Minimalist Home

Minimalist Home – Week Two – The Kitchen

Once upon a time I was in college and lived in a single dorm room. I had a shitty little TV in my room and it only picked up a few channels because reception was so bad. One of the only channels it picked up was the Food Network and I watched it. All. The. Time. I was obsessed with Iron Chef’s secret ingredient, Alton Brown’s science of cooking, who would be eliminated on Chopped, Giada’s giant head, and what Barefoot Contessa going to make for Jeffrey this week. Mostly though I became obsessed with the idea of cooking in a perfect well stocked kitchen.

Iron Chef America - SECRET INGREDIENT

I was never much of a cook growing up. I could make grilled cheese, chicken Top Ramen, Bisquick pancakes and scrambled eggs. That was about it. Oh and cereal. I was very good at making cereal. But in college, having Food Network and no friends really changed my cooking life. People always joke about a college kid’s skills in the kitchen being poor, but I came back from it ready to do some master chef cooking. I was gonna Iron Chef the shit out of my kitchen. I really began to experience the joy of cooking during this time. I still love to cook and I make dinner at the house almost every night. I really truly enjoy meal prep and baking and trying new recipes. What I’ve learned to do now though, is enjoy all of this with a lot less THINGS than I used to.

For instance, the moment I got back from college I bought everything I thought I’d need to become a master chef. A mandolin slicer, Kitchen Aid mixer, several different sized bowls, all the utensils, a crème brûlée torch, a pastry crimper, a hand pressed juicer in different sizes for limes, lemons and oranges, muffin tins in three sizes, SEVEN cake pans, four different kinds of graters, a spiraler, etc. etc. etc. Essentially, Williams Sonoma was my bitch.

The point is I bought a lot of stuff, mostly on a credit card because I was making $10/hr working part time (I really need to do a post on my consumer debt btw, which was just all paid off last week!). And I wasn’t even majoring in culinary arts or anything. I just HAD TO HAVE IT ALL. So I was surrounded by a ton of kitchen appliances and stuff I hardly ever used. I stayed surrounded by my horded items in my kitchen as I moved from place to place over the years. I never could find anything. I hardly ever used what I had. I slowly started donating the items that took up space a few years back. I knew if I didn’t use it at least once every six months then I didn’t need it in my life.

I donated a lot of kitchen items over the past year or two, but I knew during this recent move that I needed to do better. This became clear when I thought I had packed the entire kitchen and then found out there was an entire kitchen cupboard full of stuff I had NO IDEA WAS EVEN THERE. So began the kitchen purge, definitely the most extensive yet.

13 items total above, plus I got rid of about 15 cups and mugs we don’t ever use. I’m going to count all of those as one though so 14 items total for the kitchen purge. I posted these in my local Buy Nothing group and two families came and picked the items up. Both were thrilled for the items and I was able to avoid giving a donation shop a surplus of my junk.

Just a small portion of the glasses and mugs that were tossed

We only have six water glasses now, we had about 25 for two people who never have anyone over for dinner or anything. Coffee and tea mugs have always been my weakness so we went from about 30 to 14. We could do with less, but I love my nerdy mugs and they all spark joy and they all get used. I’d like to get down to seven, but I parted with a lot this week so I’m feeling good about it. And I’m not buying ANY MORE.

Then I had to tackle the spice cupboard. I realized I had multiples of the same spices so I consolidated and threw out the empty ones. I looked at my spices and asked myself when I last used a certain spice. I tossed any that hadn’t been used in six months. My favorite tip for spices is to go to your favorite store when you have a specific recipe in mind that requires a unique spice and USE THE BULK BINS. A prepacked spice can cost anywhere from $3-$15! Take the tablespoon of curry powder you need and use the bulk bins for a total of $0.27. You’ll save time, space and money.

I still have some work to do on my kitchen. I know I have large items that take up too much space that I never use. For instance, I have a pie crust cover that is large and round and fits absolutely nowhere. It’s great to keep your crust from burning in the oven…the one day a year I make pie. Foil also works just as good though. I just can’t part with it though. Foil falls off and isn’t as user friendly. So my challenge to myself is to make more pie. If I have something I know is useful and I like to use it but I hardly ever do, then I need to use it more or lose it.

That’s my takeaway from this kitchen purge. I hope it inspires someone to take a look at what they have and size down a bit. Do you have twenty wine glasses, but have never had a dinner party in your life and aren’t planning to? Maybe you just need four.

Remember cooking can be fun, and a kitchen can be a really zen place to relax and nourish your body and soul. Don’t make it a hectic place filled with a bunch of stuff that only serves to stress you out.

Items purged: 24/30

Minimalist Home

Minimalist Home – Week One – Minimalist Clothing

Bet you didn’t think I was going to start off this minimalism stuff with Tyler Durden, did you? This is one of the first quotes in the Japanese Minimalist book I’m reading called Goodbye Things. I completely forgot about this quote even though Fight Club was a self professed favorite movie in high school. I think it was everyone’s favorite, honestly. Which actually brings up another great bit from this book: “The problem starts to occur when we buy things just to convey our qualities to others, and our collections start to grow too big”. That’s why I had so much Harry Potter stuff at one point. I AM SHOWING YOU I AM THE BIGGEST HARRY POTTER FAN. It’s why I owned a ton of Blu Rays. It’s why I had a Fight Club shirt in High School. I AM SHOWING YOU I LIKE GOOD MOVIES. It’s why I owned and wasted so much money buying band t-shirts during that time too. I AM SHOWING YOU I AM SOMEONE WHO HAS UNIQUE MUSIC TASTES. Another great bit from the book: “Discard anything if you have it for the sake of appearance.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a good definition of Minimalism. Fumio Sasaki, author of Goodbye Things, defines a minimalist as “a person who knows what is truly essential for themselves, who reduces the number of possessions that they have for the sake of things that are really important to them.” I started the idea of a minimalist wardrobe for myself because I finally came to the conclusion that I don’t like fashion. I don’t get it. I’m not very good at it. I just want getting dressed in the morning to be easy. In that respect I succeeded. But somehow when we moved last week I was back to having not enough hangers for my clothes. I had to think how it got back to that. Well, I got a few clothes for Christmas. I did go to Good Will in January to look for shoes and ended up finding a super cute t-shirt (see said blue t-shirt in donation pile AGAIN below). I might have pared down my wardrobe from 106 items to 63, but now I was certain I had more than that.

So my goal for this month is to donate/free myself from one item a day for a total of 30 items. Since I’m starting with clothing I went back and counted the number of clothes I had. It was 70. So I gained seven items of clothes. So I went through again and really thought about what I wore and what I needed. I had a drawer at the bottom of my dresser full of what I thought were spring/summer clothes and it turns out there was some of that in there, but it was mostly old work out clothes and swimsuits I didn’t wear anymore. Five items gone from there. Then I tried on all five pairs of my jeans and turns out there was one pair I wasn’t really using a lot because it was a flare fit and that’s not my style. Tossed that. I went through everything and ended up keeping only 60 items, three less than after my first wardrobe purge. Here is a picture of everything that went away:

In our new place we are so lucky to have a walk in closet with built ins. It’s something I always dreamed about having and now it’s a reality. In between moving out and moving in I was thinking about that closet and how much I loved it and how I only wanted to fill it with things I loved. I took that to heart with this purge. I’m very happy with the result.

My next big task in regards to my wardrobe is to keep doing check ins with myself on it. Have any new items come in? How did they get there? Did I purchase them? Did someone else purchase them for me? That should help keep my clothing item number at a flat rate.

Also, WAITING a few days before I buy anything, clothing related or not. Keeping a wish list online and coming back to it in a week. Do I still need it? Probably not.

If I do need to do shopping, I want to be very mindful of what I buy. Can it go with more than one outfit? Will I wear this more than once a week? Does it match with everything else I have? Is it good quality? For instance, I have two short sleeve blouses for work for spring/summer and I’d ideally like to have three. I have one black one and one gray one. I’d like to have a dark blue one as it would go with all three of my work pants and flats. Once I buy that blouse I think I will have a perfect number of everything I need. The next rule for me will be if I buy one of something, discard one I already have. I feel great with only three pairs of jeans. If one gets a little run down and I feel I need another, I will discard a pair before bringing a new pair in.

Image result for i had it all i had stereo that was very decent. a wardrobe that was getting very respectable i was close to being complete

I think another thing I need to think about is that my clothing doesn’t need to express anything to anyone else. I do not need to to say I have money with brand names (because I don’t). I don’t need it to convey my hobbies. My personality will do that for me with the people I care about. As Tyler Durden says, “You are not your fucking khakis.”

When I began my Wardrobe challenge at the beginning of December, I was reading Marie Kondo’s book. I heard about it from a minimalist blogger I really like and I used it as my guide. How was I to know that three weeks later, Kondo was going to revolutionize the way American’s think about their things with her Netflix documentary I didn’t even know what coming out? The reason I bring this up is that now that ‘tidying up’ has become ‘a thing’, donations centers are being FILLED with people’s JUNK. Mine included in December. But I don’t like doing that if I can help it. I don’t want to add to a landfill either. So if you’re thinking of going a minimalist route, before you donate I suggest joining your local Buy Nothing group. I have given away so many things locally thought it and it’s a good way to meet your neighborhood and build a sense of community. I was able to donate all the clothing above AND all my moving boxes to someone who needed them. It’s such a wonderful thing and I recommend you check your local chapter out. It’s free to join of course!

I’ll be back next weekend with an update on my kitchen. I am looking forward to going through the boxes that have yet to be unpacked and pairing down my possessions in there. I swear I only use about twenty things regularly in my kitchen, but I have over 200 items in it.

Items purged: 10/30

Minimalist Home

Minimalist Home – Intro

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I was planning something else for March’s challenge, but I’m pushing it back to April because a wrench was thrown into my wheel of life two weeks ago: We have to move. There are some things we will really miss about where we’ve lived for the last four years, and others we won’t. Mostly we are looking at this as a new adventure. We are staying in Portland and the move is only ten minutes away, but even if you’re just moving down the street the reality is the same: Moving Sucks.

I was very smug about moving our stuff at first. I had spent all of December minimizing my wardrobe and reading books on having less and I had substantially reduced the things I owned over the last three months or so. Imagine my surprise when we actually started packing and I realized I was still in hoarder status. Okay, it wasn’t THAT bad, but I still couldn’t believe how much STUFF we had. Way more than I thought. There were cupboards and closets FULL OF STUFF that I hadn’t even opened since we moved in. Not a good sign. I immediately pushed March’s challenge to April and shoved in a minimalist home month for March.

As I was wrapping up my February news challenge, I was getting excited for this opportunity because I had so much fun doing my minimalist wardrobe that I wanted to expand on that and really look at my home life in detail to see what else in my life I could simplify, particularly in regard to THINGS (and also in particular, my kitchen: how many mixing bowls does one need?).

So this month as unpack my belonging and go through them I will be trying to ‘let go’ of one thing every day for a total of 30 items donated/sold by the end of the month. Each week I’ll give a photo evidence update of my goodbye pile.

Week One I want to revisit my wardrobe and give an update on how the minimalist wardrobe is holding up. I’ve made some changes since the last post so It’ll be fun to show what’s new and how many pieces I have now.

Week Two I want to get into the kitchen and start examining what feels like the 30 mixing bowls I own and reexamining my life with them. Do they spark joy? Probably not.

Week Three I will go through my books, movies, photos and papers and see what I can trim out.

Week Four I will wrap up with an overall update of some of the smaller facets of my life that I want to look at and minimize.

In the meantime I’ll also be reading the book, Goodbye Things and Essentialism.

The News

The News – Week Four – World News

It’s been a really interesting week in world news, with hardly a hint of US news seeping through besides Cohen’s testimony and Kim and Trump’s meeting, that as we all know by now, didn’t end with any new deal (shocking). As you may remember, I spent the week reading Al Jazeera and BBC News to try to get a well rounded perspective of what’s happening globally.

Here are the way the two sites are laid out:

BBC is focused on world news, but obviously has a western tilt as it is a British organization. Their main menu items on the site focus on news, but there is no drop down menu from there, it just takes you straight to a home page of news that they have selected as relevant. From there you can find world news, US & Canada news and UK news with western news taking the forefront. World news gets broken down from there into region so if you want to find out anything that’s happening not in the UK, Australia, Canada or US you have a dig a bit.

Al Jazeera is laid out with a focus on the middle east because Qatar owns it so it was nice to read from that perspective. I got a lot of news from there that I wouldn’t normally read so that was really cool. Their menu page is laid out with a news tab and a drop down menu for choosing your world region, but it has an entire tab dedicated to Middle East news. They also have a trending tab, and it was really cool to see what was trending every day from their perspective.

The story that really dominated the global headlines this week was Venezuela. It took me three weeks to really get into this story since I was focused on American news for the first three weeks and they hardly mentioned it at all.

From Al Jazeera’s front page
From BBC’s front page

I have to say it was refreshing to get my head out of the U.S. news for a bit. That is, until Wednesday when across all world news sources Michael Cohen’s testimony to congress dominated the front page. I was really surprised that it ended up on Al Jazeera all day long with a live video stream to watch considering no other U.S. news was really mentioned on there all week long. I suppose any chance to make Trump look like a buffoon is alright news to them.

Besides that shit show, here were the biggest stories I saw this week and I’d love it if you all could reach out and let me know how many of these you heard about, if any. I have a feeling I wouldn’t have heard of most of these unless I was intentionally looking as specific regions:

  • Maduro shut down Venezuela’s border with Brazil
  • Japan’s Olympics Minister, Yoshitaka Sakurada, publicly apologized after arriving three minutes late to a parliamentary meeting on Thursday
  • Brexit: Irish government hopes no-deal plan ‘sits on shelf’
  • Bangladesh fire: Dhaka residents look for missing people as at least 70 were killed in a blaze that ripped through the residential area
  • Pakistan army: Will respond with ‘full force’ if India attacks, which they ended up doing later in the week with India conducting air strikes on parts of Pakistan. The warning came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan approved military response as tensions rose once again over the Kashmir conflict.
  • Political drama in Thailand as long-delayed election nears Constitutional Court to meet next week as Thai Raksa Chart faces ban over Princess Ubolratana nomination

In Africa: The Sengali and Nigerian elections are dominating the news. In Nigeria voting stations and counting centers were under attack and dozens were killed. Senegal’s president Sall has won again in his second term and Buhari has won again in Nigeria.

In the Middle East: Israel’s PM is facing corruption charges for what feels like the 20th time. That is the top news for BBC in this region, but all Al Jazeera is talking about is Indian-Pakistan clashing again.

In US & Canada: Trump meets with Kim in Hanoi and Michael Cohen testifies to congress.

Latin America: Dozen hurt along Venezuela and Brazil border.

Europe: All eyes on Brexit and what May will decide to do next now that her exit deal plans have been denied.

Asia Pacific: Voters on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa rejected the relocation of a controversial US military base elsewhere on the island, but Japan’s government said it would press ahead with the plan. Top concerns are of noise, military operations and crime. The citizens argue the region bears a disproportionate burden when it comes to hosting US military troops in the country.

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♪ And that’s the NUUUHHHHSSS ♪

Here are my three biggest takeaways from this news challenge:

  • Question everything
  • Ask who benefits from this article (WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO, WHAT BENEFIT DOES THE NEWS SOURCE HAVE IN TELLING THIS STORY, REMEMBER RAGE=VIEW COUNTS)
  • Look at multiple sources for the same story before drawing a conclusion
  • Never share an article after only reading the headline!!!!!

Check back in Monday for an update on my March challenge! We are going back to minimalism!

The News

The News – Week Three – CNN

As soon as I switched over from Fox to CNN last week the first thing I saw was a giant countdown clock to the next government shutdown. End times over at CNN apparently. Of course we all know by now that a national emergency was announced by Trump and that’s the end of that shutdown nightmare fuel for CNN. SOMEHOW they found more to report on and the front page moved from U.S. political story to U.S. political story all week long.

Here were the top stories over the week at CNN:

  • There was some election fraud in North Carolina from Republicans
  • Republicans ‘paid the price’ for Trump’s wall with the national emergency
  • Trump made a speech that made him look stupid and dared the courts to stop him from building his walls
  • 16 states have filed lawsuits to stop declaration aimed at funneling funds meant for other uses to build a wall
  • McCabe is a God apparently and anything he says (to sell his book) is news now on CNN. The biggest headline was “McCabe: ‘It’s possible’ Trump is a Russian Asset – former acting FBI director tells CNN the president is undermining U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies”, which honestly coming from someone who isn’t in the FBI anymore and is also trying to make money is NOT news IMO
  • Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation
  • The justice department is preparing for the Mueller report early next week.
  • Roger Stone is in court for some Instagram posts where he put the judge overseeing his case in the crosshairs of a gun drawn behind her head
  • And the biggest news on the last day of CNN was that Jussie Smollett was arrested for fabricating his attack (what a complete asshole)

Trump’s name showed up eighty-two times on the front page throughout the week and AOC wasn’t mentioned once. Dramatic different from Fox.

There is no comments section at the end of each article on CNN like there is on Fox. They started phasing out comments section in 2014. This is probably a good thing and Fox should really consider following suit since their comment section has become a place to breed hate and misinformation.

Overall, nothing unexpected happened on my week over at CNN. I knew the kinds of headlines I was going to get because I usually hop onto CNN a few times a week in my daily life. It was fascinating though to see it from a perspective of just coming off of Fox News. In Fox world, everything is fine in America and the only problem we have is the liberal socialist agenda, illegal immigrants and terrorists. On CNN, the only problem we have is Trump and his racist, homophobic, sexist followers. Both of them get it so wrong it’s not even funny. It’s just plain sad, and the real truth out there is that it’s all click bait. What do conservatives want to read and what do liberals want to read? How do we get them to come back to our site? How to we continue to fuel the outrage that gets people to read the news? And how to do continue this on and on in order to get more views, more clicks and ultimately more money.

According to CNN Trump has been on his way out of the white house via impeachment ‘any day now’ for the past two years. I’m bored with this narrative. It’s just not going to happen.

Here are the layouts of the sites for CNN and Fox side by side:

CNN has more categories on the surface. Fox has a radio tab, a method of news they dominate in and a ‘Fox Nation’ tab, which is a subscription based service if for some reason you feel you aren’t getting ENOUGH Fox in your life. The lifestyle tab on Fox is really just a celebrity, travel, feel good, viral video dump, but to be fair, CNN’s style, entertainment and health categories offer the same.

Image result for outrage inc

I read an interesting book for this week’s challenge. It was called Outrage, Inc. by Derek Hunter. I knew going in that this was a right leaning book and there was quite a few things in it I did not agree with (particularly his views on gender, college students, and ‘snowflake’ children), but I came away with questions and a desire to do my own research on a few subjects.

For instance, have you ever quoted to someone who doesn’t believe in human caused climate change that ‘98% of scientists agree it’s happening’? I definitely have. Well have you ever looked into where the study came from? Who funded it? What scientists did they poll the information from? Just something to consider. We spout information so fast these days like we’re all experts on whatever subject, but are we even really looking into it that hard? Maybe we should.

The book didn’t resonate with me a whole lot but if I took away anything from it, it was these few lines in Hunter’s book:

“Media bias is more than just how a story is reported, it’s which stories are reported. The power to ignore, to pick and choose, is the most pernicious power journalists have, and the exercise it regularly. Outrage fuels page views, and page views equal money.”

“Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently. In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.”

“Question assumptions, questions absolutes, question yourself; everything. Just when you think you’ve got it is when you’re most likely to lose your grip. The American people have ever been more misinformed by the media, but they’ve also never had access to more information. “

If there’s anything I’ve learned so far this month that I want to instill in everyone is to QUESTION EVERYTHING. Everything you read, everything you hear, everything you see. How is it being curated to you? Is it being portrayed in a way that makes you want to click, to share? Who funded this study? Who wrote it? Why? And finally, let’s try to be more open to listening to the other side. We cannot live in a feedback loop that constantly reaffirms our believes. Go beyond the headline. See that there’s more to a person than who they voted for. People are complicated and they aren’t all just one thing.

Before I move on I want to announce that I finally found out about Venezuela this week. It’s something I heard just a bit on before doing my week long black out, then Fox didn’t have anything for me on the subject so it’s been driving me crazy. It made the front page of CNN two days into my CNN week. The headline was just that Venezuela closed key maritime and air borders with its neighbors amid growing aid crisis. In this piece I finally learned that the biggest issue is President Maduro won reelection and a lot of countries including the U.S. see it as a fraudulent election and are supporting self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido. We are apparently working with Brazil at the moment to determine logistics in providing food and medicine to the people to Venezuela. This is kind of a big deal and still no one is talking about it around me at all. Sounds about right.

In the United States, it seems the only news is United States news. I’m really excited to get to next week and start looking into some world news.