Thursday, November 20, 2014

Books, Books, Books

My "library" of books.

I used to have lots and lots of books back when I was in Graduate school in California (it was for fine arts in case you were wondering.)  Books from all my undergraduate classes (I used to choose a class based on it's reading list), lots of Art books, biographies and novels.  I loved seeing them on my shelves and they made my sterile apartment very homey.  But when my then boyfriend / now husband asked me to take a month long camping trip as a way of getting back to Minnesota we decided to ship all my stuff home instead of renting a moving van.  Since we were shipping everything UPS and shipping costs are based on weight it quickly became apparent that many of the books had to go.  I gave them to friends and sold the rest at my local used book store as it was 1996 and email was in it's baby stages let alone online selling.

When I finally arrived home I moved in with my mother until Dan and I could find a place of our own to live.  So, I left the majority of my things in their shipping boxes waiting.  It took longer than we anticipated for us to find a house; about 1 1/2 years.  When we finally moved and I started unpacking those boxes from over a year ago I realized I didn't miss much of it, and in fact I decided to get rid of about half of all I owned.  See, even though we had this lovely house, we didn't have much furniture to put things on or in.  I was off to Half Priced Books this time to sell more of my book collection.

Of course we eventually got shelves and furniture and stuff and books crept back into our home.  Fast forward to current time and our new goal of downsizing and all those books, that seemed to grow to the space given them, had to go.  I started with selling on Amazon as I was getting very little at our local Half Priced Book Store (they usually give you something like 10% of the half off the original price.  So for example your $12.00 book they would sell for $6.00 and give you 60 cents.  Not much.)  I would look up my book title on Amazon and see what the lowest price was for a used copy.  If that price was over $10.00 I would go ahead and list it and If it was under $10.00 I found it simply wasn't worth the time and effort to ship with Amazons fees.  I did save money by using used padded mailers which my husband got for free off of Craig's List, but it still seemed like a hassle for a couple of dollars. The books I listed sold pretty fast (within 2 weeks), but you do have to wait about three weeks for the money to be deposited into your bank account. Then I took that bunch of books that were below the $10 mark on Amazon and listed them on Craig's List.  And the ones that didn't sell after a few months on CL then went to Half Priced Books. Then the books rejected by Half Priced Books got dropped off at the Goodwill on my way home.

Now, I still love to read, but I use my library for reading material instead of stores.  Once in a while the library won't carry what I want so I will bend and buy a used copy of that book, but when I'm done reading it out of the house it goes.  My personal "library" now consists of a sock knitting book, Pride and Prejudice (given to me by my husband), Gift from the Sea (given to me by my father), Watership Down (given to me by my brother), 4 cookbooks and a few books on Unschooling.  Digital books would probably be another solution, but I have yet to embrace this medium and like the feel of a good old book in my hands.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hazardous Items Disposal

The many cleaners we need to dispose of as household hazardous waste.

After you go through all the "easy" stuff to giveaway, donate and sell you will start to come across the not so easy items.  Those that need to be washed, slightly fixed, or even those that are toxic. Hazardous waste items that require special disposal is actually a pretty large category nowadays.  Electronics (even including electric toothbrushes and toys), batteries, media items like CD's and ink cartridges, propane cylinders,  paints, solvents, automotive cleaners and fluids, household cleaners, aerosols (even hairspray), fluorescent light bulbs, mercury thermometers, pool chemicals, pesticides, appliances both gas and electric, tires, electrical cords and holiday lights now need to be properly disposed of or recycled .  Most states have household hazardous waste drop off facilities usually organized by what county you live in.  You can find Minnesota's drop-off facilities here.  

Many items can be dropped off for free, but some incur fees like old appliances (gas ones being more expensive than electric), tires, mattresses and TVs.  To avoid this we have had good luck with advertising on Craig's List for "scrappers" who want to come and take our used broken appliances away for their metal.  Usually we will say they are on our driveway and give out our address stating first come first serve.  We've never had to wait more than a day for them to be removed (but of course we live in a large metro area.)  Once we even found a local, really local (just a few blocks away from our house) woman who took old appliances for free for her business which repaired and then resold them.

Another possibility for disposing of hazardous material are libraries. Many have drop-off facilities for batteries in the form of a large garbage cans that look like a battery itself.  Libraries often also have a collection box for used eyeglasses which the Lions Club International recycles.  While not a hazardous waste item, eyeglasses that are an old prescription or style for you can still be used by someone else without the means of buying their own and the Lions Club works at facilitating this exchange.  Your old computers, cell phones, GPS etc. can also be dropped off at your local Best Buy store for proper recycling at no charge to you.  For painting supplies you can sometimes find a reuse center like Habitats for Humanity ReStore.  They have a latex paint recycling program called Mix it Up where they mix together paints based on color, sheen and use (i.e. interior vs. exterior), filter it and resell it.  They of course also take any leftover building supplies, old windows, doors, cabinets, sinks and even working appliances.  Really a great resource for donating.  The more we can keep items in use and out of the landfill the better don't you think?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Revamping Your Hobbies

 My hobby corner of the living room.

I'm a pretty crafty person and find joy in making things myself, but in our war against stuff I found being a serial hobbyist is antithetical.  Thus, I went through all of my hobbies picking out just the two that bring me the most pleasure and scrap the rest along with all their equipment.  The two I picked are knitting and spinning as fiber really is my true passion and not much more than a day goes by where I don't do one or the other.  

Beeswax candle making with all it's melting pots, molds, jars and wicking supplies was one hobby that met the chopping block.  Soap making was another, with it's dedicated stock pot, hand mixer, spoons and vast variety of oils and nut butter ingredients.  I also used to make all our lotions, lip balms, shampoo, beauty masks, sugar scrubs and even toothpaste all of which had lots of left over ingredients and containers to be sold.  Being an Art major from undergraduate and graduate school I accumulated lots of supplies for many different kinds of art making, but after I culled a few things for my son's use I sold the rest which included paints, litho print blocks, inks and tools, drawing supplies, woodworking chisels and gouges, and all of my metalsmithing materials and equipment.  It was very freeing to let go of all these supplies as I'm no longer interested in these pursuits.  I used to play the piano too, and while we have a piano now there will not be room in our next house for it so I have sold my stacks of music books  keeping only four with songs that I still play from once in a blue moon.  When we move I'll give these last books to my father or brother who still play regularly.  

The last to go was sewing and it was a hard one for me.  I've sewn clothing since I was a child, but I really don't have the long stretches of uninterrupted time that I need now that I have a child of my own.  Fabric and patterns were just accumulating on my shelves and I felt guilty over the waste, but thought I would still get to using them.  Well, now I've admitted to myself that even if I had the time I probably would choose knitting or spinning over sewing as they are very relaxing for me where sewing, if I'm truly honest, has always stressed me out.  You see if you cut the fabric wrong you now have scrap fabric as you cannot redo a cut.  Whereas with knitting you can always rip back your knitting, wind up the yarn and start a fresh.  So, I have sold most of the fabric (still have more to do), notions, lots of thread, some tools such as scissors, pinking shears and marking pens, but I do still have my sewing machine, basic thread and sewing needles for patching and making repairs.  I would eventually like to sell the sewing machine, but I'm just not ready.

And I think this is an important thing to note that I did all the above in stages as I couldn't "see" everything that needed to go all at once, but instead getting rid of one hobby made it easier to get rid of the next and so on.  Also, some items are simply harder to let go of then others, but eventually they will go if that's your goal.  I sold almost all of this on Craig's list with the exception of the fabric which I sold on Etsy.  I already had an Etsy shop so it was easy for me, but it may be worth setting up a shop if you have lots of new craft supplies with name brands (most of my fabric I knew the designer's name, company, and name of the pattern) or antiques.  People really do search for specific designer brands on fabric nowadays and I found I got a good price and they sold fairly quickly on Etsy compared to when I tried to sell my fabric and patterns on CL.

Actually, I do have one more hobby I kept, but it only takes up the space of a regular sized shopping bag and it helps me with my downsizing.  Have you guessed it?  It's scrapbooking.  I scrapbook with my friends once a month whittling our photos, child art and mementos down to a book.  I could simply keep all our photos digitally and dump the physical ones, but I find we don't enjoy them that way.  We enjoy looking through our past in the form of a book on a lap sitting close to one another on the couch.  I fit a couple to a few years per scrapbook (or in my case one scrapbook for all my childhood and youth) saving only a few special photos to remember events by.  Again, my hope is to give my son Sam memories, but not weigh him down with the past.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Finding Homes for Unwanted Goods

Our "free" box for putting items out on our curb.  It doesn't blow away!

After you have been selling, gifting and donating for awhile you will begin to come across some things that you don't know how to get rid of except to the dump.  And while the dump is an option, it really is one of last resort and with a little research you can probably find someplace/someone who will except your items.  For instance, if you have hard to get rid of items like used mattresses, large furniture and even TV's there are local charities that specialize in helping people transitioning out of homelessness and poverty set up a household.  Here in the Minneapolis area of Minnesota that organization is Bridging.  You can bring your items to them or they will send a truck, and the muscle to move you items, to you for a fee.  Partially used makeup and beauty products are another hard to dispose of item, but many local women's shelters will gladly except accept this kind of donation.  And don't forget about using old standbys like Craig's List or Freecycle as both are free online sites to list your items to give away to other individuals.  Also, if you live on a busy street you can always just put items on the curb with a free sign on it.  Once when we were bringing items to the curb from our garage (which is at the back of our house on an alley) the previous items disappeared by the time we walked to the garage and back.  Now that's instant gratification for you!

Another, great way to dispose of unwanted stuff and even make a little extra money is to sell any used scrap metal and even fine metal items you don't need anymore.  I used to be a metalsmith artist years ago and had lots of left over copper and even though it was a small amount of only 10 pounds my local scrapyard happily took it and gave me a check to boot!  My husband has repaired computers for years and has a huge stash of cords that contain guess what?  Lots of copper!  Now he is also off to the scrapyard to recycle and make some spare change.  I'm not too sentimental a person so I have even sold old jewelry and christening gifts that were made of precious metals such as silver, gold or platinum to a local shop in my area for cash.  It may sound a bit harsh to get rid of a christening cup in this manner, but I think of it as one less memento my son will have to deal with after I'm gone.  This truly is my thought process as I filter through all our stuff  - "What use will this be to Sam?"  Does he really need a large tub of all my childhood photos, drawings and treasures?  Or, would a single scrapbook be a better way to remember his mom?  Maybe it's a morbid outlook, but with my mom being a hoarder I often think of all her stuff that will one day be my stuff whether I want it to be or not.  Paring down all our belongings, especially those of sentimental value I like to think of as a future gift to my son.  I want to give him memories of the past, but not weigh him down with it. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Weekday Work

 Our stairway after the carpet was pulled up.

As I've mentioned earlier here we recently moved my mother out of our 1/2 upstairs to her own apartment.  Now that she is gone and the upstairs is empty it was time to start repairing the damage.  Not that my mother was wild and crazy and knocked holes in walls or anything, but she did own cats.  Yup, you guessed it, the carpet completely reeked of cat urine and it had to go before we could do anything else as we simply couldn't breath.  My wonderful husband volunteered himself for the job and spent Saturday and Sunday ripping and rolling carpet.  He stacked all the rolls in our garage to be doled out one at a time to our garbage can.  Luckily we do not make much garbage so there is plenty of room each week for a roll of carpet, and with the temps in the single digits at night it's cold enough to keep the smell down from the rolls left in the garage.  There is a lot of it to be sure, but not enough to warrant a dumpster and the extra expense.

My job came afterwards, that of prying up all the carpet tacking strips and pulling out all the carpet staples.  Not hard or taxing work, but fiddly and time consuming.  We probably could have reused the tacking strips I suppose, but we didn't want to risk having anything left that could possibly smell of urine (we are even taking up a few floor boards from the closet where my mom put their litter box.)  I've been spreading the work out over the course of the week as my hands have been getting sore in the process (I'm sure all the knitting I do has nothing to due with my hands aching.)  With only six stair treads left I'm hoping to finish today which is just in time for the weekend and a new set of repair jobs for us both.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Donating to Charity

 My latest batch of items for donation.

Sometimes in my quest to rid our house of clutter I come to a point where I just don't want to deal with selling items, I want things gone and fast!  This is usually when I start bagging up items to donate to charity.  Making money from our unwanted stuff for us is pretty necessary so we can afford to fix up our current house to put it on the market, but selling can be a slow process and sometimes you just need to keep the momentum moving.  Donating can give you money though in the form of a tax deduction and it's nothing to sneeze at I assure you.  If you're diligent about recording what you donate it's pretty simple come tax time to plug in all those itemized deductions.  A single pair of women's pants can be worth anything from $4 - $12, depending on quality, come tax time.  Even if you just track your donations as a bag of clothing or household items you can still deduct something like $25 per bag on your taxes.

Donating to charities has really never been easier now that they will come right to your door and pick up from you directly, and you don't even have to be home!  The three I use most frequently are Vietnam Vets, Lupus and Courage Center, but there are many to choose from depending on where you live.  You can usually set up a pickup online or by calling to find out when they will be in your area.  If I'm really in a hurry to unload stuff, as sometimes you need to wait a few weeks for a pickup, I drive to my local Goodwill and drop off my items with them.

Lastly, another great option for donating used goods, if you are doing your clearing out during the summer months, are churches who will except donations for their annual rummage sales.  We have one in our area whose rummage sale is quite huge and they except just about anything.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Letting Go of Something Very Special

A shawl I knit this summer.

When rummaging through your house looking for things to get rid of you will probably run into something that's very special to you, but you don't use/want it anymore.  The thought of donating such an item can be too much, selling it can seem wrong so what does that leave you with?  Well, in my case giving it to someone I know who would find it desirous or useful.  What's tricky about this is if you ask someone directly they might feel obligated to take it (you've heard of Minnesota Nice?)  So, what I've been doing is posting a picture and description of the item I want to unload onto Facebook and simply ask who would like it?  It's really worked well for me and man does it feel good to give someone a gift for no specific reason.  

I've given away many things that I've knit this year, because they were never used as the color, fit, or style was wrong for me.  These knitted goods represent many hours of my time and it really brings me joy to know they will be put to good use.  Knitting is a great hobby, but sometimes I get lured into buying a yarn because the colors are so appealing even when they go with nothing I own.  Or, sometimes a pattern looks like such an interesting knit that I can't resist trying it out even if the end product is of no use for me.  When my dresser drawer no longer shut I knew something had to give or be given away in this case.  I gave away the shawl pictured above, another shawl, 2 cowls, and thick socks.  I found homes for them in a day and mailed them to their recipients the next, which costs a little money it's true, but so much easier than arranging places and times to meet up.  Besides who doesn't love getting a gift in the mail?       

Monday, November 10, 2014

Staying Motivated

Can you see our love for tubs in an effort to organize/hide all our stuff?

The tricky thing about getting rid of clutter for me is motivation.  I'll have good days where I feel I've accomplished a lot towards our goal of owning less things - numerous postings on Craig's List, bags ready and waiting for a charity pickup, closets that have been thinned out and reorganized.  But then there are those days where I look around and feel completely overwhelmed by the task at hand.  How will I ever get rid of everything in the basement?  We're planning on building our small house without a basement because of expense and because basements are great collectors of stuff.  Don't know what to do with something "Oh, just put it in the basement." you'll say until that basement becomes so full and you'll wonder what happened.  Now, I finally have to deal with all those things that got stored away down there because we didn't want to deal with them at the time.

So back to figuring out how to stay motivated.  What I do is figure out what I can do to contribute to our goal each day, but not how much I will contribute.  Meaning anything that I do to get rid of stuff is good and is enough for that day no matter how small of an action I take.  This may seem like a minor point and I didn't really get how much the distinction matters for years, but finally it clicked.  If you say "I'm going to clean out this closet today." you've set yourself a expectation of completing your task and if you don't, and let's face it stuff does happen to take you away from your task, you end up feeling disappointed in yourself.  To change it around I now say "I'm going to work on cleaning out that closet today." I've still set an expectation of cleaning out the closet but not how much I expect to get done.  See, even if I spend as little as 5 minutes working on sorting out that closet I've accomplished what I set out to do and thus feel better about myself. This distinction between what and how much is something I learned from my husband.  He would never commit to getting a project done in a certain amount of time because he knows you can't know what is going to happen along the way so why set yourself up.  Honestly, I used to find it maddening until I realized he didn't get as stressed, frustrated or worked up as I did when working on house projects and wouldn't I be better off not feeling those emotions?

I try not to take days off from downsizing either as they usually make me feel guilty and degrade my motivation.  There are days I just don't have it in me to tackle some areas of our house, but I try to find something, anything really, so that at the end of the day I can feel I contributed to our goal.  If the basement is too scary, and let's face it it often is, I'll clean out a single drawer of clothes, renew a few listings on CL, schedule a charity pickup or throwout some old paperwork or magazines in the recycling.  Nothing monumental for sure but it does keep my momentum going and it's the moving forward that really keeps me on task.  On the flip side there will be days where I'm on fire and get tons done, but I try to just be grateful for them and not set them as a standard to live up to everyday.  We'll get to our goal as they say one day at a time.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekend Work & Our Start into Downsizing

Our storm windows in need of a little TLC.

Snow is supposedly coming to Minnesota today which meant a hustle yesterday to finish any outdoor work yet needing to be done.  Our house is old and still has it's original windows which means swapping out screens for storm windows.  Our storm windows are in need of major work - lots of glazing, sanding and painting.  We were hoping to get to it this summer, but with moving my mother out into her own apartment (she lived with us for the last five years) most of the summer was spent organizing her many, many things.  Her moving out really provided the opportunity for us to move ourselves and get us going on our downsizing goal.  

You see my mother is what I would call a mild hoarder.  When she moved from her large 3 bedroom ranch house to ours my husband filled a 40 foot dumpster with her junk and clutter as well as taking many, many trips to the dump (there was a 3 week timeline to get her out and moved so unfortunately much stuff went into a landfill instead of finding new homes.  It was pretty sad all around.)  But she still had lots of stuff left over and it came in a big plop into our house where she filled the upstairs and about 1/2 our basement with mounds of crazy stuff.  (my first curling iron from 1981 was down there along with 2 sets of hot rollers she hadn't used in decades.)  We felt hostage to all these things and they really kept us from clearing out our own excess stuff.  Heck, there was just no space to work in.  Then my mother would panic if I tried to get rid of anything and would "rescue" items I wanted to sell or donate by keeping them herself.  So, stuff got shuffled around, but not much really left the premises over the last 5 years.

Now, all her stuff is gone and her responsibility to deal with,  leaving us to finally deal with ours.  So, this weekend we put up all the windows even though they look pretty bad.  Dan did get to power washing them over the summer so most of the glazing and much of the paint is missing.  We hope to take them down one at a time and fix and paint them in our basement over the winter months (of which we have 6 here in MN.)  They really look too awful to leave until next summer, and my guess is we'd hear from the city if we did.  Now to find the space to work on them.  Hmm...back to the basement for me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

So As I Was Saying...

A dark ugly corner of our basement that needs going through.  Yikes!
I was thinking I left a few things out the other day about Craig's List.  For instance shipping. You will get asked about shipping items from time to time and I am not wholly against this if the item in not likely to break (I've sold a lot of yarn this way) and the buyer is willing to pay through PayPal.  I have the shipping supplies on hand due to my knitted toy business so it's not really a big deal especially since you can buy and print labels online at USPS.  But do make sure that the buyer pays for shipping charges and the PayPal fee for sending the money.

What to sell on CL was another thought I had, but that one is pretty easy to answer - pretty much anything if you're willing to wait long enough.  By that I mean that your stuff might not sell and at the end of 30 days your listing will no longer be renewable.  It will still be up but way down at the bottom of the listings.  Then what should you do?  Well, I give items up to three months to sell so I make a new ad for the same item and delete the old non renewable ad.  This may sound like a pain and if it is for you then go ahead and donate that item.  I basically try selling everything first and if at the end of 3 months it still hasn't sold (hasn't happened too often) I will donate it or re-list it in the "free" section on CL.  

I'd like to talk more about what I give away on Craig's List.  Mainly things that I think would get thrown out if I donated them or items that the charity pickups don't accept.  For instance, today I gave away a WaterPik that was only used a few times, but somehow we managed to loose the charger for it.  Now, my son didn't take to it so I don't want the hassle of finding another charger, but that doesn't mean someone else would mind.  I also got rid of all my hair accessories like barrettes, binders and clips since I cut my hair short as well as all my nail polish , new emery boards and 4 extra clippers.  Totally useful stuff, but really unsellable.  I feel good not to put more in a landfill and hopefully I helped someone out.  It's simply recycling I guess. 

Now it's funny that I'm going to say this as I have an ad for clothing up currently, but the one thing I find that does not sell well is clothing.  The ad I have up now is for new pants that were washed then deemed too big by my son - can't be returned, but easy to sell.  And certain high end children's clothes will go, but regular used clothing I find it's better to simply donate to your favorite charity.  

Someone asked me why I didn't use eBay, especially when we sold all my son's Legos, as you can get a better price and my response was all the fees and if the purchaser didn't like it the item they leave bad feed back and nasty emails (happened once to me and it was ugly - yuck.)  No fees with CL and if they don't like it they don't buy it - so simple.  You may not get the best price for your item, but then again you did get more than at a garage sale where you sit around all day and maybe sell it. 

Well, I think I've finally exhausted all I can say about Craig's List except if you haven't tried it yet - do!  It can be very rewarding. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Craig's List Solution to Downsizing and Clutter

Hello again.  Today I'm going to talk about how Craig's List can be a great solution to downsizing and getting rid of clutter.  What you see above is all the items I currently have listed on CL.  Since deciding to move and build a new smaller house, I have been actively trying to get rid all our extra stuff and one great way is Craig's List.  Because we need money to fix up our current place, and money to build our new place, I try to sell anything I can for extra cash.  I will sell things for as little as a dollar, which most people would say isn't worth the time of placing the ad, but I disagree as all those single dollars can add up faster than you think.  The low price makes people stop and look at your ad and then they can see all the other items you've listed with the usual result being they buy many of your items instead of just the one.  They get a fantastic deal and you have less things to maintain in your home plus a little extra money - a win win situation if you ask me.

To be successful on Craig's List I feel you need to be able to do/accept the following: 

1) You need to be available.  If you have a very hectic schedule arranging pick ups is going to drive you nuts.  I'm a home most everyday as I homeschool my son and he likes being a home most of the time so our schedule is very open.

2) You have to be prompt with replies.  People will lose interest, think better of it or have found the item from someone else.  Now, some things are really easy to sell and you will always have offers, but unique items can take a long time to sell so don't lose that person who wants it.

3) You need time.  If you're really strapped for time it might be better for you just to donate items to a local charity, especially one of the ones that can pick up - they are awesome.  Dragging out the item, taking a photo, loading that photo on your computer and typing up the ad do take time.  But, you don't have to do lots at once.  I usually take a lot of photos at one time then only write up an ad or two a day.

4) Renew your items as often as you can.  CL now has a renew feature where you can just press a renew button, which is to the left of your ad on your account page, every 48 hours and it will bring your item back to the top of the list. 

5) Know your boundaries and your limits and stick to them.  For instance, I only communicate through email.  I don't like giving out my phone number and I find email less invasive to my day.  Also, I only meet people if they are spending a lot of money.  It just isn't worth my time and gas to drive somewhere for only a few dollars.  If people want to meet somewhere because they are scared of something bad happening I tell them I'll come out to their car or the sidewalk and we can do the transaction there which relieves most people.  What I'm looking for is transactions that make the least interruption to my day.  Now these two examples might not work for you, but what I'm saying is you can have CL work for you and not the other way around.

6) Lastly, people will stand you up.  It just happens.  Some give notice and others don't, but you do need to accept that it's part of doing business on Craig's List because if you don't it can be truly maddening.

I have been plugging away at Craig's List this year and have made over $3000.  Now, you might be thinking I sold expensive items, but no, most of my ads were for things $10 and under (which does say something about how much stuff we have - yikes.)  But, the best thing besides earning more income and getting rid of unneeded stuff was that it inspired my son.  He wanted to buy a Nintendo 3DS, but I told him we didn't have it in our budget to buy him one, even a used one.  I then asked him how did he think he could make the money himself and he said he could sell his Legos on Craig's List.  It was a great solution to trade an unused toy for a new toy with the added benefit that he got the satisfaction of earning his own money and getting to purchase what he wanted with that money.  I'll leave you there as this post is getting quite long.  I guess I have a lot to say on the matter.  Hope you find it helpful.  Bye!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

In The Beginning...

Hello.  I'm starting out this blog to chronicle my family's move from a cluttered life that's too financially and emotionally stressful to one that is smaller, more manageable and simpler.  We are a family of three, dad Dan, mama Ann and son Sam along with our black Labrador Easy living in a house in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Our house is not big by today's standard, at least in the United States.  It has a footprint of 750 square feet with a full, but unfinished basement, and a 300 square foot 1/2 story upstairs.  It was one of the houses they built right after WWII to accommodate for the baby boom and all those growing families.  

When we purchased this house we were only the second family to own it since 1945, and very little had been updated since then.  We could barely afford it, which shocked us as our mortgage was $20,000 less than the bank said we could afford to purchase - I guess they thought food, heat and gas were optional items in our life.  We had to upgrade the electric right away and the roof was on it's last legs.  Then came a new furnace (the old one was the original), a remodeled bathroom so we could have a shower, new back door, outside lights, lots of painting interior and exterior, get the picture.  Much more still needs to be done to this place, but we find we don't want to put more money into this home that will take us 28 more years to pay off. 

It wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't refinanced a couple of times since we purchased the house in 1997.  Our reasons for doing so were to pay for the updates we made and the infertility medical bills which made having our son Sam a reality as well as the classic reason of living above your means.  We have since reigned in our spending and payed off all of our debt besides the mortgage.  Still life is expensive here.  We live in a small house, own one vehicle, don't take vacations (minus a camping trip or weekend hotel stay somewhere drivable) and our biggest luxury is I don't work so I can homeschool our son.  But to accomplish all this my husband works on average about 60 hours a week leaving before we wake up and coming home after dinner.  I'm sure this is not a unique situation, and we're very lucky in many regards, but we're finding that something needs to change if we want more time together as a family.

So, we've decided to get rid of the last of our debt and sell our house with the next step being we'd build a much smaller home in the country that we would own outright - no more mortgages!  But, for this to happen we first need to empty out this home, do some more repair, and figure out new employment that's not location specific.  Piece of cake - right?  Well, not exactly a piece of cake, but definitely doable.  I plan to chronicle the steps on this blog as a way to help me see we're making progress towards our goals while keeping clear on what still needs to be done.  Won't you join me?