Friday, October 1, 2010

A Little Update

Wow. It has been over three weeks since I last wrote on my blog! I would love to tell you all that I have brainstorming some wonderful ideas, but that just isn't the case. I have been busy helping other people. A friend of mine that I have known since middle school is going through some really tough health problems. In fact, her first trip to the hospital was right after my last post and she recently had another stay last week. They think she has multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica. This last flare up she had has left her unable to walk without assistance or see clearly. It also permanently damaged her optical nerve, thus taking away some of her eyesight.

I always try to extract as many life lessons as I can out of everything. Being there for my friend has humbled me in so many ways. She is so mentally strong & positive (at least outwardly). We crack jokes about her potentially going blind and her beating me with her cane when I help too much. We make the best of it and I have not witnessed one ounce of bitterness from her. She has no family in this state and she will more than likely end up moving to be closer to her family so that they can take care of her for the long haul.

This whole experience has made me more grateful. I am not grateful for the things that you might be thinking of, like that I have my health. What I am grateful for is that I could be there for her throughout this part of her life, when she needed someone the most. Most 29 year olds don't have to tackle something this big and serious, but so far, we have made a great team!

*By the way, thanks for all the new comments from readers! I appreciated all of them.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lessons From An Estate Sale

As many of you already know, I have been assisting some family members in a series of estate sales that consisted of stuff owned by my great uncle and his sister. This last weekend was estate sale number 3. It moved a lot of stuff, but not as much as we hoped. There is now as much stuff after the third sale than most people start out with in their first estate sale! Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was a LOT of hard work. There is some wisdom that was gained though and now I am passing it along to you!

1. More than likely, your stuff isn't worth as much as you think.
Did any of catch that episode of Hoarders recently with Sir Patrick who collected art, antiques and dolls? He thought he would net at least $50k at an auction of his stuff. Turns out he received about $7k instead. I think there is a tendency to overvalue our possessions. It definitely stings when we know how much hard earned money we fork over for stuff and yet it is often worthless or close to worthless in a short amount of time.
If you are holding on to many possessions in hopes of them being valuable one day, is the cost of storing them in-line with the potential profit? For example, say you are holding on to a box of magazines and the only place you have to store them is in a garage. Variables such as weather and insects will probably destroy any potential profit over the years.
The remedy: Ask yourself with purchasing something if you are okay with the value rapidly declining. Only buy things when you can live with that outcome.

2. If you own a lot of things or are disorganized, it will inevitably cause stress for someone when you die.
The death of a loved one is hard! Factor in legal issues like guardianship, wills and probate, it quickly becomes overload! Some people take the easy way and just let their loved ones deal with the entire burden AFTER their death. I personally believe that is a cop out. What better of a gesture to your survivors than to have an organized plan of action? I happen to think that my great uncle would have done things differently if he would have known that we were STILL working on his estate close to two years after the fact.
The remedy: Don't put off envisioning your legacy. None of us know when we will die. We are in control of how we live though. Have the hard conversations even if they are uncomfortable. Make an action plan and start moving on it.

3. Don't let possessions tear up your family.
For so many people, the passing of a loved one can cause huge family rifts. Relatives can become preoccupied with their need of physical items in order to hold on to memories associated with them. It can be a part of the grieving process, yet there is damage caused to relationships with the living. Is being "in the right" worth it?
The remedy: I think those of us that take up a life of simplicity have quite an advantage in this area over others. Leading a life that doesn't revolve around the attachment of possessions is quite liberating. There have been times when I caught myself miffed about how another relative laid claim to a table or something similar without asking anyone else. I reminded myself that my relationship with the deceased took precedence over anything else. When you rise above, the rest doesn't really matter.

I hope you are inspired to take some action by envisioning your legacy. It is definitely on my project list now. I will blog about the steps I take to make the lives of the people I love a little easier should anything ever happen to me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Time For Something New

I spent the past 31 days documenting the possessions that I was parting with. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes too, like finishing school and helping other people declutter their spaces. I can honestly say that a lot more than 31 things have left, but more importantly, I took the next step with this blog. Renouncement had been in and out of dormancy and had practically no readers (save for the one character who called me a "b00b" regarding my posting on the state of the economy... yeah, deleted). Now I have a handful of regulars and I am really grateful for that.

My true passion is for writing longer and better articles. In order to do that, my personal Thing a Day Challenge is officially over. Several great pieces are on the way, so stay tuned!

Here is list of the rest of the things I parted with:
-4 purses
-3 scarves
-2 belts
-3 tank tops
-box of party invitations
-3 very small stuffed animals
-dream catcher
-pair of gym shorts
-Halloween wig
-several keychains
-two small jewelry boxes, one jewelry pouch
-various types of jewelry
-several binders
-old eyeliner pencils
-candle plate
-pair of cropped pants
-2 old craft projects
-framed art piece
-leather business case
-many pounds of paper after digitizing more of my personal documents

Not too shabby, eh?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 31 - Cord Organizers

These didn't exactly live up to my expectations for cord management. They were an inexpensive find at Ikea, but I didn't like how there was no way of stopping the cords from unraveling from it. A twistie tie would have actually worked better. Live and learn!

Making Connections

There is no lack of inspiration these days for striving to live a more minimal and simplistic existence. The internet has lots of websites, blogs and articles devoted to such topics. There are talk shows with dedicated topics on the issue as well as television shows dedicated to scare people straight from the tendency to hoard clutter! Occasionally though, inspiration can be found in seemingly strange places. One such place for me was reading a book entitled Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking.

This book dives deep into the subject of going to what some would call "extreme measures" to lighten up your pack weight when going backpacking. When Jardine first started writing about this subject, he was considered crazy! The tradition among backpackers was to carry huge packs that could easily weigh 60 pounds, not including food or water. "Sturdy" (think heavy) boots were touted as a necessity in the backpacking world. Outdoor equipment marketers mostly sold their wares by instilling fear that mother nature would rip you to shreds unless you bought their products. Ray Jardine made waves and enemies by renouncing traditional methods and ideas. Jardine and his wife got their base pack weight under 10 pounds each and then wrote about the methods in his books. This marked the beginning of a more widespread awareness and adoption of what is now known as "ultralight backpacking".

Obvious parallels between ultralight backpacking and what could be considered ultralight lifestyles (voluntary simplicity & minimalism) can be found with a bit of effort. To paraphrase Ray's philosophy, if I need it and I don't have it, I don't need it. I am guessing that many of you reading this are not backpackers, but most of us can resonate with that philosophy in some way within everyday life. I am not suggesting that everyone should run right out to get their hands on a copy of this book, but what I am suggesting is that we all keep an open mind. Having an open mind allows us to find interconnectedness among seemingly non-connected areas in life.

(The pic is one I took on a backpacking trip to the Guadalupe Mountains.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 30 - Jewelry Crafts

I have invested so much money over the years in acquiring craft supplies! Jewelry making has been something I have been interested since I was a kid. I thought at one time that I would make a living out of it, but it is too hard to compete out there in the market. There is plenty of competition from others trying to do the same, as well as the super cheap mass produced stuff coming out of China. I have had this box for years of stuff that I had made, yet I had no clue where to sell it or how to set pricing for it. I let my cousin pick out what she wanted and then donated the rest. While I did enjoy making jewelry, I haven't picked up any of my tools in sometime to create more. The supplies may be next!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 29 - Concert T-shirt

I did actually go to this concert and even got a t-shirt. I must be very picky about my t-shirts though since this one feels bulky and a little snug in the neckline. Living in a hot and humid climate makes it hard to want to wear it! Fortunately I have some great digital memories from the concert to hold on to.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sometimes you just get what you need...

I really do believe the world works in mysterious ways. I took a big bag of stuff to a charity the other day, but I didn't feel good about it like I normally do. The more I thought about it, the more it came to me why that was the case. You see, my process is like an onion or a series of concentric circles.
Getting past the first layers were easy, in fact, I do them everyday with junk mail. The next couple layers were increasingly more difficult. "I have the space to keep lots of items and it even looks aesthetically appealing." That is the old me. To dig deeper is so hard because I am shedding the mid layer of non-essentials, but these are items that weren't cheap! My inner cheapskate was now in a struggle with my inner minimalist (for lack of a better word). It was a bloody mental battle!!! I then realized that my bedroom is the staging area for the accumulation and processing of this stuff I had been sitting on the fence about. I missed my clear physical space and I missed my clear mental space. So I bagged up 99% of this "potentially valuable" stuff and donated it. I felt sick to my stomach.
In a wonderful stroke of serendipity though, Zen Habits had just the blog entry I was needing to read today. I feel better about the big purge already. What's funny is that I would give the same advice to someone else, anytime and anywhere! Sometimes we just need to hear it from someone different than ourselves when it is our own onion we are peeling.

Day 28 - Spiral Candles

These were purchased from a candle chain that was going out of business. I know I have come a long way over the years because I used to buy things just because they were cheap and cool looking, not because I had an actual need. Hanging out at the mall is no longer fun for me. The act of going to the mall makes me more anxious than anything these days. It reminds me of the deeply unfulfilled life that I once had. Shopping was the only bandage that seemed effective at the time. Things are different now and I am immensely grateful for that!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 27 - Postage Stamp Pins

I think I might have already mentioned that a stamp collection was started for me when I was a child. Well it didn't include only actual stamps! I had puzzles, necklaces, books and these stamp pins to go along with my stamps. I never wore these and would never in the future (maybe because of my hatred of the USPS). So bon voyage stamp pins, I hope someone loves you out there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 26 - Over-The-Door Hooks

These were totally a "just in case" item. I prefer not to have anything hanging on the backs of my doors, although I do from time to time. By not having these, hopefully it won't bring anymore encouragement! I believe this was a principle I read about in Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston which is a really good book for those of you who haven't read it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 25 - Photography Supplies

Ever take a class that changes your life? Photography was life changing for me! This wasn't the easy kind where one would snap a digital picture and Photoshop it to perfection! This class was very difficult because there was so much attention to detail (that is even one of my strengths). I learned how to cut and roll my own film in bulk. I painstakingly had to load it on to a spool to put in the developing canister and then go through the entire chemical process of developing it. After that comes using an enlarger to print your pictures... by hand! It is extremely tedious and time consuming, but perhaps something you can only truly appreciate if you have done it all the hard way. I feel incredibly grateful when I see photographic work now that is done in the traditional process because that person put in so much hard work in creating it.

With that said, I was very fortunate to attend a school that had a well stocked photography department. To recreate even a small lab would be quite an investment. I purchased the materials in the picture for class and this was some of what was leftover. I decided to donate it to the school that I went to. Hopefully these tools can help change someone else's life too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 24 - Craft Supplies

My rollaway craft cabinet has seen quite a bit of decluttering lately! This collection included acrylic pants, blank cards, ribbon, foam stamps, lots of scrapbook paper and other odds & ends. I know an art teacher and so I gave these supplies to him so that the kids in his class could make good use out of it. It was great timing too since the school year is about to begin again. I held on to the two actual scrapbooks that are pictured since they wouldn't need them for art class. They are going to either be given away or sold. It was one heavy box by the time it was full! That is at least 20lbs. of stuff that is gone!

Friday, August 13, 2010

A New Habit

I wasn't forced to do much as a child. It was a mostly carefree existence when it came to chores. That was probably due to the fact that I liked to clean and organize stuff! One thing that seemed rather pointless to me was making my bed though. I even had a daybed which makes the process so much easier! It seemed like a waste of my time to fix something that I was going to turn around and unfix in a matter of hours! I recently changed that though. It could be that because I don't have a regular job and spend a lot more time at home that it started to bother me. One day I got tired of looking at the mess of pillows and sheets and decided to make it. Whenever I walked into the room, I noticed that I perceived it differently. Then I did it again the next day and so on for about three weeks now. If I haven't accomplished anything in a day, at least my bed looks good. Over time, I think it has actually made me more productive. A mess of a bed has an inviting appearance. It begs to be laid it for a quick break which can turn into a longer nap period. I also spray some lavender scent in between the sheet so that when I turn them down for the night there is an instant relaxation boost.

Who knew that making my bed could actually be GOOD for me!

Day 23 - Even MORE Books!

I have been diligently culling through my books as of lately. There were a couple that seemed pointless to have after I finished school and there were others that I found for free in an eBook format online. I sold at least 8 and one set at the used bookstore yesterday for $9. It doesn't seem like much but I really wasn't expecting that they would even be worth that much! I also lucked out and sold my last textbook online very quickly! I am now down to 75 books as keepers. Not bad at all!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In This Moment...

A few years ago, it was a really rough time for my family. We lost my mother, great uncle and great aunt (brother & sister). There was also a dearly beloved family pet that had to be put to sleep. While the deaths were all very sad, nothing compares to the ongoing stress of dealing with the possessions that are inevitably left behind. My sister is dealing with our mother's estate. The process is much more in-depth and emotional for her since she was there and completely involved at the time. I live in another state and I was involved with the great aunt & uncle. They were older and so sickness that is fatal isn't as shocking. They were raised during the Great Depression... I am sure I don't need to elaborate much more about their living styles after stating that.

I have volunteered to help the family clear out the estate. There have been TWO estate sales and we are planning more. There was a packed garage, two sheds in the back and oh yeah, ANOTHER HOUSE! I must say that this is completely overwhelming. I really only got fully invested in this project after the first estate sale happened and yet there was still so much leftover. There are piles of books, multiple sets of dishes, several VCRs and so much more! It is several lifetimes worth of stuff. Right now I am sitting in the dining room that has 3 tables in it covered in glassware and knick knacks.

Maybe this is part of the reason why I keep striving, no matter what, to make my life more simplified. I don't want to ever leave this kind of legacy for my loved ones. I would rather people focus on the good memories rather than the turmoil of dividing and disposing of possessions. Time to get back to work...

Day 22 - Bluetooth Headset

Laws are popping up everywhere for safe driving with a cell phone and rightly so. This was purchased for my last phone which was great because they used the same charger! Now I have an iPhone and it came with the corded handsfree earphones. I am satisfied with that option since the earphones/handsfree speaker are multi-tasking. I always carry a pair of earphones in my purse and don't have to worry about my handsfree device dying or the need to have an additional charger with me... very simple and easy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 21 - Wallet Sized Tip Chart

My high school business teacher gave everyone in the class one of these little cards. I think it was supposed to help us save face at business lunches or something so we wouldn't under tip. It bothers me more to think if I am paying for a meal that someone is watching me fill out that section of the receipt! I usually calculate tips in my head which doesn't seem very hard and I am extremely math averse! If I were still struggling, I would use the calculator on my cell phone.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 20 - Travel Spirograph

I had a Spirograph at my grandparents house that I used to spend hours and hours playing with. This definitely reminded me of those memories and I am sure that is what inspired me to buy a travel version. I haven't used it in years though. It seems like it would be a fun thing to keep in a desk drawer at an office, but I think I will just let this one go.

Day 19 - School Related Items

So maybe some of you are noticing how late my daily post is. I have a good excuse though, I swear! I was working frantically on my required research paper that was due. This research paper had an entire class devoted to its undertaking. It has been described as a mini-dissertation by some. All I know is that I am glad it is done and I hope to never have to write another one again! This was the last class that I needed to get my bachelors degree!!!

In honor of this fantastic milestone, I am THRILLED to be tossing the huge stack of research articles I printed into the recycle bin! Equally as thrilling is getting rid of the highlighters I was using to comb through each of the articles. It was very late in the game when I realized that Apple has fantastic annotation tools for PDFs, which means I could have gone totally paperless. That would have saved a lot of time and resources, but now I can use the tools for any future highlighting needs! I will reserve just one physical highlighter since I don't need the rainbow assortment any longer. Also getting the boot are all of my leftover test forms.

I have to admit that this particular purge feels so great. The biggest purge is actually in my mind since I am not obligated to worry and stress out about getting my schooling completed any longer. I am sure it will take some time to clear it out completely, as old habits can be tough to break. I look forward to this next chapter though.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 18 - Body Jewelry

I believe I was about 20 years old when I thought getting a belly button piercing would be cool. What was very UNCOOL was the fact that the piercer did it wrong (and I went to an extremely reputable place) and pierced a spot where it would rub against my pants when I sat, therefore it stayed chronically infected. Fun times, huh? Good riddance to these beasts of torture!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 17 - Christmas Themed Picture Frame

It is sad, but I believe there already Christmas advertising that was happening in a local mall somewhere last month! The television reporter asked how the girl felt about shopping for Christmas in July and the young twenty-something year old exclaimed how wonderful it was since "you can never get too early of a start on Christmas shopping"! I don't know why exactly, but I was rather shocked by her remarks. I am hoping she was paid for her enthusiasm because everyone that I know has downshifted when it comes to Christmas spending, which means less time in a mall. Maybe I am just projecting here though. In my efforts to strive for simplicity, I went through my box of Christmas decorations and got rid of any superfluous items. I have a small 4 ft. Christmas tree and a couple of stockings. I don't need items to decorate the entire house, nor do I decorate for any other holiday. Having pictures in holiday frames isn't necessary for me which is rather evident since this has never been used!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 16 - Travel Pillow

I love to travel, but most of the time I absolutely loath the process of traveling from point A to point B. Maybe it is because we are loaded into airplanes like cattle. There was once a time when flying was a big deal! Men & women would dress in their finest clothing, have matching luggage sets and being a stewardess was a coveted job! Sadly I wasn't born yet to experience that sort of luxury. Now I just schlep though the airport in jeans and pray I won't be seated next to a screaming baby or the chatty heavy smoker/coffee drinker who ran out of breath mints. I am a carry-on only kind of girl and have been that way for quite sometime. I went to Europe about 12 years ago and immersed myself in the carry-on gospel preached by Rick Steves. Fortunately I converted before they started charging for checking your baggage!

It came to my attention a few months ago that I had quite a few travel pillows for just myself! I had FIVE to be exact! I guess I have just hid them well in various places. I have already gotten rid of three. This one makes four, although I haven't decided if I like the one pictured (which is full of cushy micro beads) or a small traditional type of pillow. One of them is going though and I am leaning towards this one. I do have a dilemma because both of these are bigger than what I would want to take in my carry-on. These are more for car traveling. Ideally I would like a super packable travel pillow that will knock my socks off in both comfort and portability. Anyone know of one??? Please leave a comment if you do. In the meantime, I guess I should be brainstorming how to fit my chiropractor in my carry-on!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 15 - Necklace

In one of my previous posts, I had discussed the easiness of getting rid of things that had negative emotions attached to it. Fine jewelry is a bit tricky to deal with though! There is usually a small voice in the back of my head saying that it is REAL white gold and those are TRUE diamonds on it... it must be worth quite a bit! In reality, jewelry store markup is outrageous and yet I would guess that 99% of people that shop in those places are shopping on emotion, not the better judgement we use day to day for our other decisions.

At the time, this was a thoughtful gift from a relative, although I never wore it. I am not big on fine jewelry and to me there is something a bit stressful about wearing something pricey on my clumsy self! Earrings and rings seem to do alright, but not dangly things with lots of slack! More recently though, my relationship with that relative has turned quite ugly. It is saddening that this happens, but I value my sanity and happiness. I also know that this person uses guilt and gifts as a bargaining tool. I got tired of hearing how I was supposed to be doing work to help her out because she had bought me all these things (none of which I had asked for). Not having this negative reminder around will clear up some mental space for happier things. I hope this necklace brings someone else some joy and happiness though!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Simplicity in Promotion

Today I was a vendor at a health fair for a local company. I have manned many health fair tables on behalf of other companies, but this was my first time doing it for myself! Most vendors usually devote all their table surface area to brochures, other literature and giveaway items. My table setup was quite simple and yet I got complimented for that! Rather than set out a bunch of different kinds of paper, I had only one handout. The rest of the information I wanted to convey was displayed on a monitor that was showing a continual slideshow presentation. On the other side of the table was a small basket of business cards and a fake flower arrangement. People seemed to be more engaged with me rather than trying to talk and look at what to pick out on the table to stuff in their giveaway bags. Yay for simplicity!

(The picture isn't the best since it was taken with my phone's camera, but you get the point.)

Day 14 - Signed Book

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the art of SHAG. I love his art because of the bright colors and fun depictions. I set out buying stuff like a few of his books, stationary and t-shirts. What I really wanted was one of his works though! I figured out that owning these little things are not quite the same. I have kept one book which shows all of his work which is fun to look through, but the rest is gone. This was a book that had great little cocktail drinks and snack recipes which I copied to my recipe book. Someday I plan to own one of his pieces, until then I don't need to spend lots of money on the little stuff which isn't what I truly wanted!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 13 - Pants for Martial Arts

I have always been a creature of curiosity. Trying new things that are out of my immediate comfort zone is something I strive for. Sometimes these opportunities practically fall at my feet! One day I was searching through the phone book to find a place where I could take some Tae Kwon Do lessons. Price was a big concern at the time. I phoned one dojo and they told me to come in for the first few lessons to see if I liked it. Once the owner met me, he made a surprising offer: I could take my classes for free if I helped out with the little kids class! They also didn't require me to buy a full TKD gi, so I bought these pants that were made of heavy duck cloth for the classes.

Those classes happened years ago and I definitely have fun memories of that time in my life! I don't really have much desire to do martial arts again though. The bruises and swelling were cool badges at one time, now I would probably have people asking me if my boyfriend beats on me. I will always be able to say that I gave a lady a roundhouse kick to the head! (That should really be on more bucket lists!)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 12 - Charms

Back in the mid-80's, my parents had some odd jobs at a large outdoor flea market. I remember them bringing home random things like a slide guitar, chess set and lots of cheap plastic stuff from China for me! I loved the bright belts, hair clips and page after page of stickers! The charms in the picture were one of the things they used to get for me. I think I might have brought these back after my last visit with my relatives in California. I still have childhood stuff that hasn't been completely dealt with out there and so I took a few things from their storage unit. I didn't have any real idea what I wanted with the charms, but I took what I could carry on the plane. I don't like the feeling of other people having to hold my stuff for me until I am situated to take it, but it is what it is right now. I noticed that these little charms are very popular on eBay right now and so I listed them for sale.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 11 - Greeting Cards

In theory, greeting cards seem to be pretty fantastic. In reality, they are rather a nightmare. Here is my thought process on dealing with mail:

1. Pick out greeting card, sign it and seal it up in envelope.

2. Wonder what the heck postage costs these days? Has it increased since the last time I mailed something?

3. Make a special trip to the post office.

4. Stand in line for 10-15 minutes.

5. Ask to buy a stamp. Postal employee tries to upsell me into express mail and buying a book of stamps. "No thanks, by the time I use them, the rate will have increased again and it is hard to keep up with", I say. The postal worker then makes some snarky remark, like "shame on me".

6. I leave, very angry, and vow to file a complaint.

I wish I was joking about the employees at my local post office being verbally abusive, but I am not. I find that a phone call, email and social networking mean just as much to my friends and family than sweating the small stuff like sending a dead tree with glitter in the mail! Most people share the same sentiment these days with the ever increasing cost of postage. I will still have a few to keep on hand, but I am much more realistic about how few cards I really use.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 10 - High School Class Photo

About a month and a half ago, I moved... to a different room across the house! You must understand how much I hate moving, even if it is only that far! I am always purging things, but it prompted me to push further because I don't want to move as much stuff the next time it happens. One of the largest and heaviest boxes I struggled with was a catch all box for old school work, cards, mementos and souvenirs. I had school work from the 2nd grade on up to college level work. I had the notes I passed around in middle school from dear old friends.

Within the past year or so, I have become very adept at scanning and organizing files securely on my computer. The logical next step for me was to scan what I wanted to save and then toss. Some people would say that school work from their childhood isn't worth saving, but I think of it as a chronicle of my life that I want to have. I don't need the physicalness of the paper though. There is still a bit of a stack left that I try to work a few minutes every other day. Sadly, there aren't any pictures of that project, although they might be pretty boring!

The item for today is a set of high school class photos from my senior year. I definitely didn't want the big panoramic one, as it takes up way too much room. I contemplated the small one for a VERY short time, but I don't have really fond memories associated with the picture. I changed schools going into my senior year (no pity here, it was my choice) and so I didn't make strong connections with anyone at that school. That means that it wasn't even worth trying to figure out how to scan! My belief of purging stuff that brought back negative memories has been in place for some time. Now I am slowing going towards purging things that I feel ambivalent about and this was a good start.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 9 - Robes

I had perfectly organized my robes in clear vinyl bags... my winter robe, my summer robe... WAIT!!! Why do I have a robe for every season?!? In my mind, I could hear Greg Behrendt's stand-up comedy routine about not knowing when to wear his robe. Definitely watch the clip for a good laugh, but I will warn you that he does use some expletives (so don't watch if you are easily offended). Robe Skit

I decided to hang on to one robe since I live with other people. It is a nice organic cotton one that I got for free at a spa. Goodbye winter and summer robes, I don't know why I needed you!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 8 - Fossil Collection

A few weeks ago, there was a blog entry about collections over on Miss Minimalist's blog. I responded that I only had one collection, but then I was hit with a hard reality check when I started going through a box that was in my closet. I had completely forgot about the box of rocks, box of shells and box of fossils!

I think it is worth noting that the word "collection" can mean two different things. There is the definition of the word being a grouping of items and then the definition of an action or process of collecting. Those are very distinct differences. I have a basket of socks, but by no means am I in active pursuit of getting more. Semantics can be tough.

With much thought, I will now give a more accurate account of my collections:

1. Crowns - I have a small wall case (maybe 13" x 13") that has various rings & pins that are crown shaped. My name actually means "crowned" and so it is unique to me. My one caveat is that my collection stays within the space confines of the wall case, that way it will never be more than I can manage.

2. Vintage Cookbooks - This one started with a home economics from the 60's that I purchased at a library sale when I was a teenager. I was fascinated at how few items people lived with and the detailed instructions on how to take care of what you did own in order to make it last. It is inspiring to read these historical texts and gives me lots to think about in where we are now as a society. I have 5 of these books.

3. Box of Rocks & Box of Seashells - Oddly enough, rocks are something that bring me great memories of growing up. My sister & I are both into it and my mother used to be as well. On one of my trips back home, my sister and I actually bought a bag of dirt that had tourmaline in it but we had to wash it all ourselves to find it! That was hours of fun! I also grew up by the beach and so the shells are a reminder of the beautiful ocean that I am deeply connected to.

4. Stamps - This was a collection started by my grandparents for me. I am going to do a future post about this so I don't want to give too many teasers here!

5. Coins - I have a small box of currency from world travels and that people have given me from their world travels. Once again, future post soon!

I have given much thought about each of these collections and found that some bring me joy, others I am rather indifferent about. There is no intent to start anymore collections or to not be extremely thoughtful about things that are added to the existing ones. I try not to say to others that I collect anything because then others often try to do my collecting for me and in great numbers! Although I am grateful for gifts from others, I like to be the one that personally picks what is meaningful enough to save.

As for the item that gets the boot today, it is a box (or collection if you will) of fossils that I personally found for a college geology class. These don't evoke a great memory for me, just that I tried my best to identify these things so I would get a good grade! My aunt, who is a science teacher, said that she would love to have them for her classroom. I feel grateful that my old class project can spark some young minds!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 7 - Set of Books

So the history of this item might be a bit embarrassing! I have a set of The Chronicles of Narnia that was purchased in elementary school, and I have never got around to reading them! Most people have a book collection, but how many of us actually cull those on a regular basis? I am usually pretty good about it although I kidded myself for YEARS that I was going to get around to reading these! It is one thing to look over at the bookcase and tell myself that there is a book that I need to read. It is quite another thing to look over and see 7 in a row!!! I like to think of it as giving permission to let go of physical and mental clutter. If and when I ever get the urge to read The Chronicles of Narnia, I am sure the library will have me covered.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 6 - Tshirt Transfers

I have SO many craft items... and really no time or interest to craft right now! If only good intentions took us places in life.

I can't quite remember the specific project that I bought these for, but it turns out that quality of these iron-ons are pretty horrible. The only shirt I can remember making was white with a black design. The edges that were supposed to be clear were actually grey. Often, I have been disappointed with the quality of something after I have purchased it. Most of the time I do get refunded, but it just goes to show at how deceptive advertising photos usually are in comparison to real life.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 5 - Cotton Swab Holder/Freebie

Sometimes it is the small things in life that teach us the big lessons! This little blue box was a promotional giveaway for a national brand that sells a LOT of cotton swabs! Wink, wink!

I did try to make the best use out of it, but noticed that my cotton swabs usually looked they had the cotton stretched from the tops when I would use one. It turns out that the design of this product was quite poor. The way the lid locked on created friction on the swabs, thus pulling the cotton apart. This company paid to put their logo on some cheap promotional product in order to entice people to buy it at a store, because who doesn't like a freebie! And how many of us fall for it? I know I am definitely guilty. Not shopping as much definitely helps combat this problem. Even when it comes to trade shows or health fairs though, I stopped picking up stuff. Sure it feels good at the time, loading up a bag of schwag that I didn't even have to pay for! Then I have advertisements for restaurants, insurance companies, design firms and so on all vying for my attention in my day to day life. Those are distractions! I choose my own high quality paper, pens and even cotton swab holders now! It may turn out that getting stuff without advertising on it will end up costing more than getting it without, which is sad, but my clarity is worth every cent.

Day 4 - Hair Stuff

Yet another entry that involved the Great Bathroom Purge!

When I set out all my hairbrushes & combs, I realized that I owned nearly close to 10! I can assure that I don't care that much about my hair! I also had quite a few headbands that I had acquired in a quest to find some that didn't give me headaches from wearing them. I wouldn't say I have given up, it just isn't a priority whatsoever for me anymore. If one were to look at the drawer I kept my hair items in, most people would think that it was neat and tidy, with nothing wrong. I think that is definitely something that we deceive ourselves in American society about. Most people are okay with oodles and oodles of stuff that they rarely or never use because it is organized in lovely plastic bins with labels. I have been at that point for years and I am just now taking that next step to move further towards the truth in the connection between myself and my possessions.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 3 - Nail Supplies

Today's post goes back to my great bathroom purge. I had a medium sized train case that was entirely dedicated to nail supplies. Tweezers, files, brushes, nail polish... all the things to do a mani and pedi! That would seem like I actually did my own nails, right? WRONG!

My work consists of hands on activity and I also do stuff like rock climbing in my free time. Trying to keep with fingernails is futile and so I have never done it. I do LOVE a good pedicure though! I have all the supplies to do them, but I realized something about myself. Not only do I not like to do it myself, I am terrible at it! A professional can make their paint job last about two weeks while mine lasts about two days! The funny thing is that we use the same products too. Most of the items in that picture were, once again, gifts. I know some of the ladies out there can relate when we are given huge sets of makeup or nail stuff as gifts. I kept some files, a pair of scissors, nippers and only a couple of polishes to either take with me to a nail salon or so I can practice my pathetic technique. There is no more dedicated box of nail supplies! These implements were happily donated to the thrift store.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 2 - Flat Iron

I received this flat iron as a gift although I really have no need for a professional version. My hair is quite flat and straight already! The only times I really used was when I went on vacation or at home for a rare touchup. I bought a tiny Conair model that also curls ends which really fits my needs better. The new one will pack smaller in my suitcase and take up less space in the drawer at home.

My sister, on the other hand, has hair that does get straightened on a regular basis and so I am sending it to her. She will get much better use out of it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 1 - Watch

I sold this watch on eBay and today it starts the journey to the post office! I like this watch and to some degree, it is hard to part with. It is so pretty! I find that I haven't worn a watch in years though. My cell phone is always in my pocket or purse and that is how I find out the time. When I first started analyzing all my watches, I had least six and sadly found that none of them had a battery that even worked! There is maintenance in owning the watches I have and it is not something I am willing to keep up. In my mind, that means they need a new home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thing-A-Day Challenge

I have been inspired for quite sometime by bloggers out there on the interwebs. Some have decided to limit only their personal belongings to a limited number like 50 or 100. Others have decided to find one item every day to get rid of. I like that idea, but after a couple of big clean outs, I am not sure how many days I will last. I guess the challenge will be to see how many days it will last. Note: I already have an entire laundry basket full of stuff, so I have a bit of a head start!

I might even post some pictures of my space since I have read that people like that sort of thing (admit folks, we are all a little nosy about how other people live). Hopefully I will keep this project up although I am taking my final class this summer so I need to be most preoccupied with it.

If you are doing the same sort of challenge, post a link to your blog!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Great Bathroom Purge

A few months ago, I was in a clutter clear out mode and stumbled upon something quite scary. For the most part, I had two bathrooms FULL of stuff! Okay, so maybe it wasn't FULL quite like someone's bathroom from the television show Hoarders. It was enough for me to dive into a mental laboratory to dissect just how this happened and what the next step was.

1. Owning Up
I got every last bottle out so I could see just how much stuff I had accumulated. Next thing you know, I had a sea of bottles that took over the counter. I had lots of shampoos, several body sprays, face masks, sunscreens, hand creams, etc.

2. Vowed to Not Buy More
After taking this kind of inventory, I had a couple of choices. First, I could pick out exactly what I knew I would use and give the rest away (merely tossing stuff into the garbage is usually a last resort for me) . Sometimes I like the immediacy of a quick purge. In this case though, I would use most of these items over time if I didn't keep buying stuff in order to try something new or because it was on sale. I told myself that I would not buy more items until I completely run out! There were a few items that I decided MUST go! One bottle of lotion smelled really good in the store yet gave me headaches when I actually wore it. Then there was the bottle of conditioner that left my hair extremely dry. Luckily the local thrift store gladly accepts this kind of stuff.

3. Creating Even More Solutions
I also tried a different approach by buying reusable bottles and sprayers from The Container Store. This may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. I had several full-size bottles that didn't have much product left in it. I am less likely to carry a big bottle of something in my purse, gym bag or suitcase. Putting the remaining product into a smaller bottle created more portability which is something I love! Other advantages are the bottles being leakproof and clear. Working with clear bottles is a great motivator all around. If you are trying to be conscious of using smaller amounts, you can see your progress. In my case, I was able to transfer stuff into smaller bottles, recycle the big ones and utilize what I already had in a more convenient way.

The technique worked well with all the perfumes and body sprays I had. I received many of them as gifts, which is nice, but more than I can use in a reasonable amount of time! I purchased some purse-sized spray bottles and filled them up. Now I don't worry about the heaviness or danger of carrying glass bottles with me. This also saves a LOT of money of purchasing "travel-size" products and then subsequently buying replacements when the small amount inside runs out! Plus, my selection would be very limited since only certain brands make portable sized products.

4. Future Plans
I don't want to have this many products again! To me, having all those different bottles of stuff is wasteful and makes life more complicated. I have researched and found that there are several things I could buy (when the time comes, of course) that are actually multi-taskers. For instance, why buy a separate lotion and sunscreen when I can buy a lotion with a decent SPF already in it? There are obviously times when a dedicated high SPF sunscreen is essential, but for most day to day outdoor activities, the body lotion would suffice. I have also found a couple of brands that sell a 3 in 1 combo product (shampoo, shower gel & bubble bath). This will significantly cut down on personal product clutter.

I have made quite a dent so far. I usually throw a couple of bottles in the recycle bin every week. The simplification has improved my life and the awareness of how much was hiding behind doors in the cabinet has made me take ownership of the impact of my consumption. It has also made me motivated to tackle other areas such as makeup, nail and hair stuff. Look for those topics in future posts!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts On Time and Money

I have spent a lot of time in the past few days performing maintenance on things I own: myself, my dog & my car.

My stress levels have been elevated lately and thus been making me sick to my stomach. That ended up with a trip to the school clinic and a couple of prescriptions. The visits are free and prescriptions are reduced since we pay medical fees in our tuition. I lost about 2 days of productivity, but suffered even more days since I felt bad. It is pretty terrible how stress can wreak so much havoc on the body, especially when things happen that we have no control over. Money spent on Rx: $31.

The dog was WAY overdue for her vaccines and what not. I found a low-cost clinic that seemed like a good deal. My vet wanted $130 for an exam & shots plus the cost of heart worm preventative. The clinic charged about $40 for the shots and another $40 for the heart worm pills. That seems like a really good deal until you are standing in a line of people 20 deep and contending with a pit bull mix that has clearly not been socialized! It took the same amount of time for the low-cost vs. the regular vet, however, it was not even a remotely calm event. I don't think it would be worth the extra $100 for less chaos, but it is too bad that more realistic pricing usually equals craziness. Hopefully there is a happy medium to be found the next time around (like a vet with a real office that charges less than my regular one, but maybe more than the clinic). Money spent on dog: $84

I got my oil changed a few weeks ago and they informed me that my tires, alignment and brakes were bad! Well the tires were definitely ready to be replaced and I got that done last week. I was ready to tackle the alignment today. I have family that works in the automotive industry and they recommended a place that was pretty far away. I trust them though, so I drove the 20 minutes to get there, yet still worried about what the damage was (to the car AND my wallet). It turned out to be a pleasant experience with the tech telling me that nothing was wrong. Apparently the model of car I have ALL have slight camber (tilting) of the wheels. He informed me that if I ever changed the struts, that I could then have some work done to correct the manufacturers design flaw. Thank goodness for people with expertise! He totally had an opportunity to upsell me and hit my wallet hard, but he didn't. There wasn't even a charge for the inspection. And for the record, he didn't know about my family recommending them until after he gave me the good news. I wish there were more businesses like that in the world!
Money spent on car: $0 (not including gas to get there)

The money spent was $115, but the time cost was huge. I think we pay an enormous premium for convenience in our society. I could have easily tripled my costs if I wasn't trying to be conscious of my spending. I feel fortunate that I have more free time than I did with my 9-hour a day job since I can better research and compare things. That is one of the best perks about living more simply and mindfully.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is Minimalism Elitist?

I read a lot of blogs on "minimalism". Quite frankly, I am getting real tired of some of these blogs on minimalism! Suggestions on ditching your car to move to a car free city such as San Francisco or New York seem so utterly ridiculous. "Cars are antisocial"??? Seems to me that moving to a city where you don't know anyone and walking away from an existing social network for the sake of not having a car would be the epitome of anti-social behavior.

Let us now move to cost of living. I don't pay state income tax where I live. If I did pay state income tax, it may not be equal to what I spend owning a car every year, but it isn't nothing either. Is minimalism about the feeling you get when paying higher taxes which makes up the difference for all the non-consuming of tangible goods?

What exactly is a "minimalist" then? I don't feel that it is someone who needs to move to a particular locale or adhere to precepts such as being carless. To me, minimalism shouldn't have overbearing rules and shame on those who are trying to give it such.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Questioning Transportation

I was reading the blog Far Beyond the Stars this morning when I read something that struck a chord: Get Rid of Your Car.


I live in one of the biggest, if not THE biggest city in America without mass transit. I also happen to do travelling massage therapy. Can you imagine what it would be like to pedal around on a bike with a massage table strapped to your back? Even if there were buses, I am sure the riders wouldn't appreciate me lugging a massage chair on and off the bus, potentially hitting kneecaps with it.

Now what? Change professions, right? I should find a job I can do out of my home so I don't need a car! The problem with that idea is that I travel to people's home (75+ in age) when it is sometimes difficult for them to even walk! I go to places of business so that people can experience some tension relief at the place that is probably causing much of it: work! If I drive to an office and 10 people get a massage from me, that could potentially mean that 10 people aren't driving around town to go to someone else for a massage, thus saving resources.

It feels as if the blog is asserting that in order to be a "minimalist", you need to live in a high-density urban city. New York City, NO THANKS! I am not the type who thrives off of noise, lots of people and a concrete jungle.

I have been to some very beautiful and remote places that could only happen by driving there. I am not willing to forgo exploring for the sake of saving some money by getting rid of my car since it is an expense. The statement that the world will be car-free someday is incredibly unrealistic. I would definitely like to read about what kind of a world the author is envisioning. In my world, people aren't going to walk themselves to the hospital when they have had a heart attack. Essential items like toothbrushes, cups and clothing all need to be transported somehow.

One theme I keep coming across in this new "minimalism" is that it doesn't celebrate the many differences of people who can live minimally, just in different ways. I feel incredibly fortunate to be debt-free, however, I would rather have debt from owning a car since debts would be far greater without a car! Cars aren't inherently bad either, as a society though, we haven't pushed enough for better and cleaner technology which seems to me to be the bigger problem.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Getting Back On the Horse

I can't believe it has been almost a year since I last blogged! I am not happy with myself about that. I am still continuing down a path that I am satisfied with. There is one more class I need to finish my BA degree this summer. I make a little bit of money doing a very part-time job and have continued to uncover possessions that I no longer need.

I have been searching the web for as much I as can read about minimalism and how people work towards making it happen. I am digging deeper than ever before to shed anything that doesn't make me feel joy and happiness when I look at it, touch it, feel it, eat it, etc. My goal is not to ultimately become a minimalist (and definitions vary widely about what one is). The goals I have in mind are to become immensely aware of EVERYTHING I own and to break out of old thinking and habits I had that didn't bring me joy and happiness.