Monday, March 7, 2016

Getting Rid of Those Things You Always Wanted

 My "dream" double treadle spinning wheel.  

Since I was a little girl I wanted a spinning wheel with which to spin my own yarn.  I finally got one a few years back.  A beautiful Ashford Traditional with a walnut colored finish.  Promptly, I signed up for beginning spinning classes with a friend at our local fiber guild and began my foray into making yarn.  It was fun, very time consuming work.  My single treadle wheel was lovely to behold, but it wasn't easy to use and I kept getting out of rhythm and breaking my yarn. This got me to dreaming of getting a more modern double treadle spinning wheel where both feet work making it easier to keep in time.  I stalked Craig's List and my local fiber guild for a used version of the model I thought would be just perfect.  Finally, one turned up at a price I could afford and I quickly snatched it up, brought it home and got to work.  It was everything I had hoped it would be and yet spinning yarn was still time consuming work.  Making a skein of yarn took days.  One day to spin each ply (I would make 2 or 3), another day to ply the plies together, another to wind and wash the yarn, and days to wait for it to dry.  Whew!  A lot of time and effort.  As lovely as my skeins of yarn were I sadly found I didn't really like knitting with them.  True, I could spend more time at my new craft of spinning, (I had only been at it for three years) honing my skills to produce yarn I did like knitting, but I found it was not how I wanted to spend my free time.  This realization made me feel really, really guilty having spent so much effort and money on this hobby and it also left me a bit confused.  Why was this not working out as I had planned?  I believe it is because my dream was so much more about an idea than the actual object of a spinning wheel. 

I loved the idea of quietly spinning yarn all day.  It made me think about the slower pace of a life many years ago.  It was idyllic in my mind.  But, since I don't live in that time period, or have the large family to help with all the other chores of everyday life, and that my son is homeschooled, and am often interrupted by the phone, the doorbell or the dog barking, and and.... My dream was in actuality more about that slower pace of a simpler life than it was about spinning yarn.  Purchasing a spinning wheel really only added to my already frenzied full life.  Instead of simplifying I was really cluttering my life with yet another thing to get done.
These associations we have around objects I think are the problem.  Like for instance, how I thought purchasing an ice cream making machine was going to make me happy and my family closer.  It sounds truly odd as I write that sentence, but looking back that was really what I thought.  I saw a vision of my family picking raspberries together in our backyard, bringing them in and gathering around the machine as it slowly churned our fresh ingredients into ice cream.  But, this is not what happened.  In reality no one wanted to help me, the neighbor boy ate most of our raspberries so I used frozen cherries instead and when I was finished nobody cared much for the end product.  I was trying to force a family moment in an area only I was interested in.  I didn't consult my husband or son before purchasing an ice cream machine.  I jumped in because I associated making ice cream with hearth and home - probably due to reading too many homesteading blogs.  Our time would have been better spent playing a card game, having a tickling battle or watching a movie together as they are things we all like to do.  Also, none of those things need some specialty kitchen gadget that has only one purpose.

What I'm trying to say is that often we buy something we've always wanted only to be let down in the end.  Our culture tells us in so many ways that buying stuff will make you happy, but the reality is only you can make you happy.  What I've found is that I the more stuff I get rid of the clearer the vision of what I do want emerges.  The "what I want" that has emerged for me is that I want a close family that spends their time together leading a simple slower paced life.  Thus, I'm getting rid of all this extra stuff that I've always wanted and oddly, that purging is going to make me much happier than the stuff ever did.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Sadness of Letting Go

Rainbow socks which I am knitting and will then probably give away.

In my journey to own less possessions I have felt buoyed as our excess belongings have left our home.  That is until I started tackling my yarn collection.  As I talked about in the previous post yarn is rich with possibilities to a knitter and can bring lots of joy.  Though today I find myself sad as I sort through the many skeins thinking of the garments I wanted to knit, but when it comes down to it don't really need.  My desire for less is trumping my desire to create.  That's simply the direction my life is turning to presently, but as I dig through my tubs of yarn it feels a little bit like a death has occurred.  The death of an identity.  My identity as a knitter is diminishing these last couple months leaving me feeling a bit blue and out of sorts.  Of course no one is forcing me to downsize, or telling me what I can and cannot keep.  It's really only me coming to the realization that my old lifestyle as a knitter does not completely fit with my vision of the minimalist lifestyle I desire.

This thought has me pondering about the phases in our lives: baby, toddler, youth, teenager, college student, newlywed, mother etc.  As well as the less obvious stages that happen in adulthood which usually have to do with our work, hobbies or interests and how they come and go.  My time working at a food co-op where all I seemed to care  about was ethical consumerism and food glorious food.  The stressful years of our trying to conceive a child where I devoured all information I could to help us in our plight.  The dark years of depression and pulling myself out of that hole.  My role as a homeschooling mama figuring out the ins and outs of educating our son.  And lastly, my life as a knitter and how it gave me an identity and  space in my life that was for and about me.  Now though, I feel the tides turning as I want to focus on my family and the ways we can spend more of our time being together; not off in our own pursuits.  I feel minimalism is the path that is going to get us there.

So, while I bag up even more yarn to clear space in our bedroom closet it occurs to me that downsizing really does happen in stages as so many people have said before me.  The last time I went through my stash I thought I couldn't possibly get rid of anymore skeins, and yet today finds me purging again.  I am still a knitter, that phase isn't completely over, but it is now relegating itself to a smaller aspect of my being - not the dominate force it was once.  Even though this shift is causing me momentary sadness I'm feeling a balance beginning in my life that I have never felt before.  That at least feels good. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Can Knitting and Minimalism Coexist?

My current knitting project.  
At the snail pace of a dozen rows knit a week this poncho will take me all year to complete.

I'm having a crafting crisis of sorts.  After scaling back on my hobbies once, then twice I am left with knitting as my sole craft of choice.  Knitting has been my passion for the past eight years often taking up a good chunk of each day until this year that is.  This year my knitting has ground to an unexpected halt.   What's been different?  Well, this is the year I decided to not just downsize, but to embrace minimalism as a lifestyle.  Currently, I'm only on the journey to becoming a minimalist by going through my belongings, doing lots of reading about Minimalism, getting some direction and goals lined up.  In most areas of my life this journey has been an improvement to our lives, but in my hobby of knitting it has really got me stuck.  

Now, there are some aspects of knitting that run a bit contrary to how I see Minimalism working for our family.  The most obvious one is the knitter's stash of yarn.  Knitter's are drawn to yarn like moths to a flame.  We joke about yarn having fumes that mess with our minds as we leave the yarn shop with enough yarn for a sweater , scarf and hat when we only went in for a darning needle.  Yarn has very compelling qualities:  it can be all different textures, fibers, thickness, colors the possibilities are really endless.  And that my friends is what we get stuck on "the possibilities" the dream of what amazing items this yarn could become.  Of course, that's not a bad thing in and of itself but here's the hiccup, you can buy yarn a whole lot faster than you can knit it.  Which brings us to why the knitter has a stash of yarn.  We purchase the yarn with every intention of knitting it up into a wearable item, but knitting is a slow process even for a very fast knitter it takes weeks to finish a sweater.  So, often we will start dreaming of the next project, before being finished with the one we are currently knitting.  The planning process is lots of fun; looking up patterns, figuring out what yarn to use etc.  But why the yarn skeins pile up is that we are fickle and the yarn that we purchased while we were in the middle of knitting endless rows of plain stockinette stitch doesn't still interest us after completing our project.  We want something even newer, so the yarn balls pile up unused building themselves into a proper stash.  

This shopping for yarn, patterns, accessories and tools has become quite epic in scale.  All knitting education events and retreats have shopping, there are clubs that deliver yarn monthly to your house, there are indie dyers that have much built up "shop updates" that if you don't get that yarn now it will be gone forever.  There's pressure to purchase from all these sources and then your knitter friends who enable you to purchase more which I believe makes them feel better about their own purchases.  It's really crazy making.  I know they are out there but I have yet to meet a knitter who buys yarn for a project, knits it to completion and only then buys yarn for her next project.  This is the type of knitter I aspire to be, but right now I'm still the knitter with the stash and lots of half finished projects. 

I've gone through my stash and have sold off lots of yarn.  I kept only that which is currently in a partially knitted project, colors that will go with my now reduced wardrobe (I bought a lot of yarn over the years just because it was "pretty" not that it matched anything I owned) or that is earmarked for a gift.  But, this still leaves me with quite a bit and I don't know how I feel about it.  On the one hand I don't need to purchase any yarn for a couple of years, but then on the other hand I need to store all that yarn for a couple of years.  Will I even still like it by the time I'm ready to knit it?  It's not a dire situation, but it does weigh upon me. 

The next aspect of knitting that I feel is a bit contrary to minimalism is that it makes more stuff.  If I make a sweater I will have another sweater, unless I get rid of a sweater.  Simplistic explanation, but when you're trying to downside your belongings it's hard to consciously make more belongings for yourself to manage.  Now, I get around this by making gifts for others, but even my mom has told me she doesn't need more sweaters.  Then there's making items for charity; hats for cancer patients, warm clothing for the impoverished living in cold climates, socks for the homeless etc.  There are options, I simply don't feel drawn to any of them at this time.  Which leaves me still feeling a bit stuck.  

So, can knitting coexist with minimalism?  Yes, I think it can, but I don't think it's an easy path.  There is a lot of temptation to consume with this hobby at levels with which you cannot possibly keep up.  I'm not sure where this leaves me in regards to my knitting hobby, but it definitely deserves some more thought.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Discovering Empty Spaces

A new empty space in our house where once there stood a bookcase. 

There's a quote from the movie Field of Dreams which says "If you build it, he will come." In the movie the protagonist builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield and his deceased father magically appears.   There is a similar quote about minimalism which follows "If you build it, you will fill it."  And it is similarly magical as stuff just seemingly appears out of nowhere. This has been my discovery over the past week.  I, like many people, thought that if I just had the right shelves, boxes, hooks, what have you, my house would be organized.  Have you ever felt this way?  You are handed that get out of jail free card to shop even more in the pursuit of organization.  This idea avoids the difficult questions like why do we have so many belongings in the first place.  There is no blame or guilt about the mountains of possessions we own.  There is only promised enlightenment that the right organization system has yet to be found.

This feeling of getting the "right" system is why I believe stores like Ikea are so wildly popular.  Sure, they sell great design for low prices, but what they mainly sell you is a dream.  The dream that if you purchase their completely customizable storage system for your media, clothing, or home office you will finally achieve the happiness that only comes from having a truly organized home.  Of course it's complete hogwash.  The dream is so compelling though that we're pretty easily tricked into believing it.  We simply don't want to do the work of figuring out why we purchase so many things, feel we need so many things from the start.  I equate it to people who take anti-depressants without doing any counseling.  Sure the anti-depressants will help, but they are not an instant happy pill that make all your problems or issues go away.  I am speaking here from experience, there is no quick way.  You simply have to do the work.

While looking around my home as I slowly chip away at our belongings for items we no longer need, I realized the fallacy of this organizational dream.  I see the extra wall shelves I purchased for our bedroom that I was sure were essential to curtail our clutter are now cluttered with even more stuff.  The shelves in our living room that would keep our piano clear of belongings simply filled up while the clutter remained in place.  Our many belongings were the issue not our lack of storage space.  I was treating a symptom and not the real problem.  It's similar to when I was dissatisfied with how our living and dining room were decorated.  The walls really needed repainting, but instead of tackling this large project I thought maybe if I simply purchased some new curtains and throw pillows that would be enough to spruce things up.  Shopping was my quick fix.  Of course it didn't fix things for long as now we have even more things to manage, but it gave me a feeling of progress however false.  And, yes those walls still need repainting.

The wall shelves in our bedroom have now been removed along with everything that was cluttering up the tops of our dressers.  I take a deep breath and admire the empty space.  Now I have somewhere to fold clothes without hurting my back by hunching over a bed or getting dog hair over everything while sitting on the floor.  A new space is discovered.  By previously clearing out my wardrobe our closet can now house the laundry hamper that was wedged in the corner between our dressers and the wall.  More breathing space found.  Honestly, when I heard people talking about how having empty spaces allows you more breathing room I had no idea what they meant.  I knew I wanted less stuff, but I never realized the difference an empty space makes until I made some for myself.  There's still a long way to go to having an empty basement, but I am now encouraged by rediscovering these new, albeit small, empty spaces in our home.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Burden of Sentimental Items

An antique doll that was my fathers' that I used to play with as a little girl.

My father is a saver.  Born in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression he was brought up learning frugal ways, saving being high on the list.  He was an only child thus the beneficiary of all his parents belongings upon their passing.  He has saved many of these possessions, along with items from his grandfather and even great grandfather.  It's very cool in its' way.  Everything has a history, a story that comes along with it enriching its' value.  I can see how this practice of passing on furniture and other belongings was popular and actually really needed many years ago.  Things cost more a century ago as they for the most part were made by hand and not mass produced.  What a blessing it would have been for the older generation to share furniture and goods with a newly married couple in need of everything to set up a household.  On both sides of my family my grandparents received some of their parents furniture as wedding gifts to furnish their new homes.  My parents too upon getting married in 1965 received passed down furniture and dishes as wedding gifts.  

When my husband and I bought our house my dad gave us a table that was his great grandfathers' as well as a piano, his mothers' dishes, vases and tchotchkes.  He also brought over the 2 antique dolls that were his and his mothers' that I very gently played with as a child.  Then when my maternal grandmother died I inherited some of her furniture, dishes and jewelry as well.  At first I was happy to receive all these items as I felt blessed to be entrusted with family heirlooms.  But then something happened.  After being on my own for some years, having my own job with money to spend I wanted my house to reflex me and my husband and not be a mini museum to my father and mothers' childhoods.  This desire of mine was met with conflict.

I have a theory that passing down belongings is a way for the older generation to let go of items they no longer want, but are low to get rid of themselves.  My father had no use or desire for all the pieces he gave us, but his sentimentality for these items was fierce.  He wanted to "visit" them, but not live with them as they no longer suited his tastes.  When I started selling a few of the items I had no space to display or no use for my dad was very hurt saying I was heartless.  My first reaction was "ouch" my next was anger.  I explained that when you give someone a gift it is no longer yours.  You have given up ownership.  It is now the recipients' right to do with the gift as they please.  He didn't see it that way.  He saw our house as an extension of his own feeling ownership over everything he had "given" us.  

What do you do when you no longer want (or maybe even never wanted) these sentimental items?  Well, in the beginning I simply packed them away putting the boxes in our basement, but that didn't sit well with trying to downsize.  Then, I started selling items on the sly not telling my father.  Which made me feel guilty and somehow wrong.   Now, I am simply giving these gifts back.  Yup, I have given back gifts saying "Thank you Dad, but I no longer want these things.  Since I know they are important to you I am returning them."  He chafes a bit at this, but when I explain that I'm either selling it or he can have it back, he always takes it.  I know it's disappointing to him that I do not desire these treasures, but that is his issue to solve not mine.  Sounds harsh huh?  It is and it isn't.  My dad is an old dog and teaching him the new trick that stuff is only stuff; that the memories are really in us and not in the object is probably not going to happen which is a bit harsh.  Why it isn't harsh though is that wanting to live my life by my values is a good thing and not at all unreasonable.  

If you have items that are sentimental to you, but you would like to live with less I would suggest that you simply take a photo of the item and let it go.  Photos can trigger our memories just as well as the item itself.  In the end it really is the memory that you want to hang onto.  For us one of the benefits of downsizing is the realization that the things you own are really only stuff and they have no power over you unless you let them.  If we lost our home and belongings to a fire, tornado what have you, while I would be sad of course, I now know that everything can be replaced.  Things are not the important part of life.  Living and really experiencing your life, that's what's important.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Becoming a Paperless Household

 I keep our scanner by my favorite chair to make the process easier.  I hope to purchase this incredibly compact model for the future as this bad boy is a bit big no?

Your working on downsizing you possessions, but did you consider downsizing your papers?  All those files you keep, boxes of your child's schoolwork, mail and correspondence.  They tend to breed and multiple before your very eyes don't they?  How does this happen?   First off I blame the mail.  Now, don't get me wrong I love getting the mail each day hoping for what I call "real mail" from a "real person" whom I actually know.  Basically the type of mail I rarely get.  What I do get with regularity are ads and flyers, credit card and insurance offers, bills and catalogs.  I find the real trick to mail is dealing with it straight away.  Do not let it sit in a pile waiting to get to it later.  My plan of attack on our daily mail is to dump all ads, flyers and magazines directly into the recycling.  I don't peruse the ads or open the catalogs (remember you don't want more stuff so why look at something geared to making you want stuff you don't need) but put them directly into our recycling bin.  Next, I take all those credit card and insurance offers shred them up and dump those as well into the recycling.  You can try to get yourself removed from the mailing lists of all these companies by "opting out" and this website will walk you through the process.  I've had some luck with this, but these types of mailings seem to wheedle their way back into my mailbox.  I'm not saying it's not worth doing, but is does take a fair amount of effort on your part.  Then there are the bills.  Nowadays, most banks credit card and utility companies will even request you go paperless as it saves them money.  Instead of a hard copy coming through the mail all your bills go through your bank account, or to your email account for you to deal with electronically.  It's very simple to switch over to paperless and you can always print out a hard copy of your bill if the need arises.  The last bit of mail, my favorite as I mentioned above, is mail from people you know sending you cards and letters.  These too will eventually pile up on you.  It can seem heartless to recycle these as well, but this is exactly what I do.  The secret though is that before you recycle all those Christmas cards you scan them to save on your computer, in a memory stick, separate hard drive, CDs what have you.  This is the little scanner  doesn't even need to be hooked up to your computer for it to work, but any type of scanner will do the job.
Next up, is that overflowing box of your child's artwork and school work.  All these papers too can be scanned after their stint on your refrigerator door.  Many scanners can store these documents as pdfs and will "staple" many pdf  documents together, or if your scanner software doesn't there arr other free software programs that do like this one.  You can name and organize these files so they make sense to you whether you want to store them monthly, by grade level, separately for each child etc.  You won't then have to experience what I did when I purchased my own home as an adult and my parents happily trotted over with boxes of papers from my childhood all higgledy-piggledy.  Amongst all those papers were lots and lots of photos and these are another difficult item to keep in check.  Photographs evoke emotions and trigger our memory and we don't want to let them go.  Now that most people own a smart phone or a digital camera this problem isn't as dire as it once was, but there are still all those photos from your childhood, wedding, family and school portraits etc.  So scan them, store them digitally and let the hard copies go.  There are even services now that will scan your photos for you like this company.  Then you can set up you computer screen saver to run through your photos or get one of these digital picture frames to enjoy seeing your photos daily, instead of the once in a blue moon when you dig out that box or album. 

Basically, you can become a paperless household with digital scanning.  All those financial records sitting in that big filing cabinet for the "what if" moment of an audit could be shredded.  Scan them into your computer and store the back up copies on a few disks to keep someplace safe.  We recently did this with all the information we would need to rebuild our lives in case a disaster hit our home:  credit card and bank account info, back taxes, drivers license and social security numbers, investment portfolio information, wills, insurance info, family photos - you get the idea.  We gave a copy to each of our parents for safe keeping, but you could just as easily use a firebox in your home or get a safety deposit box at your local bank.

Once you get the back log of your papers scanned it's really very simple to take a few moments at the end of the day to scan any new papers that came your way over the course of the day.  Before you know it the disaster that was once your desk will be gone.  You'll have free up lots of space emptying all those boxes of schoolwork and photos.  The heavy weight of all that paper will be no more.  What a great feeling of freedom.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Don't Get Ahead of Yourself

The path to your goal may be a long one, but see if you can enjoy the journey.

For some people having a long term plan helps keep them on their path.  I am finding that while we have a long term goal of a tiny house, it's better if I don't think that far ahead.  Why?  It's scary for one.  A tiny house is a very unconventional dwelling for anyone let alone a family of three plus dog.  Sure, I talk about it here, but this platform is rather anonymous in its' way.  I'm a woman who needs to talk to process what's going on in my mind.  Writing this blog helps me process what it is we're doing by downsizing without the risk of scaring friends or family members by our unconventional dreams.  Since when you scare someone who really cares about you they want to protect from what they perceive is a risky move.  They try to talk you out of it.  Show you all the pitfalls to your choice. And let's face it dreams can be fragile things.  They need to be nurtured in order to thrive and grow.  My husband always says to me to not share my dreams with people who will not help/support me to achieve them.  While this may seem harsh, for someone like me who questions myself all too often in can mean the difference between moving towards my dreams or a frozen static existence.

My dreams have often in the past stayed just that, dreams, and not transformed into my reality as I had hoped.  I'm trying very hard to shift that paradigm this time by focusing only on what is in front of me now.  Asking myself "What movement can I make right this moment that will get me closer to our goal of living smaller?"  It's about being mindful.  Not letting yourself go down the rabbit hole of the "what if" or "how do I" routes of thought.  Being present in the now is powerful.  You can control what you do with the moment in front of you.  You simply cannot change the past or know what lies ahead.  It is hard letting go of all that we can't control.  It's difficult to not map out the details of all you are wanting to do in the future.  But, if you can avoid thinking too far ahead you can keep disappointments, which lead to inactivity, to a minimum.

For instance, I used to make proclamations like "Today, I will finish painting the bathroom."  Sounds  good huh?  Positive thinking right?  Wrong.  For me it's a set up.  If I don't finish painting the bathroom I feel like I failed, and get disappointed in myself which brings along future inactivity.  See, I couldn't predict that the Spackle would take longer to dry than I planned, or that we didn't have the right paint brush for the trim and I had to go to the store making me run out of time.   Instead of patting myself on back for working on the house all I can see is I didn't achieve my goal.  It may sound like semantics to you, but it makes a world of difference if I say instead "I'm going to work on painting the bathroom today."  Then if I do anything, any little thing, towards painting the bathroom I've succeeded from the get go.  Because I only know what I can do in the present moment.  If I keep my focus on the here and now I keep moving forward towards my dreams, which hopefully will bring them to fruition.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Small Successes

Bags and boxes of stuff waiting to be delivered to Goodwill this weekend.

Last post I wrote about breaking down your goals to keep from getting overwhelmed.  Well, I'm finding that to be really true lately.  My goal of getting all our crap outta the basement is a little too big even broken down into the categories of my stuff, son's stuff, husbands stuff and our stuff.  Basically, I'm finding what works is to go down into the basement grab one item and do one of three things:  take a photo to sell it, put it in a bag to donate or find it a new home.  If I decide to sell it I take photos, write up a Craig's List Ad and put the item on the shelves in our bedroom as it waits to be purchased.  It makes our bedroom a little crowded, but it's better mentally for me to not put anything back in the basement once I bring it up.  If I decide to donate it, I have some bags lined up by the back door to take to our local Goodwill:  one bag for clothes, one for household stuff, and one for miscellaneous items.  This really helps Goodwill when sorting out your items and for me when tracking what I can deduct for taxes.  The last action of finding it a new home is usually the hardest and can create a snowball effect you might not expect.  Not that that is bad thing, but it can make the process a bit more time consuming.

For instance, I grabbed a Rubbermaid tub marked "Office Supplies" off the basement storage shelves today and while sorting out the pens, paper clips and envelopes I realized we already had way too many of these items out aready.  Which got me to going through all of our pens to see which ones still worked, tossing those that didn't and keeping only the ones we like.  Then I moved onto the huge supply of pencils we have dividing them in half to keep and half to donate.  I moved on to emptying out our little basket where we keep rubber bands removing all the laundromat tokens, screws, paperclips and misc. debris I found in there.  Basically, that one little tub of office supplies had me cleaning out drawers and shelves all morning.  The stumbling block came when I went to find out where I could donate all these still usable items to.  First, I found TerraCycle who has lots of recycling programs, but mainly for organizations, businesses and schools.  They also had no way to search if there is a drop off near you.  Next, I found I could send them to African children in need through Develop Africa, but they really want you to donate the money to ship the items as well which makes perfect sense, but we're trying to save not spend.  Closer to home I found a shelter that list that they would take the pencils and pens on their website, but give you no information on how to drop off these items or whom to contact.  In the end I decided to put a free ad up on CL and set them all out in a bag on my front steps.  The bag was gone within an hour which is great, but I can only hope someone is putting the supplies to good use and not just tossing what they don't need into the garbage.  All things considered I'm counting it as a success for the day.

It's only a small success getting rid of one bag of things we no longer need when we have a whole basement full, but a small success a day can add up to a very successful week.  It's really the movement towards the goal that I'm finding is important to me.  Instead of having a giant list of what I accomplished each day I'm simply asking myself if I worked towards our goal of living smaller and if the answer is "yes" than that's the real accomplishment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Breaking Down Your Goals

 My dry goods pantry now with a little room to spare.

While our ultimate goal is to move into a tiny house or other very small dwelling which we own outright, it can be so overwhelming a goal that it stops me in my tracks.  I have moments where I think "How the heck are we going to get through all this stuff and down to what we can fit in a tiny house?"  And I end up feeling overwhelmed and worse doing nothing to accomplish our goals.  Thus, I've started to think smaller (pun intended) and have set myself a smaller goal which is keeping me inspired and on track.  We have three levels to our house:  an unfinished full basement, a main floor and a second 1/2 story (just a strip of full height ceiling with the rest sloping down to 3 1/2 foot kick walls.)  Which got me to thinking what if I simply start eliminating levels?  The basement is the obvious place to start as it's only used for laundry and storage.  So, my smaller goal is to move everything out of the basement, absorb the things we need into the other two levels while getting rid of the rest.  Now, you might say this is still a very big goal and it is, but I find I can break it down even more by dividing the basement into four categories:  my stuff, my son's stuff, my husband's stuff and family stuff.  I'm starting with myself first, then will move on to family items and lastly my son's items as I will need his input.  My husband will make the decisions about his belongings and I will help as best I can.

Having made lots of room in my closet by downsizing my wardrobe, I found room to store some of my stuff from the basement.  I'm a knitter and have a stash of yarn.  Now, this stash is small by most knitter's standards, but still on the big side for our future plans.  While I have sold off all the impulse purchases, yarn I no longer like and yarn that doesn't coordinate with my wardrobe through Ravelry, Etsy and Craig's List, I'm still left with more than I can store in my compact IKEA organizer in our living room.  My closet isn't big enough for the full size Rubbermaid tubs my yarn was in, so I found some smaller containers in the basement (oh yeah we have extra of everything), broke up my stash into these and stacked them under my hanging clothes.  It's neat, not overly crowded and much more accessible then it was in the basement  - win!

This week I've also did some downsizing in the kitchen with 2 very small goals in mind: make room in the dish cupboard for my teapot and get all the pantry food from downstairs upstairs.  For the first I looked over our dishes realizing some that hardly ever get used:  our 4 champagne flutes which only come out on special occasions, a set of 6 very shallow bowls I only use for salads and a few small mismatched bowls that don't get used because we have others we like better.  These dishes didn't amount to a whole lot, but they made more than enough room for my teapot to get off the counter and into the cupboard.  For the pantry I went through our 1 1/2 upper cabinets that make up our dry food storage and took out anything that again we rarely used or that I couldn't remember when I purchased it.  I threw out the powdered sugar I only use maybe once a year if I make frosting for a cake as well as cornmeal, millet and quinoa all of which occupied a large glass container (hint: grains make great bird/squirrel food.)  I threw out food coloring I used to make play dough with when my son was little (he's now 9 1/2), salad vinegars I never use, panko bread crumbs, shredded coconut etc. etc.  I managed to make about a 1/3 of the space available to store the overstock I kept in the basement.  While not a lot of room it is sufficient, but I will have to change my shopping habits to buying less at a time to make it sustainable.

It's baby steps for sure these tasks I managed to complete this week, but they left me feeling successful and inspired and that my friends is a good goal in and of itself.

Monday, January 25, 2016

To Sell or Not to Sell Your Used Clothing

Sigh, I still have yet to tackle the coats, hats, mittens, gloves etc. 

Now, I just talked about downsizing my wardrobe in my last post and you may have noticed I did not sell any of my clothing choosing to donate them instead.  The reason for this is that I find it isn't worth my time.  Women's clothing doesn't sell well on Craig's List or Ebay in my experience.  And, while I could  try to bring my clothing to consignment shops, I find these establishments to be very picky and only want items that are either very expensive or ones in "pristine" condition.  They also want clothing that is pretty current; basically only a year or two old at most.  The other bummer is if the consignment shop accepts your clothing and it does not sell in the time allotted you have to go back and pick them up.  With this scenario you run the danger of rethinking your choice of letting go of this clothing.  So, for most women's clothing I find it better to donate (to a Goodwill, other Charity or Church rummage) taking a tax write off instead of cash money.  You can really get the most value for your items this way.  Here are the IRS guidelines for itemized tax deductions and here is a Goodwill Value Guide to help you determine a price for your clothing as well as many other household items.  Really the only women's clothing items I try to sell (and I mainly use CL to do this) are coats, shoes or boots.  These items have a more general fit, and if lightly used they will sell well.

Now, children's clothing is another story.  Places like Once Upon A Child will purchase your used children's clothing outright.  I found them to be a very fair establishment which take most items unless very noticeably stained.  You will only get about 8-10% of the price they charge for the item.  So, for example, you bring in a pair of child jeans you paid $20 retail, they are likely to charge only $10 and you will get only 80 cents to a $1.  But, if you need the cash quickly this isn't a bad way to go.  If you need cash and have more time Ebay isn't a bad choice either.  For Ebay though, your children's clothing needs to be from higher end stores such as Hanna Andersson or The Gap (basically national or international stores with high brand recognition) and be in very good condition, but you command a great price.  My son has grown so fast that a lot of his clothing has gotten very little wear, but instead of selling it I find a lot of satisfaction passing them along to a friend of ours who has 4 boys.  Their family will certainly get a lot of use out of the clothing as each child grows.  There are really so many options.

You may be thinking well what about men's clothing?  I'd say it would be the same as per women's clothing, but I really have no experience as my husband tends to wear his clothing until it is ready for the garbage or rag bin.  He's very frugal that man of mine.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Downsizing Your Wardrobe

 My closet with now only 9 clothing items hanging in it with an icky cobweb in the corner.

Hi again.  Not such a long absence this time around.  While trying to inspire myself to get back to downsizing in earnest I ran across many blog posts (this, this and this), Tedx talks (here and here) and podcasts about downsizing your wardrobe.  Oddly enough I thought this could be a really fun challenge.  I soaked in all the information I could and jumped right in with both feet this past weekend. 

The first thing I did was to take everything out of my closet and dump it on our bed.  Then I went through and picked out all the items I loved and wore all the time and put these back into the closet.  Next, I picked up the items I loved but didn't wear and put them in a separate pile.  What was left I bagged up for charity quickly so I didn't have too much time to overthink and pull stuff out.  Lastly, I looked back on the love but didn't wear pile.  Most of the people I read said to box these items up and tuck them away for 3 months and if you still don't use them to donate them.  Well, I was so swept away with the excitement of how much I was clearing out that I again quickly bagged these clothes up to donate too.  I repeated this whole process once again with my dresser.  Emptying all my drawers of clothing onto the bed and putting back only items I loved and wore constantly.  I ended up with 10 paper grocery bags full for Charity.  My husband quickly loaded these bags into our van to bring to the local Goodwill.  I worried that if I left them to sit around for a while I might start having second thoughts.

What I noticed after completing this challenge was pretty much everything that was left coordinated with each other.  I had lots of navy blue (my favorite color), denim, with bits of white, yellow and brown.  These are the colors I love and feel good wearing.  And, if I'm going to keep my wardrobe small these are the colors I need to stick to if I purchase something new or knit myself something.  Because if you don't stick to just a few colors I find it starts a cascading effect.  For example, if I were to buy a black top I'd want black shoes to match as I only own brown.  I'd want a purse that would go with black as mine is navy blue.  You get the idea.  Now, all the clothing I own for all 4 seasons that we get in Minnesota fit into my small side of the closet in our 1945 home and my 4 drawer IKEA dresser.  I'm hoping to get it down to just the dresser, but I'm good for now.  I think I'll try this challenge again in  another few months and see what else I'm not wearing and can cull from my wardrobe.

I did keep some clothing items I hardly ever use and that's my one "fancy" outfit to wear to a wedding, funeral, or expensive night out.  It's a black and white dress with matching nylons, shoes, purse and jewelry.  The dress is a classic style with elbow length sleeves that work for all seasons and is made out of an easy stretchy material that doesn't show wrinkles so it all packs away neatly into my bottom dresser drawer for the very few times these occasions come up for us. 

Next up, is for me to attack my many coats, hats, mittens, scarves, boots and shoes, because in Minnesota we do get all kinds of weather.  You have to be prepared for sure, but I believe I can get those down to the basics too.  Until next time.  Goodbye!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Where Has the Time Gone?

Confession time:  here are my two large bins of yarn. 

It's been just over a year now since I've visited this space.  Where has the time gone?  I'd like to say I have been a powerhouse accomplishing all my goals, but sadly this isn't so.  I lost my momentum last winter and fell off the wagon of downsizing.  While I did get rid of lots of stuff, more has crept back in.  Space is a vacuum as they say.  

But what really went wrong?  Well, I'd have to say a couple of things happened.  First, I tend to shop online in the dark months of January and February when my depression is at it's worst.  I can actually track this habit back quite a few years now and a habit it has become.  While it feels wonderful to look at pretty things and purchase them, I would almost instantly have buyer's remorse and lots of guilt, guilt, guilt upon receiving the item.  I realize that this has to stop and to stop it I need to stop going to those shopping sites.  Window shopping is just something I am terrible at as I always, and I mean always, end up buying something.  Being an introvert by nature makes online shopping a blessing and a curse as they say.  I avoid all the crowds, noise, and people, which for me is a good thing, but it also makes shopping too easy as I am able to do it in my pajamas at any time of day or night.  So, now I'm only using my computer to sell stuff, check email and stay motivated by reading/watching/listening to people talk about downsizing, tiny homes and minimalism.  No more shopping for me.

Secondly, I think I've put myself into temptation's path too often.  Now, temptation is very different for people, but for me this meant:  going to Sheep and Wool Festivals where there is lots of fibery goodness for sale (remember I knit and spin yarn), going to my local yarn shop just to "look" at what's new, going to knitting events like Yarnover or retreats where there is lots of shopping.  Now, I know I can't just isolate myself at home for the rest of my life, but I think knowing my weaknesses will help me.  Thus, this year I will only go to one knitting event that I'm taking a class at and will skip the shopping, instead of the four fiber events I went to last year.  

Something else has occurred to me this year too.  My crafting hobbies need to be downsized even more.  If we are going to live in a tiny house (yes, those ones you've seen on wheels) then spinning yarn has to go as it simply takes up too much room with a spinning wheel, multiple tools and all that fluffy fiber. This thought made me also acknowledge that my knitting hobby really needs a few tweaks to make it fit better with a minimalist lifestyle.  Instead of knitting whatever takes my fancy I really need to either make sure what I knit for myself coordinates my wardrobe, is something I'll actually use and something I need, or I need to knit for other people be it friends, family or charity organizations.  Knitting does make a product and that product has to go somewhere right?  This tweaking of my knitting has me getting back on that downsizing wagon with going through my yarn stash and culling as much as I can.  It also started me on another downsizing project which I'll tell you about next time.  Bye!