March 2019 - Minimalist Home · Minimalist Home

Minimalist Home – Week Three – Books, Movies, Photos, Paper

Image result for beauty and the beast library
My five year old dream library.

In June 2011 I finished grad school and my Mom bought me a Nook as a graduation present. I was slightly appalled. E-Readers? Those were for people who don’t love books! And I knew I loved books. I spent, and do still spend, almost all my free time reading books. It was also important to me at the time that other people knew I loved books. I worked in a book store and I spent a lot of my free time there browsing books to buy at the end of my shift. And I bought a lot. So many that I had at least over a hundred books at one point that I hadn’t even started reading yet. I had a vision of collecting these books and one day getting that Beauty and the Beast library I’d wanted since I was five. I’m slightly terrified of this reality now. I love libraries, but I don’t think it’d be very nice to own a gigantic one that only I got to use. I’d feel pretty neglectful of them since I doubt I’d ever read them all or even read them more than once. I suppose a part of me still likes the idea of this, but in reality books are meant to be read and if you aren’t reading them then give them away to someone who will or get a dang e-reader. Since the Nook I’ve upgrade to the Kindle Oasis and it’s amazing. Stay tuned at the end to hear about how much I love my e-reader and how I haven’t bought a single book in eight months but have still managed to read a ton of new books for free!

When I moved out of my Dad’s house finally I remember looking guiltily at my now husband because I had about 14 boxes of books that he had to move down my stairs and then up his own when we finally moved in together. “Hey, you wanted to date a book lover, this is what you get. AND LOOK HOW MUCH I LOVE BOOKS. LOOK AT ALL THESE BOOKS I’VE READ. And look at all these others I’ve accumulated since I started buying and hoarding books that I HAVEN’T READ. Don’t worry – I’ll read them someday I’m sure. After I buy and read some more first before I get to the ones I bought four years ago and still haven’t read. Some I’ll reread, but most I’ll never read again. But don’t they LOOK nice. And now people know we love books. This proves it!” Oh me from the past. Slow down crazy.

I think what’s really helped with being able to downsize my books so much is having had to move six times in the last ten years. Every time I’ve moved since that first time I’ve downsized books. Those fourteen boxes went down to twelve, then eight, and for this last move four. Even four felt like a lot though. I mean, I had MULTIPLES of Harry Potter books. I don’t need three copies of Half Blood Prince. I went down to two copies per Harry Potter book a few months back and STILL didn’t realize why I was holding onto multiples so desperately. So I let those go. Then I did the Marie Kondo thing and I held each book for a bit and waited until they sparked joy or not.

I ended up getting rid of 22 books all altogether – more than I thought I would. I finally parted with a few YA books I didn’t really read anymore, and a few books I kept just because I loved the covers. Old me would have been horrified. I also finally let go of my college poetry books. I never read them. I just thought they were cool to look at.

Here is the old bookshelf (three total, really) with built ins on the left below, compared to the new much smaller one on the right that fits all of our movies and books (thanks Ikea!).

THAT’S ALL OF THEM. That’s everything. It still feels like a lot to me. That wicker basket down below has all of our video games too. I’d love to downsize even more, but for now the goal was to downsize enough to get everything to fit into this smaller shelf. We’ve also paired down our DVDs and Blu-rays to only the ones we watch at least once a year. Starting this weekend actually I’m going to flip them backwards and then if I watch them in the next year I can flip them facing out again. This time next year if I have any still facing the wrong way they get donated. We don’t have a lot which is nice, but still, they take up so much room and I’m much more of a reader than a movie watcher. Also, the internet has everything now so if I really want to watch something I can just rent it for the day for around $3.

The next step was photos. I only have one photo album, which is great and it’s not even completely full. It’s also got a real stupid old picture of me in front. It was a gift. Anyway, I have some old photos in here and I’m working on scanning them in through a phone app into my Google Photos drive. There is no point in keeping physical photos when everything can be kept digitally now. I’ve also never had anyone over and literally had them sit down and flip through a photo album. I’ll probably end up keeping 15-20 total in the end. I’m thinking a few that my parents or grandparents wrote on the back of, or ones that I’d like to put on the fridge or cycle through framing. Photos weren’t a huge problem before and since I only have this one album I’m not stressed about it. I would still like to make sure all my physical copies are backed up online in a private album though.

One folder of papers

Downsizing papers was a hard one. I used to have this giant file cabinet I got when I turned 18 so that I could do what I thought you were supposed to: start saving and hoarding every adult document ever. I finally went through this massive cabinet with several different folders and files last year. I went from seven folders to three. The seven folders were filled with documents for old cars I had, but didn’t even own anymore, and they also contained every single paycheck I ever received in my life. This was useful when I was going through the steps for Your Money or Your Life (highly recommend), but now they were just pieces of paper. Then for this week’s challenge I paired it all down to one file. It no longer stays in the file cabinet and it fits neatly in my desk drawer. The cabinet will be donated this week. I kept anything that I need as an original that I couldn’t just take a picture of. I kept a sealed transcript, my vaccinations, original birth certificate, etc. Things that were irreplaceable. The next step is to purchase a fire proof mini safe to keep them in along with the social security card and passport. The goal is to have that safe sit neatly in my desk drawer as well.

This week was a hard one for discarding. There’s something that just hits you about looking at old photos and old books you remember buying and thinking you’d keep forever. I’m getting much better at letting go though.

So back to the BOOKS. How have I managed to read so many new titles in the last eight months and not have had bought a single book? The LIBRARY OF COURSE. I could kick myself for not signing up sooner. I’ve saved so much money! The best part is almost every library now has an account with Libby or Overdrive to get FREE E-BOOKS SENT DIRECTLY TO YOUR E-READER. You can even get Audio books for free! Cancel that Audible subscription and save some $$! I encourage you to check out your library and do this. I didn’t even have to go in and talk to a human to get it done. I did it all online and ten minutes later I was reading a book that was on my wish list forever but I didn’t quite want to spend the money yet to buy. It’s been my favorite discovery of the year. Check. It. Out.

Next week I’ll close out the minimalist home with some really good insight on some of the minimalist books I’ve been reading.

Items 46/30 – AHEAD OF SCHEDULE!

March 2019 - Minimalist Home · 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

March 2019 - Minimalist Home · 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

March 2019 - Minimalist Home · 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.

February 2019 - The News · 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!