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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hitting the Reset Button

I found a link on another blog to this post about "resetting to zero." The author talks about cleaning the house, cleaning out his inbox, and checking off his to do list so he can basically start from scratch again.

It was an inspiring post. I often clean the house after I finish dogsitting, which entails a good vacuum, washing the sheets that the dogs lay on, wiping wet nose smudges from door windows, putting the extra dog paraphernalia away, and cleaning up the area in the kitchen where they eat/drink. That way, I can start fresh when the next dog comes.

When my boys were little and they'd visit their grandmother for an overnight, I'd reset by tidying up the house and cleaning the bathroom, because it made my husband and I feel human again, even if it was only for a night. (And no, I am not ashamed to say that I lived for those weekends. Having kids is HARD and we took all of the breaks we could get.)

We also reset to zero before we go on vacation. We change the bed sheets, make sure all of the laundry is done, the dishes are clean and put away, and the bathrooms are scrubbed clean so that when we get home, all we have to do is unpack. It can be a real pain to clean the house while you're trying to pack and get out the door, but the payoff is HUGE when we get back home.

Flylady calls it the "Weekly Home Blessing Hour," wherein you give the house a good once over each week to start off fresh. I prefer to do this on the weekends, although my husband and I disagree on the laundry. He thinks it should be done a load a day whereas I prefer to do it all on the weekend because I get in a groove and get it all done. But he does it often, so who am I to complain.

I think no one would argue that having a "reset" house is a wonderful feeling. And like the author of the post says, being a minimalist only makes resetting much easier to do. Maybe that's why spring cleaning is so popular?

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Million Dollar Day

One of the items I decided was all wrong for me when I started clearing my closet for Project 333 was a long-sleeved gold sweater that I had purchased from Talbots in fall of 2012 during one of their online final sales. It probably didn't cost me more than $20. When I got it, it wasn't quite what I expected, but since it was on final clearance, I couldn't return it. I did alot of that with Talbots -- bought final clearence items for dirt cheap because of the name brand -- and most of my purchases ened up sitting in my closet because they were all wrong for me. In fact, I'm not sure I have more than 2 pairs of pants at most that I actually kept after one of my clearance frenzies. 

Anyway, I wore the sweater in December 2012 to one of my company's holiday parties, then put it away for the winter, and took it out again this past December for yet another holiday party. A coworker came up and told me how much she loved it, but after wearing it that day, I ended up hating it. It was too big on me, too hot, and just...too much. Since I knew I was never going to wear it again, I took it into the office and asked her if she wanted it. She didn't know what to say. She offered to pay me, but I told her absolutely not.

She wore it yesterday, and came over to my desk at 9 a.m. to tell me that four people had already stopped her to tell her they loved her sweater. And rightfully so, as she did it the justice that I never could. It looked like a different sweater on her and she looked beautiful. She thanked me again and said "I feel like a million bucks today." Which made me feel like a million bucks.

I can't even express what a wonderful feeling it was to have that happen. It will go down in history as one of my all-time greatest moments.

As I go through my clothes with P333, if there is something that I am wearing and I end up not loving it, I am getting rid of it. And if someone in work admires it, or if I think it might fit their personality, then it's theirs. Aside from giving away the sweater, I gave two scarves to another coworker who wears alot of navy. Considering I own only one thing in navy that I recently ate my way out of, I knew I'd never wear those scarves. She loves them and has since worn both of them.

This is really fun. I may very well end up giving someone the shirt off my back one day. Good thing I have a spare sweater in work to put on just in case...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Aaahhhh, Symmetry

Let's recap. Here is my fireplace wall right after Christmas but before I added the second bookcase and decluttered the DVDs, which were in the large cabinet on the right side.

Here is the final version.

The DVD/CD cabinet is now in the basement housing my boys' video games (still in their original plastic containers -- I can't even go there yet). I also removed the big candle lanterns on each side of the mantle because I wasn't feeling it; it was too much. I moved the lamp to the right because that's a dark corner, and while I would love to have identical lamps, I'm not going to buy another one, mostly because I got this lamp many years ago and they probably don't make it anymore. I won't buy matching lamps because that would be the opposite of what I'm trying to do. The square candle lantern on the left is about the same size and satisfies my need for symmetry, so I'll keep it like this. 

I know many of the home decor magazines turn their interior design noses up at symmetry, but I NEED it. I think it may have something to do with being a Pisces, or maybe not. Either way, I don't feel the need to be trendy when it comes to my home decor, and I think it's important to do what makes you happy. And this makes me happy. 

Finally, were twinkle lights always called "fairy" lights? And if so, how could I not know that?!?!   

Monday, January 13, 2014

DVD Containers, Be Gone!

I FINALLY went through all of our DVDs and removed them from their cases and into a portable case. This is the result: 
One-and-a-half full-size recycling containers with all of the discarded cases. I sure hope they are recyclable. I looked at this mess and just couldn't believe how much plastic and paper is used for DVD packaging. I know that making these things is someone's (or probably a lot of someones) job, but I just wonder if things couldn't have been, you know, a little smaller.
All of that now snugly fits into this:

Yes, I know those are war-ish videos, but I live with 2-1/2 men. Don't judge.  

My lovely DVD suitcase fits nicely inside the second bookcase that I brought up from the basement. There is one for DVDs and one for CDs, but I haven't gone through those yet. I will get to them this weekend.  

It took me four hours to sort and transfer all of our DVDs into the case. We got rid of about 8 kid movies and about 10 grown-up movies. (I almost said "adult" but that just sounds kinky.)
As I was getting rid of all of the original cases, I had the stupid, fleeting thought, "What if we want to sell these someday? Won't they be worthless without the original case?" You know, like toys will only sell to collectors if they are in their original packaging. But then I got ahold of myself and realized that I wouldn't go through the hassle of trying to sell any of this stuff anyway, so what am I worried about.
I believe that I finally have my living room the way I want it, even though I didn't know I wanted it this way until I started minimalizing. Pictures of the final result will be in the next post.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Project 350 (or Less) Items

Because I don't actually have space at the moment to store the clothes that didn't make the cut, I moved them from my bedroom closet to the hall closet. I also took the T-shirts and sweaters that I chose and moved them to one dresser drawer. So while the clothes I'm not planning to wear aren't exactly stored away, they are out of sight. I can't believe what a tremendous feeling this is. Starting today, I didn't have to look at those clothes that I haven't worn in a year or so and feel guilty for not choosing them each morning. What a relief! I am closer to 50 items although some of these may go to the donate pile as I make my way through the next three months.

Behold my closet:

It contains the following items:

6 skirts (only 5 shown)
2 vests (one of them may go after I wear it; I haven't gotten that far yet)
6 basic T-shirts for layering under sweaters
4 blouses
13 sweaters (at least 9 of these are lightweight and I wear them more as shirts than sweaters)
4 jackets (for wearing over T-shirts; two not shown)
5 pants (includes 2 pairs of jeans not shown)
3 dresses (1 not shown)
Total number of items = 43.

Per the rules, NOT included are loungewear/workout clothes. I still have too many of those too, and I expect to cull them this winter.

Breaking the rules: I did not include in my items outerwear, shoes, and accessories. I am still experimenting with those items this winter. I want to see how many times I wear (or don't wear) a certain coat or pair of shoes before giving them away.

In years past, I wouldn't really think about whether I wore something; I was keeping it because I spent good money and I might need it at some point in the future. This year, I am much more mindful when I'm actually wearing something and taking note of how I feel in it. If I am even unsure about it, out it goes. The simple act of mindfulness when I wear my clothes is a great feeling.

I hope I still feel this way come the middle of March!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Oh Those Clothes...

The clothing dilemma. It haunts me. I am not doing well in this department, despite the fact that it was the impetus for my minimalizing.

About four years ago I got heavily into fashion, and as a result, spent more money on clothes than I ever had before. I wanted to be stylish and up to date in what I wore. Call it a midlife crisis. Also, as my kids got older and cost less money (no more daycare, etc.), I had more disposable income. So I started buying from higher end retailers like Talbots and Macy's (yes, that is high end to me), and I would order with abandon when Talbots had one of its outlet clearance sales. I got many pieces of clothing for under $20. My argument was that you couldn't really be picky, but hey, you got quality and a name brand, right? Never mind the fact that they were final sale, and many of the items I got just never fit me properly or were too bulky or whatever. They were Talbots and they were cheap.

Even when I started my new job 1-1/2 years ago, I felt even more justified in my spending because I was now working in a "corporate" environment. I felt important. Women wore skirts and nice pants and even suits. The guys all wore ties. I HAD to keep up. Also, I work with a blithering idiot, so I rewarded myself to lunchtime trips to TJ Maxx (right across the street from the office) two or three times a week because "I deserved it."

Fast forward a year and we're looking at college costs for my son. He's applied to mostly private schools (or out-of-state state schools) which may cost $40,000-$50,000 per year. I'll write more about that in another post, but suffice to say that I could no longer spend like I was. In August, my husband and I had a serious conversation about reigning all of our spending, and by that time, I had given enough thought to minimalism that I was up for the challenge.

I won't say that I haven't spent money on clothes. I have. But I have been filling gaps in my closet and bought things that were only white, black, or gray to get me through the winter. Those are the colors that EVERYBODY wears at work and they are easy. I didn't have enough in my closet, so I limited myself to classic pieces that would go with everything.

This endeavor has been successful, but I kind of fell off the wagon this past weekend. I am a big fan of the Jockey Person to Person line because their clothes are crazy high quality and made for women. Their blouses and pants are cut for the regular woman's body and I love them. However, I won't buy them full price, because that's just a bit out of my price range. So I buy a few pieces during their semiannual sale, and on Sunday, I went to my rep's house to try something on for size and to place an order for three items that I very carefully selected, after much thought and consideration. Still, I ended up buying four additional pieces of her sample items too. Granted, they are deeply discounted because a bunch of women like myself have tried them on countless times, but I don't really need any of them.

And yet, and yet, I WANT them. They are basic pieces that will go with everything I have and they will last me for years. I treat all of my clothes with kid gloves now, and I can get three or four seasons out of an Old Navy t-shirt that cost me $2.99.

I need to give myself a little credit here though. The way I've purchased my clothes has changed -- I only pay in cash, try everyting on, make sure it all goes with everything else, and are higher in quality. I no longer buy clothes because they were a good deal. Because we all know that if you don't need them, then they're no deal at all.

Anyway, today I wore another three pieces from my selection for Project333, so even though they aren't catalogued yet as such, they are still part of the experiment. When I finally move things around in my closet, I'll post a picture.

What is your philosophy on clothing purchases? If you changed your spending habits, how long did it take before you stopped really wanting to buy, buy, buy?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

3Rs: Rearranging, Reusing, Rejoicing

I'm sure you've all heard of the new 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Mine involve reusing, but what makes it fun is rearraning, which leads to rejoicing.

Behold, my fireplace wall:

Okay, so it's not completely finished, but I've made progress. The bookshelf on the left is from the basement. Down there, it held books, scrapbooks, and magazines. Now it is in my living room and holds scrapbooks and a lamp. I have actually put a basket thingy in the second shelf and moved two bulldog figurines to the first shelf. In the center of my mantle, I put a statue and two small votive candles. The cabinet to the right of the fireplace will eventually be replaced with the matching bookcase from the basement, but until I get my CD/DVD storage books, I can't do anything just yet. Hopefully this weekend.

One of the things I need to get used to as I declutter are the empty flat surfaces. In the past, I was excited when I had a flat surface because then I could clutter it up with figurines, pictures and candles. But having gotten rid of quite a few books, I now have more surface area, especially in the bookshelves, and I don't have much to put there. I am not one for putting photos up all over the place; I'd rather scrapbook them instead. So that leaves knickknacks and candles. I am thinking that it's entirely possible that I may whittle down our possessions to the point where I can actually get rid of a bookcase or two. Perhaps in a few years.  

I'm thinking a matching lamp would look nice when I put the bookcase on the other side, but then that would mean actually buying a matching lamp. I don't know that I have a need for that at the moment; I am undecided as to whether we have enough light in the living room as it is. However, I like symmetry, so I may just spend the $20 to get another lamp.

On the bottom shelf are vacation scrapbooks. They are probably the most important things to me and I have put countless hours into them, so why not have them in easy reach when I want to walk down memory lane?

Scrapbooking...that's one area I really need to work on.

I can't  wait to get the other shelf up this weekend. I'll post pics of the final reveal. I'll also post pictures of the other side of the living room, which basically contains the ginormous couch. It's a comfy couch though, so it will stay for now.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Project 350 (or less)

So I’m breaking the rules a bit when it comes to Project333. The essence of the project is to choose 33 items (every three months, or season) that fall into the following categories:
What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleepwear, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to work out)
I say “essence” because I believe that Courtney Carver would still want me to downsize my wardrobe, even if it included 50 items instead of 33. That’s only 17 more items anyway, right?
Because I love fashion and clothes, I am taking a few liberties with this project so as not to set myself up for failure. If I am too limited, I will give up completely and not even bother making the effort. Therefore, instead of including jewelry, outwear and shoes in the 50 items (or less), I am keeping them out of the equation. It’s possible I will ultimately include them in my total selection, but that is yet to be seen.
I haven’t yet actually picked out my items, although that was supposed to be done this past weekend. Instead I got hung up on putting away holiday decorations and having a little me time.
But today is the day that I had planned to start, and in a way, I did. I wore a dress and a sweater that will definitely be part of my 50 items (or less). Over the course of this week, I will move the clothes that don’t make the cut into my hall closet and gather my wearable collection in my bedroom closet. I am not ready to actually get rid of some clothes that don’t fit because I do need to lose about 10 pounds, and I want those clothes waiting for me next winter.
Having to lose weight has actually been a big motivator in my doing this project. I have clothes that I love but are too tight; they will fit me next winter though. Unless I don’t lose the weight, in which case, they will be given away then. But for now, I am just wearing the clothes that fit me that I’ve been “unofficially” wearing for the past few months. Make sense?
I’ll post my choice of clothes by the weekend. Who knows, maybe I will be able to limit myself to 33 items.
Here’s to dressing with less in 2014!

Doing Better

I have always gotten caught up in the process of making New Year’s resolutions, but mostly just for the fun of it. I never actually stuck to them, because why would I? Nobody’s life would change whether I stuck to my resolutions or not. Not even mine.

But in reality, my life would have changed. Had I stuck to all of the resolutions I have made in the past, I’d be 20 pounds thinner and able to run a marathon. I might even be a vegetarian, and I certainly wouldn’t be drinking any alcohol. Overall, I’d be healthier and feeling great. This year, instead of making “resolutions,” I’m aiming for just “doing better.” Doing better with what I eat, what I do with my time, what I do with my brain, how I spend money, and how I dress, to name a few. All of these will undoubtedly improve my life and contribute to my overall level of happiness.

Doing better means eating healthy as much as I can without overcomplicating my life. I don’t want to cook elaborate meals or go on a strict diet; I really just want to eat more simply which, to me, means eating foods that are closer to their natural state (less preservatives, etc.) and to stick to a regimen of eating mostly the same things each day. That way, if I don’t have to think about it, I stand a better chance of sticking to it and hopefully losing some weight.

Doing better with my time means decluttering and getting rid of the useless stuff in my house.

Doing better with my brain is divorcing myself from all of those stupid reality TV shows and mindless movies (I’m talking to you Anchorman 2). I want to watch things that actually make me THINK.

Doing better with spending money means keeping track of my spending, thinking carefully about every purchase, and saving more.

Doing better with how I dress will start on Jan. 6 when I begin Project 333.

And since I need to get exercise, doing better means doing something, which is more than I do now.

Hopefully by the end of 2014, I'll have done better.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Project Basement

I like to read, but I haven't read a book cover to cover in a few years. I got away from it after I discovered blogs, because they were just easier...short snippets about whatever I was interested in, with pretty pictures to boot.

But I always had great aspirations to read and would take books from the giveaway shelves at work. I never read them though. Now I've got about four bookcases at least partially filled with books that I've never read, and it's time to get rid of them. I could use the space on these shelves for other things, like my precious scrapbooks. 

Behold, my Ikea bookshelves that I haven't touched in years.

To the left of the clunky computer is a larger bookshelf that holds some of my scrapbooks but also hardbound volumes of classics like Ibsen, Poe, etc. We bought them at a yard sale right after we moved into our house almost 20 years ago. Why, I don't even know. Perhaps because I was an English major in college and I felt that I should have these classics in my home. Aside from moving them from shelf to shelf and room to room, I have never opened them.

On the far right is a bookshelf that held a bunch of scrapbooking magazines that I have since tossed, and several paperback books "borrowed" from the work library. There are one or two books from my favorite author that I am keeping, but the rest will go.

I've got great plans for at least one of those bookcases. I'll post a picture when it's in its new home, which should be this weekend.

As for the computer, I kept it because my sons had some games on it, but I'm thinking I need to accept the fact that they haven't turned it on in over a year. It will go the way of the scrap yard during the next electronic recycling event in my town.

I've got so many ideas for my basement...I can't wait to get started! Check back regularly for updates.