Monthly Archives: September 2011

2011 in 2011: bed, bath & beyond the pale

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When I first moved out on my own back in 1999 (“in the olden days”, as my six year old likes to say), my favourite thing to buy for my new home was baskets.  Go figure.  I started my adult life with very little – a bed, a dresser, some clothes, and some kitchen things shared with my first roommate and oldest friend. I have no idea why the siren song of baskets always seemed to be calling my name, but I purchased my fair share of them over the last 12 years.  First it was to organize personal items, cosmetics, towels, napkins, you name it.  Then I got married and had two kids, and I started using baskets for other things – storing cloth diapers, onesies, kids’ clothing, and, of course, toys.

Getting rid of a lot of stuff from my home, I’d been left with a bunch of baskets with nothing to put in them.  I had some luck a few months back selling baskets on craigslist (who knew there was a resale market for wicker baskets?!?!?!), but I haven’t yet unloaded any of the plastic storage containers that I’d been using to store everything that wasn’t in a basket.  Seems I’ve managed to declutter enough to part with my Pottery Barn baskets, but now I need to get real and start taking a closer look at the things that live in the bigger plastic containers.

So pretty. So useless. "Beyond the pale" is an old term to describe being "unacceptable, or outside of the standards of decency." Pretty sure the number of wicker baskets I used to own was "beyond the pale."

I’ve still got half a dozen large storage bins in my apartment (we don’t use the storage locker in our building, nor do we have storage anywhere else), and needless to say, these bins take up a ton of room (about half of the floor space in my closet).

What lives in these plastic behemoths?

  1. Bin of off-season kid’s clothing
  2. Bin of clothing that my six year old has outgrown but that my three year old has yet to grow into
  3. Blankets for winter
  4. Christmas ornaments / decorations
  5. Paint for home improvement projects
  6. Tools and other miscellany for home improvement projects
I’m pretty sure the last two bins are off limits to my decluttering efforts (I’ll be leaving those for my husband to address), but the other four are definitely up for consideration.  The kids’ clothing needs to be whittled down – I’d love to get down to one bin from two.  As for the linens and blankets, I’m still of the impression that I need to let go of some more of the smaller fleece blankets I managed to accumulate upon having child number two.  I did gift half a dozen of these little blankets to a friend who just had a baby and was happy to take them, but I’ll have to see what’s still left and decide what to do with them.  Finally, there’s the seasonal Christmas stuff.  We have a small, reusable (so green!) Christmas tree that we’ll be decorating when the holiday season rolls around this year, but for some reason we have an overabundance of decorations.  The only thing we decorate is our tree (other than the fact that we have a giant light-up Vancouver Canucks sign – ack) so we really don’t have a huge need for all those decorations.  I’m feeling like this is not something I want to tackle right away though, so I’ll probably procrastinate until the end of November arrives.

Another thing I need to stop doing is buying gifts for children in my life (for other peoples’ kids, not mine) and hanging onto them for an entire year.  Of the things left in my home now, there is not much that is being “stored.”  Most items are actually being used – clothing, shoes, jackets, basic furniture, and things used in the kitchen.  However, I do seem to have accumulated quite a few things this year with friends and family in mind and suffice it to say, I can’t wait until it’s Christmas this year and all these things get to leave my house.  Let’s just say I have issues with buying things in advance.  Like the fact that I do it, and I probably shouldn’t.  Oops.

The moral of this story is don’t buy too many storage bins or you just might end up filling them up with stuff you don’t need and don’t want to come live in your home.  The end.

toss it tuesdays: Ekco 123 garlic press

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I don’t much enjoy shopping.  I find the high of purchasing to be fleeting, and I often find myself second-guessing my purchases by the time I have arrived at home.  Or I end up having buyer’s remorse, because I am always afraid that things I have spent good money on are going to break.  Needless to say, I find myself feeling extremely dissatisfied and annoyed when the things I do own finally break.

Today, I broke my Ekco garlic press.  I’ve been using it for (what else?) pressing garlic, and the handle cracked at the same time as the metal press broke.  Argh.

A garlic press should at least be able to press garlic, no? Clearly my superhuman strength is too much for this one...

I’m more annoyed at the waste of having this kitchen utensil break (this is the third garlic press we’ve owned) than I am by the inconvenience of it – I’m not planning to replace it, as I’m pretty sure a knife can also do the trick of chopping garlic in a satisfactory manner.

Do you slice, mince or crush your garlic?  Do you have a special device to help you along, or do you make do with a simple paring knife?

Do tell.  Clearly, this is one of those “need to know” things.

2011 in 2011: parting with the sentimental stuff

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This morning I threw away 73 pieces of my oldest son’s artwork.  I had saved some artwork from his two years at preschool, and his kindergarten teacher had kindly put together a lovely art portfolio for each of the children in his grade to take home at the end of the year.  Looking at all those works of art brought back a lot of memories of my son attending preschool and kindergarten, and how proud he was of all his artistic creations. Mixed in with all the treasures, there was a lot of not-so-special stuff that needed addressing.  I tossed some scribbled pages, as well as artwork that was just a bunch of random stuff glued onto a page.  I kept art that contained hand-prints, foot-prints and anything that documented his own thoughts and words at the time (a couple of “I love my Mom” works of art definitely made the cut).  I didn’t count the remaining items, but my guess is there is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 pieces of artwork left.

Given that I’ve been tackling the project of decluttering my home for nine months already, I wondered why I hadn’t thought to declutter this stuff before now.  I think besides the fact that my mother-in-law has advised me to keep every single piece of art from my kids’ childhood (not gonna happen!), my reluctance to deal with the art is part and parcel of the fact that it’s difficult to watch your kids transform from babies into kids, and again from small kids into bigger kids.  Time marches on, and no where is it more evident than in the faces of children who were once, not so long ago, little babies.

Things about which we are sentimental are often the hardest to let go of.  I think it’s worth saving only the most special things, because saving everything means the really special stuff gets lost in the clutter.  Here’s a few things I’ve kept in mind while letting go of my son’s artwork, which ranks right up there with photos of my kids as things I’m sentimental about:

  • Designate a portfolio for your kids art and keep everything in one place. This concept is not designed to help you keep every single piece of artwork that your child brings home, but to keep only the most special pieces in a place where they can remain in good condition so that they will still be around when your kids get older and want to reminisce about the things they did when they were small.
  • Consider keeping anything that documents how small your kids once were.  I’ve decided that the most important pieces for me to keep are works of art that document my children’s tiny palm prints or outlines their tiny feet.  I also like to keep art work from Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as kids usually take this opportunity to write down how much they love Mom and Dad.  If something gives you the warm fuzzies when you look at it, consider keeping it.  If not, recycle or toss.
  • Consider tossing anything that could have been made by your neighbour’s kid.  If it’s just a bunch of macaroni glued to a piece of paper, maybe it won’t be so special in ten years.  Maybe it’s not special right now.  These types of art are ones I don’t hesitate twice about tossing into the trash.
  • If it’s really special, but really cumbersome, take a picture.  Sometimes kids come up with amazing ideas which translates into some really cool art work. However, they can end up being large or too unwieldy to house in a minimalist art portfolio.  If it’s something your child loves but you’re not so wild about, consider taking a photo of your little Michelangelo’s work of art and then displaying it in their room until the dust takes over and it’s time to let it go.
  • Put it on display or make it useful.  I’ve taken some of my son’s art and framed it for his grandparents as gifts.  Sometimes a scribbled or painted page can be transformed by a simple wooden picture frame.  Major bonus points for the fact that most grandparents adore this type of gift, as it’s something that captures the spirit of their grandchildren when they are small.  Alternately, consider putting your child’s latest sculpture to good use.  My dad still has a pencil holder I made for him in grade 1 on proud display in his home office – even though it’s just a cup with popsicle sticks glued to it, he’s made it useful and it’s stood the test of time.
  • Recycle unwanted artwork where you can.  Most of the items that I culled from my son’s art work could be recycled.  Of the 73 items, no more than 5 of them had to be tossed in the bin as garbage.  I like to encourage creativity in my kids and want them to continue to make great art; however, I would prefer to allow my kids to be creative while at the same time being sensitive to the planet as well.
I’m now at 4933 items decluttered so far this year, and I’m still looking around for things to donate or toss.  I’m finding less things in my home that fall into the “what was I thinking?” category, and I’m having to put more thought into the things I still own and if they are contributing beneficially to my daily life.

How are your decluttering efforts going?  Do you tackle the sentimental clutter or is it off limits in your household?

2011 in 2011: using failure as a motivating factor

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We’ve just returned from our last vacation of the summer and are trying our best to settle into the back to school routine.  It’s hard to maintain a lot of the routines from home when you are on vacation, and I tried to go with the flow and appreciate the differences.  We went to the beach, the park, for long walks, and spent lots of time together making great memories.  What we didn’t do was think at all about how our purchasing choices would impact our home upon our return, or how our choices in food would impact our waistlines. Oops.

I’ve decided though that failures should be looked upon more as opportunities for future improvements, rather than things I should be punishing myself over.  Rachel at The Minimalist Mom had a great post the other day about setting sights on the bigger picture – if you set goals and don’t meet them, don’t be discouraged.  Re-jig your original goals to create new goals and stay motivated in your minimalist journey for the longer haul.

A few less-than-ideal highlights from our vacation included:

  • I bought new-to-us, gently used clothes for the kids even though they don’t really need anything in the clothing department.  My hometown has a great children’s consignment shop, and they were having their annual $1 sale.  Yes, one dollar. While I’ve heard of such a thing, it was like an urban legend to stumble across a sale like that.  I ended up taking two trips to the store, and bought a total of 40 new articles of clothing for my kids.  My oldest will not need any more clothing before the end of next summer.  As a frugalitarian who hates to shop but still likes my kids to look adorable, I cannot tell you how happy this made me.  As a minimalist, I am struggling to find places to put all those extra items in the kids closet.
  • I received a Tassimo coffee machine from a friend with their blessing to use it while they are out of the country, even though I’m trying to drink less coffee and am ashamed of the amount of waste that comes along with the use of these machines.  I wrote previously about these fancy machines that make coffee from pre-prepared pods of coffee grinds, and how as much as the coffee was delicious, I wouldn’t be buying one.  Well, it’s harder to turn down one of these things when it turns up on your doorstep courtesy of a very good friend.  My friends have been using this handy little machine for a few months and bought it prior to knowing that they would be moving out of the country for awhile.  So when they offered it to me, I agreed to take ownership of it for the next year.  The coffee is still delicious, and while the pods are disposable, the plastic from the Tassimo pods can be recycled if you put in a small amount of effort to clean out the used coffee grinds.  I’m also taking a small amount of solace in the fact that I’ve given up buying coffee from coffee shops, which will eliminate my use of disposable cups, lids and sleeves.
  • I ate very poorly for the second half of my vacation.  For the second part of our 10 day vacation, we were in Armstrong with family and spent nearly every day at the Interior Provincial Exhibition (otherwise known as the IPE).  With everyone being so busy taking in all the excitement of an agricultural fair, midway complete with rides, and the rodeo and stampede action, there wasn’t much time for grocery shopping or preparing meals.  We ate out a lot, and if there’s one thing about Fair food, it’s that most of it is deep-fried.  I ate more than my share of mini-donuts and french fries.  We had some friends come in from out of town to spend the day with us at the Fair, and my girlfriend went so far as to indulge in a deep-fried Mars bar.  Yes, it really does look as disgusting as it sounds.  Needless to say, there were not too many fruits or vegetables consumed by anyone in our family over the course of the latter half of our trip.  A sad statement really, considering my husband and I had spent the first half of our vacation eating very healthily and going for long walks/runs every evening.

Instead of allowing all of these things to hamper my efforts towards minimalism, simplicity and good health, I have renewed my efforts and desire to live better.  I’m trying to consider the journey more so than the destination.  If you have plans to live differently, don’t be discouraged if your best laid plans go astray – take comfort in the process and get motivated, even setting new, revised goals for yourself if that helps.  If you fall off the proverbial wagon, just renew your efforts and get back on.

Like most things in life, minimalism is a journey, and the object of striving to live more simply is more so about the process than the end result.  Rooms and closets that have been decluttered will likely need to be purged more than once in this lifetime.  Eating poorly for a few days can be rectified by a return to a lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise.   Dietary indulgences can be reflected upon and efforts doubled to do better in the future.  Now that a few extra things have found their way into our home, I’ll be working to declutter a little more before the end of the year.  As of last count, I’m at 4822 items decluttered in 2011.  I’m hoping to hit the big 5K before the end of the year.

If you’re decluttering this year, I’d love to hear how your project is going!  Keep me motivated by sharing your story in the comments.