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. 😉

TW, minimalist

I was at the dentist sort of accidentally on Thursday (my appointment got moved up a few days) and minding my own business in the chair (after having to come clean to a new hygienist that I don’t floss AND always throw a fit when it’s time for x-rays because gag; she said she already knew that because it’s in my file), when my dentist breezed in and was like, as a way of introduction to this new woman, “Did Trish tell you she’s a minimalist?”

And I was like, well, I can’t actually respond to that because, you know, mouth stuff going on.

I was also kind of like, oh yeah. Yeah, I am a minimalist, huh?

Minimalism isn’t something I have to work towards or think about anymore. It just is how I live my life. I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. Actually, I think I could make a good argument that I am happier without stuff than I ever was with it. I don’t miss what I’ve given away and I certainly don’t miss what I don’t bring home.

I feel like the minimalism movement has really come to the forefront in the last few years, which mainstreams it a bit. But it’s still kind of weird to some people, I guess. Or maybe “weird” isn’t the right word. “Different,” perhaps.

(Um, I don’t see this current trend of purging and organizing items as true minimalism, incidentally, although I’m cool with everyone doing what they need to do. Nothing wrong with getting rid of what you don’t need.)

Anyway, I had a minimalist/zero waste win on the way out of the dentist office: The hygienist asked me if I wanted a toothbrush and floss, instead of just putting it into a bag and ignoring my refusals like the last one did. (Awkward.) I said no, and that was that. Although she did tell me that not flossing was “not ideal” and encouraged me to look for some kind of natural alternative, even if that “was more to throw away.”

I’m not sure what all is in my file, but I have never felt so understood.

P.S. Yeah, I know I need to floss. It’s more that it’s, like, 10 whole minutes a week that I don’t want to spend, actually, then a zero waste stance, to be honest.

Stories that are so important I almost forgot about them

I’m writing this in a rather noisy gym, keeping half an eye on Johanna and her teammates as they go through basketball drills at practice. I’m not necessarily feeling antisocial, but I also learned last month that if I pull out my laptop and start typing, everyone assumes I’m writing a newspaper article and they leave me alone.

And it’s too convenient not to utilize. It’s been a long day.

Anyway, now that I’ve shown what a jerk I am, let me tell you a couple of minimalist / zero waste stories that I forgot to write about earlier.

Story one: Bulk aisle connection

Once upon a time, I was in the bulk aisle of my favorite grocery store. It was, I will admit, an unplanned trip, so I didn’t have any of my jars with me. I was purchasing items in paper bags, as paper can be reused, recycled AND composted. The only downside: They’re made from trees.

Anyway, OF COURSE I noticed someone filling their jars. A man had several that he was systematically filling and putting into his cart. On one hand, I was so jacked — seeing another kindred soul was rather thrilling. On the other, I’d forgotten my jars, which made me feeling like a failing failure.

Still, I couldn’t help but talk to him a bit about zero waste. I told him I was happy to see him filling his jars because usually it is only me with mine, even though I’d forgotten mine that day. He was grinning, so I decided I wasn’t being too weird. (Yes, I get the irony that I am the sort of person who will talk to a stranger in the bulk aisle, but here at basketball practice surrounded by friends, I am pretending to be working. I’m a complicated woman.)

He said that what he liked most about bringing reusables to the grocery store is that, when he gets home, he just has to put them in the cupboard — there’s no decanting. I agreed. That is definitely the best part about the whole ordeal. No packaging to deal with later is another big plus.

Spoiler alert: Just as I wrote “I agreed” above, a friend came over and told me to quit working and be social. That made me laugh. Anyway, now I’m back at home to finish this thing up.

Story two: New old dish towels

When Eric and I got married … 23 years ago … my great-aunt gave us a set of seven hand-embroidered dish towels that she’d purchased from a craft sale. They were adorable (kittens!) and I was young, so instead of using them, I stuck them in my cedar chest and forgot about them.

Last month, though, when I took all the crap out of my chest and made it into blanket storage (a dream come true, I’m still thrilled with myself, post HERE), I found those towels. And I washed them and put them in a drawer in the kitchen and we’ve been using them ever since.

A couple of them are already stained by paint because my artist in residence, aka Johanna, would apparently rather use a pristine towel than one of the thousands of rags we have when she’s creating her masterpieces. Well, kids are terrible. I’m trying to remember that we live in a house, not a museum, so who cares anyway.

Story three: Goodwill, bad vibes

Forty-six going on … 55, apparently.

I took January 2 off from work to eat up one of the vacation days I’m about to lose. I’d planned to hang out with my girls, but instead I found myself at home alone and decided what I really wanted to do was take a trip to the next town over and check out their Goodwill.

I’ve been wanting another pullover sweater because DAMN this winter has been cold. I also wanted to see what they had in the way of standing light fixtures, as I am looking to add a reading light to the living room. I never have complete luck when I go to Goodwill — I think it takes a patience and perseverance that I lack — but I was exited to try.

And lo and behold, I found a pretty awesome gray pullover that fit well and rocked my world. Feeling rather cocky with my sweater success, I took a spin around the furniture section to see if I could find a suitable lamp (and then the houseware aisles … all those homeless coffee pots make me so sad). I did not, so I made my way to the checkout line.

The girl behind the counter thanked me for my patience (the line was looooong) and asked if I’d found what I was looking for. Then our conversation took a rather interesting turn:

Checker: So do you qualify for our 55 and older discount today?

Me: Um … no.

Checker: Not yet, huh?

Me: I’m … 46.

Checker: …

Me: …

Me: … I don’t need a bag, incidentally.

Oh, lord, it was so awkward. She had no idea what to say to me after that, and it was all I could do to keep it together — not because I was angry, but because I was afraid I’d start laughing and that would make it worse. Well, that answers THAT question, I said to myself as I got into the car, and then I really did let myself laugh it out. Ah, I needed that.

Look, I do not dye my hair, so my bad, really. And I had a great time relaying that story to my coworkers, especially since I had JUST had a conversation with two of them about how, despite my graying hair, I do not look “old.”

Uh, apparently I do …

And that concludes our three thrilling tales of awe and wonder. I know. Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life, either.

The end.

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.