Where do I get it from?

My constant struggle to declutter and minimize is not something I do just because I think it will make my life easier and my environment more pleasing–I actually enjoy getting rid of things. Whenever something, especially something big that I’ve had for a particularly long time, leaves the house, I feel happy and lighter.

When did this begin? I think I may have been influenced by my mother. When I was a child, one of her favorite games to play with me was to give me a garbage bag and set five minutes on a timer. I then had to run around the house and see how much I could fill the bag in the time allowed. There was no tangible reward at the completion of this game–just the pleasure of throwing stuff away.

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My mom and me in the late 70s. Probably in Florida, as evidenced by the plethora of oranges.

My mother is an odd case, because although she grew up with very little in the way of material things, she also didn’t want many material things. My father, who also had very little while growing up, was somewhat the opposite. If he saw something that he could get for free or very cheaply, he would get it just in case he would ever need it.

When my parents retired, they moved to their summer house in upstate New York. While my mother kept the house very neat by doing a weekly deep clean and actively discarding non-desirable items, the garage and barn were filled with all sorts of items by my father. Eventually, he rented one other garage, and then a second. There was also a one-bedroom apartment attached to the house, which was filled.

My mother passed away first, and eventually the house was also filled with my father’s near-worthless items. He then moved to Florida, and planned to sell the house, but neglected to bring any of these things with him. Instead, he got some people to take away all the stuff so that he could stop renting the garages and put the house up for sale. (Think of a more redneck 1-800-JUNK type of company.)

Unfortunately, I was in the process of moving from the house to an apartment in New York City with my then-boyfriend, and they also took all of my belongings. These included off-season clothing, decorative items, memorabilia, and most things I thought were too breakable to take in the moving van we had hired few few days before. Also, my cat.

When I went back to get my stuff, I fortunately found both my cat and the urn containing my mom’s ashes, but everything else was cleared out. I felt depressed and violated, but relieved that the two things that were the most important to me were still there.

Having a strange fascination with hoarding, I know that these types of events are generally ones in which a hoarding inclination is triggered. I was nervous about this going in, but fortunately I still have no hoarding tendencies. At least in this case, I seem to be taking after my mom.

Minimalism Game — the July edition

Every month that goes by, I think, “This month getting rid of stuff will be more difficult. I definitely have less stuff now.” And then it’s just not more difficult. But I do have to say that with the near completion on my last major decluttering project, I think it will get a bit harder.

So far I’ve done my own closet a few times, my husband’s closet once, and my kids’ closets every few months. And then there’s my bookshelves once, the CDs and DVDS once, and and my magazine collection. The magazine collection, I decided, had to go entirely. I don’t even remember subscribing to any magazines. They just seemed to appear. Because of some weird sort of OCD I didn’t even know I had, I feel compelled to flip through every single magazine in my possession. But now I think it’s finally over!

Here’s the list for July:

1) White lace scarf
2) Xmas cards from many years ago I didn’t send
3) Weird pillow
4) Stuffed dinosaur
5) Magazine from May 2015
6) Datebook from 2014
7) Too many goodie bags
8) Magazine from June 2014
9) Yarn I don’t like
10) Tons of old photos
11) Magazine from May 2014
12) Bathrobe I’ve never worn
13) Old spice (literally 10-year-old oregano)
14) Magazine from October 2014
15) Non-preferred bottle
16) Magazine from September 2014
17) Old medicine
18) Stacks of paperwork
19) Magazine from August 2014
20) Alarm clock
21) Many books
22) Magazine from November 2014
23) Ice scraper
24) Ten-year-old computer discs
25) Odd car-related thing I could not identify
26) Magazine from December 2014
27) Gross bibs
28) Unwanted bottle
29) Magazine from October 2014
30) Very small plastic toys
31) Magazine from November 2015

The Terror of Creep

I’ve been doing this minimalist thing for quite some time now, and as I’ve mentioned in my monthly reports of purging, I’m kind of surprised that I still have so much stuff to get rid of. Thinking about it, part of the reason is because when I do go out and buy something, I usually don’t just buy one thing. Not that I shop often, but I do have two children, and they grow out of their clothing fairly regularly. Most of the shopping I do is grocery- or drugstore-related, and for consumables, so eventually they are used up. I have heard of people who make their own toothpaste or deodorant to cut down on cost and/or waste, but that is so not something I want to get into.

Toothpaste

I am not making this from baking soda and alchemy!

Still, when I bring something new into the house, especially if it’s for myself, I will try to delete one like item. For instance, the other day I bought myself a new blouse. I looked through my closet and found an old blouse that had way too many loose/hanging threads, so I got rid of that one. Whenever I get one of my sons new items, I check through their closets to see if they have anything old that doesn’t fit them anymore. If it’s my older son, I’ll move it to a box of clothing I’m saving for the younger, and if it’s the younger, it will go into whatever donate pile I’m currently working on.

What methods do you have for fighting creep?

Minimalism game — the May edition

It’s another month of getting rid of clutter! This month was not any harder than last month, which I guess means that I still have way too much stuff. And sadly, I still don’t think my house looks significantly less cluttered. So yes, I am planning on keeping this up next month. Here’s the list for May:

1) Vacuum cleaner part
2) Old medicines
3) Votive candle
4) Eyeglass repair case
5) Close Pins
6) Toothbrush heads
7) Old underwear
8) Subpar tweezers
9) Binder clips
10) Too-small slinky
11) Unmatched sock
12) Old slippers
13) Husband’s dress shirts
14) Old t-shirt
15) Husband’s old jacket
16) Husband’s old belt
17) Husband’s old jeans
18) Husband’s old dress pants
19) Bracelets I never wear
20) Food hidden in back of cabinets
21) Magazine from December 2013
22) Husband’s old sweater
23) Magazine from September 2013
24) Fish tank cleaner
25) Magazine from April 2014
26) Magazine from July 2014
27) Magazine from November 2014
28) Old lip gloss
29) Subpar tweezers
30) Magazine from May 2014
31) Ripped duffle bag

Getting rid of intangibles

My love of Netflix is epic and undying, but there are a few other monthly credit card charges I could and have done without.

netflix

1) Naturebox. True they have yummy snacks, but the last thing I need is to be encouraged to eat more snacks. Besides, if I really wanted it, Trader Joe’s has much of the same stuff. That’s $40 a month.

2) The gym. Who has time to go to the gym? Maybe those who don’t have two kids, a full-time freelance job, a house and cat to maintain, and an urban fantasy series to finish writing. I went during maternity leave but after I went back to work it was impossible. That’s $40 a month.

3) Cleaning services. I have a confession: The first time I cleaned a toilet was last year. When I was growing up, no one taught me how to clean. Rather than live in filth, I’ve had a cleaning service twice a month for most of my life. One day when my husband took the kids upstate to visit his parents, I decided to give it a try. Two hours later and the place looked as good as when the service came. That’s $120 a month and somewhat makes up for the gym in exercise.

4) Fresh Direct. This is a difficult one. I love FD. I used to lie about my zip code to get them to come to me. When you have a newborn in the winter you should probably just give in and get it (which is when I started). Their food is good quality but overpriced. Stop & Shop is way cheaper. Estimated cost savings: $60 a month.

5) Manicures. I used to get a manicure once a week when I had a full-time job. That’s because I had a lunch hour break. Now I get paid by the hour and can’t substantiate taking that long a break. That’s $40 a month.

Adding these up, that’s a savings of $300 a month! Have I noticed any of this extra money? Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be showing up in my bank account. Still, I’m feeling good about saving the money and am looking for more things I can let go of, but none of those things will be Netflix!

Minimalism Game–Finally Complete!

At long last, I am finally done with the minimalism game I was doing in January. Of course, now it’s the end of March, so, yeah. But the point is that I did it, and in the process, got rid of hundreds of items that were filling up my house with their uselessness, ugliness, and stress-making.
By the end of the game, you will notice that I included things in categories rather than individual items. Some may call this cheating, but these projects were very time-intensive. For instance, we had several hundred CDs. I had to go through them, separate the cases, paper materials, and actual CDs, and then put the CDs into a very large storage folder, and put the paper and the cases into recycling. This took many hours. Likewise, shredding several years worth of my husbands pay stubs took a full weekend of intermittent shredding.
Also, I am still going at it! My current two projects are to flip through old magazines and recycle them, and to make stray yarn into either preemie or chemo caps (depending on yarn weight).
But right now, I need to shift my focus and get back into writing, if I am to meet my self-imposed deadline of this summer for the next book in my urban fantasy series, plus do some writing for an RPG I’m going to be taking over for a few months, plus another writing project.
So below are the final days of the minimalism challenge. The next time I do this (probably in the fall), I will probably only commit myself to one item a day!

Week 4

Day 22–(1)Tank top too big. (2)Alka-seltzer that’s ten years old. (3)Small white onesie. (4)Small blue onesie. (5)Small pajamas. (6)Many old cards. (7)Broken AC. (8)Old underwear. (9)Birthday gift bags. (10)Gross bowl. (11)Gross toothbrush holder. (12)Decorative pillow. (13)Decorative pillow. (14)Earring unmatched. (15)Sock unmatched. (16)Earrings I’ve never liked. (17)Hockey puck. (18)Many broken discs. (19)Plastic toys I hate. (20)Disgusting cat toy. (21)Husband’s underwear that I hate. (22)Baby pjs too small.

Day 23–(1)Old notepads. (2)CD sorter. (3)CD sleeves. (4)Ripped towel. (5)Unmatched sock. (6)Small baby hat. (7)Boots that never fit. (8)Small plastic toys. (9)Old magazine. (10)Ugly underwear. (11)Knife that has no purpose. (12)Useless shelf. (13)Surgical tape. (14)Broken plastic toys. (15)Shirt my husband hates. (16)Son’s ripped pants. (17)Very old shirt. (18)Faded t-shirts. (19)Old face mask. (20)Broken Tupperware. (21)Unflattering shirt. (22)Shirt that hasn’t fit in years. (23)Plastic wreath left by previous owners.

Day 24–(1)Decorative pillow. (2)Another decorative pillow. (3)Baby hat I didn’t like. (4)More old underwear. (5)Husband’s shirt that I hate. (6)Old belt. (7)First scarf I knitted but don’t like. (8)Broken CDs. (9)T-shirt that looks ridiculous. (10)Jeans that are too big (Yay!). (11)Weird food items we won’t eat. (12)Plastic baby toy. (13)Razor holder never used. (14)T-shirt that hasn’t fit in years. (15)Husband’s very old white undershirts. (16)Belt missing buckle. (17)Inedible goodie bag contents. (18)Razor holder that’s never used. (19)Pumice stone. (20)Socks with runs. (21)Ugly barrettes. (22)Last of the maternity shirts. (23)Huge men’s shorts I can get both my legs in one leg. (24)Old robe.

Day 25–(1-6)Bowls left in cabinets by old owners. (7)Old pajamas. (8)Old nightgown. (9)Sweater with broken zipper. (10)Plastic game. (11)Broken toy. (12)Broken suitcase. (13)Old lanyard. (14)Old character sheets. (15)Granola bars no one likes. (16)Goodie bag rejects. (17)Fish tank. (18)Fish tank stand. (19)Fish tank light. (20)Fish tank heater. (21)Fish tank plants. (22)Fish tank gravel. (23)Fish tank hose. (24)Fish tank filer. (25)Fish net.

Day 26–(1)Fish tank cleaner. (2)Large box of other fish equipment. (3)Broken toy. (4)Old lipgloss. (5)Bucket with a hole. (6)Old herbs. (7)Broken bucket. (8)Second diaper genie. (9)Small hat. (10)Broken light box. (11)Small baby hat. (12)Dress way too small. (13)Shirt way too big. (14)Shirt missing buttons. (15)Pens that don’t work. (16)Ugly underwear. (17)Faded out shirt. (18)Horrible shampoo. (19)Baby outfit with broken snap. (20)Tupperware lid. (21)Worn out tank top. (22)Shirt with hole. (23)Worn out shirt. (24)Rubber ball too small. (25)Ripped bra. (26)Wicker basket.

Day 27–(1)Deflated balloon. (2)Cloak cat peed on. (3)Mixer. (4)Blender. (5)Broken toy. (6)Brita filter not used. (7)Kid’s old socks. (8)Socks with holes. (9)Tiny baby pants. (10)Crappy knife. (11)Shirt I thought I was sentimental about. (12)Cute but tiny baby jacket. (13)Weird lace thing. (14)Crap plastic toy. (15)Dirty rubber ducky. (16)Tons of underwear I don’t like. (17)Very old frying pan. (18)Tons of husband’s underwear I don’t like. (19)Too small baby socks. (20)Binkies baby never liked. (21)Sentimental old t-shirt. (22)Old robe. (23)Ugly pajamas. (24)Another old frying pan. (25)Blouse no one liked. (26)Granola bars we hate. (27)Key to my office (given back).

Day 28–(1-10)Very small onesies. (11-28)Old magazines.

Week 5

Day 29–(29+)Like 8 years worth of my husband’s pay stubs (shredded and recycled).

Day 30–(30)Books.

Day 31–(31)CD cases.

Buy quality, not quantity

This should be the end of Week 4 of the minimalist game, but I am severely far behind. I am up to Day 24 I think. Not that I’m trying to make excuses, but the past week my older son had food poisoning for two days followed by false croup for two days. I was not out of his sight for more than a minute or two for all this time, because if I was, it would result in badness. Not that I’m making excuses, but I’m making excuses. Also, the holidays.

Anyway, I have given myself up until January 23rd to complete this challenge. The remaining few days are the hardest, of course, and I’m going away on vacation that day, so I do want to be done by then. That is, as much “done” as I will ever be.

This brings me to another issue that came to my attention in this struggle to embrace minimalism. Eventually, you do have to buy some stuff. For me, the first thing I really wanted was a pair of boots. Not just any boots, but $400 Frye boots. Every time I saw someone wearing boots I liked, I noticed they were of the same make. I agonized over it for days and days, and eventually gave in and visited their NYC retail store, which is only a few blocks away from my office. I was just going to look. Yeah, right. I didn’t even believe that myself.

What happened was, I went into the store and made a beeline for the pair I had wanted, thinking they would never fit my oddly shaped feet. Well, they fit. Also, they looked amazing. And felt amazing. And at that moment, I thought my life would be complete if I could just have those damn boots.

What I would like to say now is that I didn’t buy them. But that would be lying. I did buy them, and I liked them so much, I had to wear them out of the store. And then I went home and got rid of many pairs of shoes I hated to make room for these new, wonderful boots. And as I was tossing old shoes and boots into the bag for the charity bin, I noticed that they were all cheap shoes, possibly about $40 each.

One thing that really swayed me into buying the Frye boots was a coworker telling me that they would last for ten years at a minimum. The cheap shoes I was used to buying usually lasted me about a year (and that’s being generous). When you look at it that way, it’s the same price, except the boots I bought are more beautiful, well-made, and comfortable. And of course, if I’m buying one pair of boots instead of ten, that’s nine pairs of boots that aren’t cluttering up either my house or wherever they eventually end up.

The lesson here is to buy quality over quantity. I’m trying to get to the point where this is second nature to me. This weekend I went to buy a shower curtain liner, because the $2.99 one I bought last month had already ripped. I bought the $30 one that is supposedly mildew- and tear-resistant, because those are the things that usually cause me to have to replace the liner after only a few months. Because if this one lasts 12 months even, I will still have saved money in the end, as well as kept some garbage out of the landfill.

So that’s where my head is at today. I promise I’m still working on Fresh Blood, the sixth and final book of the Vampire in the City series. But more on that on another day!