Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tripping Down Memory Lane

This past weekend my guy and I spent some time looking through old photos - digital versions, that is. And while it was largely an enjoyable experience - as we hadn't done that for quite some time, it did make me think about just how much time we spent looking at the past instead of doing something in the present and it got me upset about all the money wasted on the stuff that I'd accumulated that could be seen in pictures of our former residences.

It took hours going through just a fraction of the pictures I'd taken of our life. Some of the memories were great, some were bittersweet, and others made me question why I still had the photo after all these years.

I suppose there could have been worse ways to spend our Sunday evening - watching TV or surfing the web instead of doing something together - but creating a new memory would have been a much better way to spend our time versus looking back at what once was.

Especially since not every picture made me laugh or smile or fondly reminisce.

In many of the photos I could see the evidence of my over-accumulation of stuff in my attempt to make a home for us. I could see how wasteful of my time and money I was. I could see how not happy the stuff made me and how much time I had to spend getting rid of everything. The shelves and shelves of books, videos, CDs. The accessories and artwork and pillows. The clothes and shoes and purses. The linens and dishes and glassware and cookware.

No matter how many things I bought, I still felt dissatisfied with what I had and what my home looked like. My small space was crowded and cramped because of all the stuff, and many times it was messy due to lack of storage.

I am trying to forgive myself for who I was then and use this as a learning lesson so that I don't make those same mistakes again. But it isn't easy. There was just so much stuff - none of which I currently possess aside from the keepsakes - which translates out to so much money that I wish I didn't waste.

Perhaps when I figure out exactly what kind of life I want to lead I can take another trip down memory lane. But for now I think it's probably best to avoid tripping over all the stuff of my past and all the mistakes I'd made. Even if seeing those much younger pictures of my guy and some of the adventures we had makes me smile.

To be continued...

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hitting a (Small) Wall

I had grand plans for the holiday weekend - to finally make a decision about all those keepsakes that I was certain I didn't really want to keep. But those plans dissolved quickly when I hit a small wall.

I had unentombed - disentombed? - one of my keepsake storage boxes under my media cabinet and was faced with hundreds of little decisions. Did I need this keychain from our previous apartment that I liked until we got a new keychain from our current apartment? Did I need this notebook filled with ideas of things to blog about, authors to keep an eye on, music to track down, books to read, blogs to follow? Did I need that physical photo that didn't quite fit in one of the put together albums even though I had both a scanned digital version of the image and a scanned digital version of the image from its negative?

I started taking photos of some of the items and papers I tossed. But I wasn't tossing many. And I started becoming frustrated that I needed to take a photo at all. Isn't it better to let some of those ideas, thoughts, or things slip into memory? Why keep a digital record when it will be just another form of mental clutter? Am I really letting go of something if I'm keeping an image of it around?

After about a two hour battle back and forth in my head I decided to seal everything up and put everything away for another day. Which, of course, got me frustrated all over again about my inability to make a decision.

A couple days later I really needed a "win" and so I grabbed a different small box/bin from the shelving unit in our closet in the hopes of finally getting rid of the last few things in that bin. But I couldn't quite make the decision about what to do with my small coin collection, an expensive pen I received as a gift but could never quite get around to buying replacement ink for, a bracelet I received but never wore and never would wear, a worry stone I got from a college professor that I liked but had no need of, the small replacement parts for my Nelson wall clocks that might be needed someday if I decided to take off the seconds hands or if they broke, and my iPhone box with unused headphones, cable and plug.

Some of these items have some value or could be valuable - money, jewelry, pen, etc. - while others are in the "someday" category - the iPhone box and accessories, the clock parts. And even if I were to get rid of some of them - gift them, donate them, sell them, toss them - I realized I wouldn't be able to empty the box. And so I gave up (temporarily) in defeat.

I'm at the point in the process where the decisions are either really easy or really, really hard. I want to just let go, to free myself of the burdens that my keepsakes have on me. I want to live life forward versus in the past. I'm just not sure how ready I am to take that next step - to discard without guilt or fear of regret or fear that something bad will happen, or to toss the notes and ideas without capturing them digitally in case someday I might want to move on that idea or thought or recall that I had it.

As I feel split down the middle I have to take a step back to assess. Because making a wrong decision will potentially cause me to hold on tighter to what is left. Which is the opposite of good.

I am just hopeful that I'll be able to climb up and over this small wall very soon so that I can keep moving forward in life and once and for all release myself from the trappings of the past.

To be continued...

Binges and Purges - November 27, 2016

In addition to having a small meltdown on Sunday I also did a little more shopping than I intended to.  Though, perhaps it's because of the small meltdown that I ended up spending... must think further on that.

The Binges


I needed mailing boxes to send out books. I needed the tissue paper to use as stuffing for those boxes. I needed plastic wrap to protect some of my stored items but which I completely forgot to buy. But I didn't really need the notebook and pen I got, the archival sleeves I bought to protect some small artwork, the plastic envelope to wrangle and hold our grocery store coupons.

And I didn't absolutely need the new pair of non-slip sailing shoes I bought simply because the ones I had were a hideous color. Though when they do arrive they will get much use and I will dispose of the ugly ones.

And while I planned to order a somewhat needed mug to replace the chipped mug I disposed of and use the money sitting in my PayPal to do so, I did not need the four lovely bowls I purchased in addition to said mug. I'm certain the bowls will be used regularly and enjoyed but we already have plenty of functional bowls at our disposal and these were definitely not needed.

The Purges


NONE. Well, none that I'm willing to count as purges. I got rid of several small trinkets/keepsakes but nothing worthy of documenting. I hope to do better this week.

The Count


Binge Count: 10
Purge Count: 0

Friday, November 25, 2016

Binges and Purges - November 25, 2016

Today is Black Friday and I managed not to spend a single cent buying things I didn't need. While I did buy something for breakfast and bought some food for the cat, I managed to avoid all online and brick and mortar stores and their temptations.

I'm going to have to hit up The Container Store tomorrow in order to buy a couple shipping boxes as I need to offload a number of the books I've amassed for review. But, that too will be a need vs. a want purchase and one that is quite utilitarian and will be in my home for a very, very short time.

The Binges


None. And I'm so thrilled about this given the number of sales coupons I received via email today. While I knew I wouldn't be going to any physical stores, I'd forgotten how hard I would get marketed to by the few online stores whose emails I still subscribe to.

The Purges


I had hoped for more, but indecision prevented this from happening. (More on that later...)

I got rid of two t-shirts I wasn't thrilled about and that rarely were worn.

We organized some of my guy's things and I was able to get rid of a medium-sized plastic bin that previously contained cables and wires.

I parted with a never used extension cord I'd thought I might need some day.

I got rid of two REI tumblers that also didn't get any use after I'd become hooked on the Yeti versions with much more secure lids.

I tossed a chipped but much loved mug that we'd gotten on a road trip a number of years back.

And I had hoped to get rid of a number of keepsake items - including a small wallet of backup DVDs. But aside from a few papers (which I took pictures of) and little odds and ends I did not get far along. Therefore I'm not counting any of this toward my purge count.

The Count


Binge Count: 0
Purge Count: 7

Black Friday

I'm not sure if I ever participated in the madness that is Black Friday. I can't actually recall when the term came to be. But I know I never woke up early (or got on a line the night before) to make sure I got to a store when it opened.

It's likely that I probably did stop by the Apple Store after catching a movie. But I don't believe I ever actually spent any money at a brick and mortar store on this day. Though it's possible I did some online shopping - though it was more likely on Cyber Monday that I spent some cash.

However, this does not make me give myself a pat on the back for being immune to the "consumerism" that surrounds Black Friday. I'm just not a fan of crowds and waiting on lines. I also don't typically shop at the stores that have the mad crush of people trampling one another for the "last" item.

I'm also of the belief that the sales aren't so terrific and am suspect about these deep discounts that are touted, which is why I'm not lured out of my comfortable home to the stampede.

The fact that these "Black Friday sales" are extended before and after the actual date gives less urgency to this pull toward consumerism. (Since when did a day become a month? An event?) And the fact that you can get spectacular deals on most everything almost every day of the week (and weekend) at all hours online also keeps that urge to Black Friday binge away.

So I am not at all immune to the lure of a sale - the Herman Miller semi-annual sale is going on right now and it's so very tempting - I'm just not drawn in by Black Friday deals.

And, had a boat been available on Friday and I didn't have to visit the vet's I would have definitely chosen, like last year, to OPT OUTSIDE with REI. Because connecting with nature, embracing the calm, and spending my money on an experience versus something that will end up in a landfill or in someone else's home in a few weeks, months, years is so much more rewarding.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Being Thankful

It has been a very tough year this past year so my personal list of things to be thankful for feels quite small as compared with years past. But even though the list has been reduced and I'm not feeling particularly thankful toward the universe, I know that I have a lot to be thankful for.

Choosing to strive for minimal is something to be very thankful for. There are so many people across the globe that are just hoping for a full belly, a roof over their heads, a safe night's sleep. Striving for minimal means that I have too much, that I can acquire more than I need, that I have the luxury of keeping things I don't need. And as much of a burden as it seems to have all this extra stuff, I am so grateful that I have this burden versus the opposite.

I am thankful for the fact that some of my loved ones are still in my life and that I have the chance to tell them I love them, spend time with them, embrace them. While it has been a year of loss, there are still those whom I very much love that I am endlessly thankful for and thankful to have even just another day with.

And I am thankful for the fact that this year I have finally "woken up" and taken a look at my life and looked around and am beginning to realize what is truly important to me. So that I can live a life with fewer regrets, with less time wasted on things that don't matter and with more time spent pursuing those things that do.

Monday, November 21, 2016

I Wish I Learned

I wish I learned at an early age that possessions don't matter as much as I thought they did.

I wish I learned that gifts from loved ones aren't as important as the people themselves and that getting rid of them doesn't equate to "getting rid of" the person.

I wish I learned that things don't make me happy but for a moment.

I wish I learned that those things I thought I loved and cherished would come to feel like a burden after decades of carting them around.

I wish I learned that having things belonging to a loved one does not bring an iota of comfort after the loved one has passed on.

I wish I learned that spending money on unnecessary things, things that I would tire of or things that wouldn't last, meant that I'd have less money saved for a rainy day or to spend on doing something I enjoy.

I wish I learned early on that having a few nice things is a lot better than having a bunch of not-so-nice things.

I wish I learned what was truly important to me versus what I thought mattered so that I wouldn't have wasted so much time chasing after something that was meaningless.

And while I have more than half my life ahead of me, and have plenty of time to make the changes that matter, I still have a lot to learn about myself and my values and have a long way to go before I figure out how to fully let go of those things I've been holding onto for so long.

And I can just hope that in 10, 15, 20, 30 years I don't look back at now and say, "I wish I learned..."

To be continued...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Binges and Purges - November 20, 2016

I got a little sidetracked today from my purging as I was happily destroying the remaining platters from the hard drives I'd dismantled a few weeks back. I had to buy a pair of snips from Home Depot, but it was so worth it to see them cut into tiny pieces.

Once I'm done with the destruction project - my guy may have another hard drive to get rid of - I will give away the snips to someone who can use them. But they are sure coming in handy.

Today's Binges


NONE. While the snips could be considered a binge, I'm opting not to call them one. They were a necessity if I wanted to destroy my hard drives (which I did) and so I'm putting them in the same category as the cleaning cloths, gorilla glue and scrub brush I needed.

Today's Purges



I have been carting around this vase for years. It is a mid-century design (which I love) but it's very small and I rarely buy flowers - certainly none that would fit in this vase - and so it's been sitting on the many cabinet shelves in the kitchens of the apartments in which I resided for the past twelve years.

I can't recall if I bought it or if it was a gift that I'd mentioned to my father that I wanted. I'm thinking I bought it as it was the most expensive version of this vase that I could afford at the time. And it was back when I was trying to acquire anything and everything mid-century without thinking about how it could be of use or of value.

And I still think it's an absolutely beautiful design and when I had open cabinetry it looked amazing on the shelf. But it serves no purpose, except maybe once or twice every three or four years, and I spend more time hand washing and drying it and packing it carefully each time I move.

So I'm attempting to sell it and if I get no takers I'll find someone to give it to that would love it. But I've made the emotional disconnect with it and I now consider it purged.



A few months back we acquired these glasses when having a couple of beers at Whole Foods. There was some kind of charity involved with the beer we were drinking that evening and so we received the beer glasses, a couple coasters, and a couple bottle openers with our donation.

I thought they were a great idea at the time and instead of leaving them behind I took them home. But we rarely drink beer at home and when we do it's typically out of the bottle. So after checking with my guy we are saying goodbye to these never used glasses.

***

I also purged quite a few digital clutter items, but as they aren't tangible I'm not listing them here.

And there are a few other items I plan on purging but haven't quite figured out how to get rid of yet. As I have too many to do's today and not enough time to do them all, I'm going to save that decision for the long holiday weekend ahead.

Oh, and on Friday and Saturday I was able to sell and offload all those CDs from an earlier purge. It's nice having that little bit of extra space from that bin in my closet, but more importantly it's nice not having to think about them anymore.

The Count


Binge Count: 0
Purge Count: 2

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Lists

I have lists for everything - money I owe to my guy, things I need to do at work, things my boss needs to do at work, things I need to think about, things I need to think about thinking about, and on.

I've made lists of things I've discarded, lists of music I remember liking years ago, lists of mistakes I need to correct, lists of things I need to read, lists of books I need to review. I've even made a list of all the things I own.

I also create lists of things I need to buy, things I wish I could buy, things I think I might want to buy, and so on and so on and so on.

Let me just say this: list-making is NOT a healthy habit.

I know this. And I know I do this beyond what is "normal" because I have this great fear of forgetting something. I also know that it would be more than okay to forget many of the things I think I need to remember.

But yet I haven't been able to stop making those darn lists.

So it has become one of my goals in this process to scale back on the list-making and to begin tossing the lists I have made - in Word, in Pages, in Excel, online.

Because if I really need something I shouldn't require a reminder. If I forget about something that's not important, I should allow myself to forget it. The only lists that matter are the ones involving finances or pending to do's at work.

And maybe I'll keep the list of "reminders" that my goal is to live simply,

To be continued...

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Keepsakes

The things I cling most tightly to are those that are associated with memories of loved ones past and present and events and experiences I had.

Photos and keepsakes take up a few/several bins in my closet and in my media cabinet. But fear of their damage means they're "cocooned" with no easy way to access them.

And I both love and hate that I have these items.

Some of them bring back fond memories of things I've done. Some of them bring back painful memories of what I've lost. And a few of them are forgotten moments that I'll likely never remember even with the reminder.

Some days I'm glad for these memories, both bad and good. Some days I wish I could just move beyond them and live my life forward.

It's worse in recent years with the ease of digital photography and video. Thousands of "memories" can be captured and collected never to be forgotten.

The collector in me loves that I have tens of thousands of images, several photo albums and a dozen or so scrapbooks. But the me that's striving for minimal wishes maybe I didn't have quite so much baggage.

Aside from the fact that I have to worry about, keep and clean and carry these items, there's a weighty emotional component attached to them.

With all these "reminders" memories can't fade over time. They are brought back with all the clarity they had moments after they happened. Instead of having a handful of memories of a time gone by, they are a huge presence in the present. And sometimes they're a tether to the past that won't let me move on.

In my years of attempting to simplify my life I've managed to chip away at the "heap" of keepsakes I'd toted around with me from place to place. But as the "heap" got smaller, it's become so much harder to reduce.

Perhaps if I were less of a gypsy and found a home with a nice, safe spot for them in a small, out of the way closet, I wouldn't think so much about these things. But that's not my life now, and isn't likely to be my life anytime soon. And so I obsess over these things, these memories, that aren't allowed to fade into my past.

I have digitized many of these items which should allow me the freedom to throw out the physical version as I have down with other items I've parted with. But yet I am not quite yet ready to trust the digital medium for these "treasures."

Most treasured are those that once belonged to someone or were given to me by someone no longer in my life. These, I suppose, are the most difficult to consider parting with as there are no future gifts or memories forthcoming from them.

As much as I try to remind myself that these are just things, I always counter with the fact that they are their things. And just the mere act of going through them brings on an enormous amount of pain and leaves me frozen, at a standstill.

I wish I could be less sentimental. I am fighting hard to be less clingy. But it has not been easy. Because I care deeply for those who have been important parts of my life and letting go or moving on is antithetical to who I am, who I've been. And somehow I've managed to get it all twisted up in my head that letting go of their things means I'm letting go of them.

Perhaps, for now, I'll set this battle aside. A Thursday evening does not seem the best time to attempt to tackle this problem.

And so I'll just have to take the few minutes needed to dust off the bins, move them aside to vacuum, and check to make sure that the protective wrap hasn't been breached on them and those in my media cabinet. And I'll just have to wish that next time I'll have a little more strength, a little more clarity and rationality and insight into myself to be able to finally chip away at the heap of keepsakes in my possession.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Stuff I Can't Do Without

I keep going back and forth on the answer to the question of what stuff I can't do without. Obviously I can't do without shelter, food, water or loved ones, but as far as stuff goes, I can never seem to answer that question definitively.

I'm fairly certain I couldn't do without a toothbrush, hairbrush, and the like. But I'm sure I don't need as nice a hairbrush as I have, and maybe I could get by with a comb.

But then I think that it's not about the bare minimum of what I could live with, but rather it's about the bare minimum of what I could live comfortably or "happily" without.

With that in mind, I can't do without my bed, bedding, desk, desk chair, sofa, sofa table, rugs, TV, computer, hard drives, Apple TV, Fire TV, dining table and chairs...and the list goes on until I remind myself of Steve Martin in "The Jerk."


And then I find myself in a position where I'm no better than I was ten years ago - gripping so tightly onto all the things I can't do without.

And it becomes one giant and endless circle.

Focusing instead on the idea of "my minimal" versus on the question of what I could live with or could live without has helped enormously.

Because it doesn't matter what stuff I could do without. The stuff isn't (and shouldn't be) important enough to matter or take up my thoughts. My stuff is there to be functional, to provide a comfortable environment to exist.

Even my most cherished possessions shouldn't be important enough to cause me angst. Because it's just stuff. It deteriorates. It breaks down. It fades. And it will never, ever, replace the actual experience or person it represents.

It's those actual experiences and my memories of those experiences and my loved ones that matter. Not their representations. And while it would be nice to have a few of them should my memory begin to fail or fade, not every memory or experience needs to remembered with such clarity. Because I can't move forward if I'm stuck in the past. Especially if those past memories or experiences are painful ones.

So, I suppose I could do without just about everything I own if I had to. I'd definitely need some other stuff to get by and be a functioning and hygienic member of society. But I'm okay with wanting a few more of those creature comforts and the knowledge that I can do without them if I had to.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Binges and Purges - November 13, 2016

I don't have any pics, though I did end up buying a few things this past weekend. A couple were needed, a couple were not. And I didn't end up purging anything of substance, though I tossed a few odds and ends.

The Binges


I purchased a new duvet and a pair of pillowcases this weekend, though they haven't yet arrived (or I'd have included a pic). They'd been on one of my "wish lists" for quite some time, but I'd refrained from purchasing them until I could justify the purchase.

While I need a new duvet (sort of) as my old duvet is beginning to fall apart, I have two other duvet covers. However one of them I've never liked and hope to give away, and the other just doesn't look right in my space and makes me grumpy when I see it.

Of course that still doesn't justify a new purchase, but with a new tear in the one existing duvet I do love, a price reduction online and an additional coupon reducing the price, I couldn't resist. And I am OK with this purchase.

What I should have resisted, however, were the two matching pillowcases as I don't typically like matchy-matchy bed sets. And what I should have purchased instead was the much needed fitted sheet to replace the one that got damaged in a washing machine incident.

I also purchased a couple of items with the gift card from my guy - a bottle of perfume to replace the one that was empty (needed) and a book (not needed). I will definitely use the perfume. And I hope that after perusing the book I will be able to pass it along to someone who will enjoy it as much as I did.

The Purges


None. I did not purge much of anything on Sunday. I threw away a few cables, cords, cd's, odds and ends, but nothing worthy of posting here in purges. It was more of a small clean up rather than a purge.

Though we did throw out a hot air humidifier that had seen its end of life (basically). But as that was community property it doesn't count as my purge.

The Count


Binge Count: 4
Purge Count: 0

Simplicity Through Sailing


When I'm in my apartment, surrounded by my stuff and overwhelmed by the number of things I have to do, it's often hard to find the calm and a challenge to remember the larger world that's out there.

It's hard to find simplicity when caught up in the day-to-day. Which is why I'm so thankful that I can spend (most) every Saturday on the water.


While sailing has its challenges - quite a few of them, actually - there is a simplicity to sailing that I can't find in anything I do on land.

Sailing requires me to focus on the moment. It requires me to be aware of my immediate surroundings at all times. It requires me to be aware of what might happen in the near future. It forces me to look up and out and around.

I need to know where the wind is, what the sea is doing, what weather is on the horizon. I need to know if there are obstacles or obstructions that might do me, my boat and my crew harm.

I want to know if there is any sea life to watch. I want to see the beauty in the water and the skies. I want see what the land looks like from afar. I want to imagine what it would be like to keep on sailing toward the horizon.

When sailing I don't have time to, and don't want to, check email, texts, tweets, posts and pics - though I often take quite a few. I don't have time to worry about my stuff. I don't have time to think about my to do's.

It is essential that I be in the moment, as any moment things can change - the wind can pick up or die, the seas can grow - and I have to be prepared to make the necessary changes on my boat to avoid danger.


There's no room for multitasking when it comes to sailing. There's little forgiveness when slacking off at the helm or on watch. And while there is often time for me to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings, it's always done with an alert eye for other vessels or hazards.

Each week when I go out to sail - whether with a crew, my guy or alone - it's like pressing the reset button on the frustrations and stresses that have built up during the week. I'm able to streamline my thoughts to just the tasks at hand for the four to nine hours I spend out on the water. I'm reminded of what truly is important to me. And I'm reminded of how few things I really need to get by.

Not every sail has fair winds and calm seas, but every sail gives me the chance to lose myself in a brand new adventure. No two sails are the same and so I have the opportunity to be surprised, grateful, excited each and every week.

I only wish I could find simplicity in some of the other things I do in life. But everything else seems to have a complexity that sailing just doesn't have.

To be continued...

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Minimal

I used to think minimalism equaled austerity. And while the idea of living like that held an appeal, I knew it wasn't possible for me. I have a guy. I have a cat. I like tech gadgets. I like being comfortable and so do they.

Living in a sparsely furnished apartment with little to distract sounds wonderful. But it isn't practical to the life I lead. And so minimalism was something I never took too seriously.

Though I've wanted to declutter. For years I've tried to pare down my possessions to an amount that made me feel "okay." But no matter what I did I was never able to reach "okay."

But upon rediscovering minimalism thanks to The Minimalists, I've learned that there is no hard and fast rule. I don't have to live someone else's minimal. I have to live my own.

And so I've been able to apply certain principles and come up with my own to create something that is workable. I've been able to recognize that decluttering is only a small part of the process which is why I've failed so often in the past. I've been able to set goals - a necessity for someone goal-oriented - to help keep me focused and give me something to strive for.

And I've been able to come up with what I call My Minimal.

My Minimal is a space that's free of clutter, free of items that are not used regularly or are unnecessary to have on hand.

My Minimal is a space that's surrounded by the things I enjoy looking at but one where every item has both form and function.

My Minimal is a space that doesn't have excess in the event of "what if."

My Minimal is a space that doesn't contain items from the past that are an emotional burden or are emotionally painful.

My Minimal is a mind free of mental clutter, free of worry about my things and other thoughts that aren't meaningful.

My Minimal is a life that is filled with moments and experiences worth remembering instead of time spent consuming things that are meaningless and stressing over things I have no control over.

My Minimal is a life stripped down to its most fundamental elements and built back up with only those people and things that add to my existence.

My Minimal is an existence where I am accepting of self, accepting of others, and accepting of the fact that in the universe my concerns are infinitesimal.

I am a long way from living My Minimal but at least, finally, now I am on my way.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Finding Peace In Chaos

For the past couple of days I have not been at peace. And it's not simply because of the emotional burden of my stuff. It's because the country has not been at peace. Everyone appears to be in a state of turmoil and unrest. Everything feels chaotic. There's so much negativity and hatred and fear. And it's been difficult to focus inward, to stay positive, to find the calm and quiet.

But I have been making every attempt to do so.

I have been avoiding social media as much as I possibly can. It's not that I want to turn a blind eye on the importance of what is happening, but I've reached the point where I just can't handle all the chatter and anger and I just need to block it out for awhile.

I have not had the energy to focus on my little problems, though I imagine that focus could be helpful right now. I am hoping to try and tackle some small project tonight just so that I can feel good about something.

I have been busy at work, which actually has been quite refreshing as it's a good busy. It has helped to keep my mind from becoming too noisy. Though I have not yet had the time to take a beat, to relax, to breathe. And if I am to keep my sanity and keep my calm I think I really need to.

Journaling on this blog has been helpful in keeping me focused on the right things. But, again, right now it's not enough to banish the feeling of unease.

What has worked best has been to spend what little free time I've had with my loved ones, talk with my guy, pet my cat, watch some mindless TV, and accept the fact that not every day is going to be a day where there's progress. Not every day is going to make me feel like I've accomplished something. Not every day is going to be a step toward the "finish line."

In the past my go-to response would have been to shop, to acquire something that made me feel calm for a moment and stressed for awhile. But even with all the upheaval I have managed to stay binge-free.

And while I may not at this moment be able to contribute and add value in some way to what has been going on in the world around me, I am hopeful of being able to do something positive for my world and develop the strength and calm needed to participate in that much larger space.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Moving Minimal

I've heard and read about The Minimalist's Packing Party story and I think it's an absolutely brilliant idea. Everyone I've ever spoken to has talked about how much clutter they get rid of when they move, but most people don't move very often.

So taking the time to pack up everything one owns (even if it is just one room at a time) and only removing what is needed is a great way to determine what is valuable and what isn't.

As someone who happens to move quite often, I am pretty aware of everything I have need of and everything I don't. And while I wouldn't mind a Packing Party just to test that awareness, I don't have the space to have one or a guy who'd be as amenable.

I wish I could be like that man with the backpack and his handful or two of things. But that's not my reality or my minimal and likely will never be. Besides, I don't know how "safe" I'd feel with everything that's important to me in a backpack which could so easily get lost or stolen. And I don't know how I'd react if that happened and I was left with nothing but what was on my body and in my pockets.

But as someone who has moved eight times in the last 11 years and has never once used a mover to do so, I am very appreciative of the ability to move minimal. And I was all sorts of ecstatic that my last two moves required only a car or van, though it took several trips to complete the move.

Not having a ton of stuff means not having to look through and decide on and pack a ton of stuff. It means not having a ton of stuff to worry about in transit. It means not having to find a place for said stuff in the new space.

For our last move we bought a dolly which was far cheaper than renting one for a few days. We purchased four large plastic tubs instead of buying bundles of boxes that would just go into the landfill. And while I may have used more movers wrap than should ever be allowed, it was so much easier to organize and clean everything, dump it straight into the tubs, seal it up with movers wrap, stack it on the dolly and roll it to our vehicle than putting together and taping up boxes of all different sizes and trying to balance them on a dolly or hand truck.

Of course we purchased new things when we moved into our new space to take the place of items donated or sold, so I imagine our next move might be a bit more complicated as there's no intent to purge and replace. But if I am finally able to pare down all those things I just haven't been able to let go of, that I've been clinging to for far too long, I am hopeful it will balance things out. I guess I'll find out with the next move.

But it would be nice if I could fit everything I own (exclusive of furniture) into the four tubs and transport it all in one trip, rather than having to make multiple journeys to and fro. That, to me, is my ideal for moving minimal.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sidebar: The Boat Test

I haven't posted too much on this (yet) but one of my favorite things to do is sail. It's so freeing. It brings me peace. It let's me experience the world in a different way. It opens my eyes up to the beauty around me. It makes me focus on what's important and not on my stuff.

And because I love sailing so much I often dream of living on a boat. This is an unlikely eventuality as my guy and cat aren't down for that. But a girl can dream.

And because I am a bit obsessive about things, my "dreams" extend beyond just a general fantasy of living on a boat. I think about the things I own and what would stay and what would go if that dream were to ever become a reality.

As no lives would be in danger - unlike in The Fire Drill Test - a lot more thought has gone into this. It would require a serious paring down of stuff - mostly the unimportant stuff - but because not everything that is truly important to me could exist on a boat there would have to be some kind of locker or storage facility or safety deposit box on land for safekeeping of my most valuable possessions.

The Things That I'd Bring

  1. All my sailing gear - which includes clothing, safety equipment, tools, etc.
  2. All my clothes - I don't have all that much as it is and if this were my residence I'd need it all
  3. Laptop and portable hard drive
  4. Cell phone, charger, head phones and battery backup
  5. Kindle and charger
  6. Bed linens and pillows (just two sets)
  7. Towels (set for me + set for guy)
  8. Hygiene products - brushes, toothbrushes, etc.
  9. Cat accessories - bed, litterbox, food and water bowls, toys, brush
  10. Kitchen accessories - tea kettle, pans (2), pots (2), silverware (set), spatula, ladle, pasta fork, bottle opener, tongs, utility knife, cutting board, tumblers (4), pot holders (2), dish towels (2), cleaning rags/clothes (6), cereal containers (2), measuring cups (1), strainer
  11. Tools - hammer, measuring tape, flashlight, level, awl, screw drivers, etc.

The Things That I'd Buy

  1. Dishes, mugs and glassware - the kind that don't break*
  2. Food storage containers
  3. A waterproof safe (for key items that have to be kept on hand)
  4. A large iPad with cellular capabilities
  5. Small bedside fan
  6. Toaster oven
  7. Coffee press - the kind that doesn't break*
  8. Small handheld vacuum
  9. A small wall TV - if one didn't already come with the boat
  10. A microwave - if one didn't already come with the boat
  11. Kitchen lighter
  12. Boat insurance

The Things That I'd Purge

  1. All furniture - don't need it if I'm on a boat
  2. All artwork and wall hangings/clocks, hooks, coat racks - again, not seaworthy
  3. TV and TV accessories
  4. Dishes, glasses and mugs, and other kitchen items not listed in the "keep" section*
  5. Air purifier, table fan
  6. Toaster*
  7. Shoe rack
  8. phone charger stands
  9. Bread box
  10. Inbox
  11. Lamps

The Things That I'd Store Off the Boat

  1. Keepsakes (the ones that remain after the purge)- scrapbooks, photo albums, mementos
  2. Important papers - taxes, licenses, etc.
*Of course if I were to get a 64 foot luxury sailing yacht (though even in dreams I don't dream that big) I'd probably have a way to store some more of my kitchen items like glasses, stoneware and plates so I might not purge them all.

There are not a lot of things that are needed to live comfortably on a boat. All the furniture is built in. The "art" is the view out the window when on the water.

I spend most of my time when indoors reading, watching TV, listening to music, using the computer, talking with my guy, playing with my cat. If I were to live on a boat I imagine I'd do the same but do much more of it while sitting outside. And I'd spend much more time out on the water enjoying the fact that my home was so portable.

By taking the boat test from time to time it makes me realize how little I actually care for my furniture, though much of the time I think it is so very important. But I'd sell or donate it all in a heartbeat if my guy ever said, "Let's buy a boat and live on it."

I'd get a safety deposit box for my most important papers. And I'd get a marine locker for my bin or two of most cherished keepsakes that are only valuable to me.

It's really not so different from the tiny home experience except for the need for extreme waterproofing of items not meant to be wet, and careful stashing of things so as not to be brained by them when underway.

So, I suppose if tiny home living was my thing, I'd do a Tiny Home Test versus a Boat Test to see what stayed and see what went.

The Things I Need

I used to think often of the things I "needed" - things like dishes and linens and furniture and accessories. In trying to quiet my brain and simplify my life I've attempted to recognize the difference between want and need and then exorcise as many of the wants from my life as possible. It's a continuous battle at the moment. I hope someday it won't even be a footnote to my life.

Now I think of the things I need in more meaningful ways:
  • I need my loved ones to be okay
  • I need enough money for food and shelter and medical expenses and emergencies and the future
  • I need to be content with how I spend what time I have on this earth
  • I need to accept myself as I am - many flaws and all - and accept those I choose to keep in my life 
  • I need to find joy whenever I can to combat those less than joyful moments
And I have come to recognize the needs which have - and continue to - influenced my wants:
  • I need control over my environment - and I exercise this control by ordering my space exactly as I want it ordered
  • I need to feel safe - so I create a "nest" in my environment and surround myself with all my things
  • I need "nice" things - because I'm at the point in my life where I feel like I've earned the right, I can afford them, and I like them so why should I accept anything less
  • I need to stress about the possibility of acquiring things or about the things I have acquired - when I have too much time on my mind it needs to focus on something after all
  • I need the rush - of purchasing something new, waiting for that something new to arrive, unwrapping that something new, adding that something new to my collection of stuff
Because I know that I have no real control over my environment. Disasters happen. Time happens. Control is just an illusion. As is feeling safe because I have stuff. Stuff (for the most part) doesn't keep me safe - it may make me comfortable, or keep me warm and dry - but only a handful of my possessions will actually keep me safe in an emergency situation.

And while it's not wrong to like nice things, I have come to realize that it's not about what I do and don't deserve or have earned the right to. My things are not trophies or markers of my successes. They are there to be functional, to serve a purpose. And while quality is important, as is the beauty of an object, just because something is nice doesn't mean I need to aquire it.

I have also come to terms with the fact that I'm a worrier. If I wasn't stressing about something I'd likely be stressing about something else. I don't know that this aspect of my personality will ever change. But I am trying to adopt that mantra about not fretting about the little things. And stuff is definitely one of the least important things in my life. It doesn't last forever. I can't take it with me. It doesn't love me back. And I'll likely fall out of love with it before it falls apart.

In fact, I dented my dresser the other day while putting something away. In the past it would have bothered me endlessly, been a visual reminder of its now imperfect state. It would prompt me to go seeking a replacement. Even though it's just a dent. Even though it's still a lovely, solid wood, quality dresser. Even though it still functions. For the very first time I can accept the flaw in the object. I can accept my responsibility in damaging it. I can be okay with it as is and not stress over what happened to it. I think that's progress.

When I feel that "need" for the rush building, I read a blog or book, listen to a podcast, watch a documentary to remind myself that the rush is only temporary, that even if I were to succumb to a purchase that glorious feeling would only be fleeting.

And I remind myself of the things I actually need and how buying the things I don't could prevent me from having some of the things I do.

Ack! Change definitely requires a lot of work. But "they" always say that nothing is easy, and I have to say that they're right. But I think the end result will be worth it.

To be continued...

Monday, November 7, 2016

Binges and Purges - November 6, 2016

I did, in fact, take the day off on Friday. And I also took the day off on Saturday - though we did hit the stores as my guy needed a few things.

It was nice to have something else to focus on beside my need to simply. Though on Sunday it was back to "work."

Sunday's Binges

I did end up purchasing (on Amazon) one small puzzle toy for my cat that I saw on someone's instagram. I probably shouldn't have been so susceptible to this alternate form of advertising but I thought it would be something my cat would enjoy. She's been tough to please with all but one of the toys she's had, so I'm hopeful this will help to keep her body and mind active.

Sunday's Purges



My guy and I have had this CD collection for quite some time. I think we got our first CD back in the '90s and have been building it up since then. But as technology changed we opted to buy digital versions of the songs in our collections and so our CD collection has remained virtually unchanged for the past seven or eight years.

And we've been carting this heavy container of CDs (which used to live on a much larger shelving unit before we digitized them all) around with us for each of our moves. Well, I/we are finally ready to let them go.

While the bin is still, technically, in my possession, I have listed it for sale and if that doesn't work I'll give them away to friends and family.

I've let it go mentally so I consider it purged. And while there are over 300 discs in the bin, I'm just calling this one purge.

I also ditched a number of "homemade" CDs that I'd burned awhile back, but I won't count those toward my purge even though I am so glad to finally be done with that task.

My guy cleared up some tech clutter as well, which makes me all sorts of happy, though he's not on the same journey as I am and will continue to amass random technology clutter.

The Count

Binge Count: 1
Purge Count: 1

What I'm Passionate About

The other night I listened to an amazing podcast at RichRoll.com with Minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn. As I listened to it I felt my mind become quiet, which was such a relief after a few stressful days at work.

During the podcast he talked about all sorts of things that resonated with me, a few things that didn't but that opened my eyes up to new ways of looking at things, and he talked about being identified by one's job.

And that really got me thinking.

Because I often get asked the question, "What do you do?" And I find it difficult to answer much of the time. I can go on and on about what the company I work for does, but when it comes time to talking about what I do, I often mumble a few words and change the subject.

It's not that I dislike my job. But it's my job, it's not me. It's now how I define myself. In actuality, I don't particularly like being defined or labeled. I find it limiting. I find it puts me in a box. And I certainly don't like being defined by what I do for a living.

Joshua Fields Millburn mentioned that he'd asked people what they're passionate about vs. what they do. And when I thought about it, a bunch of things popped into my mind.

What am I passionate about?

Sailing. And reading. And writing. And watching films. And spending time with my guy and my cat. And learning new things. And discovering new places.

Sailing

Anyone I sail with knows I could go on for hours about the different experiences I had out on the water. Anyone I chat with on land knows this about me too.

There's just something so magical about being out on the water, being free of the land, and being controlled by wind and waves.

It forces me to be in the moment - I rarely take out my cell phone unless it's to take a picture or alert my guy that all is okay. It calms me. It makes me appreciate that there's a much larger world out there than the one I live in most days. It makes me realize just how tiny I am in comparison.

And it makes me look around. I now notice the wind in the trees. Heck, I notice that there are trees. I notice the clouds moving across the sky. I look up, and out, and around. I see things I never used to.

I only discovered sailing three years ago, after years of thinking I wasn't "sailor material." But I took a chance and found something I love so much, that brings me joy and peace. And it has made me realize how little I actually need to be happy.

Reading

I have always loved reading. From the time I was little and forced my father to read to me from "Book." I loved stories. I loved imagining them to life in my head. I loved escaping into them when times got tough. I loved their magic.

At one point in my life I used to surround myself with my books, because that's what my father did. I'd always believed books to be valuable. If you had books you were rich. But also, like what was mentioned in the podcast, I used books to let others define me. If someone walked into my space they knew exactly who I was: I was a reader.

And just like in the podcast, I did come to the realization awhile back that I don't need a space crammed with books to be a reader. And I didn't, and don't, need people to see me as a reader by virtue of simply stepping into my space.

I'm happy sharing my love of books through conversation. And I'm just as happy if no one knows how much I like to read, because I know.

Writing

I actually have a love-hate relationship with writing. I'm passionate about doing it, but I also realize it forces me to be too internal. When writing I'm so focused on the words flowing through my head that I'm trying to force into some semblance of order before they make it to the page that I lose all sorts of time that could be spent connecting with people, living and experiencing.

I tend to obsess over things and become laser-focused on whatever I'm doing. When writing I crawl into my head and sometimes don't come out for days or weeks. Which is not something I've wanted to do lately. I've wanted and needed to be present. So I've kept my writing to short blog posts instead of short or long stories and have tried to find joy in that.

Going to the Movies

I love going to the movies. I have for as long as I could remember. While not every film is good or worth the $15 to $20 per ticket they charge these days, the act of going to see a film always makes me happy. I love sitting down in a theatre waiting for the larger-than-life action to happen on screen.

While they're beginning to perfect the technique of the at-home theatre experience, it just isn't the same as going out to see a movie. It's still just a fancy version of watching TV and for me it will never replicate the act of actually viewing a movie in a movie house.

I've seen thousands of movies in my lifetime, and remember most, if not all, of them. I love discussing movies - their merits, their weaknesses, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the score. They will never replicate the experience of reading a book, but movies have their very own magic.

Minimalism?

So how exactly does this tie into minimalism? Well, for me, it's about focusing on the things I love to do and experience and to spend my hard-earned money on these things and not the "stuff" that over-fills a space.

It's about recognizing what really makes me happy versus what gives me a temporary high.

My life may not be as purposeful or meaningful as some. My interests may lean more toward self-interest. But as far as I know I only have this one life to live. Time seems to move quicker than it used to. And I have to find a way to live a life that I can look back on one day and feel like I actually lived.

For now, minimalism is helping me find my peace, my center, my path.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Forgetting What Home Means

All my life I think I've been confused about what "home" means.

At various times I've equated it with residence - the place I live/reside. Sometimes I think of it as a place that's "mine," where I'm surrounded by my stuff, where I feel the most safe. Sometimes it's a place that I hope someday to have - as in "someday I'll buy a house that I can call home and put my roots down."

But the most important definition, the one I am constantly forgetting, is that home is my guy and my cat(s).

My apartment wouldn't be home if they didn't exist to come home to. My life wouldn't feel safe or complete or happy without them. My residence would be just a roof over my head.

My stuff doesn't factor in at all.

Though I seem to forget that every time I move and have to "rebuild" my environment.

Moving is unsettling. Changing ones environment brings all kinds of stresses. So perhaps that's why I forget what home means for a time. But I wish I had the capacity to remember, as up until now moving has been the biggest catalyst for shopping for stuff.

And as I move so often, it amounts to a lot of stuff.

If I were to be reminded of what home means to me, what it really means to me, I wouldn't need to "nest" in quite the same way. I wouldn't feel like something was missing or not right because I'd know that no matter where I went my home would be with me.

I've moved so often that it surprises me that I get confused. I would have thought that by now I'd realize that the place I live is just a temporary way station. I'm not certain why I become so invested in making a space "home" when I know I'm only going to be there for a short while and then it will become someone else's "home."

I'd often wondered if this misplaced definition of home came about because my family moved so often when I was a child that I never felt secure. Or because I came from a "broken home." Or because, unlike my guy, I never had a childhood home waiting in the wings for me if I ever needed to retreat there.

It's definitely possible.

But I like to think of myself as rational and thoughtful and capable of learning and growing. And so I would have hoped that I'd have come to the realization about what home truly is earlier in life, been excited about the changes in my environment and nomadic lifestyle instead of angst-filled, and been okay with whatever possessions I brought along, even if they didn't quite "fit" with the look of each new place.

Loss is even more unsettling.

Losing loved ones has caused more than a few setbacks. But I've come to recognize that when I lose someone who is truly meaningful to me, I attempt to fill that gaping hole of loss with objects that might be more permanent. And while it may be important for me to behave in this way at that time as part of the grieving process, it is destructive. And I hope that in future when the next tragedy hits I will be aware that no amount of objects could ever replace the person or being.

These days whenever I look around my space and feel dissatisfied with something about it, I take a beat and repeat to myself, out loud:

"This sh*t is not home. This space is not home. Nothing I could buy to fill it will ever make it home. It's just temporary. It's not what's important."

And half the time it works.

And when it doesn't, I try to distract myself by texting my guy, petting my cat, reading a book, planning my next sailing trip.

It's easy to forget what home means when the shows I watch on TV equate it with a house, when the emails I receive equate it with the possessions that fill said house, and when the idea of pointing to my guy when asked about my home feels ridiculous.

Though it really shouldn't. Hmmm, maybe I'll try that next time.

To be continued...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Collections

Once upon a time I read somewhere that people like to collect things and that they like to have complete collections. I also read somewhere that when people have collections, others add to those collections when it's time to buy the collector a gift.

I don't know if this is true for everyone, but all three statements apply to me. I love/loved to collect things - DVDs, CDs, books, chairs, dishware, shoes, purses, bed linens, stamps, coins, matchbooks, ticket stubs, sports memorabilia, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And once I started to collect something the collection had to be complete - so ALL the seasons of a particular TV show even if I stopped watching the show, ALL the films in a franchise even if I didn't like one or more of them, ALL the books by a particular author even if their earlier (or later) works weren't to my taste. The idea of having an incomplete collection was almost worse than having no collection.

Of course all these collections took up a ton of space. Space I didn't have.

Then, of course, people would visit and see these collections and make assumptions based on them. So the next time a holiday or birthday rolled around that required gift-giving, someone would add to the collection or buy something similar in the hopes that I'd start a new collection. "You like antique china? Well then you must like antique silverware. Or you like movies by Ridley Scott? Well you'll love movies by Joss Whedon." And so on.

And it's just so easy to collect when there are so many places to buy things and so many things to buy.

When I was in law school I was enamored with the history of objects even though I didn't particular like used things. But collect I did. And so those antique or vintage bone china teacups took pride of place in my cupboards. As did those solid silver spoons. And vintage fabric pillows. And vintage tables. And chairs. And cabinets. And things I had no idea what their purpose or function was, but they were vintage, they had history, so I had to have them.

I'd go to flea markets to look for affordable finds. There was a great store that opened up nearby that I'd spend hours walking through in hopes of finding something I could afford.

I collected so many cups, and dishes, and spoons, and linens, and glassware, and teapots, and mirrors that I had no space left to enjoy any of them. But still I added to the collection.

I don't like giving up on things. I think that's why it's hard for me to abandon a collection. And it's even harder for me to be happy having an incomplete collection. Thankfully, when iTunes prompts me regularly to complete my collection of songs and TV shows, I have been able to ignore it. Mostly. At least with digital collections, they're not always in my line of sight.

These days my collections are fewer. I'm trying very hard to resist my urge to collect chairs - yes, it's odd, but I just love so many of the mid-century modern chair shapes and designs - and I'm trying to keep my George Nelson clock collection from getting out of control - currently I have just four Nelson clocks, but I would not mind having a few of his more expensive clocks in my collection. (And, no, I am not obsessed with time per se, I just really think of his clocks as art pieces and I love the look of their shadows on the wall when the light hits them from different angles.)

And I still collect ticket stubs (mostly movies), which I paste haphazardly into a scrapbook with the other keepsake tidbits from my life. I'm not quite as rigorous about keeping stubs as I used to be, but I just can't seem to give up the habit after so many years.

And it would be very easy for me to discover a new thing to collect - vintage charts, Vitra miniatures (yes, I just got a newsletter about a sale on these items), Le Creuset cookware in different colors, and on and on and on.

Clearly there's something in me that still likes the idea of collecting. Perhaps it's having a never-ending list of things, or perhaps it's perpetually being in a state of want or angst or dissatisfaction.

Knowing this, and knowing what my goal is, I'm trying instead to "collect" things to do/achieve. And even if they aren't possible in the very near future, I'm hoping that the less time and money spent on collecting those other things will mean that I can do and achieve these new things sooner.

My To Do/Achieve List:

  • Crew on a 36-hour non-stop sail
  • Sail to Santa Barbara and back
  • Complete those three short stories I started
  • Write a novel
  • Crew on a sail to Hawaii
  • Figure out what I want to be when I grow up
  • Go on an adventure with my guy
  • Be more active
  • Go to Book Expo America
  • ...
To be continued...

Friday, November 4, 2016

Sidebar: The Dinner Table

For years I thought I needed a dinner table. When filling my first apartment with stuff I was insistent on having one. Even though the space was small and cramped. Even though there was no real place to put it. And even though I never ate at a dinner table, except once or twice a year.

A few years back I finally moved into a space that had absolutely no room for a table. Not even dismantled and stored flat-packed. So I sold it and proceeded to live table-free for nearly five years.

Then we moved to a space that was much, much larger, that not only could accommodate a table, but that almost demanded one. There was nothing else that could exist in that space and it felt just so odd without it.

So we purchased a table to fill that empty space. And it rendered the counter stools we'd also purchased useless. But my guy would occasionally eat a meal at the table and my cat liked to sit beneath the table, so its existence in my life was somewhat justified.

We only lived in that space for a year and are now residing in a much smaller space again. However this space has enough room for a table and a designated place for its existence.

The difference this time, though, is that instead of that table being a space filler, it's now a place for conversation. I no longer eat most meals on the sofa while watching television. My guy and I sit and enjoy our breakfast together and talk before we go off to our respective jobs. Many nights we sit and eat dinner at the table together.

The dinner table has become this place to connect, a place to share our lives, instead of just a piece of furniture. And it means that most days I don't even turn the television on until the evening when I need a little mindlessness.

I wish I'd recognized what a table could be during those years I so desperately felt the need to have one. I'm just happy I've found a way to turn something useless into something meaningful, that adds to my life.

The Digital Clutter

Throughout the reduction process thus far I'd focused solely on objects that took up physical space. When CDs and DVDs and Blu-rays became too burdensome I opted for digital versions. When photographs became too troublesome to worry about containing I digitized them.

And then I backed everything up. And backed it up again. And again. And again.

Because the issue with things in digital format is that they aren't tangible, they could be so easily deleted, erased or corrupted. So you can't just have one copy of the file. You need a few, in different places. Just. In. Case.

And so I purchased a backup hard drive. Then another. Then another. Or I burned things to CD or DVD in the event the hard drives failed.

And of course I had more than one computer, more than one eReader, more than one electronic device - iPad, iPhone, iPod, etc. - more than one digital camera that needed backing up.

So, as my physical space was beginning to clear out, my digital space was getting pretty cluttered. I had a stack of hard drives, an album of backup CDs, computers filled with random things I'd downloaded and didn't immediately address. I had a dropbox filled with graphics created for me.

I had duplicates upon duplicates upon duplicates of images and files and videos and audio clips.

And it began to stress me out even more than the clutter in my physical space.

So I reduced the number of devices - gone went the digital cameras, the old iPods, the multiple eReaders, the unused iPad. I reduced the number of hard drives - by purchasing larger hard drives and moving the files onto them. I reduced the number of computers - I only need one computer, not three.

And for a time I felt better. Because it initially felt like I'd done something major. It felt like there was less. But only kinda sorta.

Because those three or four hard drives contained a sea of digital debris. And not only were there multiple copies of the same things, they weren't easy to identify as duplicates. Because they were named differently, or downloaded at different times. There was no system in place and so things were saved willy nilly. It was (and still is) a digital disaster.

This past summer I finally decided to devote my time to organizing my digital clutter. I came up with a system that would work. I spent days and days checking and cross-checking certain photos and videos and graphics and documents to make sure I had just one copy then discarded the remainder.

Needless to say I did not finish the project. But at least I was on the path. Then, just last month, I found another hard drive and computer loaded with stuff that would have to be checked. Over 30,000 items to check and file or discard.

And it's been such a punch to the gut.

But it's also made me think.

I'm spending hours and days and weeks going over digital items from my past that I clearly didn't care all that much about in the first place, or didn't really need or I would have accessed them since then.

I see now that I'm wasting so much time I could be doing something meaningful dealing with something not very meaningful.

I already know I have all my important photographs and videos and audio clips sorted and accounted for. So why am I checking through all this other stuff that doesn't really matter to me?

Is it just because it's mine? Is it just because I purchased it and ditching it will make me feel like I wasted my money? But that can't be, because these small items are a fraction of the cost of any items I've bought for my household that I got rid of without much thought. Maybe it's because they'll be deleted versus donated and they won't have value for anyone anymore?

And if they served a purpose for me at one time or another but no longer do, why am I so dearly hanging onto them? Why am I not applying the principles of my physical stuff to my digital stuff?

I have no good answer to any of these questions. Because the exact same principles should apply. If they're no longer useful or meaningful it's time to let them go.

So, with this fresh outlook on digital clutter I am hopeful of tackling the remainder of the project with a bit more speed, a bit less carefulness, and a bit more severity.

I don't need screenshots of cute images I've discovered on the internet. I don't need countless lists of things I once wanted to acquire. I don't need reminders of things I haven't yet done, receipts of purchases I've made, transcripts of customer service chats.

Once - not if but once - I have my data properly sorted I will try to tackle all that data online and in the cloud. Because I don't really need so many email accounts. I don't need a wish list at Amazon filled with things I might someday want to buy. I don't need all those thousands and thousands of email messages, most of them suggesting I take advantage of the latest sales.

In order to feel unencumbered by my stuff I can't neglect all things digital. So as I strive for minimal I also have to find a way to decrease my digital footprint and keep it small and clear.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Binges and Purges - November 3, 2016

I almost didn't have a binges and purges post for today as I was quite busy with work and other pressing matters and didn't have time to think about bingeing or purging.

And then I spent a part of my evening listening to a phenomenal podcast featuring one of The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn, which helped keep me focused on the positive changes I was making in my life.

Today's Binges

NONE. Even though I did receive an email from Shabby Chic with some beautiful images of holiday decorations which caught my eye. (No, I don't plan on having a tree and had sold my pink feather tree some years back so have zero need for ornaments and such.)

Today's Purges


I had this carpet tile area rug on the side of my bed for some months and I never liked it. The color was just wrong for the space (something I didn't know until after I'd purchased it and assembled it). And so I bought some new tiles - that I knew I would love - over a month ago to replace it and also create a similar rug on my guy's side of the bed.

But I wasn't quite ready to let this carpet go. Because it was in good shape. It had a nice pattern. And even though I didn't like it I was clinging to it in the hopes that maybe it would grow on me. It didn't.

So finally, tonight, I lifted it out, assembled the two new area rugs, and moved my guy's small round rug to a new location, and disposed of this rug and another small runner I had replaced but hadn't quite gotten the motivation to toss until now. (As it was already dismantled for some time I didn't take a snap.)

As tomorrow is Friday I might take the day off from purging. However, if I end up bingeing I will be sure to create a post.

The Count

Binge Count: 0
Purge Count: 2

Sidebar: Tips and Tricks #2

One of the most effective ways I've found to keep me on track with my goal of simplifying my life, getting rid of my unneeded possessions, and being happy with what I do have, is to clean or think about cleaning.

Some people get great comfort from the act of cleaning. Me, not so much. It's a chore. It's a task that will never have a beginning or an end. Things will always get dirty and need to be cleaned again. There is no done. It's just done for now. The reward lasts for mere moments. Take dusting for example - by the time you've "finished" dusting an item or area, new dust has settled.

So...

The more possessions you have, the more things there are that need to be cleaned or kept clean. When you look around your space and think about all that needs to be done in order for that space to be clean, does it seem like a daunting task or an easy one? For me, it seems daunting.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so when I think about cleaning it's not just a light dusting and vacuuming and wipe up that are on the list. Things must be removed from cupboards. Couch cushions must be upended and vacuumed. Electronics must be moved so the furniture beneath can be dusted. Furniture must be moved so the floors and walls and baseboards can be properly cleaned.

When I think about all that needs to be done with the things I already have in my space, the idea of adding something else to the mix becomes a turnoff. Why add something that will need to be moved, dusted, polished, taken care of? Why add something that I'll have to think about moving, dusting, polishing or taking care of?

Just take a look around at all that you already have in your space that needs to be kept clean when you're thinking about adding to your list of stuff.

Then, do a search online for minimalist interiors and look at some of those spaces and just imagine how easy it is to keep those spaces clean. Imagine if your space was that easy to be kept clean.

Binges and Purges - November 2, 2016

I'm a day late, but here are yesterday's binges and purges. I thought about just skipping the post but then I wouldn't be journaling honestly.

Plus, I'm sort of afraid bad habits will start to form and I'll just randomly skip days when I've binged more than I've purged. So, in an attempt to be honest with myself, here are my binges and purges for "today."

Today's Binges


So I dd end up purchasing that CD case for my guy's video games. I just couldn't help myself. Right now all his games are in clear plastic CD envelopes, are in a place not anywhere near the game console, and are difficult for him to access. So that he might have a more convenient storage solution, one that can be kept in a place that makes sense, I ended up purchasing this slim case.

Its max capacity is 32, so I'm hopeful if he does fill it up, before getting a new game he'll sell or give away one of the older ones.

Today's Purges



I actually love (hmmm I really need to think of another word for this, love should be reserved for people and beings not objects) this coffee press by Stelton. But after only six months of use the plunger started to fail and it allowed too many grits into to cup. While I would have purchased an identical replacement, my guy thought we should try one of the traditional glass presses. And so I purchased a Bodum French Press a couple of months ago. But I just couldn't bring myself to throw this one out.

But unnecessary duplicates are not part of my minimalism and so I finally let it go after one last use.

I purchased this thermos/tumbler from REI a few years back and got a total of one use out of it. It was too complicated to clean, too tricky to fill and use on a moving sailboat, and didn't store enough hot beverage for it to be really useful as a thermos. But instead of letting it go years ago, I've been carting it with me in the hopes that I'd have a use for it. Even after I bought new tumblers that function as I need them to.

Its presence had been plaguing me for too long. And so I finally took it out of the cupboard and said goodbye.

The Count

Binge Count: 1
Purge Count: 2

Buying More On the Path to Less

I wish I could say that with every item purged a new item didn't take its place. But I can't. Some items get purged without being replaced with something shiny and new. Some items get purged without me buying something completely different to fill some other void. But much of the time when I get rid of something or somethings I end up buying something or somethings.

It's like a twisted rewards system: Because I did good by letting something go I deserve something. And instead of giving myself a pat on the back or treating myself to an experience, I treat myself to a trip to Amazon or my favorite online store, Design Within Reach. I stalk the auctions on eBay for furniture I don't need. Or I peruse the newest cookware on Williams-Sonoma.

I don't need anything from DWR or W-S. I certainly don't need any discounted chairs from DWR's eBay Outlet site. And I don't often need anything from Amazon aside from new books to read on my Kindle. Though I don't really need more of those as I have hundreds of unread books waiting for my attention. But reading and eBook buying is a guilty pleasure that actually brings me joy, not stress, so I'm not inclined to modify this habit at the moment.

But even though I don't need any of these things, not really, I somehow convince myself that I do. And then I fill that empty space I just created with something I may or may not have a use for.

"It's on my list," I say to myself as I hit that oh-so-easy "click to buy" button. "I've been thinking about it for ages," I say. "I've wanted this X. I need this X. I won't stop thinking about this X until I buy this X. And besides," I add, "if I buy it, then it will be off my list and I'll be one step closer to DONE."

But the list doesn't shrink. It grows. Because there's always some other item I "need." There's always something new that I "must" buy. And it doesn't end.

As I've mentioned previously, each time I move I "have" to buy things that will fit that next space. Sometimes I've "had" to buy things because the space "required" them - a dinner table, bar stools, patio furniture. Sometimes I've "had" to buy things again because previously I'd discarded them - a sofa, a dinner table, dining chairs, an armchair, a dresser, a TV stand.

While in the back of my mind my goal has always been to have a clutter-free space with breathing room - a space that required little maintenance, next to no worry - I've somehow managed to forget that with every single move. The urge to make a "perfect" space always took precedence.

My desire to have things always look "right" and feel "right" won out over my need to have my space feel "good" and myself feel "happy."

On my quest to be free of the many burdens of my possessions I've managed to acquire if not as many possessions, definitely new possessions to worry about, to fret over, to be frustrated by and with.

I've continued to purchase my way to more on my path to less and therefore am never quite reaching my ultimate goal, never being content, satisfied or happy.

I've been my own saboteur.

But I'm finally starting to listen to that other voice that truly wants to live minimally. I'm finally starting to realize that buying things does not make me happy but for a moment. I'm starting to listen to the experts who have said time and time again that I'm doing exactly what the advertisers want - to buy something I don't really need, to replace something with something new and shiny that doesn't need replacing, to want something I don't really want.

And I am finally buying less on my path to less. But I am still buying - a habit I hope to curtail in the very near future.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sidebar: Tips and Tricks #1

For someone like me, who is still at heart a consumer, staying on the path to minimal isn't easy. There are so many pitfalls.

I wish I could be like those people who come to the realization, make the change, and live the life. Unfortunately for me, I'm not.

In order that I don't completely backslide and give in to that other part of myself that wants the shiny and new, that wants to nest, that believes that stuff=happiness, I have to be cognizant of my thoughts, my decisions, my actions.

Here are a few tips and tricks I use to keep myself from failing:

Unsubscribe

Merchants today want you to subscribe - even brick and mortar stores will ask for your email address when you make a purchase. They'll not only add you to their lists so that you'll receive daily (and sometimes more frequent than that) emails about their products, they'll sell your email to other merchants who will attempt to lure you in, make you want something new.

Since I've unsubscribed from all but a handful of email newsletters I've definitely noticed a change in my level of craving. I've wanted fewer things. I haven't had the urge to purchase. I haven't felt deprived in some way.

Delete without reading

You don't have to look at every single email that comes your way from merchants. Even if you want to stay subscribed for that time when you need to make a purchase and want a coupon or news of a sale, you don't have to read every single email they send.

I used to feel like I might be missing out on a deal if I didn't read the email. Or I'd be missing out on knowing about a new product if I didn't click open that message. But now that I just delete in bulk, without reading, I realize that the only thing I'm missing out on is wanting something I don't need.

Don't bring it in

Whether you live in a home or an apartment your mailbox is typically outside of your residence. Whether you like it or not you probably get catalogs for things you might want, things you don't want and things you don't yet know that you want. Unless it is a catalog you've been waiting for, don't bring it in. As on-point as they are, with their glamorous photos and alluring deals, it is so much better to ditch them before they ever cross your threshold. Walk them straight to the nearest garbage can or recycle bin without even cracking them open. Yes, it's a waste of paper, but if you brought it in and bought something you didn't need it becomes a waste of money.

I used to convince myself that I only wanted to peruse catalogs to get ideas, to see what was out there. But all they made me do was think about stuff - whether the stuff they were selling or some other, related, stuff I wanted. They made me think about what I didn't have and what I should have. They opened up the possibility for more.

Tossing catalogs without looking at them was painful at first. But now, just a few weeks after rigidly adhering to this practice, I don't feel bad. I don't miss them. I don't miss not knowing about stuff that might be worth buying that I definitely don't need.

Don't use the replacement until you're prepared to replace the old

When you buy something new to replace something old, it's easy to forget that the reason for the purchase was to replace that something old. So you get the new something and you keep the old something and now you have two. And the longer you use them both the harder it is to let the old one go.

So, I've only just recently started to follow this "rule" but it has made such a difference. Because seeing that new item sitting there unused is much more of a motivation to get rid of the old one. And while there is sometimes an overlap in that I want to make sure the new one works, I will move the old item to a "pending purge" location so it is no longer in rotation. But for any item that doesn't need a "trial period" I get rid of the old before unpacking the new.

How I Started to Purge

Slowly. One item at a time.

I started with the least "meaningful" stuff, stuff I was tired of, stuff I hadn't used or really liked all that much to begin with, stuff that was broken or torn.

And I started small. With items that I knew I wouldn't notice being gone. Scratch that. It was really things I wouldn't obsess over being gone, because I knew everything I owned. Every last item. Even if I didn't love it or look at it or use it. I knew my stuff.

Because I was moving so slowly I didn't immediately notice a change in my environment. And because I was still accumulating things it didn't really feel like much had changed at all.

I didn't force myself to purge. I didn't set a schedule. I didn't make a commitment to do anything. I did it in my own time, when I felt like it, when I was frustrated with my things or fed up with having to clean and care for them. When I wanted something new and had no space to put it. Or couldn't justify buying something because I already had something.

In the years since then I've read many books and seen many shows talking about how this should be done. While I'd already done much of it my way, I didn't feel like my way was a success. Perhaps I was looking for validation. Or maybe it was just for a boost. But one conclusion I reached after all my reading and watching is that there's no one right way to do it.

Most of the experts say you should start small. With this I wholeheartedly agree. Ripping off the bandage only works well for ripping off bandages. If you purge too quickly you will almost definitely look to fill those empty spaces with more stuff.

Unless you're making a radical life change that doesn't allow you to start small - like moving abroad, going on a years-long adventure, et cetera - starting small is probably the best way to start. And while my version of small meant small things, it doesn't have to. If you have a ginormous, ugly, stinky sofa you've been wanting to get rid of for years but haven't, that could be the one "small" thing you start with.

For me, the small had to do with the impact it had on my life.

Some experts say you shouldn't handle anything you want to get rid of as it will continue the bond you have with the item. Some say you should handle everything you get rid of so you can properly release yourself from that item. I'm not an expert. But I do know that if I just discarded things willy-nilly I would always wonder what I threw out and if I actually meant to do so.

So I touched every single item. I thought about every item. I allowed myself to remember the whens and hows and whats of every item before I got rid of it.

And I took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. Because that allowed me to get rid of the item without actually getting rid of it. At first those pictures were on standard film - as I didn't have a digital camera in those earlier years - and then I changed to digital photography when I did have one. Now I just snap a picture on my phone whenever I feel the need to have a reminder about what I'm getting rid of - though I don't take pictures of everything anymore.

Most books I read nowadays do suggest snapping a photo. I wish I was brave enough not to, though. In ye olden days people were able to move on with their lives and live in the moment because they didn't have thousands of photos reminding them of their pasts. And I do believe that some things shouldn't be remembered with as much clarity as technology is allowing us to have.

I also made lists. I'd write down everything I threw out in a journal. It felt less painful to let go if I wrote down what I was letting go. But a few years back I got tired of doing it and trusted the technology to be enough of a reminder.

And I'd try to give things away or donate them versus toss them. Because if they had a new "home" then they'd still be loved, have a purpose, have value. Then my money wouldn't have been wasted on buying them, or my time spent keeping them in good order wouldn't have been for naught.

I also secretly (or not so secretly) thought my things would be sad if I didn't want them anymore and they were discarded or destroyed.




[No. Objects don't have feelings. They don't. Or so I'm told again and again. But, wow, Ikea got it right with these two ads which I still remember, years after first watching them.]

So it made me feel better if they went to someone else who wanted them, needed them, appreciated them. It made me feel good, too, for doing something for someone. So it was a win-win.

The harder stuff I didn't tackle for a long time. At the outset I didn't even have it on my radar to get rid of my keepsakes and mementos. It was all those candle holders, vases, shoes, purses, clothes, collectibles that I'd amassed that were in my line of sight for removal.

Had I started to purge for the first time now, I definitely would have used some of those online resources that are plentiful these days. I would have watched YouTube videos, read blogs, visited websites, pinned inspiration boards, you name it. I think if I had those resources at my disposal I would have gotten to where I am now in weeks or months rather than years.

But back when I began I didn't even think of the internet as a resource - I only had dial-up at home. I didn't think to go looking in the "self-help" section of the bookstore because I didn't think I needed help. I didn't know feeling burdened by ones possessions was a thing.

Aside from books and art, neither of my parents seemed particularly beholden to possessions. And no one I knew ever discussed a fondness for belongings. My guy had a few things back then, but only a few. Of course, his childhood belongings were safe and secure in his childhood home. What remained of mine were solely my burden. And he didn't care about the style of a place, only the comfort of it. He didn't need to minimize, he already lived pretty minimal.

So my journey back then was me, alone, getting rid of my things one item at a time, attempting to clear up some space faster than I could fill it, and hoping to be happier and less stressed with less.

And while I may have started slow, I feel like I've continued even more slowly.

To be continued...