Quick Update on my June 2015 “Stuff” Challenge

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I can’t believe how much stuff I’ve gotten rid of so easily, and also how much more I can still part with and not even miss it!

I’ve purged approximately 300 items from my house so far (goal for the month: 465).

I started off following the “1 item on day 1, 2 items on day 2, etc.” formula, but I quickly found that when I really dug in, I eliminated many more things than the date called for. So I simply carried my “balance” forward a day or two until the numbers evened out and I was back on schedule.

My husband helped boost my numbers last weekend by cleaning out the basement and dumping a bunch of old magazines, albums, and countless other objects. He’s a bit of a “collector,” but he admitted that he enjoyed eliminating some of the overflow. It felt great to finally get him on board with my goal and relax my assault on my own stuff for a few days. I didn’t get an exact count, but he claims to have removed at least a hundred items, so I’ll take him at his word. He’s definitely redeemed himself since the steak knife incident in my previous post.

On the “down side,” my uncle sort of moved in with me this month, and brought with him a whole bunch of his own stuff. My pantry closet is now stuffed with junk food! While this presented a bit of a setback for my “Stuff Challenge,” I’m really enjoying having him around, so it’s all good. Family before stuff. Always.

I’m looking ahead to the last week of the month and wondering where to start, but I have hundreds of books, magazines, and CDs that I haven’t even touched yet, so I’m optimistic!

~PEACE~

 

June Challenge Update

I’m one week into my de-cluttering experiment, following The Minimalists‘ formula for getting rid of one thing on the 1st day, two on the 2nd day, three on the 3rd day, etc. for an entire month. Here’s a quick day-by-day summary of my progress so far:

  1. Tossed out a freezer-burned bag of blueberries.
  2. Put a jar candle and candleholder in the “Yard Sale” pile.
  3. Got rid of 3 bras that were no longer fulfilling their purpose.
  4. Shredded 4 old job-bidding cards from the post office.
  5. Gave a small crock pot and Dremel tool to my friend for her new jewelry-making hobby, and added a plant pot, laundry bag, and pitcher to the yard sale pile.
  6. Picked 2 suits, a dress, a jacket, a pair of pants, and a purse out of my closet for the “Donate” bag.
  7. Trashed 7 expired food items from my pantry shelves.

Most articles so far fit into the following “disposal” categories:

  1. Donated
  2. Trash
  3. Gave to a friend
  4. Sold (via yard sale or Craig’s List)

The donated and yard sale items haven’t gone anywhere yet, but are forming two piles in my bedroom, awaiting their final destinations. By the end of the month, I plan to have several bags of clothes to donate, and multiple boxes of items for our yard sale.

As soon as I started this challenge last Monday, it became clear that I would have to take it to the next level by not only getting rid of old stuff, but also by NOT acquiring anything new this month. That means no new clothes, household items, electronics, etc. (Still waiting to buy that iPad!) Consumables like food, and personal care & cleaning products are OK, as are electronic purchases that don’t take up any physical space, like Kindle books and iTunes.

I also realized that I would have to get my husband on board with my mission when he came home Friday night with 5 steak knives that he picked up at a yard sale! SIGH. Five steps forward, one step back.

By the end of the month, I’m sure I’ll be scraping to find 30 items to eliminate, but this early in the game, I’m having the opposite problem. It’s hard to stop at one or two things. Inertia is a strong force! De-cluttering one area leads to another, then another. In addition to the list above, I also found myself shredding 53 debit card receipts that I’d stuffed into my checkbook, and eliminating the pile of junk mail and catalogs that had accumulated on the table by my front door.  I’ve got big plans for the piles of unread magazines in my office, but they’ll just have to wait until week 4!

These days, I definitely derive more satisfaction from having less stuff and holding on to my money than I ever got from spending money and buying new stuff.

My, how I’ve evolved!

~PEACE~

 

 

It’s Just STUFF, Right?

Yesterday, I helped my best friend move her stuff out of the storage unit that she’d rented for several years. She was one of a dozen or so victims of a “suspicious” fire at the storage facility that turned their belongings into piles of charred and smoke-damaged rubble. My friend lost about half of her unit’s contents, mainly to smoke damage. Others were less fortunate.

Storage Fire

One of my downshifting mantras has always been “less stuff!” I love getting rid of things any way I can: give it away, throw it away, donate it, sell it, you name it. But it’s always been my choice, completely in my control. The tenants at this storage unit didn’t have a choice. Their stuff was simply gone one night. No questions asked. No decisions to be made.

I want to imagine that the fire was a blessing in disguise for some people. No more holding onto that wretched wedding gift from your colorblind aunt. No more wondering if you will ever fit into those pants again. Finally, an excuse to buy new furniture! Sometimes, our stuff — dealing with it, thinking about it, moving it, storing it — drags us down.  At some point, not having to deal with it or think about it anymore feels like a huge weight being lifted off our shoulders.

My friend and I breathed sighs of relief as we finished packing up the final truckload to bring to her new storage unit. But we were sad too. We took a final walk around, taking in the eerie scene and trying to identify some of the lost objects. Antique furniture. Motorcycles. Pictures. Childrens’ toys. Family photos. Christmas decorations. So many memories, all tied to the “stuff.”

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire. The piles of rubble will be removed. The building will be torn down and rebuilt. The old stuff will be replaced with new, different, better stuff. And the memories that were wrapped up in the old stuff will live on, because no one can take those away.

~PEACE~

 

How Do You Define Downshifting?

Since I started this blog, I’ve learned from quite a few people about what downshifting means to them.

  • For one friend, downshifting isn’t about cutting back on work hours, but rather streamlining his home life — selling his house now that the kids are grown, moving to a condo with his wife, decluttering, relaxing, and eliminating unnecessary time obligations.
  • One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Woodpecker at A Good Day To Live, strives to minimize his work commitments in order to have more time to travel and enjoy leisure time with his wife and young children.
  • My best friend dreams of living in a camper trailer after her teenage children are on their own, with less stuff and more time to pursue her passions and hobbies.
  • Another favorite blogger, Green and Thrifty, longs for a small farm where she can grow her own veggies and raise her kids, along with a few chickens and other critters.
  • My husband looks forward to retiring and downsizing our home, cutting back on yard work, and possibly moving to a warmer climate where shoveling and plowing snow will be a distant memory, and daily walks on the beach with the dogs will be our new routine.

My own definition of downshifting continues to evolve. I often dream of quitting my post office job, and simply sitting on the front porch with my laptop and writing. But you know what? As much as I hate to admit it, job security is an important piece of my downshifting puzzle. Since I actually like my job, and I was recently able to cut back my work schedule from 41 hours a week to 35, I guess I’ll stick it out for now. I suppose I’d get bored sitting on the porch all the time anyway. 🙂

I occasionally fantasize about doing some really radical downshifting, like selling everything, living in a tiny house on wheels, or a camper, or a yurt, growing my own food, and living off the land, and off the grid, without an income. I admire, OK envy, people who live this way. But at this stage of my life, I have to admit, that’s just not for me. I LOVE the IDEA of this kind of extreme minimalism, but I believe that my ideal balance lies somewhere between that and where I’m at now. I want less stuff, but I like clothes. And books. I appreciate reliable indoor plumbing. And high-speed wireless internet. I like to go out to eat and have a cocktail once in a while. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so.

We all have our own ideas about what downshifting really means. It’s all about finding the right BALANCE. And that balance is as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. No personal definition of downshifting is wrong. We all have different priorities and different situations. I work in the public sector, my husband is self-employed. We live in a rural area, and have a small mortgage. We have no children, just two dogs. Our goals and priorities are going to be very different from people with high-level corporate jobs or huge mortgages, who live in expensive cities, or have other dependents to factor into the equation.

Most of us are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can even think about seeking balance and personal fulfillment. We have the luxury of choice. Many people in this world don’t have the options we have. I have a college education, a high credit score, and retirement savings. My income is more than enough to cover my basic needs. I’m not worried about keeping a roof over my head or wondering where my next meal will come from. I have ENOUGH. But I know plenty of people who are not so blessed. I try to remind myself of my good fortune whenever I start to get discouraged about my life path, or feel like I’m not downshifting fast enough.

We have the power to make our own choices about how we want to live our lives. Don’t take it for granted, or waste the opportunities that lie ahead. We can do whatever we want, and live however we want to live. We just have to figure out what we want. Sometimes that requires separating our true desires from what other people (parents, government officials, marketing executives) have told us we should want. It’s a challenge, but if it’s the biggest hurdle we face in the course of a day or a week or a year, then we should consider ourselves lucky.

What does your dream life look like? What are the steps required to get from where you are now to where you want to be? Your goals probably aren’t as far out of reach as you think. It wasn’t until I first heard the term “downshifting” a few years ago that I realized I’ve been on that path for over 10 years! As I continue to make mindful choices and gradual changes, I feel my life becoming more balanced, my soul more fulfilled. I have ENOUGH. And on a really good day, I think, “I’m THERE.”

If you’re looking for guidance or inspiration as you develop your own definition of downshifting, check out some of the great blogs I follow, listed here on Downshifter’s Journal. Visit my Resources page for helpful books and websites where you’ll find advice and real-life stories of people from all walks of life who have made mindful choices and found their ideal equilibrium on the downshifting scale. Why shouldn’t you join them?

~~PEACE~~

 

A Different Kind of Spring Cleaning

Spring is a great time to clean house. Clear out those closets. Reclaim some free space in the attic, garage, or basement. Unload. Lighten up. Downsize. Simplify. Getting rid of stuff is so liberating! I feel freer just thinking about it, don’t you?

If you want to break ties with some of your baggage, but don’t know how or where to get started, here are a few suggestions and strategies I’ve picked up and perfected over the years. Trust me, once you get started, you won’t want to stop!

STUFF!

1. Start with one small specific area of your home, ie. the hall closet, the medicine cabinet, one bookcase, that catch-all dumping station by the front door, etc. Each small victory will drive you on to the next.

2. Decide on a short time limit, during which you will accomplish as much as you can without feeling overwhelmed. The thought of spending an entire weekend cleaning the house isn’t appealing to anyone, even a neat freak like me, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in just an hour or two!

3. If even that seems like more than you can handle at first, try getting rid of just one or two things per day for, say, a week. Then another week. Then a month. Pull one thing out of the closet every morning that you can live without. Take one knick-knack off the living room shelf. Pass along a book or CD to a friend and tell them to do the same when they’re finished with it.

4. Once you’ve gathered together all the stuff you want to remove from your life, what do you do with it?

  • Have a yard sale.
  • Donate or consign newer or lightly-worn clothing.
  • Donate books, useful household items.
  • Sell larger or more valuable items on Craig’s List or eBay.
  • Sell books, CDs, etc. on Amazon.
  • Re-gift.
  • And, when all else fails, simply throw away some of the old stuff. It’ll feel great, I promise!

Then, the trick is to maintain. For every new article of clothing that comes into the house, get rid of two. This really works for me! Don’t let things pile up. Do a quick daily clutter sweep, even just 5 minutes when you get home from work. Keep it up! You’ll be driven by your new sense of weightlessness — freedom from stuff!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

While clearing the space around you can be mentally liberating, you don’t have to limit the clean-out to just the tangible stuff in your life either. I started writing this blog post with the intent of giving you some tips and tricks for eliminating some of your physical baggage, but oftentimes, our mental and emotional “clutter” trips us up far more than our actual “stuff.” If you find this to be the case, perhaps some springtime spiritual cleaning is in order.

Consider freeing yourself from any negative thought patterns & bad habits that no longer serve you well. Change up your daily routines. Did you spend the winter eating unhealthy foods, drinking too much, and avoiding exercise? (Guilty.) Start fresh!

Guilt? Drop it. Anger? Let it go.

Consider cutting ties with any negative people and relationships that are keeping you down as well. Or at least limit the time you spend with certain people, even if you’re related to them. Be kind to yourself, and surround yourself with people who will do the same. You deserve that, don’t you?

Think about who or what is stressing you out, draining your batteries, wearing you out, taking up valuable real estate–in your mind, in your body, in your home, in your schedule? De-clutter your mind, heart, soul, and body while you de-clutter your physical environment. You’ll add years to your life. And they’ll be happier ones.

But above all else, try not to take anything or anyone too seriously. Ditch the darkness and drama. Un-complicate. Don’t forget to laugh. Life is too short, and it’s the only one you’ve got!

~~PEACE~~

 

 

 

Friday Favorites: Tiny Houses!

A tiny, mobile house in a Portland, Oregon yard.

A tiny, mobile house in a Portland, Oregon yard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday Favorites: Tiny Houses!

I am obsessed with the art of living large in small spaces. Perhaps because I lived in a mobile home from the age of 10 until my mid-30’s, I admire and appreciate living accommodations that make the most efficient use of a limited amount of available space. I recently discovered and started following the Tiny House Blog, which offers tons of photos, house plans, building information, and real-life stories from the creative people who build and live in these small structures. Check it out, and join in my tiny obsession!