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. 😉

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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.

Family gathering

I’m sitting by the woodstove in a rocking chair with Frieda my laptop this evening. The living room is littered with sleeping kittens. It’s COLD and rainy outside, but inside is rather pleasant. It feels nice to be so content.

This past weekend was the annual Walker family gathering. I’ve written about this before many times, which isn’t surprising, I guess, since this year was our 22nd. Basically: Instead of getting together and exchanging gifts for Christmas, we rent a house and hang out over the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. It is AWESOME. I’ve always thought this was rather genius, even before we became minimalists, because it’s experiences, not things — and my girls have such fun memories of time with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins … and now their cousins’ spouses/significant others and kids.

Anyway: A house at the coast (on a lake, I think that’s hilarious for some reason) stuffed with 24 people (we were down four this year, including Abby), lots of chat and games and running around. I highly recommend it.  And props to Johanna for being on kid duty all weekend. Four boys under the age of 6! I’m sure you can imagine what THAT is like. (Hint: Loud.)

Before we left, I made myself a few dinners because I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat what was served to the group. And that worked out just swell, as Johanna would say — because I had something available, I wasn’t even tempted to eat any of the good stuff around me (cookies, sure, but also just the delight that is taco soup or a potato bar). Which is probably why I feel fairly decent at the moment.

Maybe I can be taught?

I also brought along my beloved breakfast granola. I’ve had to modify it since I first wrote about it on the Simple Year (swirl around 10 dried pitted dates, 10 dried pitted apricots, a generous shaking of cranberries  and a handful of walnuts in the food processor; add a couple handfuls of oats and a couple heaping spoonsful of sunflower seed butter, swirl around again until it looks like something you could call granola), but it’s kept me alive for literally three years, so … amazing.

And I don’t know, but it was sort of relaxing to just mess around all weekend and do nothing productive. I didn’t even read. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Books this year

I regret posting a partial list of the books I’d read through May 22 HERE, just because now it seems a little anticlimactic. Although no I don’t because I was really excited to share what I’d read.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

One of my goals this year was to never be without a book, and I mostly succeeded. I only read two all of December because I was waiting for the eLibrary to come through and I went through a dry spell in February for reasons I no longer remember. I used to write down all titles I’d read on a bookmark and move it from book to book, but now I keep a running list in my journal. I read one “real” book all year (Abby’s copy of “Dreams from my Father”) and the rest were on my Kindle. Kinda hard to go the ol’ bookmark route with that routine solidly in place.

(And I know, real books are great. My girls and Eric are real book fans and we do our part for the local bookstore. I just prefer my Kindle — I like having my entire collection in my backpack. It’s one of my anxiety coping methods, so …)

Anyway, here’s the first half of my book list, to review:

  • A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (second in a series of three and fantastic)
  • Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (entertaining)
  • Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson (reread; heartbreaking and wonderful)
  • Renegades by Marissa Meyer (love this author)
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (eye-opening!)
  • All Those Things We Never Said by Mark Levy (don’t bother)
  • Wolf by Wolf and Blood by Blood by Ryan Graudin (SO GOOD)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (wonderful, one of the best all year)
  • Iron by Iron by Ryan Graudin (novella, also great)
  • Cinder and Scarlet and Cress and Winter, all by Marissa Meyer (rereads, totally entertaining)
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (loved)
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (cute)
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (amazing)

Since May 22, I’ve read:

  • Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (both rereads, two favorites of mine)
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen (lost count how many times I’ve read this one. It’s my favorite Austen)
  • The Fates Divide by Veronica Ross (Carve the Mark II; even better than the first one)
  • Dreams of Running by Mara Fields (my best friend in high school, really great — she tackles ALL the issues)
  • A Reaper at the Gate by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes series)
  • The Wrath and the Dawn, and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh (both were really great)
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (wasn’t sure I’d like this one at first but found it entertaining enough)
  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko (seriously great)
  • One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (also seriously great)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG? This book was amazing; Abby recommendation)
  • The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg (don’t bother)
  • Harry Potter — the entire series (rereads, still in love)
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (so great)
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (nope)
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass IIV; I’ve put COUNTLESS hours into this series so I was damn well gonna finish it!)
  • Archenemies by Marissa Mayer (Renegades II; great)
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine by Gail Honeyman (one of my favorites this year)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (another favorite and an Abby recommendation)

It turns out that I read 44 books this year, and while I’d kind of like to crank another one out before the year ends to make it an even (odd?) 45 so my OCD calms down, I’m going to take a breath and let it go. And P.S., I was going to keep track of pages read, but it turns out I don’t care. I’m more interested in the stories.

Most of these were checked out from our county’s eLibrary. A few I enjoyed so much that I purchased them AND any subsequent sequels. I’ve also learned that the books available on Amazon Prime are lacking as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve got a new list of books I’d like to read in 2019. I looked up best book lists on Goodreads and fell into a couple of “best book” articles (one from Time Magazine, I think?). I’ve got more nonfiction on my list for the coming year; we’ll see how I do with that. My whole life is nonfiction, so I prefer the break that comes from reading fiction.

What were the best books you read this year? I got a little space still on my 2019 list. 😉

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.

Back on track

After the soul suck of everything of last week, I’m heading into this week with grand plans of getting myself back on track. One of the issues I face is that, when the going gets tough, I shut down. This is why I need a social media ban after 7 p.m., to keep myself from just laying on the couch all night in a device-induced haze. I’ve always tended to be like this, although we didn’t have devices when I was growing up (I mean, we didn’t really have devices until I was in my mid-30s), so my “induced haze” was mostly just laying on my bed, listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure on the ol’ stereo and being depressed.

Different times, different drug. Although I can’t help but think THAT was healthier than, like, getting into fights with strangers on Facebook just to vent feelings.

Because I like to journal, I’ve made a list of what I want to remember this week — those things I have to do, like sweeping up all the cat hair off the floor (Pro tip: Dark hardwood + light-haired cats = a recipe for disaster), and the things I want to keep in mind, like making decisions based on how they will affect my overall health.

And THEN, because I know myself so well, I made an additional list of what I can do when I feel myself shutting down — generally just problem solving my way out of bad decisions. I want to take care of myself, not just numb the negative feelings, as is my fallback solution to basically everything. (It’s probably a good thing I don’t like the taste of alcohol, to be honest. I would have another layer of problems if I did.)

My list, in part:

  • Put phone on silent
  • Keep a stack of books on hand
  • Journal it out
  • Listen to music
  • Take a nap
  • Yoga
  • Hot shower
  • Walk break / outside time
  • Turn off electronics
  • Go to bed early

I need to come up with a list just for work, I think — things there aren’t quite as bleak as I thought they were last week, but damn! It’s not unicorns and rainbows, either. And I’m finding myself completely wiped out by the time I get home, physically, mentally, emotionally, the works.

So let’s do some brainstorming, internet friends: What do you do when you’re overwhelmed? How do you put your health / sanity first? How do you make good use of the time you have in ways that fill you up? How do you deal with stressful situations?

Trisha-friendly

It’s been a hell of a week — Eric was hunting in central Oregon (the elk continue to survive), Johanna has a ridiculous activity schedule, and work can best be described as “challenging” at this particular juncture in time. But I DID IT. And I only had one anxiety attack, which is a miracle. Because I am a creature who lives by her routines, and they were completely disrupted all week long.

DSC_0971

I don’t really have art for this post so here’s some pumpkins and apples.

I credit a couple of things to this:

I have been eating very, very well for my gut — more on that below — and I have been very, very good about keeping to the parameters of my social media habit re-do. Both of these have contributed to an overall sense of well-being.

For me, social media is a gateway drug to wasting time online. I have unfollowed and unfriended (and hidden when neither of those were an option) so. many. people and sites. and it doesn’t take long for me to actually go through any of my accounts — a quick check to see what Thoughts of Dog is up to and what hilarity can be found on Man Who Has It All on Twitter, then over to Instagram for pictures of kittens and babies, maybe a scroll through Facebook … but after THAT, it’s like a free for all. Any new emails at home? No? How about at work? What’s going on in the news? I’ve been meaning to look for a new book … which is why I’m over here checking out weather reports and what new pins Pinterest has chosen for me and laughing at cat memes.

And then three hours have passed.

But not this week! I was a tiny bit afraid that while I waiting for Johanna at her various activities I’d turn to social media just to kill time, but I solved THAT problem by leaving my iPod at home. BOOM. Also, introvert tip: If you pull out your laptop and open a Word doc and start typing, everyone leaves you alone because they think you’re working.

As far as the food front goes, I have made some progress since my rant a couple of weeks ago. I have learned that spelt tortillas are not for me, but I have also learned that butternut squash soup IS.

And what is a Trisha-friendly butternut squash soup? Observe:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 chopped medium onion

Saute the onion in butter until translucent, then add:

  • 2-3 pound butternut squash, cut into 1-inch chunks (or, like, whatever my knife deems appropriate, details are boring)
  • 32 ounces of chicken broth

Add butternut squash and broth to onions and simmer 15-20 minutes or until tender. Puree and add back to pot; season with:

  • Nutmeg, salt and pepper

… To taste.

I mean, that’s pretty boring and basic, but my gut seems to think it’s awesome, and it tastes good, too, which is more than I can say for a lot of what I eat. AND it’s low waste as far as trash and plastic go, so even better.

I made this again this weekend and froze three 2-cup servings. I have learned that having a stash of meals is important and necessary. And it also means that Eric and Johanna can have pasta for dinner and I’m not tempted to compromise because I’m starving.

I also made hamburger patties and baked sweet potatoes for another couple of freezer meals. I’m not a big meat eater, but beef, chicken, pork and eggs are all safe, so … I guess now I am a big meat eater. We’ll concentrate on the fact that THAT is also low waste (meat counter visit with a container, bulk sweet potatoes) to ease my conscience.

So we’re getting there is what I’m saying.