Experiment #1 Results

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Here is where I’ll tell you what I learned from Experiment #1: Downsizing Eyes.

The Experiment

Imagine you are moving into a tiny one bedroom home next week.  It has a small living room, kitchen, bathroom, and very little extra storage.  What would you take with you?  What are your favorite things?  What do you use all the time?  What is most important?

What I Did

  1. I made a list of all of the areas in my home that hold items I use and/or own.  I did not include my children’s bedrooms, my husband’s study, or the shed in our yard.
  2. In each area, I examined the items found there and thought about what I would do with each one (in the experiment scenario). Would I take it with me? Should I declutter it right now?
  3. I got rid of 8 useless items and a 1 inch stack of paper.
  4. I took notes about what I got rid of, and what items I would want to take with me.
  5. I analyzed my notes taking frequency of use into account.

What I Learned

  1.  I’m almost a minimalist! I realized that most of the items in my home do not belong to me. And many of the items that belong to my husband and me, I would let go of when we downsized. I think the reason I don’t want to call myself a “minimalist” quite yet is because there are two areas in my home that I haven’t “finished” yet.  They are the basement, (where I’ll be asking my husband and my kids if they are ready to part with their stuff) and two shelves in the school room closet that contain photographs and memorabilia. Once I finish decluttering those two areas I’ll be there.
  2.  I really don’t need many possessions.  I think glasses and contact lenses would actually be my most important items.  Living without those would be very difficult.  The next most important items would be the ones I use daily and weekly.  These are toiletries, clothing, appliances, tools, some furniture and kitchenware, journals, books, my iphone, cleaning supplies, office supplies, my money belt, laptop, and van.
  3.  I discovered what items are important to me.  Although I could live without all of these, I am happy to have DVD’s, slideshows, and scrapbooks of my family.  I love that I have the crucifix that used to hang above my grandparents’ bed, and a few items that were meaningful to them.  I also love certain framed prints hanging on my walls and books sitting on my shelves even though I know that they are replaceable.
  4. The way I see my home has changed. As I knew before I started, this experiment didn’t help me to get rid of any of my husband or my children’s possessions. I have often felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in our home.  It felt like I was always trying to catch up and I was always going to be behind.  I think this has helped me to see reality more clearly.  I can easily take care of my own stuff.  I can set boundaries and my family members can take care of their own stuff.  I am also reminded by my mother’s experience, that this is only a season in my life. I am grateful that I still have the presence of these wonderful people in our home.
  5. I can focus on maintenance.  (That is, after I go through my last two areas.) I have a tendency to procrastinate dealing with paperwork.  I can focus on keeping up with the paper coming in and not allowing my kitchen desk to accumulate clutter. I can work with my family on the habit of putting items back into their homes. When we do our regular kitchen, bathroom and laundry chores, the house looks good.  If we add in tidying up our own stuff once or twice a day, then it will look even better.

In Conclusion

I plan to set aside time to work on the last two areas. I’ll be calling myself a minimalist by the end of 2020!  I will also get the whole family involved in consistently taking care of our home and possessions. Maybe that will be one of my next experiments.

 

 

Experiment #1: Downsizing Eyes

6BBC3B66-1EB1-4505-9FD3-E088D48A7849My step father passed away on December 27, 2019. He and my mother had lived together for thirty years.  They weren’t pack rats, and they were fairly organized and clean.  For the past few months I’ve watched (and sometimes helped) my mother give away and throw away their possessions in order to downsize.  I helped my mother buy a one bedroom condo, which is closer in proximity to my sister and me.  Then two weeks ago, we helped her move the possessions she wanted to keep into the new condo.  Last weekend, she decided she wanted to put her house on the market by the end of the week, and yesterday it was listed.

For five days we spring cleaned, painted, posted items on the “letgo” app, gave items to their new owners, and filled up a 15 yard dumpster.  Then on the sixth and seventh days, I rested.  Today, I’m thinking about the whole experience.

Letting go of a home you lived in for forty years as you are grieve the loss of your spouse is my mother’s story.  Saying good-bye to my childhood home and remembering my step father and my grandparents, who also have passed away, and who were a big part of my life back then, is my story; but not where I’m going with this today.  I’m pondering the downsizing of material possessions.

Those who know me well, know that this is a big topic of interest for me. Decluttering, purging stuff, minimalism, voluntary poverty, and downsizing… they are all related in my mind.  And now I have this fresh, first-hand experience (not my own) of answering the questions:  What do I want? What do I need? What am I willing to let go of?

It’s hard not to notice the fact that I will one day go through this downsizing myself, or if I die first, my family will be throwing out and giving away my possessions.  So why am I keeping things that I do not use on a regular basis?  It motivates me to do another pass through my home with the eyes of a downsizer.

Experiment #1:

Imagine you are moving into a tiny one bedroom home next week.  It has a small living room, kitchen, bathroom, and very little extra storage.  What would you take with you?  What are your favorite things?  What do you use all the time?  What is most important?

This will not help me to get rid of any of my husband’s or my children’s belongings.  And I will, of course, need to keep many extra articles of furniture and shared items in the common areas.  But let’s see how this experiment will affect my own stash of personal belongings.  Results will be the subject of a future post.

Why Haven’t I Finished Yet?

I have been decluttering ever since I moved out of my Mom’s house around thirty years ago.  I found out letting go of possessions was a thing about ten years later.  And I have been an aspiring minimalist since I first heard the word “minimalist” about ten years ago.  So why can’t I get through my whole house and be done with it?

I realize that I will not actually finish, as in never having to declutter my home again.  I expect to go through all of the rooms, annually perhaps, to remove those items we didn’t end up using much, or maybe things we are finally ready to let go of now that another year has passed.  What I am really asking is: why can’t I get through the whole house?

I know I am repeating areas previously finished again and again, getting sidetracked with other projects, watching lots of movies, taking care of my family and basically, living life. But is there a reason why I can’t seem to finish?  Is it not a priority?  Am I afraid to finish?  Am I procrastinating because it’s hard work?  What’s the deal?

Here is where I am currently perceiving myself to be with this project.

These areas are finished:

  • The van
  • the living room
  • the dining room
  • the master bedroom
  • my clothing
  • Bobby’s clothing
  • Sarah’s clothing
  • Sarah’s room
  • the foyer
  • the linen closet
  • the master bathroom
  • the upstairs bathroom
  • the laundry room
  • the kitchen
  • the pantry
  • the utility closet

These areas were finished (maybe last year), but need to be gone through again:

  • the girls’ room
  • Joseph’s room
  • Joseph’s clothing
  • Rachel’s clothing
  • Hannah’s clothing
  • Mary’s clothing
  • the mudroom
  • the extra closet
  • my kitchen desk
  • the schoolroom

These are the areas that have never been finished:

  •  the basement
  • the garage
  • the sentimental items
  • the digital items

These are areas I do not include in this project at all:

  • the study
  • the shed

Looking at this list sheds some light on why I haven’t finished yet. That’s a lot of areas!!!  Is it even possible to be a minimalist and be responsible for all of these areas?  I don’t know. But I do think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn’t take much time to go through the repeat areas. Then, there are only four main problem areas and sentimental is almost decluttered, so that leaves three that I think are doable with a little laser focus.  I can do this!

Decluttering Sentimental Items

I woke up to the beautiful sound of rain last Thursday morning, and I decided to start working on the VHS-C tape project. My son has been asking me to finish putting these family home movies onto DVD’s. So I worked on it most of that day, and Sunday too. I’ll be continuing this project (when I have the time) until I finish it.

While the movies were recording, I decluttered the school room and went through what I call the “sentimental items”. I organized by categories and made a list of “Sentimental Projects” to be completed at some time in the future. (Winter might be a good time to work on these.)  So basically, I decluttered the sentimental items and made another To Do list! You can see photos below of: my current project’s mess, the pile of photos to scan, my decluttering checklist, and my new Sentimental Projects list. Making progress!

 

Dear Stuff

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I found this letter that I wrote (maybe two years ago), prompted by a blog post on Be More with Less called “How to Write a Break-up Letter to Your Stuff”.  It was written quickly and without revision, but today I am appreciating the analogy.

Dear Stuff,

I am making a commitment to only be with stuff that serves a good purpose or leads me closer to God. I believe that this is how God wants me to relate to things.  I’m liking the idea of seeing material possessions as tools.  They help me to do God’s will. Like school supplies and curriculum help me to educate my children. Pots and pans are tools to cook with.  My crucifix reminds me of Jesus.

I’m writing to tell you that you are not good for me anymore.  I don’t need you; you do not cause me joy.  Some of you I did need in the past.  You were tools at one time, and you served your purpose well.  but my life has changed, and I no longer need your help.  Others of you, I don’t even know why I have you around.  I never used you for anything.  Maybe you were given to me and I said thank you to the giver because I love them and didn’t want to say no.  Maybe I purchased you when I was afraid.  You made me feel better.  From you I am learning to have a criteria for future purchases.  To ask if I really need it.  What purpose will it serve?  Can I do without it?

I am determined to live a well-ordered life.  I am working my butt off this summer to go through everything and keep only the tools God wants me to use and to let go of my attachments to you all.

I have trouble letting go of some of you.  I’d like to keep you just in case I’ll use you again in the future.  But this is not what God teaches.

He wants me to live in the present and serve Him, love Him and pray unceasingly to Him.  He does not want me to worry about tomorrow.  He says it in the Bible.  He will provide for me always.  I really need to trust Him completely and let you go.

I did not sign my letter.  It was anonymous.  And because I like to linger over ideas…  How about a list of questions to ask when decluttering, based on the ideas found in this letter?

  • Does this serve a good purpose or lead me closer to God?
  • Why do I have this?
  • Is this a tool I used in the past, but don’t need anymore?  Let it go.
  • Have I never used this?  Let it go.
  • Was this a gift? Did I thank the giver?  Let it go.
  • Did someone give it to me and I didn’t want to say no?  Let it go.
  • Did I purchase this when I was afraid?  Let it go.

Questions to ask before a new purchase:

  • Do I really need this?
  • What purpose will it serve?
  • Can I do without it?

Remember:  Live in the present.  Love, serve and pray all day.  Do not worry about tomorrow.  God will provide for you always.  Trust him completely and let it go.

DECLUTTERING QUESTIONS    30 DAY LIST

 

 

Weekend Retreats

 

I’ve been away from my home for the past three weekends. First, I attended a women’s silent Ignatian Spiritual Exercises retreat, then on Columbus Day weekend, I spent time with extended family in Bailey Island, ME.  This past Saturday, I was at a Schole Sister’s local retreat called Learning Well, with Cindy Rollins! So on Sunday, I reflected on some of the ideas I’ve taken in, made a practical plan of how I will implement my retreat resolutions, and I chose the books I plan to read in the next few weeks.

I’m toying with the idea of playing the Minimalism Game for the rest of October and for the month of November, as progress on my decluttering checklist has decreased.  I did play the game for five days before my first retreat and I got rid of 114 items from my basement.

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I also printed out a time log I found online, because it’s a super fun way to see how I’m spending my time, and it’s helpful when implementing new habits to see if they are realistic or not.  And speaking of habits… I also printed out a new habit tracker.  I created it for a 21 day period, with boxes to check off or shade for each habit, each of the 21 days.  I type my habits in the left column and fill in days of the week and dates along the top. A blank one is shown below.

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Peace!

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Decluttering the Schoolroom

WARNING:  This is a long story of progress, not perfection.  If you are not interested in pondering the decluttering process, then skip to the photos.

I’ve been homeschooling for fourteen years now. I spent the first half of this time accumulating materials. I was building a home library, an art studio, a classroom, and trying to figure out which methods and curricula worked for my family. Then it was suddenly “all too much.” (Thank you, Peter Walsh!) I’ve decluttered at least once every year since then.  In the beginning, I got rid of a lot. I went through all the emotions you feel when you do a big purge. It was an eye-opening experience.

Past purchases can teach you much about yourself. I could see how I bought things we didn’t need out of fear, or to avoid pain; how I blindly followed “experts” instead of praying and trusting God; how I thought curricula, and not discipline, was the problem; and so on… It was all a learning experience. Processing those feelings helped me to see more clearly and stop the spending. That didn’t mean I reached the schoolroom “click point” as Marie Kondo calls that place where you feel you have just the right amount of stuff. So this time, my goal was to keep only those things that we love, or use, or will use at a specific time in the future.

I divided the room into these categories:

  • Furniture
  • Accessories
  • Walls
  • Books
  • Art Supplies
  • Craft Supplies
  • Office Supplies
  • Mary’s Activities

Next, I picked up each item for consideration and made lists of “The Keepers.” I asked myself (and sometimes my kids) three questions:

  1. Do we love it?
  2. How often do we use it?
  3. Does it serve a good purpose?

A “yes” to any of the questions made it a keeper. Some items went into the trash or donate piles.  Where it got difficult was when we answered “No. Not at all. No, BUT I’m going to use it someday!” Or we might use it in the future, or maybe it’ll serve a good purpose someday.

Then, two months-of-doing-nothing later, after realizing that some of the “Keepers” did not meet my criteria of love, use, or going to use it at a specific time in the future, I made another pass through the room.  I weeded out some more items.

This time I went through quickly, not touching every item individually, and I used another set of questions which I made up based on the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

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  1. Does this help me to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord?
  2. Do I use this to help me on to my end?
  3. Does this hinder me as to my end?

The thing about homeschooling books and curricula, and even some art supplies, is that unless you know in advance what your course of study will be every year for all of your homeschooling years, it’s impossible to know whether or not you will use a certain book at a specific time in the future.  The best I can do is make an educated guess.  I’ve been procrastinating “finishing” decluttering the schoolroom because I’ve been confusing the end with the means.

I was so focused on having the perfect amount of stuff in the room, that I forgot that the perfect amount of stuff is not my end.  These new questions reminded me of my true end, and made me realize that having a few extra picture books on a shelf that we never read is not going to hinder me as to my true end.

I just need to be the best steward of our things that I can be at this time, then move on.  So I am keeping the items that we love, we use, and a limited number of items that we will likely use in the future, and I’m assigning a home for each item.

Because my schoolroom is large with lots of storage spaces, it is easy to find homes for everything.  The way that I am limiting the number of items is by confining them to certain areas.  And these areas don’t need to be filled.  Empty space is desirable.  Here are some of their homes:

  • Mary’s activities in the old computer cabinet
  • chapter books in the cherry cabinets
  • reference and religious books on the top white shelves
  • readers, poetry books and plays on the middle white shelves
  • picture books on the bottom left shelf
  • history, geography, art and science books on the bottom right shelf
  • cleaning, art and craft supplies in the cabinets and a drawer
  • office supplies in a drawer
  • Playdoh in a cabinet
  • sewing supplies in a chest of drawers

In the schoolroom closet, I have a dresser in which I am keeping:

  • items to use later this year in the top drawer
  • audiobooks in the little drawer above the cabinet
  • future language arts, Latin, math and religion books in the second drawer
  • future art books and syllabi in the bottom drawer
  • future music, science, history and geography books in the cabinet

Many of the books and supplies for the current year are kept on shelves in the closet.

I feel comfortable with the items currently in our schoolroom.  I don’t consider them to be clutter.  There are more activities, sewing, and art and craft supplies in here than I would like; but I keep them because the girls love and/or use them, and they have assigned homes.  I expect that many of these items will go out the door as the girls get older and their interests change.  You can see the rest of the schoolroom when I do a room tour post. That’ll happen when I am finished with this VHS-C tape project,

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or right before school starts…  whichever comes first.

 

 

Summer Work and Play

Two weeks have passed since my last blog past.  What have I been doing with my time?

I’ve been spending lots of it at my father’s house, sitting by the pool, and occasionally doing laps in it. I also visit with my mom and stepfather once a week, and I sometimes harvest my garden. I’ve been attending free concerts at local parks.  This week, I attended a performance by a Neil Diamond cover band.  I’ve seen three children’s theater plays with my three younger girls.   Yesterday, I giggled through the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I did make two new decluttering checklists for two of my major projects, “The Basement” and “Sentimental Items”.

I didn’t make a checklist for “Paper” as I said I would, because Bobby and I blew through it all last Saturday.  A “Paper” post will be coming soon.

I read Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life.

On July 27th, I said this:

If I really focus, (and don’t watch so many movies) maybe I can complete these projects by the end of this summer.

Well, about movies….  since then, I’ve watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Greatest Showman,  Leon: The Professional, Gladiator, Braveheart, John Wick, Yours, Mine and Ours, John Wick 2, and Roxanne.  (Those are the ones I can remember.)

I’ve also prepared for the next homeschool year, and I thought I finished decluttering the schoolroom, but I’m considering doing one more round before I post about it.  The reason is that my original goal was to keep only things that we love, use, or will use at a specific time in the future.  I realized today that I have kept many items that don’t fit that criteria.  So, I either need to change my goal, or do another round.  A “schoolroom” post will be coming soon.

Decluttering Checklist: Update

I’ve lost count on the number of weeks I’ve been working on decluttering my entire home.  Here’s the checklist!

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Those dates to the right of the projects are (or were) the deadlines. So you can see I’ve missed a couple of them.  I did do my portion of the master bedroom, but I didn’t check it off yet because I’m hoping Bobby will go through his things, as well as his clothing.  I spent quite a bit of time rearranging and redecorating the master bedroom.  Maybe I’ll do a room tour soon.

The schoolroom was almost finished. I only had some things to go through in the closet, BUT… I got sidetracked by homeschool planning for next year. I started making all sorts of lists and piles. I’ve been listening to Brave Writer podcasts and lectures on Classical U.  (The latter seriously made helping Bobby weed and spread mulch for six hours enjoyable.)  I’ve been pondering educational philosophies and pedagogies, which is totally normal for this time of year, but not every year. Some years, (usually when I’m overwhelmed), I just follow prepared lesson plans.  But not this year. I guess I’m feeling pretty good.  And I’m having fun with it, even if it is rather geeky.

The basement.  A major project.  One day, it rained like crazy, and I worked on it all day. And after that it was sunny for weeks and I kept taking the kids swimming at my father’s pool. But I made a good dent in the basement.  I started with the largest items first. I used a local Buy Nothing Facebook page to “gift” a plastic see-saw, a sandbox, a TV stand, a framed giclée print, and loads of VHS movies.

I found out that you should let things “simmer” on that group.  You don’t just give something to the first person who can get to your home.  You give it time for many people to say they’re interested in the item and then you choose one.  It’s not as efficient as dumping a load off at the Salvation Army, but it does feel good to make people happy, and if they really are trying not to buy anything, I’d like to help them. It’s an interesting goal that sounds difficult to achieve.

I also got rid of a twin bed and Bunkie board through a Craigslist free stuff post.  And I collected many bags of trash which Matthew took away along with this stuff in the trailer.  It was progress.  Then I went around the basement taking notes of all of the areas/categories that I plan to address one at a time.

This past week, it rained everyday.  But instead of working on the basement, I jumped ahead to sentimental items.  Joseph and Sarah (especially Joseph) were pushing me to figure out how to convert the family home movies, which are on VHS-C tapes to DVD’s.  So I took out all this stuff.

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Some of it was from my Mom, some was from Bobby’s study, and I needed a VCR. Matthew had three in the basement. (Sometimes it’s handy having a collector in the house.)  I later found out that Bobby had another VCR in his study.  He was probably saving it for this project.

THIS IS A MAJOR PROJECT!!  It should have it’s own category on the checklist. In fact,  I think each of the major projects should have their own checklist. So my goals for this weekend will be to finish decluttering the schoolroom, and to make new checklists for the basement, sentimental items, and paper. The garage and digital clutter can wait.  If I really focus, (and don’t watch so many movies) maybe I can complete these projects by the end of this summer.

Decluttering Checklist: The Kitchen

I remember the first time I decluttered my kitchen. It was in 1998, just after I read the book Totally Organized by Bonnie McCullough. I gathered everything in my cabinets and drawers and put the items in cardboard boxes in another room.  It seemed extreme at the time, but it was really just a mini packing party.  I brought items back into the kitchen as needed, and eventually purged what was not needed.  (And I likely kept some items I deemed unnecessary, to please my husband.)

Now we are a family of eight.  We have WAY MORE STUFF than we had back then.  I don’t do kitchen packing parties anymore.  We use the stuff we have. I’ve spent years tweaking the number of spatulas (and other kitchen tools) that will work best for our family. So this latest decluttering wasn’t difficult.

I went through each shelf or drawer, one at a time, and decided which items to keep. I cleaned as I went.  Some areas I put back exactly as they were and other areas I rearranged to fit our current lifestyle.  For example, I made one cabinet just for snacks.  We used to keep candy and a blender in that cabinet, and some snacks that Bobby eats almost daily were stored in the pantry.  This new arrangement is more convenient.

I purged plastic cups that BOBBY! (surprisingly) said we should get rid of.  And I also let go of a large electric mixer and oven mitts that belonged to Sarah.  She was willing to part with them after a couple of years of them sitting unused.  Sarah is the main baker in our family and she said that she prefers the hand mixer.

I felt really great when I finished with the kitchen declutter.  Just as it is in the girls’ room, there is truly a home for each item.  Now we just need to establish good habits of putting things back in their places. My plan is to attach this activity to meal times.  So, after we eat, we put the kitchen back in order.  And I am certain we are going to eat!