Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Been Way Too Long

I am annoyed at myself that I have not posted in over three months! And I have been doing post-worthy things!!!

Let's see, since September 9th:
  1. I finished the flags, the competition band season went well, our school won first place at all of the local competitions but came in 7th or something at the statewide competition in November. The kids were disappointed, but they had a great run. 
  2. My older son went to military college and not only survived, but did well. He is home for winter break right now.
  3. My job was reorganized so that now I work for a set group of people instead of in a "pool." I love it and am much happier. 
  4. We finally got rid of the carpets and had the bedrooms recarpeted with new, stain-free, soft, carpeting, and we had wood floors put down on our hallway.
  5. We were supposed to have new wood put on the steps, but they screwed it up and now my husband is in the process of redoing them. He is much too critical of his own work; I think they look beautiful and will really look wonderful once the risers are painted white.

The new carpeting means that we had to go through all of the bedrooms and clear out the junk. After taking just about everything out of each room, I didn't want to put anything back, so I made sure to be very selective of what went back into each bedroom. Our middle bedroom, the one that has basically served as a junk room for 20 years, is still uninhabited; however, we got rid of a lot of stuff and it looks much better. I put some things in there that used to be in my boys' room...stuff that they apparently haven't missed. I hope to get rid of the stuff gradually.

I have pictures of the before; I just have to post them. 

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I've Been in Hell

Flag hell, that is. I sew flags for the school color guard to use in their competition band shows and this year has been especially trying. It all must be done within a four-week time frame and when you've got 50ish flags to cut material for and distribute to a few helpful seamstresses and sew some yourself, it can be maddening. I'm almost done my part; at least I should be by the end of the weekend. Then I do nothing in the way of volunteering for the rest of the school year. 

So that's why I haven't posted anything. 

Other than that, a few things have changed with regard to my next decluttering project. Because we were planning to get new carpets this fall, I figured I'd be working on our extra bedroom first. Well, turns out that we won't have enough money to get hardwood flooring on the steps and in the hallway PLUS get carpeting, so we're postponing the carpeting for another year. We could easily get the whole thing recarpeted for a few thousand dollars, but my husband wants to have new hardwood laid on the steps and hallway, and that alone will cost about $6,000. But something MUST be done with the hall, because the carpets are in such bad shape, as well as the floor beneath it, so I am fine with doing the hall/steps now and waiting for the carpets.

The time frame for the hall/steps is early November, which is fine because October is busy with band activities. However, I'm not doing a thing to the spare bedroom until the hall is done. So the bedroom may turn into a winter project instead of a fall one.

Next up I think is the next round of Project 333. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Next Project (I Hope)

I finally whined enough to my husband about the skanky carpets in our upstairs that he agreed to go looking for new carpet with me this weekend. The rugs are about 12 years old, and have been vomited on, bled on, peed on and pooped on, and they are absolutely disgusting. 

My husband refused to even entertain the idea of new carpets until our dog was gone. Well, he passed away in November, and I have been pissing and moaning since the spring for new carpets. Or no carpets and just wood floor. I don't care. I just want that nastiness out of my house.

Now the husband is talking about replacing the wood floors in the hallway and up the steps and only carpeting the three bedrooms. Cost will be a determining factor.

However, regardless of what ends up on the floor, our extra bedroom will have to be the next project. We only used it for about six years as a bedroom for my oldest son, and then we moved him in with his younger brother, and the room quickly became a junk room. Most of the time there were toys in there, and when the boys were little, the intention was for it to become a playroom, but that never happened. 

We've gotten rid of several bins of toys, but we still have many more bins of Legos and trucks that my husband doesn't want to part with. He keeps wanting to save stuff in case we have grandchildren someday. I get the sentiment, but I suspect things will be wildly different by the time that happens. So I'm going to do my best to convince him that most of it must go. 

I'll take before pics in the daylight and post them. Even if we end up not getting the rugs replaced soon, I should still go through the room. My husband actually mentioned something about painting it and reconverting it back to a bedroom, perhaps for my older son when he comes home from college. Regardless, I probably won't start working on it in earnest until the end of September, when the weather cools down and I'm done sewing flags for the band (something I do every year at the beginning of band season).

Check back later for pictures of the room that has been bane of my existence for the last 12 years. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Regrets

Earlier this spring, after having decluttered some and realizing that one of the whole points of minimalism is the experience over the stuff, I had planned to do two things in early summer that would have brought me great joy. 

1. The Minimalists were coming to my area and I had the date marked on the calendar and even reserved four tickets. I was going to drag my husband and two boys there if it killed us!

2. Two of my favorite musical groups -- The Script and One Republic -- were coming to a venue near me at the end of June. My boys like One Republic and I LOVE The Script, so win/win, right?

Neither of these things happened. My husband was working the night that The Minimalists were coming, and it was very close to my son's high school graduation, and I was overwhelmed, and it was supposed to thunderstorm that night, and excuses, excuses, excuses.

The concert night was the same evening we were coming home from vacation. At that point, we had spent quite a bit of money during our vacation and my husband didn't want us to spend any more. So we didn't go. 

I REGRET NOT DOING THESE TWO THINGS MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE THIS SUMMER. 

If you have the slightest doubt about whether you should do something that that you know you would really enjoy, do it, despite whatever obstacles might be in your way. Otherwise, I promise you, you will regret it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Front Porch, Or The Room I Am In All The Time

We had a cloudy/rainy weekend a few weeks back; the first one in about 2-1/2 months. I decided to make the best of a weekend indoors, and I did the whole porch. Now, I LOVE sitting out there. It's much cooler than the rest of the house and since it is enclosed, I don't have to worry about mosquitoes. They have taken over my back yard and every time I step outside for even a brief moment, I get another bite. Bug spray doesn't help, so I have enjoyed my tea or glass of wine on the front porch for the first time in about a year. Also, while I can't actually see the sunset, if the sky is orange, the porch glows. I love August sunsets.

Here are the results. Be mindful that NOTHING in this room matches. It's a collection of stuff I bought/thrifted at different times. One day, my goal is to have a nice wicker furniture set out here. Till then, just having it neat and clean is enough.


This was a gift from my mother in law several years ago. It's made of that melamine(?) plastic and can also be hung on the wall. I just haven't had a chance to hang it, so it sits on one of the bookcases and
is the first thing you see when you come in the door.
The coat closet. I put away as many of the baseball caps as I could.
These two are destined to stay out, but at least they are on hooks.
 The couch, where I sit and relax, blog, and nap. These windows connect to my living room.
This is the side facing the driveway. I moved our indoor/outdoor fountain indoors where I can actually enjoy it. Unfortunately, the first weekend it was there, I was watching a dog that used the fountain
as her own personal water bowl.
This is the shoe rack. At the moment, there is simply nowhere else to put it. 
This is the larger of the two matching lanterns. I decided to put the smaller one out on my back patio with a real candle, and place all three of the battery operated ones in here. A bold move on my part.
The bottom part of the window sill in the photo above is a piece of wood trim nailed to the sill because my former dog chewed it to shreds. Don't ask. It needs to be painted, which has been on my to do list for eons. I'm not quite ready to do that yet because once I do, I'll have to paint the rest of the windows and that can turn into quite a project. 

I'm not sure yet what my next project will be. I think I'll work on my wardrobe for the next round of Project 333. 

I also really need to finish tackling the basement, as well as our spare bedroom, and my boys' bedroom, and...

...those darned CDs. Yup, still waiting.

Things will be hectic here for a few more weeks but I will try to make posting twice a week a priority. Thanks for visiting and stop back soon.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Porch Progress

The ficus tree is gone! 

Last night, as I stood there looking at it on my porch, I was a bit nostalgic and started having second thoughts about keeping it. I have always loved the look of trees with twinkle/fairy lights and was very excited when I got one for free. However, after having it for 5+ years, it was time to kick it to the curb. It was also broken, because I tried bending the branches too far and it broke off.

Once my son carried it outside with the rest of the trash, I felt 20 pounds lighter, and I remembered how wonderful it feels when you make that final decision and release something you no longer love. 

And again I thought, "Why am I not doing this more often?"

I also put the following items in a bag for charity:
  • the cd player/radio
  • a wooden and glass candle lantern (not one of the two pictured; a different one and for crying out loud, why did I need three?)
  • a couple of books
  • two old Nerf guns that have not been touched in a year
  • a pair of roller blades
  • two baseball hats
  • a candle holder
I am making progress. As soon as I clear off one whole side, I will post a photo. Right now, the lack of the fake tree has already brightened the place up and made it look less cluttered. I wish I didn't have to work at my real job today so I could get back to it. 

Stay tuned...



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Front Porch, Which Will Someday Be My Oasis

When we bought our house about 20 years ago, one of the selling points for me was that it had an enclosed front porch. My childhood home did not have a porch, so I thought this was wonderful. It was all windows though and not very functional for most of the year. The windows were old and it wasn't heated, so it ended up being a storage area for a long time. 

About 12 years ago, we had it redone. It has three fewer windows (we put a wall on the shared side) and added a coat closet. While it still isn't heated, it is more insulated so it's much more usable during the year. In fact, in the winter, a small space heater is enough to warm it completely.

When my kids were younger, it held toys, toys and more toys. As they got older, I was able to convince my husband to get some shelving and I got a cheap two-seater couch from my previous job when we moved offices. A friend gave me a very nice cedar chest, which used to house sports equipment but now holds miscellaneous items that probably need to be sorted.  

I went through the whole porch this time last year, getting rid of what I could, before I moved on to my living room and before I started this blog. But here I am a year later, and it's a disaster again. My goal is to REALLY declutter it over the next few weeks so that I can make it into a nice peaceful space. I have the good fortune to be able to work from home sometimes, and I plan to make it into a work space as well. 

Here are some before pictures.


One side that faces our driveway. The front door is on the left, and to the right is the door that enters our living room. The little golden thing at the bottom of the picture is the dog that I'm currently watching.
That is a shelving unit from Ikea along with the matching baskets. In the baskets are such things as dog leashes/bags/collars, my hats/gloves/scarves, my shoes that I wear in the winter (boots, heavy sneakers), and my sons' hats. One of the basket-less shelves holds old binders for school (we try to reuse them each year if possible) and a black basket with loose leaf paper, pens, etc. 

On the left of the unit is something that really belongs in my car, shopping bags, and rock salt. On the right is one of those plastic rolling carts that holds yet more paper, pens, markers, crayons, etc. Finally, there is a giant fake ficus tree. I used to have twinkle lights on it and kept it in my living room but the lights broke and when I redid the LR, I moved this monstrosity to the porch for lack of a better place to put it. I will discuss the fate of the ficus later.

This is facing the inside of the house. The door and ficus tree are to the left of the green end table. On the other side of the windows is my living room. 
There's my cheap little office couch that works just fine. In fact, when the room was less cluttered, I often liked to curl up and take a nap out there on weekends. 

I love the table (although there's a lot of junk in there) and the box on top of it is some college stuff for my son that will be removed soon. You can see the cedar chest in the foreground. In the back right is another Ikea shelving unit that holds games and books, which also need to be sorted. Many of them are my husband's books from COLLEGE. It's hard to convince him that the laws of business have changed and his Finance 101 textbook is no longer relevant.



This faces the street. The front door is to the right. The is obviously the same type of shelving unit from Ikea with baskets. They hold an old video recorder, tapes that need to be made into CDs, candles and candle holders, some toys, and other miscellaneous stuff. The shoe rack to the left is falling apart, and I should really invest in a better quality one when I get the chance. Those shoes belong to my sons, and their feet are HUGE. Although why my older son needs five pairs of boots and four pair of sneakers is beyond me. He takes after my husband, who is a shoe whore.  

Atop the shelf you can see my penchant for candle lanterns. I love them, but I never quite know where to put them. I don't have any plans to get rid of them though. The globe is an old family heirloom so that will stay, but the radio/CD player can be donated. 

This is just a different view of the street facing windows. The view out my windows is of the street, and the windows are high enough to offer plenty of privacy while letting in a lot of light and nice views of the trees and landscaping of the giant house across the street. 

This is an overall view that is opposite from the wall with the other shelves and the ficus tree.

Much of the work here is to declutter...again. Someday I would love to replace one of the storage units and the couch with wicker furniture and make it more of a conversation area. Right now, when I do sit out here, there is only enough seating for two people. The windows make it hard to do much else other than keep the shelving on its side. Otherwise, I'd stand it up and put a nice chair out there. 

I think the ultimate goal would be to declutter enough that I don't even need the second shelf. Then I could make a case for a couple of nice chairs or something. 

Anyway, this is my next project. I had planned to do my basement by the end of 2014, but that is just too overwhelming right now. Plus, I really want to be able to use this room more when I work from home. It will be warm/cool enough to last me until late October or November before I have to turn on the little space heater. 

I will keep you posted with my progress. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Life's a Budget. At Least for Us.

I just saw that there were a few comments on a couple of my lasts posts. Thank you for missing me! I really do appreciate it and it motivates me to soldier on.

Just wanted to give a short update on life in general. In 2 weeks we'll be dropping my son off at college. He is going to a very small private military college close to home. However, he'll be living there and we won't have any contact with him for six weeks. They have intense training during those weeks...sort of like boot camp, and there is a ceremony when he is finished. He's excited, but I'm in denial. I am going to miss that boy. 

I will also miss the freedom we've had with our finances. Not that we are well to do by any means, and we've always kept a budget, but now there will be additional expenses for his schooling, as well as saving more each month for tuition. After scholarship money and a loan, we will be paying about $15,000/year. We have withdrawn about $10,000 of that from his college savings, which were in the form of mutual funds and stocks, and the other $5,000 to $7,000 will be coming out of our pockets.  

So begins a period of cutting even further back on spending. 

I recall that last September, my husband and I agreed to stop spending so much money each month on things like eating out (and clothes) and we did well. I didn't feel deprived, because aside from an "allowance" of $140 every two weeks, I was also allowed to spend $150 on the credit card once a month. I managed to stay within those limits for most of the year. It really only went to pot when my son graduated high school (party), we got our bathroom done and I accessorized it, then we went on vacation, and then did a few things this summer, and spent money on college supplies, and well, we haven't saved a dime in months. We both feel like we've been hemorrhaging cash. 

We will probably have one more expensive dinner out the night before we drop my so off at school. I've tasted the food in the dining hall at school, and it's not good, so we'll send him off with the leftover taste of prime rib in his mouth.

I'm not sure if I mentioned that I have a dog sitting business on the side, and that has netted us several thousand dollars over the years. This summer looks to be pretty lucrative when it's all said and done, and that helps. It usually provides the spending money for our vacation each year. It is hard work, and my rugs and yard have taken a beating, but I have a bunch of people who rely on me to watch their dogs when they go away, and I love the pooches I do watch. Still, I am grateful at the end of the summer when vacation season is over and I can give my house a good cleaning.

Anyway, in two weeks, when my elder son is gone, my husband and I will have to sit down and go over our budget and set limits. Somehow, it doesn't seem as hard to do in the fall as it does in the summer, perhaps because I am more satisfied with my fall/winter wardrobe than I usually am with spring/summer. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why I Need Project 333

I did Project 333 from January to April and I blogged about how great it was for me. However, when April 1 rolled around and I was challenged to again go through my clothes and get rid of what I didn't wear, it was still mighty chilly here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We did not officially turn our heat off until the very end of April, and I could not even fathom looking at my spring clothes, much less getting them out and going through them. 

So I decided I didn't need no stinkin' Project 333, and I would instead wait for warmer weather and get all of my spring/summer clothes out at once. That process happened one weekend either at the very end of April or the very beginning of May, I can't remember which. At that point, we had had a few warmish days and I figured that it would be safe to put away my black and gray sweaters. Also, since it can go from the low 60s to upper 80s here in the span of a day or two, I didn't think that I could POSSIBLY narrow my wardrobe down to 33 spring items when I knew I'd be wearing my tank tops in a month's time. 

Here it is July 23. As in years past, I am thinking, "There aren't enough warm days in a year for me to wear all of the possible outfit combinations I can come up with, so at least some of my clothes will go unworn...again." 

I thought it would be different. I thought I learned my lesson this winter after the first round. I thought I'd give all of my spring/summer clothes the equal love they deserved and wear them all at least once, if not several times. And yet...

Here I am pulling out the same pieces of clothing every morning and switching it up enough to create a different outfit. Hmmm, there's a phrase for this, I just know it. 

Capsule wardrobe. 

Let me diverge for a second here. I, the "undercover minimalist," have continued to buy clothes. Let me say that again. I've continued to buy clothes. Have I learned NOTHING?!?!

So far this spring and summer, I have purchased:

  •  three dresses (I already have four that I like and are flattering on me)
  • a pair of black pants because I didn't lose enough weight to fit into the pair I already owned
  • a pair of red flats because I needed something to go with the RED sweater I also bought (even though I donated a pair of flats in the exact same shade of red last year)
  • above-referenced red sweater
  • a pair of white sandals because I felt I actually needed white shoes even though I haven't owned white sandals/shoes for almost a decade
  • TWO white T-shirts for layering because hey, buy in multiples!
  • five printed T-shirts 
  • a black sweater because apparently I need three
  • an off-white lightweight sweater because one is not good enough
  • a pair of khaki pants because two aren't enough
  • a black button down shirt because BLACK
  • a white eyelet suit-jacket-type jacket because it was $10 and on super sale at the outlets
  • a royal blue skirt
  • an orange skirt
  • a plain black T shirt
  • an aqua T shirt
  • a pair of khaki sandals
  • two summer scarves
  • a dressier white short-sleeved shirt
  • a blue and white v-neck sweater
I think there are a few more things in there, but I can't remember them at the moment. But wait! I have a good reason; lots of them actually! I NEEDED everything I bought. Or at least that's what I tell myself. To be fair, I did fill a few gaps in my closet and replaced a few items (black sweater, white tees), and I have walked away without getting anything a few times. I also purged a large bag of items that I knew were too uncomfortable or just not me to ever wear again. 

Oh, the outfit combinations are ENDLESS. So endless in fact, that I'll live to a ripe old age before I can wear them all. So endless that I get overwhelmed all over again looking at my closets. So endless that I wear the same things over and over and over again. Some of my clothes in the closet are pieces that are now too warm to wear but worked well for all of April and a few days in early May. However, I should probably put them out of sight because I won't wear them again until October at the earliest. But the rest...well, there are things I know darned well I won't wear ever again but I'm caught up in the old "getting rid of them is like throwing money away" mindset, not to mention the "what if I want to wear this one day?" thoughts that haunt me. 

And so I shall attempt to do a thorough closet declutter by the official end of the summer. The reason I say end of summer is because I was far too busy during the months of June and July to take the time to try everything on and make mindful decisions about what can stay and what should go. 

I know I posted about this before, but I really, truly have learned things from my first (and only) round of P333. I have learned that I don't like V neck shirts but prefer rounded necklines when it comes to T-shirts for layering. The opposite holds true for sweaters -- I don't like rounded necks with buttons but prefer sweaters with no buttons at all or V necks with buttons. I have also learned that without a doubt black, gray, and white are the crown jewels of colors. Aside from the red sweater I bought, everything else I bought for work is either black, gray, or white. I can liven things up with scarves or jewelry, but sticking to those basics makes getting dressed each morning infinitely easier.

I have also learned that while quality over quantity is the ideal, sometimes things don't have to be of the very best quality to serve your needs. Of those patterned T-shirts I bought, I got three cute ones from Old Navy. Two of them were specifically for two pairs of casual pants that I have, and the third was because I felt I needed something blue and white for the red, white and blue summer holidays. Old Navy T-shirts are the best fitting ones that I have found. Their "perfect tee" has spandex in it so no shrinkage and it keeps it's shape, and the ones I got for summer are lightweight and not as fitted so they hide my rolls. I wash them in the machine but hang them to dry and they are wrinkle free and ready for the next wear. 

So I've missed the spring round of P333 and the new round that started on July 1. I don't think I can get serious about it again until the next round on Oct. 1. By then I will be sick of my summer clothes anyway and will be ready to downsize. At least I hope I am. 

Next up...purses!    

    

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Minimalist Bathroom

We have been in our house for about 20 years. It is what is known as a "starter home" in our neighborhood, and yet we never considered it so. We had always intended for it to be our final home, or "forever" home as they say nowadays.

Before we moved in, we had the main bathroom redone. I don't say the "master bath" because up until about 7 years ago, it was the ONLY bath, and so belonged to all inhabitants of the house. At the time, pink was in so I did what everyone was doing, and I had the whole thing tiled in pink. I also was very into the natural wood look, so I had wainscoting put up in there as well. We were also keen to have a whirlpool tub (now known as a "spa" tub) as well. (Side note: I think I used the whirlpool aspect about 10 times in 20 years. It was a pain to clean and just wasn't worth it.)

So after basically rebuilding our house one room at a time, it was time for the bathroom to be redone. I could have lived with the wood, but I could no longer take the pink tile or the tub. My husband couldn't stand any of it. However, I felt that I should be true to my new found minimalist ways and "make do." But if we ever wanted to sell the house, we'd have to redo it anyway, so why not do it now when we can enjoy it. 

After looking at magazines and touring home improvement stores, I went back to the original sink I wanted: a trough-like sink from Ikea. It is long and narrow and has two faucets. It was the closest I would ever come to a double sink, so I was determined to get it. Below the sink isn't a standard cabinet; it's double wide drawers. I went with white because the floor tile would be gray, and I wanted to stay away from any color that would date it.  

We had the work done while we were on vacation, and I didn't know that my contractor was going to have it painted. I thought it would be primed and I would be painting it myself, and I decided on a very light grey. However, since the contractor painted it and the room now looked HUGE, I decided to leave it as is until I either get sick of it or the weather cools down enough to paint. So without further ado, here it is.


The trough sink with two faucets. The thing in the middle is the soap dispenser. I love the back splash. The medicine cabinet is mirrored inside with glass shelves. I'm not sure I need to see that much of myself on a daily basis.

l
The floor, mostly
One corner of the tub. I love the shelves. My husband did not want subway tiles until he saw them in a display at the tile store. It was not hard to convince him after that.
Too shelves above the toilet. We have very little on the top shelf.
The other side of the tub/shower. We have nothing to put on the top shelf. We went with a curved shower curtain rod. I've been wanting to do that for years and I'm so glad we did. We should have done it much sooner.
The top drawer under the sink. My makeup now stays in the drawer instead of on a shelf, and my hair products lie flat behind it. The dividers are adjustable, which is a handy feature. There is plenty of reading material (sorry if TMI) and the lighter is a necessity for the candle over the toilet. Don't ask.
The bottom drawer. It is very deep. I have enough room for 10 rolls of TP! My hair stuff is in the middle drawer. I got rid of a few curling irons I was never going to use again.
The view from the hallway. The window treatment right now is a hand towel that I bought to use for company. Until I figure out what to do with the top of the window, this has been working quite well. It offers privacy but doesn't block out too much light. And the design matches the shower curtain quite well.

The bathroom is very small, but having a long, shallow sink gives us quite a bit more room to stand. The medicine cabinet has 4 shelves and we haven't filled them all, because there is nothing else that we need. However, I neglect to mention that there is a hall closet with four large shelves to hold additional toiletries. However, that is mostly additional shampoo, etc., because I can't get my husband to stop buying shampoo and body wash when it's on sale!


One last thing. My husband was dead set on getting a cast iron tub even though they are a thousand times heavier than the newer materials. I was against it because of the weight and expense (they're a little more expensive than the acrylic I wanted). But now that it's in, I am a fan. It just feels more solid and supposedly, when I take a bath, it will keep the water hotter longer. I guess I'll find out in the winter. 

The minimal look now makes the rest of the house look old and crappy. Oh well.




Friday, May 30, 2014

I'm Finally Back

I have been MIA for two months! It's because my desktop computer died, and I just today received a new laptop. And it's mine, all mine! I have so many things that I want to post about...things that I've experienced/thought about/struggled with the past few months.

But for not, I have to get back to my laptop and familiarize myself with Windows 8. It looks totally different and will take some time to get used to.

I'll write again soon!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Those Darned CDs

Remember way back in January when I bought the two cases for our DVDs and CDs? Remember how I organized the DVDs and planned to do the CDs "next weekend"? Well, that never happened.

I still have a bag of them sitting in my dining room waiting to be sorted in alphabetical order and put in the case. I MUST do this, because no one else is going to.

I NEED to do that this weekend. I need to finish my upstairs living space before I can move on to the basement, which I have put off for long enough. I am hoping that when I start on the CDs I will be motivated to completely finish decluttering the dining room. I have two bookshelves to go through. I'll take before and after pictures, because I did promise lots of pics when I started this blog.

My kids will be away for the weekend so it's just my husband and me. We're having some friends over. This is the first time I've entertained in about a year. I don't feel like I have to clean the whole house because things are in pretty good shape as is. And if the weather is nice, then we'll sit outside anyway. But it's been awhile since they've been here, and I want the house to reflect who I've become with regard to decluttering. Not sure if they'll even notice though. And I should be doing this for myself and not anyone else anyway, right? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Project 333 Part Two

Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, the weather finally seems like it will start acting more like spring than winter. This week we are expecting a few days with temperatures in the 60s, with some sunshine.

As most of you know, April 1 begins a new round of Project 333. While starting in January was fairly easy with regard to the types of clothing I was going to choose, this time will be a bit more challenging. We can go from 50 degree (F) days in April to 90 degrees in mid May and early June. So I will need to carefully consider my choices this time around.

I will definitely be keeping some of the same items of clothing as I used in the last round...things like striped tees that I layered under sweaters and even a few pairs of pants that weren't heavy material. I will be switching out my heavier sweaters with some lighter weight tops, but I'll keep a few lightweight sweaters that can be worn all year round, especially since I work in an air conditioned office.

One of the problems I will have in April is the fact that I need to lose some weight in order for my spring/summer clothes to be truly comfortable. To that end, I joined Weight Watchers in work and lost a few pounds in my first week. If I take off another 5-7 pounds by the end of April, my clothes should fit comfortably. When I lose all of the weight that I'm trying to get rid of, then my clothes will be REALLY comfortable. My motivation is to make sure I reach my goal withing the next 8 weeks or so. In the meantime, I'll continue to wear skirts and hose, which I often find more comfortable than pants anyway.

Today, however, I am going to Old Navy for a few more T-shirts in brighter colors. I don't plan to spend more than $50, and to make sure that I stick to my budget, I will only take that amount in cash. I know one of the benefits of being minimalist is being able to invest in higher quality clothing because you're buying fewer items, but oddly enough, the super cheap T-shirts from Old Navy happen to be my favorites. I bought two striped and one solid shirt in the fall, and they still look great after wearing them frequently in the first round of P333. I'm not sure if that's because I never put them in the dryer, but whatever it is, they have held up well. I can't see spending alot of money for T-shirts when their lifespan is usually pretty short. And O.N. really does have quite a selection.

I will post a little later in the week what my new items will be for round two of P333, so check back.

Have you done P333? If so, let me know how you made out with round one and if you plan to continue.

Oh, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Some Answers

Two posts ago I wrote about my son's college situation. Well, we finally have some answers.

My son did not receive an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. He admitted that he didn't hold out much hope because it is REALLY hard to get in, so he wasn't terribly broken up about it. I think I held out more hope than he did, simply because I would love not to have to pay for college, and I wanted a valid reason to visit Annapolis, MD, because it's a beautiful town.

Anyway, he will be going to the junior college in the fall. He received a $13,000/year merit scholarship and also received a scholarship from our state senator for at least $12,000, with the maximum being $17,500. Now, if he joins the band and gets some money for that, then we could possibly be paying less than $10,000/year for a private college. We are still waiting to hear from some private scholarship opportunities, so I'll post the final numbers when they are, well, final.

One of the things that the band does is march in the New Year's Day parade in London every other year. They didn't go last year, so this year (meaning this December/next January) they may go. The band director said they open it up to whoever else in the family wants to attend (we have to pay for it of course) and I definitely want to go. This is when my battle with my husband begins. He has a hard time leaving anything to chance, much less the future, so trying to convince him that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is not to be missed will be the challenge. He already said something to the effect, "I'm not sure we'll be going," to which I replied, "I'm going." To me, this is one of the reasons we have savings. Yes, we save for emergencies and possible job loss, but also to do things that add enjoyment to our lives. So I think I can convince him, but it will take some work.

For now, I am grateful that we have a decision and can move forward. My son has already embraced the idea of attending his new school, which fortunately for us, is only 1/2 hour from home. He must live on campus and we won't have any contact with him for six weeks in the beginning, and after that he'll only have certain weekends where he can come home, but we can visit with him on Saturday afternoons and maybe take him to lunch. My office is literally about 10 minutes from the campus, so I could even stalk him at lunchtime if I wanted to. Not that I would, but it's fun to tease him.

We are so proud of him and can't wait to see him all decked out in his uniform.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I'm Still Here and I'm 50

So it's been about two weeks since my last confession. Hah!

We went away last weekend to a cabin in the middle of the state, but had to cut our trip short because of a snowstorm that never materialized. The place was beautiful in a rural location with rolling hills and a great view of the sunset. I didn't realize that there was no TV service, only Netflix. If the weather was warmer and we could have spent more time outside, I'd be fine with that, but it was too cold to go anywhere, so my husband and I watched "House of Cards" (our new favorite) and my kids played pool. It was nice to get away, but it was anticlimatic because it was just so cold.

The cold. The snow. I've been using that as an excuse all winter to sit on my butt and gain weight. I have done nothing further in my basement, and only tonight finally gathered all of the stuff I am giving to charity because the pickup is tomorrow morning. This winter has destroyed my motivation to do just about anything. I really, really tried to be optimistic in January despite the weather, because I know how quickly time passes, but now I'm just out of my mind with it. I desperately want to sit out in my yard in the sunshine and just warm up. 

We are still waiting to hear on several things about college. My son had an interview today for the potential $18,000 grant to the private military junior college near our home. As far as we know, it went well. I don't know when we'll hear but he has to commit to a college by May 1, so all decisions should be made by the beginning of April. Dealing with the unknown with this whole thing has been incredibly frustrating; thank goodness it's almost over.

Anyway, I turned 50 recently. I remember thinking about how I wanted to spend my 50th birthday way back when I was in my early 40s. I wavered between throwing a really nice party and going away with my extended family. Neither of those things happened; in fact, it was rather uneventful. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I couldn't expect people to come out of the woodwork and wish me a happy birthday, because I never do that for anyone else. My boys got me a gift card to the hair salon, which will come in very handy next week when I go. My husband didn't get me anything, because I told him not to. I really didn't want anything. I treated myself to a nice bottle of wine and some good food for dinner, and that was it. This weekend we're going to dinner with my siblings, and that will be fun. I'm treating myself this last time before Weight Watchers starts next week.

I've got a bunch of posts I want to write, but I haven't made the time to do it. And now, I'm pretty busy in work, and I also have to study for a financial licensing exam that is at the end of next month. The book is quite large and the material is difficult. I was supposed to start two weeks ago and I didn't. I don't really NEED this for my job, but the company is paying for it and it'll look good on a resume, so I'm doing it. I just need to buckle down and study.

I must go to bed now, at the late hour of 8:27 p.m. I am devoid of all energy at the moment. Blech.

Thanks for reading, and please come back again. I promise I will post sooner than two weeks. I still have to do my post on Uggs, and as I near the end of first quarter Project 333, I'll be sharing my thoughts on that.







Monday, February 24, 2014

Why I Can't Spend Money

My son is 17 years old and a senior in high school. He graduates in June. I remember back when he was a toddler, and my husband started a few mutual fund accounts for college. It really seemed silly to start saving for college when my son was only 2, but boy am I glad we did. He has applied to several schools, none of which is a state school, which tends to be cheaper. He wants to be a U.S. Marine, preferably a pilot, so in order to do that, we needed to look at military type schools with strong engineering programs.

He has applied to the Naval Academy, which will be free if he gets accepted, but considering it's the third hardest school to get into in the country, we weren't very hopeful. However, he got much further than we thought, and now we're just waiting for the decision to be handed out at the end of March.

In the meantime, he has applied to a few military schools, one of which is a junior college that is 10 minutes from where I work. However, it is a private institution and the tuition is $43,000/ year. Seems like a lot to pay for a junior college, but the class size is about 10-14 students per teacher, and we feel that would be a good fit for him. He has already been accepted there and received a scholarship of $13,000 per year, but that wouldn't be enough for him to go there without taking out a lot of money in loans, and my husband refuses to do that. So my son is applying for a scholarship through our state representative, who can award him up to $18,000/year. Because it is a new program, my son is the only one who applied this way, so he stands a good chance of getting some money. However, if it's not the full $18K, then we're still looking at paying a substantial portion of his tuition.

Because we've been saving for 15 years, we have about $60,000 that we can put toward his college education without having to take any money from our immediate earnings. But as you can see, at $42,000/year ($35,000/year for his third choice school), that might only pay for a year or two without financial aid. After filing the forms for governmental financial aid, we're not going to get much, so I think we'll be on the hook for whatever we can't get directly from the school.

My husband has been worrying about college costs since my boys were babies, and while we seem to have prepared, the cost of college is still ridiculous. We do not want our boys to graduate owing $100,000 in student loans, so we will have to sacrifice for the next 8 years so that we can get them through college and keep them out of debt.

This is where minimalism has been really helpful, but also sometimes kind of frustrating. Helpful in that I really don't want to spend money on clothes or even household items as much as I used to. We are looking to have our bathroom upgraded this summer, but if it doesn't happen, I really don't care. As long as I have hot water, a shower stall, and a working toilet, I'm good.

And it's frustrating in that when you read minimalist blogs (not all, but many), these people are selling off everything they own and travelling the world. Well bully for them, but what about those of us with families? Maybe I got into minimalism too late, but I am where I am, and I can't change that. So I need to make it work for me, which means that I still NEED to work at my regular job, and so does my husband, who I desperately wish could retire in the next few years. We need to be able to feed our kids and to put them through college, although I suspect a mimimalist's argument might be that they don't really NEED to go to college. That may be true, but I'm not going to deprive them of that experience because I'm trying to be a minimalist. That's not fair to them. Granted, I am doing my best to teach them that things won't make them happy, and I think they are getting the message, but they still need to eat and have clothes and do activities and be prepared for a carreer, and all of this costs money.

Anyway, all of this to say that it's very difficult because I really want to be able to travel more and do things, but we just can't. Now, if my son does get accepted into the Naval Academy, we may give him some money when he graduates or maybe buy him a car if he needs it, but we'll save the rest for our younger son. Although the tempation would be to spend the $60K on something else, like a great vacation and maybe a new kitchen.

And so I look at my job and my life and try to be content with just today. We can't stop living, so we do allow ourselves the occasional weekend away, but money is always looming in the background. 

So, this is why it's been easier than expected to let go of my spending ways. All I know is, my kids had better be prepared to change my diapers when I'm 80 years old...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Project 333 Update

I believe I gave myself about 48 clothing items for this first round of P333. Here I am 1-1/2 months into it, and I haven’t worn quite a few of those items. I am finding myself wearing the same things over and over but not really repeating outfits. Here’s my roundup:
 
Sweaters:
7 button down – 3 worn only once, 1 of them several times (my trusty black cardigan), and the other 3 not at all. I decided that one of the sweaters was a little too lightweight and therefore it has been moved back to my closet and will come out in the spring. I had a second black sweater and the opportunity to wear it just never materialized. The last one is ¾ sleeves and I just haven’t been inclined to wear it. It’s also quite bright, so I think it will work better in the spring.

4 pullover – I’ve worn all of these several times. Two are lightweight and work well over a blouse and the others are a bit heavier and are worn on their own.
 
1 open front cardigan – worn two or three times. I can wear this with so many things; I just don’t know why I haven’t.

Dresses:
1 black, 1 geometric pattern, 1 wool cowl neck. I wore the cowl neck for the second time yesterday and almost died of heatstroke in the office. Last night I washed it and it is now in the giveaway pile. It was one of those dirt cheap, name brand, final sale bargain buys that I never really loved. The geometric pattern dress has been a staple and has been worn several times. The black dress was worn a few times, but the last time I washed it my husband unknowingly threw it in the dryer. I haven’t tried it on again to see if it still fits. I’m a little afraid.
 
Pants:
1 gray, 1 brown, 3 denim, 2 black – I wore the gray and the brown earlier on. They were also Talbots final sale bargain pants of good quality. I was never happy though with how they fit so decided I could live without them. They’re in the giveaway pile. I’ve worn the denim several times, and the black ones got the most wear.
 
Skirts:
1 black, 1 gray, 1 taupe, 2 multicolored, 1 polka dot – I’ve worn the black, gray and polka dotted several times. The taupe is fairly new so I’ve worn it once. Wore one of the multicolored ones twice and the other one I decided is more spring like so it went back into the closet.
 
Blouses:
2 white button downs, 1 red, 1 animal print, 1 silver – Have not worn the white cotton blouse at all. I’m not entirely sure why; maybe because it’s not a good layering blouse. The other white, the red, and the animal print were new purchases. Red and white are great for layering as they are silky and lightweight. The animal print is kind of long; I wore it once but am having a hard time styling it. It will work into spring though, so I’m holding on to it. Wore the silver blouse a couple of times.
 
Tops:
3 striped tees (black/gray, black/white, white/black), 1 polka dot, 1 solid royal blue, 2 black – have worn all of these (minus the polka dot) several times. They continue to work as great base layers with my sweaters. The polka dot is a new purchase. It’s a bit big but since it’s black and white, it will go with a lot and can transition into spring.
 
Jackets:
3 black, 1 denim – wore 2 black and the denim a few times. The other one is a bit heavy so I’ll end up wearing it more as an outer layer when the weather warms up.
 
*********************************************************************
I did not include outerwear, shoes, purses, scarves or jewelry in my 33-50 items because I did not want to limit myself. However, as to be expected, I ended up wearing the same shoes/jewelry/ outerwear and carrying the same purse all winter.

Shoes:
1 pair rain boots, 1 pair black Uggs, 1 pair black pumps, 1 pair black flats, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair black walking shoes, 2 pairs of black leater boots. Clearly many of these won't be on the spring list, but I am not sick of them yet. I've had no desire to purchase another pair of shoes because these have all suited me just fine.

Outerwear:
1 almost knee length black wool coat, 1 black shorter coat, 1 black down coat, 1 shorter ski jacket – wore all of these, but the down coat has seen the most wear because of all the snow. It is functional and warm, but I’m tired of looking like a grizzly bear. I have two more winter coats that I need to just give away as I am unlikely to wear them again. I tried making the argument to myself that they are wool, warm, good quality, and I will wear them next year, but who am I kidding. I haven't worn them in about 5 years, so it's time to pass them on to someone who will use them.  

Purses:
1 light tan satchel with a detachable shoulder strap, 1 small green square bag that fits my laptop perfectly. I’ve gotten compliments on my purse from everyone. I picked it up at a discount store for $50. It’s not real leather, but I really wish it was. The size, shape, and color are perfect, and in the future, I may splurge on one that is real leather. The laptop bag was a super lucky find. I saw it in the same discount store for $20 hidden behind some more expensive bags. It’s colorful and matches nothing, but that is okay because I only bring it home some of the time. It’s the perfect size and I am thrilled with it. 

Jewelry:
I have been either throwing away super cheap jewelry that I never wear or colleting the stuff that is still salvageable to give away. I feel like I have a lot of jewelry, but probably not as much as others. Many of my pieces were gifts from my husband, so they stay. As for the other stuff, well, if it doesn't look classic/timeless, I'm probably going to get rid of it as I go along.

Scarves:
I've gotten rid of a few but I still have a lot more. Because I don't feel that they take up much room, I will keep them for now. However, I have not bought any new scarves at all this winter, nor have I had the desire to do so. 

What I Have Learned:

1. I am not yet tired of any of the clothes that I’ve already worn. I can still come up with a lot of different combinations.
 
2. The number of pieces I wear can probably be reduced next winter because I find that I wear them to work and then come home and change into yoga pants anyway due to the cold weather. I should probably stock up on those instead.
 
3. Many of my clothes will transition over to the next season because it will still be chilly in April. Also, because I work in an office, many articles are all weather pieces.
 
4. I need a new pair of rain/snow boots. I'd like to get a really good pair this spring duruing a sale, but I'm not sure it's in the budget this year,   
 
5. Real Uggs are the most fabulous things in the world. (Will share an interesting story on real vs. fake Uggs in an upcoming post.)
 
6. I will try to include shoes in my next selection. I'm making no promises, but I do think I could limit myself to a few pair and not feel shoe deprived.
 
7. I really need to go through my purses, but I am finding that this is the one thing that I tend to get bored with faster than everything else. I like carrying different purses, but I don't switch them out enough to get sufficient use from them. I need to further examine my feelings on purses as the year progresses.  
Finally, our winter here has been brutal, but I'm not dying to get into spring clothes like I usually am. I'm not even thinking about a "new" wardrobe for spring. Instead, I am really satisfied so far with my clothing choices and how this project has been going. I have become so much more selective about spending money on clothes. On the rare occasion that I have actually been in a store and see something that I might like, I immediately think, “If it’s not EXACTLY what I’m looking for, then I’m not wasting my money on it.” This has carried over to other things as well, such as items for my home. I absolutely refuse to have buyer’s remorse anymore, even if I just spend $10.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Scrap Corner After

Hi Folks!

It's been awhile since I've posted, but we've been hit with storm after storm after storm here on the East Coast U.S., and I spent the better part of last week shoveling, watching dogs that don't like snow/ice, and keeping the water out of the finished part of the basement. And now they're calling for another storm in a few days which may or may not include ice. It's been a lousy couple of months here weatherwise.

Yesterday I found myself with a few hours to finally tackle the scrapbooking stuff. I did not get rid of as much as I wanted, but I was still able to part with a bunch of stamps and punches, which can take up a lot of space. I also found a couple of small projects that I started and never finished, which I can easily do in the evenings in the kitchen or dining room. The basement is unheated so it can be quite chilly, even though we have a space heater. And my work area gets a cold draft because of the window in the corner.

Anyway, here are the "after" pictures.




The picture above still looks a bit cluttered, but I tried to organize as much as possible. It doesn't leave a whole lot of room to actually scrap, but since I plan to do it upstairs in the winter months, I'm not too concerned.

 
This picture shows under the desk. In the big blue bin on the left are my scrapbooks that are either in the works or just brand new books that I haven't filled yet. The white bag in the back is actually empty. That's what I use to transport my stuff on scrapbooking weekends and I just never bothered to fold it up and put it away. I think I need to do that so I can have some more leg room. The other blue container with the scizzors is holding most of my paper. And I actually have one empty container as well. I think I can use it for some stuff in other parts of the basement, so I'm hanging on to it for now. Also? It disturbs me that I am falling into the trap of organizing stuff instead of getting rid of it, but not everything in the basement belongs to me, so I do have to be careful and not discard everyting.

I am hoping to get into the habit of going through this stuff a few times a year to decide if I still need everything I've saved. Decluttering/minimizing is an ongoing process, no?





Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stuff's Gotta Go

I recently got back from a weekend of scrapbooking with a few friends. It is one of my hobbies (with the others being reading, decluttering, and now blogging), and it is not pretty. The finished pages are pretty, but the supplies and the STUFF, well, that's just a plain old mess, is what it is.

This is the rear of my basement:


It's hard to see, but there's sort of a desk in the left corner that is supposed to be my scrapping area. However, stuff has moved from there onto the extra bed and is slowly creeping across the room. (To be fair, not all of this stuff is mine. My husband has a bookcase behind that bed that contains only his stuff. I mean to work on getting him to go through it one of these days.)

It's easy to ignore this area. I haven't scrapped in a year and I don't go into this area of the basement that much. My boys play video games down there, but they don't care what it looks like. And it's not heated, so it's cold. But I don't want it to be another year before I scrap again, so I must fix this mess.

My goal for this area is twofold: 1) I need to reduce the amount of scrapbooking stuff that I have because I NEVER USE IT, and 2) I want to make the corner desk area workable again.

I plan to start working on this as my next project. I need to schedule with a local charity to make a pickup because if I don't, then it may stay that way until the spring thaw.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'd Rather Live Like the Servants

Throughout my life, the concept of minimalism would grasp my interest and I would, for lack of a better word, fantasize about what it would be like to live like an extreme minimalist. For example, when I was around 11, I read a book about Saint Therese and how she lived in a cloister. The idea of living in a very spare room, with only one pair of shoes and one nun's habit/uniform (but maybe two sets of undies), without noise, TV, or even music seemed ideal. Maybe it's because I lived in a very small house with four brothers, one sister, two parents and a dog; I can't be sure. There was very little peace in my house and nowhere to escape.

I was also fascinated when I read books that took place a hundred or more years ago because people just didn't have that much. I loved stories where the main character lived in a small apartment or a room in a boarding house and had few posessions.

I love period TV shows and am a big fan of Downton Abbey, and well, anything British that takes place before the 1970s. I am fascinated by the European way of life both decades ago and even now, but mostly in times past. As an aside: I have noticed that in Downton Abbey, the Crawley women repeat dresses/outfits, so props to the producers for keeping it real.

But I love that the servants live simply. They have the necessities and somehow make it work. Maybe it's not realistic, and maybe I am glamourizing it, but it appeals. Realistically, I could never live like a cloistered nun or a Downton Abbey servant -- at least not in the forseeable future -- but I can try to get as close to that as is comfortable for me and my family. I don't need a giant house in which to live; a three or even two-bedroom cottage would do nicely. In the meantime, I'll just keep going along, clearing the clutter one room at a time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Rest of the Living Room

I am still extremely pleased with the state of my living room after rearranging. It has been very cozy of late, especially with all of the cold weather we've been having. Here are some pictures of the other side of the room. This is the couch and the loveseat/ottoman that are directly across from the fireplace.
 

 This is the TV corner to the right of the fireplace.

 
 
I know alot of people put their TV over the fireplace, but I really don't like to mix the two. I don't feel that the TV can be a substitute for a nice picture or a pretty mirror.
 
I am getting used to the emptier spaces. For example, on the bookcase above with just the lamp, in the past I would have been compelled to put something else there...maybe a picture or a statue of some sort. Now I'm getting used to the clear, flat surface. I suspect that putting something there now might actually bother me.