Monthly Archives: January 2012

project 333: tackling the kids’ closet

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One of my goals for the year is to consciously participate in Project 333.  The main purpose of Project 333 is to have a complete wardrobe of only 33 items and to wear that wardrobe for a period of three months. You can learn more about Project 333 here

I’ve been busy this past week posting outgrown clothing from my kids’ closet on Craigslist, and having sold two large lots of clothing, their closet is feeling manageable again.  After buying a ton of clothing for my kids at the end of last summer in a $1 sale, the contents of their closet ballooned, but I was thrilled to have gotten some great clothing at amazing prices.  However, the time had come to pare down again – my youngest is quickly moving into size 4, so it was time to start strategizing about how all his size 3T clothing was going to make an exit from the building.  Funnily enough, it all sold very quickly after I posted a couple of bundles of clothing on our local Craigslist, and I didn’t have to think too much about what I would have to do with it all if it ended up sitting around for too long.  I managed to recoup $125, which is almost exactly what I paid for it all, and some of it was worn by two kids!  I really does pay to take a little time and effort to re-sell kids clothing – they grow out of everything far too quickly to do much damage, and a lot of what I managed to sell on Craigslist was in nearly new condition.  I’m especially thrilled when the buyer as excited about the deal they are getting as I am happy to have it sold!

Thankfully, my kids never get this dirty - so I don't have to worry about them being too careful in their clothes!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not going to be buying any clothing for my children this year.  They have enough, more than enough, and my oldest is also getting to an age where clothing fits him longer than a season or two.  My boys are three years apart in age, but I see a time in the not-so-distant future when they will be very close in size and might even be able to share some of their clothes.  Wouldn’t that be a boon in the minimalist wardrobe department?  In an effort to stay true to the spirit of buying no more clothing for my kids, I’ve created my own version of a family closet.  Since I am using only about one third of my own closet space in my bedroom walk-in-closet, I’ve used the remaining space to hang all of my kids clothing that is either out of season or too large for them at this time.  I am a very visual person and so instead of having any extra clothing tucked away in storage where I can’t see it, it’s all out in plain sight and is a good reminder for me to shop in the closet if there’s something they need.

Here’s what I’m aiming for in terms of wardrobe size for each of my children (ages 6 and 3):

  • 7 shirts, including at least one dress shirt
  • 5 pair of pants or shorts (depending on the season), including at least one pair of bottoms that can be worn for dressier occasions
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 sweater
  • 6 pair of socks
  • 6 pair of underwear
  • 1 pair of well-made runners or hikers
  • 1 pair of rain boots
  • 1 pair of sandals / flip flops
  • 1 swim outfit – 1 pair of swim trunks, 1 UV swim shirt and 1 pair of swim shoes
  • 1 jacket, either a winter or lightweight coat depending on the season
  • 1 baseball cap
  • 1 summer hat

I’m finally in a place where I am happier to NOT shop for my kids than I am to spend money on cute clothing that no one appreciates but me.  Paring down on their clothing has already resulted in less clothing being strewn around their room, and has made choosing what to wear for the day easier on my youngest, as there are simply less choices now that there is less clothing to choose from.  And what could be more enjoyable that NOT having to listen to a three year old whine about too many choices?  Not much, I say.

retail me not: much ado about leaky boots

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Winter  arrived a couple of weeks ago in Vancouver, and darn, did it ever get cold.  I’m not bothered by the snow, but the frigid temperatures almost did me in – last week saw the temperature dip to well below freezing, which is a real rarity in Vancouver.  And if you combine cold temperatures with having to stand outdoors for hours on end while your bundled children attempt to sled down hills of frozen grass on their snowsuit bottoms, well it makes for very cold hands and toes.  I won’t deny that I’ve been looking enviously at the winter boots of all my friends and neighbours and thinking how cozy their feet must be in their Uggs or Sorel Caribou boots, while I’ve been freezing my toes off in my rain boots.  I’d been considering buying winter boots, if only so I wasn’t frigid for all the hours spent outside with my kids.  However, winter in Vancouver is more often a rainy season than a cold, snowy season; so intially I decided to tough it out in my rainboots, and put on an extra layer of fleece socks.

And then I discovered that  my rain boots are leaking.  And that was the reason that my feet were feeling cold and damp regardless of the fact that I was wearing three pair of socks.

Leaky boots make me sad. And cold toes make me grumpy.

I was disappointed, because I was convinced that it would be years before I would have to replace my rain boots.  The gentleman who originally sold me my boots informed me that the company who made these boots were  a reputable company who made a very durable product.  So I tested a theory on customer service, and extended an email to the company explaining the situation.  To my pleasant surprise, they offered to replace my boots free of charge and apologized for any inconvenience.  As much as I am disappointed that my original rain boots did not survive the test of time, I am content with the offer to receive replacement boots and I will be seeking out one of Kamik’s local retailers to return my defunct and leaky boots for recycling.  So thank you Kamik – from the bottom of my heart and my cozy, dry toes.

I’m still trying to keep to less than 10 pair of footwear, with the plan to not replace some things as they wear out.  I’m proud to say I’m down to one pair of heels (yippee!) and everything else is shoes or boots that I wear regularly and is comfortable.

how to make time to do what you love: simplify

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Simplify - image courtesy of Etsy

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately relaxing at home and reading novels.  This time of year is particularly suited to squirreling oneself away and cozying up with a good book while the snow flakes fall gently from the sky.  I took a trip last weekend to Value Village to donate a couple of bags of outgrown clothing, and felt instantly lighter.  I’ve decided to keep a bag at the ready to keep donations flowing from our home as a way of decluttering without too much effort, and I’ve recently listed some more of the kids’ items for sale on Craigslist.   I’m finally starting to reap some real rewards of having downsized the contents of our home.  Simplifying in one area of your life or household can have cascading effects in other areas of your life, so if you are feeling overwhelmed the best thing to do is pick just one thing and get started.  Here’s a few ideas to get you on your way:

  • Simplify your clothing.  Reduce your wardrobe to a sensible size (check out Project 333 for inspiration!) and enjoy wearing clothing that fits, looks good on you and feels good to wear.  I used to buy clothing and shoes for my “fantasy” self – I would come across a pair of cute shoes and think to myself “those gladiator sandals with the sky-high heels are so hot!  I have to have them!” In reality, I had no where to go that would make wearing high-heeled sandals appropriate (or fun).  Most people only wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time – consider paring your wardrobe down to the 20% of items in your closet you actually wear and stick to a clothing diet for a couple months before you reevaluate how your limited wardrobe is serving you.  You just might be surprised at how little clothing you need to be happy with how you look.
  • Simplify your diet.  Eat whole foods, and incorporate lots of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet.  Eliminate as much processed food from your diet as possible.  Practice portion control.  Personally, I’ve also adopted the practice of eating only at designated meal times rather than whenever food is available – allowing myself to think about food only at given times in the day frees up my mind for other things.
  • Simplify your home furnishings and decor.  Eliminate furniture you don’t use and belongings you don’t need or love.  There are tons of charitable organizations that would be happy to accept your donations of items that are still in good, useable condition.  Items that are in your home purely for decorative purposes should be viewed with a critical eye – do you love and derive joy from having this item in your home?  If not, consider removing it.  Consider that everything you own is a potential dust collector – if I don’t want to take the time to clean and maintain something, it probably isn’t worth owning.
  • Simplify your cleaning schedule.  Keeping my home tidy is a lot simpler after having decluttered.  I find I spend most of my cleaning time in the kitchen, as it relates to cleaning following meal preparation.  Otherwise, I focus on keeping things tidy and throw in a little elbow grease weekly to clean my bathrooms, carpets and floors.  Of course, having children means there might be more cleaning than I would ideally like, but as my mother-in-law always likes to remind me, “There will come a day when there will be no little ones left to clean up after.  Enjoy this moment.”  Smart lady.
  • Simplify the paper in your life.  Remove yourself from mailing lists and opt out of flyers so they don’t even get delivered to your home.  Read your favourite publications online rather than receiving them by subscription in the mail.  Consider reading books in digital format, either on your computer or tablet or electronic reader.  Let go of books you used in your previous life as a student by donating them to used book stores so that other students might derive some use out of them.  Sign up with any service providers to receive your bills in electronic format via email – this will save both trees by eliminating printing paper bills and save you the space, time and effort of having to file your paper bills.
  • Practice the theory of “one is enough.”  One pair of mittens, one television, one computer, one set of sheets, the list goes on and on.  I used to shop and buy in multiples – if one nice shirt was good, then three had to be better, right?  Not so much.  Often the shirt that first grabs your eye is enough and doesn’t need any company in your closet – forgo buying any extras “just in case.”  Stores will never run out of shirts in your size.  Or mittens.  Or bed linens.  You get the picture.
What has simplifying my life done for me?  In short, I spend less time (or no time) doing what I don’t enjoy and more time doing enjoyable things.

I spend very little time cleaning.  It takes me less than five minutes to clean my bathroom, and five minutes to vacuum my home.

I spend very little time organizing.  I prefer decluttering (donating and/or tossing) to organizing.

I hardly spend any time at all travelling by car.  Most of my travel is done on foot, which is beneficial for both my health and my sanity.

I spend even less time shopping.  The only shopping I do is for food.  Fact.  Staying out of stores and avoiding shopping except for necessities like food keeps me from accumulating things I don’t need, and prevents me from falling back into the cycle of consuming/creating unnecessary waste.

I do spend some time putting things away, but it’s pretty negligible given that the contents of our household have been pared down considerably in the past year.  I spend about 5 minutes each morning emptying my dishwasher.  I put away a load of laundry twice a week.  Most of the time I spend putting things away is dedicated to toys and other things kid-related.  Note to self:  Must train children to pull their weight more in the tidying department.

What do I have time for now that I’ve simplified my life?  Pretty much anything my heart desires.  I have more free time than I know what to do with, and in my free time I enjoy baking, reading, and meeting up for coffee with friends.  I enjoy taking my kids to the playground and the library.  I love cozying up with a good book and a cup of hot coffee or tea, and spending some quiet time alone.

Are you simplifying your life this year?  What goals do you hope to achieve by simplifying?  In short, what does “good” look like in your world?  

changing the stories we tell ourselves

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Over the Christmas holidays, I began to bemoan to my husband that our cute little home was too small.  “Our kids are growing, we need more space!” and “There is no room in this kitchen!  Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a larger home?” were the sort of things that could be heard coming from my mouth more than once over the course of the past few weeks.  I struggled with kitchen cupboards, a walk-in closet, and an assortment of plastic bins that felt full, full, full.  My husband, on the other hand, took all of this as a challenge.

Before we headed out to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends, he spent the afternoon reorganizing the kitchen.  Now if you had told me that the problem of space in our kitchen could have been resolved by a couple of hours of moving things around, I would have laughed in your face.  However, I will admit that while decluttering is one of my strengths, organizing has got to be one of my weaknesses.  By the time we went out to ring in the New Year with some close friends, our kitchen was in impeccable shape.  My husband managed to re-order sufficiently several drawers, and areas where I thought things had previously been overflowing had become minimal, all without throwing anything away.  I was overjoyed – what a great way to start the year!

I’ve realized that when we look at things day in and day out, that we tend to form opinions about the stuff that surrounds us that may or may not be true.  My issue was that since I spent so much time over the past year looking at our stuff critically and deciding whether it needed purging or not, I had failed to spend any time whatsoever putting into order what is left.  Looking at situations with a fresh set of eyes is something that takes practice, but I think the more we practice, the easier it is to change the stories we tell ourselves on a daily basis.  I really don’t need a bigger home – I just need to look at things differently, and to try to avoid falling into a rut of only doing things one way.

So whether decluttering is a new challenge or an ongoing project for you, consider doing it with a fresh set of eyes.  Or borrow a fresh set of eyes from an enthusiastic family member:  ask for your spouse’s opinion or your children’s thoughts. Get a conversation going and you might just discover a way of doing something you hadn’t even considered.  And when all else fails, let someone else organize for you and celebrate their success when the work is done.