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!