Monday, February 7, 2011

Much Progress

I actually am not sure where to begin. My mother came to visit last Friday. As my Christmas gift I asked her to come for a week and help me finish 3 household projects that were lingering.

1. Finish painting the kitchen. I started this project in the summer and stalled.
2. Clean/fix/paint the bathroom ceiling. It felt like it was going to be a seriously intense project so I was avoiding it.
3. Organize/sort/declutter/clean the basement. Our basement is unfinished but used for storage and working out. It is FULL and complete chaos.

I asked my Mom to help for two main reasons. First, she is a hard worker and loves tackling a job from beginning to end. Second, and perhaps most important, she would push me to make sure they got finished.

True to form, we are 3 days into her visit and the kitchen is painted. We also cleaned out every cupboard, washed walls, cabinet doors, appliances (inside and out) and scrubbed the floor. Oh yeah, we also took down the light fixture to clean and added contact paper to the cabinet floor under the sink. I wasn't lying when I said she pushes me LOL. In the process of cleaning out the cabinets, many pieces went to the flea market pile. I also cleaned up a toy vanity table/stool and the exersaucer to go.

Today we nearly finished the bathroom ceiling. It was less productive since my husband went to work and we had both girls home with us. Also we spent the afternoon at the pool, a welcome break. Tomorrow's plan will include a top to bottom clean of the bathroom, probably done while I am at work for a few hours. Then, it's on to the basement.

I knew my Mom was motivated but I did have my doubts it would all get done in 6 1/2 days. I doubt no more!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So far to go

I've been feeling a little underwhelmed the last couple of days. We've removed two full car loads and two medium sized pieces of furniture. But when I look around it doesn't seem as though we are any further along. I want the satisfaction of an empty shelf or a closet that isn't full. And because I've been feeling unaccomplished, I've done very little.

So tonight I tackled one cupboard in the kitchen. Removed 2 casserole dishes and 3 ice cube trays. It opened up the space to put the blender in. So still not an empty shelf but a slightly emptier counter.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Flea Market

Today I made another trip to the flea market. We've decided to simply make it a weekly event until we stop making at least $50 a week. I like the flea market. We've used it with varying degrees of success as a tool for making a few bucks while decluttering. But that's where my enjoyment stops. We've gone a few times over the years but rarely leave with anything of use. It's not a "good" flea market consistently.

As I sat there looking around that the people milling about looking to buy and the vendors looking to sell I was struck with one thought. This entire building is exactly why I am moving towards minimalism. It was an entire building of people selling their crap so that they can be the people buying other's crap. One big cycle. In fact the most common thing to occur is for the "regular" sellers to pounce on new sellers before they even get their table set up. Looking for the great buy, the "score". And all I could think was "How sad!"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Are You Making This Room So Clean?

This is the question my 4 year old asked me as I was clearing out the bedside tables in the master bedroom. And she didn't think it was a good thing. You see, my daughter is a packrat. I worry that it could turn to hoarding. She picks through the dirt pile if I sweep when she is around. She wants to keep the scrap cuts of paper from craft time. She cries if we have to throw out a paintbrush we forgot to clean. So clearing out excess things is causing her some upset. We are being very careful to stick to things that belong to Jeremy and I. And she doesn't seem to be bothered with the casting off of the baby's clothes. But a discussion of the "one in, one out" policy we are implementing is causing major distress with her. Like tears on a daily basis as she talks about it. Any tips/advice?

In other news, I implemented a new strategy yesterday. I was feeling unfocused now that a lot of the big stuff has been done. So being the Flylady that I am, I decided to focus on the zone of the week. This week is the master bedroom. We've both already culled our wardrobes so that was looking good. But I took out 2 of the 5 vases on the dresser, a bag of fabric that needs to go back to my sewing group, half a dozen books that I've already read or have no interest in reading and enough cat hair to make a kitten LOL.

Also, a candleholder. I bought the candleholder 10 years ago in North Carolina. I hung it in our bedroom 3 years ago because it covered a small damaged spot. But I don't think I've truly noticed it in over 2 years. After Jeremy banged his shoulder on it during a midnight baby waking last week I was nearly ready to let it go. And now it's in the flea market container with no regrets.

I removed 2 of the 7 decorative pillows on our bed (what can I say, I'm a decorator!) and the rug moved to the living room to keep the baby's feet/bottom warm when she plays. And while none of these changes are major, the room feels more open, brighter and much more peaceful. And while Ella called it clean, I think this peace is what she was feeling.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Saturday I cut at least a foot of hair off. It adds a bit of time to my morning routine but I love the way it feels and it looks a little more pulled together. Helping me let go of my frumpy mommy look :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011


That's how I've been feeling over the last few days. I think partly because all of the things I wanted to be gone were stuck in a pile. And partly because I have some big projects that are going to take longer than an hour (how long the baby naps).

But now I'm re-energized. I spent half of my day at the flea market unloading the large pile that had grown in the basement and hall closet. Came home $150 richer and a lot lighter in spirit. There is about 1/4 of what I took left. I'm heading back next weekend and am motivated to find another tote of stuff to take with me.

And I said screw it and started one of the big projects. Filing! The system we have is really not working. A basket overflowing with all the mail that needed to be shredded or filed. About 3 years worth. YIKES! But my work in one of the closets meant I had an empty shelf. I removed it and was able to fit the tall filing cabinet from the basement into it. I'm working my way through the shredding and filing but I'm already feeling better about it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I am not Julia Childs

and if I'm being honest, I have no desire to be. I owned a half dozen cookbooks. I have several hundred recipes from swaps. I have dozens of recipes printed from websites or clipped from magazines.

But every day I wondered and stressed about what to make for dinner and at the end of the day just made one of a handful of standbys. Or picked up fast food. Or had a "fend for yourself" night. So I gave away/sold the cookbooks. And I made a 14 day meal plan. It contains all of the meals we eat on a regular basis anyway. I left one day open to try out one of the recipes I've clipped or saved. I figure I can cook something new twice a month LOL. If the recipe doesn't make the cut, I'm tossing it. If we like it, I'll make it a few more times. If we love it, we'll either trade out one of the other meals or extend our rotation.

At the end of my stack of clippings I hope to have a 30 day rotation and a much more streamlined recipe binder. An added bonus: easier grocery shopping :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Minimal Fitness

I have a 3 ring binder filled with workout routines and meal plans pulled from fitness magazines through the years. If I'm being honest, I don't think I've pulled anything from there in all the years I've had it.

This year I only have one fitness goal. Run a marathon with my sister in October. A lofty goal, for sure. But also a simple goal. All I need to do is get out there and run. I have my mileages written on the calendar from now until then. I would like to add some yoga for flexibility. So my plan is simple. Every day I either run or do yoga. No need for a binder full of treadmill/weight/bike workouts.

Off they go...

Monday, January 17, 2011

How Did This Happen

I've been reading a travel/location independent living blog called Where is Jenny?. As I follow her journey I've gone through all the typical responses she describes hearing from people. "She's so lucky! I could never do that. I wish..." But I also had the thought of "I can't imagine living with so few things."

Today as I wandered through the house decluttering, clearing out and cleaning up, my mind began to wander as well. And I suddenly remembered driving home after living in North Carolina for 2 years. I made the decision to come back home and very quickly (within 2 months) followed through. And because I was heading back alone, I only brought what could fit in my car. My small two door Pontiac Sunbird. There wasn't much that fit LOL.

I spent 2 months living with a friend at her family cottage, followed by crashing on a friend's couch for several months before finding a job and apartment. So I guess I can imagine living with very little since I did!

Over the next 8 years I moved from a converted garage to a series of two bedroom apartments with my then boyfriend/now husband. Every time we moved we donated/sold/trashed plenty of things. But then we turned around and continued to buy and buy and buy. We had a baby and moved to a 3 bedroom house with basement. We received presents (wedding/baby/Christmas/birthday). We bought all the things we thought we deserved/wanted.

I'm completely stunned at home much we lusted after. I had lists of things I yearned to own. I spent mucho dinero (mostly on credit) buying things I was sure would make me happy. I dreamed of the day we would win the lottery and finally be able to buy a house of our own and travel like we both wanted. And now I look back and am ashamed at how many times we could have traveled if we hadn't spent on things instead of experiences.

I'm dreaming now of a simpler life without the consumer lust, without the consumer debt. I'm dreaming of a life where we live our dreams. And I can see that it's possible not too far in the future. But I worry that I will fall back into old habits and patterns. I don't want to look up in 5 years and be in this exact same place.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Minimalism and God

Reading this post by Courtney at Be More With Less made me think. I was born and raised Roman Catholic. We went to church every single Sunday. My parents were and still are very active in their church. Personally I went through stages of hating church. I went through stages of being very involved in the church, in high school I taught a 5th grade Religious Education class. Then I went away to University and have rarely attended mass since.

But in the month leading up to my decision to minimalize I craved the church. I drive past a church pretty much every day. And I would look at it and think longingly about stopping in and just sitting for a while. It got me to contemplating whether I wanted to join a church in this city (not the one I grew up in). As I thought and went around in circles about this I realized it wasn't necessarily the church or God I was looking for. It was the peace and quiet I associate with a church outside of mass. And it was a major red flag that I was missing something in my life. It led me to start thinking and seeking out what that thing was.

And so in a way the church led me to simplifying. It will be interesting to see if simplifying will bring me back around to God.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Entryway Bench

We have a tiny little entrance. At the end I had placed a bench with cubbies. It was meant to serve as a place to sit and put on shoes. A place to hold the girls' hats/mitts/umbrellas/sunglasses/etc. It fit the area but barely and made moving from the living room to the the bedrooms and bathroom a little tight. My husband has never liked it. But I have resisted moving it or getting rid of it.

Why? Because we needed it to keep the girls' stuff in. Never mind we had a huge closet directly across from it. Because it's where I put my purse/diaper bag/shopping bags when we came in. Because it's where I put things to be returned to friends/the library/stores. But in reality it became a massive clutter collector that was the first thing we saw when we came home.

Today I cleared it off and out. I moved it out of the space for a trial period. And immediately fell in love with it's absence. Tomorrow it will be cleaned, photographed and listed on kijiji.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Start of my Journey

I think a part of me has always been intrigued by the idea of living with less. Of not believing the message that we must have more and bigger. Five years ago I read Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House series and loved the idea of building a house that was just the right size for the life you lived.

But getting married and having kids and struggling financially made it easy to fall into the trap of wanting more. If I only had 'this' I would be so much happier. As a couple we moved just about every year and always did a decluttering as we packed to move. Until we moved into our current residence. A 3 bedroom bungalow (rented) with a usable, but not finished basement. With one daughter it was comfortable even with all the toys she accumulated. The second bedroom was a toy room!

We began to buy the things needed to maintain a house and yard. Lawnmower, shovel, BBQ (not really needed but...). No biggie, put them in the basement in the offseason. Ditto for the dozen outdoor toys Ella accumulated. While we're at it, let's set up a home gym. Treadmill, weight bench, free weights.

Then we decided to have another child. The toy room needed to become a nursery. More large toys went to the basement. The art table moved to the dining room. Ella's room was reconfigured to fit a shelf for all of her smaller toys. Then the baby things began to arrive. We've been in the house for 3 years and 3 months. Although we've done the occasional culling and flea marketing to move things out there has been significantly more moving things in.

Being home on maternity leave for the past 9 months has been sobering. It's been impossible to stay on top of the clutter and mess. I find myself getting short with Ella and too often saying "Not now, Mommy has to (insert housekeeping chore)". On top of that I'm supposed to be using this time to start laying the foundation of my business. Instead I would look around, feel smothered and instead spend every spare moment fixated on the computer. I can't begin to count the number of times I looked around and wished I could toss everything out and only bring back the things we absolutely loved and needed. The thought of having to move was terrifying. Thankfully we love our home but the realization that we would stay here even if we were miserable was a shock. Our "stuff" was truly holding us prisoner!

Then one day between Christmas and New Year's of this year I stumbled on a link to Be More With Less and Becoming Minimalist. It was like a light bulb went off. I started digging around, reading archives, jumping from blog to blog in the minimalist community. It just seemed to fit with what I always felt but didn't know how to get to.

My word for 2011 is Simplify. While I'm starting with the "stuff" I want it to become about the life I live and the priorities I set. And while I've started several blogs in the past, this is the first one I didn't have to force myself to write. I'm looking forward to sharing my journey with you.

Spending Freeze?

I am definitely our family's "latte factor". At least once a day I head to a convenience store for a soda or chocolate fix. Add to that the little things here and there I buy because they are small or we "need" them and it becomes a significant leak in our finances. Given that we carry a significant amount of debt we want to pay off and it is an issue.

So I'm contemplating a spending freeze for an indefinite amount of time. Obviously we have our fixed expenses and will still need to buy groceries and gas. And we need to buy a dryer this weekend (hopefully used or seriously discounted from the scratch and dent section). Using the laundromat is costing us $25 a week plus the cost of disposable diapers (we normally use cloth).

Aside from these things there is nothing we NEED. The girls have more than enough clothing. I have craft supplies and books to last several months. And giving up the daily snack runs will be good for my wallet and my waistline.

At some point this year we are expecting a bit of a bonus from my husband's job. We have plans on each taking some fun money from that. I'm thinking keeping to the spending freeze until that bonus comes through should be doable.

The only thing I let go of today is the pressure to let go of something every day ;) A nap with the baby in the morning and gymnastics with the eldest in the afternoon ate up much of the day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 11, 2011

Hmmm, I didn't post yesterday but I know there were things let go of. They may end up added on to today's post.

2 pairs of shoes to sell.
1 pair of sneakers to trash
1 purse
1 small briefcase
6 small wooden baskets purchased to corral DD1's art supplies. They failed miserably.
75% of the textbooks my husband was holding on to (yes he ok'd this lol)
Cleaning supplies for our sofa (we just put the cushion covers in the wash)
foam stamps (why was I even keeping these)
4 dollar store picture frames
6 bellydancing cds
an old employer's license plate
slippers I never wore

I'm noticing the first round is going really quickly and really easily. There are few hard decisions. These are all things that we were not using. Things that we no longer wanted but just hadn't got around to tossing. Overflowing closets have empty shelves. Every day DD1 comes home and exclaims "Someone cleaned!" :) I know the hard stuff is yet to come but I'm just going to coast on the high of progress for a while longer.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9, 2011

a dozen tupperware covers that didn`t have bottoms

My job. Yep, gave notice at my job today. I`ve boon working as a part time accountant for a friend`s business for 3 years now. It was supposed to be a temporary job. Just something to fill in the space until my decorating clientele picked up. In March I went on maternity leave with the possibility of never returning. But the person who took my position up and gave a week`s notice in July.

So I returned a couple hours of the week. Bringing the baby along. And it was okay for a while but it`s becoming clear that I couldn`t give it the attention it needed. And attempting to give it the attention it needed means that I`m not giving other important things the attention they needed. So I`m letting go of the job to focus on the things that I hold near and dear right now. Which includes the baby`s nap schedule LOL.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 8, 2011

7 wineglasses (we don't drink wine)
about a hundred plastic shopping bags. I whipped up a quick and easy fabric sleeve to hang on the inside of our cupboard door. It hold 10-12 bags and I have no idea when we would need more. It cleared out and tidied up a huge lower cabinet that was driving DH and I crazy on a regular basis.

Everyday I see more and more that I am willing to let go of and every day I see our home becoming more peaceful. This is good.

Friday, January 7, 2011

January 7, 2011

2 purses (minimum)
took a large bin of baby things to a friend expecting her second any day now
listed some bellydancing supplies on kijiji
emailed some friends about books I'm getting rid of to give them first dibs

The more I do this, the more I see to let go of. I'm even letting go of the idea of scrapbooking the girls photos. The books are sooo big and bulky. Do I want to saddle them down with 18 large albums when they are starting up their homes? Not really. And I also don't think I want them taking up the space in our home. They don't get looked at very often (due to the big and bulky). So I think I'll be switching over to photobooks for all the digital photos and simply scrapbooking the non digital things (school photos and special memorabilia). In the end the girls should end up with one 12x12 scrapbook and 18 small hardcover photo books. And as a double bonus, if I am still feeling this way in 6 months or so, my craft area will get a major pruning!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January 5, 2011

5 stainless mixing bowls - may not seem like a lot but given I had 14, it's a fair chunk.

Another bag of clothes to the trash. Worn out, stained, too small and unnecessary.

And I've convinced my husband to try an experiment with our towels. 3 towels for him (he needs one for the gym), 2 towels for me and 5 towels for guests/trips to the pool or beach/etc. Each of the girls have 3 towels of their own which I won't be touching yet. I'm willing to toss the extras right away (we'll probably donate them to the animal shelter) but he wants a trial period. So we'll wait a month before they leave the house.

I also made the decision to list my Nigella Lawson cookbooks. I really didn't think that one of my problem areas would be cookbooks. But my initial reaction was "not the cookbooks!". I lusted after them for quite some time, asked for one per Christmas for several Christmases. But I don't think I've ever cooked anything out of them. So it makes absolutely no sense to hold on to them. I listed them on kijiji today.

I had an "oh crap" moment today as I looked around. It seems so incredibly overwhelming and impossible if I look at the whole. So I went back to the bedroom and the dresser. Small and manageable and a big impact with a small investment. I started out thinking it would take me a few months to go through the house and thin it all out. Now I'm thinking it's more realistic to plan for at least a year. I'm fairly certain that once I get through the first round I'll be ready to start again and go a little deeper. Not to mention the ongoing process of purging outgrown toys and clothes. But I'm really excited about where this journey will take me. Both at the destination and stops along the way.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January 4, 2011

Jewelery taken to pawn shop, walked out with $60 towards debt.

Stack of about 10 magazines dropped at library

Also cleared out oldest daughters dresser. It was to the point the drawers could barely close. For the sake of honesty I didn't actually let go of them. They are stored downstairs for the baby.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 3, 2011

Several necklaces.
1 watch.
half dozen pair of earrings.

The costume jewelery went to the flea market box and the gold I will trade for cash.

Also let go of a ton of email subscriptions. I really had no idea how many emails I deleted on a daily basis that I had signed up for until I started unsubscribing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January 2, 2011

Tackled the bedroom closet.

Tossed 2 sweaters that shouldn't be seen in public but that I wear in public :(\

Skinny pants from 6 years ago.

Several shirts that just don't work with my current life.

And I moved half a dozen items into the hall closet. If come summer I don't want to put them on they will also go.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Friday December 31st 2010

Half of my hall closet. This included dresses and skirts that are at least 5-6 years old and have not been worn in 4-5 years. I have moved them at least 4 times!!

Also, a knick knack my mother bought me and the card box from my wedding (4 1/2 years ago). It was holding some memorabilia from the wedding but I was able to include it in another keepsake box I have.