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.

Room Tours: The Living Room

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This is the third entry in my Room Tours category.  Our living room was always one of the most used rooms in the house, but I think Covid 19 has pushed it into the number one spot. We are in here to watch morning Mass, do school subjects, read, play games, watch movies, binge shows on Netflix, sit and talk, nap, go on electronics, and more.

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Sarah plays the piano in here, and much of her sheet music is stored near her piano (the rest is stored in the dining room). A circle of fifths print is the wall hanging shown above. I like it because it’s practical and neutral colored. We keep headphones and chargers in the loveseat console. We store DVD’s and Wii U games and accessories in the TV cabinet.

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The rest of our DVD’s are stored on a bookshelf in the nearby foyer closet.

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The living room is open to the dining room.

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On movie nights, we turn the loveseat and the chairs to face the TV, and so everyone can recline with their legs up.  It’s super comfy!  I even moved a chair right in front of the TV when I watched Parasite, so I could read the subtitles more easily.

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We store remote controls and chargers in the end table on the left, and in the right one are kindles and guess what?  More chargers!

I think the “Order” print above the sofa is beautiful and I feel a sense of peace when I look at it.  My kids don’t agree, and Joseph continually teases me with ideas of things we could hang to replace it.

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The room doesn’t usually look like this, as you can imagine, but everything has a place in here, so it doesn’t take long to tidy it up.  Everyone just has pick up their own dishes, books, papers, socks, games, blankets, dolls, laptops, iPads, hair ties, and yes, chargers!

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!

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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Room Tours: The Master Bedroom

Welcome to my Room Tour Category!  This is my second post here.  The first one was a tour of the girls’ room.  This will be a tour of the room I share with my husband, Bob.  I think I’ve been calling him Bobby here.  I usually call him Bob when I’m talking about him, and Bobby when I’m talking to him. Oh well.

I found some pictures of this room, from 2010, on a blog that I stopped keeping at the end of that year. I had blogged for five years, and then I took a break from it until this year.  I read a few posts, and although I was still pondering the same ideas as I am today, I could see that I have made progress with simplifying (though slowly) over the past seven and a half years.  For example, back then I was overwhelmed by our kitchen clutter, and today our kitchen seems to be in good order.

So here is what our bedroom looked like back then:

We bought the Shaker style furniture when we moved into our first home in 1999.  Then we decorated the room like this in 2006, when we moved into our current home.  Eventually, the quilt started falling apart.  I flipped it over for awhile, then I took it off completely and just had sheets and blankets for awhile.  This year I wanted a change. I did something drastic.  I moved the furniture around for the first time in twelve years.  I took down the pictures.  Then I replaced the valances with sheers.  And I bought new bedding, lampshades and placemats for the nightstands.  So this is how it looks now.

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I looked at loads of pictures online and found neutral colors were most attractive to me. I’m usually frugal, but this time I splurged on some 750 count sheets and they are amazing!  I feel like I’m in a hotel at night.  It’s very cozy and comfortable.  So we each have our own nightstands.  I keep a prayer book, earbuds, my Kindle, and a box of tissues in mine.

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The armoire belongs to Bob.  The little decoration on top was the cake topper from our wedding cake.  It was a gift from his mother.  She painted it to look like us.  I have a cute little veil and beads and flowers just like the real ones.  Well if I knew I was going to share all these details, I would have taken a closer picture of the thing.

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The dresser is mine. And you can see our bathroom door on the left.  My closet door is next, and our bedroom door leads to the living room. My dresser currently holds a wedding picture, my undergarments, socks, pajamas, work out clothing, bathing suit, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, dressy pumps and nylons, a sentimental box, and the jewelry the girls receive as gifts, but don’t wear yet. Most of my capsule wardrobe is hung in my closet.

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Bobby’s closet is across from mine and he has the larger one, because he has more clothing.  My closet is L-shaped. I keep my clothing at one end, and on the other end…

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are my books!  After seeing the movie, War Room, I created a prayer closet.  Before capsule wardrobes, I kept all of my clothing in my dresser.  But I found that because of the shape of my closet, It doesn’t bother me to have clothing in here too.  I actually like leaning on my bathrobe when I’m reading on the floor.

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You can see Bobby’s closet and our bathroom door on the right. I haven’t hung any pictures on the walls yet.  I’m enjoying the simplicity of the room.  If Bobby doesn’t tell me he wants stuff on the walls, it’s going to stay this way.  We have talked about getting an electric fireplace in here.  I’m thinking it would go to the right of my dresser.  Maybe when it gets cold again.  So this is our room and that’s the end of the tour.

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Summer Capsule Wardrobe

This is my first summer capsule wardrobe ever!  I created it with items from my spring capsule wardobe, with items that I wore last summer, and a few new pieces that I bought in June.  I planned on wearing it from July 1st-October 1st, but I actually began wearing it in the middle of June when we had a stretch of super hot weather.

I’ll start with the bottoms:  white crop jeans, blue skinny jeans, tan capri pants, black skirt, denim shorts, tan shorts, and (sorry to say) chambray shorts that I bought in June, and haven’t worn yet. They feel more snug than my denim shorts, and they are practically the same color. I also bought the tan shorts this year and have worn them once. I usually only wear shorts around the house, so I probably don’t need three of them.

Next up are the tops: black & white striped tank, black tank, red striped tank, gray sleeveless top, gray T-shirt, white T-shirt, striped T-shirt, and my pineapple shirt.

Here are the layers:  jean jacket, jean vest (that my daughter didn’t wear anymore), white tassel top, white button down sweater, thin black sweater.

The footwear:  black wedge heels, black sandals, and gray converse sneakers.

Dresses and accessories:  black sleeveless dress, new shift dress, black handbag, and black Read Aloud Revival tote.

I have some other items too that I don’t consider part of my capsule wardrobe. They are: a bathing suit, sunglasses, pajamas, work out clothing, my Yoda T-shirt, (for cleaning and yardwork) my popcorn T-shirt and navy hoodie, (that I wear to the movies) and my red, Pura Vida and black “Stick It to the Man” T-shirts (that I wear around the house sometimes).

This looks pretty minimalist, but I think I wore fewer items in the past. Last summer, I would wear only my black sandals with one of my two pairs of boot cut jeans or my denim shorts, and a T-shirt (usually one I received as a souvenir from a foreign country Bobby visited).  It was like a low maintenance uniform.  And I didn’t own a purse. Having a capsule wardrobe takes a little more preparation, but it is simple once set up, and it gives me a more feminine, stylish appearance.

Does appearance matter? Does a capsule wardrobe make me more confident? Does it save me time, money, or decision fatigue?  These are questions to ponder.

Decluttering Checklist: Week Two

This week I checked off:

  • kitchen desk
  • foyer closet
  • utility closet
  • pantry

For decluttering the kitchen desk, I tried something called the “Shock Treatment Declutter Method”.  I read about it on Uncluttered Simplicity.

  1. I took everything out of my desk and put it on my bed.

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Then I sorted it into these categories:

  • Paper (in piles and files) and Product Manuals (in binders)
  • Cookbooks
  • Matthew’s paper tray
  • Electronics
  • Stationery
  • Office Supplies
  • Cash
  • Keys
  • Gift Cards
  • Library/Store Cards
  • Kids’ bank books and cash (in tin)
  • Decorations
  • Items to repair

2.  I surveyed the damage. I observed that there was stuff with no assigned homes, too much paper, things I never use, and that my paper filing system was not simple enough. I decided to keep paper separate as it is listed on my checklist as a “Major Project”.

3.  Step 3 is to ruthlessly eliminate. I don’t think I was ruthless, but I eliminated stuff and I was happy that most of the things I returned to my desk are things I use regularly. (I may not use the sticky tabs often, and I kept a few paper clips that I may not need.)

Next was the foyer closet. I removed 2 games with the kids’ permission, and 24 hangers.

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I noticed I’d like to replace the ironing board cover. I started a wish list. (Maybe I’ll get one for Christmas.)

I took everything out of the utility closet.  (See below.) I sorted into these categories:

  • cleaning supplies
  • children’s medicine
  • first aid
  • bandages & tape
  • aprons
  • sunscreen/bug spray

I got rid of old stuff, and reorganized.

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The pantry was a mess. I forgot to take a before picture, and I’m glad I did. Here is the after picture.

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It will be a little more filled up after our next food shopping trip. Those Easter pails will be stored in the basement with the Easter decorations after more candy is eaten. I am pleased that everything in here has a home.  Most of the shelves are labeled with a category name and a little list of what goes on the shelf.  This is school vacation week, so I am expecting to declutter for a block of time each day. I may even post more frequently.

Decluttering Checklist: Week One

This week I checked off:

  • Cheryl’s clothing
  • Hannah’s clothing
  • living room
  • laundry room (1/2 bath)
  • upstairs bathroom

I purged quite a bit of girl’s size 10 hand-me-downs that we would not likely use. I also got rid of a few bath toys with Mary’s permission and some play make-up with Hannah’s permission. After years of decluttering, the bathrooms are really down to just items we use regularly.

I wrote about our purchasing new living room furniture in January. Back then we took away our old entertainment center cabinets where we stored DVD’s, and purchased a new TV console that had less storage space in it. I went through the DVD’s with most of the kids and purged several of them. Then I stored most of our DVD’s on a bookshelf in the nearby foyer closet. (See photo below.) My saints DVD’s, our Wii games and accessories, and electronic components are stored in the TV console, and Christmas DVD’s are stored elsewhere.  The living room is also home to most of Sarah’s sheet music (near her piano) and the girls’ Kindle Fires, which are stored inside of the loveseat and in an end table drawer. In another end table drawer, we store all remote controls.

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