April Update: Minimalism Edition

I finished the 12-week Uncluttered course. It was interesting, motivating, and irksome.

Interesting: Seeing how other people live. Despite demographic and geographic differences, I had a lot in common with a widow in a tiny NYC apartment and new parents in a UK two-up-two-down house. We minimized cherished belongings to free time and space for the here-and-now.

Motivating: The weekly goals and participation helped a lot, particularly when another participant would confess, “I’m behind.” Plus, occasionally someone would balk at a weekly assignment and other attendees offered work-around ideas.

Which leads me to…

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Minimalism Progress Report: Week 5

BE MY GUEST!

I just started the fifth week of the 12-week class Uncluttered, run by American minimalist Josh Becker. It’s the wardrobe clean-out week. I figured I could skip it after the autumnal closet-cleaning.

Looking again, I found scarves and a thermo-insulated gloves that other people could use. I also tossed a beautiful blue-and-pink sweater. It’s comfortable, warm, and matched other articles of clothing. I have worn it weekly since December, but keeping it presentable is too much work. Every single time I wore it, let alone washed it,  loops of yarn came loose and had to be pulled to the reverse side with a crochet needle. 

It’s interesting to see photos of other people’s homes and swap stories. Many people thought all Americans live in big houses, until a “shutgun house” owner and a NYC resident posted photos.  I will say this: we like big living rooms even in small homes. 

An Englishwoman explained what “two-up-two-down” means. When we compared our respective square footage, we weren’t surprised that mine is bigger – but not by much.  Our proportions differ greatly. My kitchen is luxuriously spacious; her two bedrooms are larger than my three (one of which is technically a nursery).  

When I posted “after” photos of the guestroom (above), everyone commented on the black-white-and-red color scheme. Evidently, oxblood is unusually bold. 

 A funny aside:  The more we minimize our belongings, the more we rationalize purchasing more.

Our instructor and our peers reminded to hold off on buying anything – organizers, paint, etc. – until we finish the course.  The impulse was certainly running through in our group, like a bargain-hunting phantom. 

I’m glad I committed to another year of Mindful Buying. Temptation was trying to talk me into  purchasing a really nice belt to replace the cheap ones I threw out. I already have a nice belt. Just not a REALLY nice belt!

Fall Already?

For the last two weeks, the maple in the back yard has been dropping leaves. It’s accelerating now. Sadly, I can’t see the colors through the greenery below, but the fallen leaves are spectacularly red and yellow this year.

Peak color is two weeks off, by my reckoning, but storms are coming later this week. Saturday was warm, sunny, and breezy – in other words, a perfect autumn day.

Decked out for Fall.

I ran errands in the morning and swung by Marine City, where I spent a couple hours just enjoying the sights. My favorite coffee shop has already started serving pumpkin spice latte (with nondairy creamer!). It was a nice treat made sweeter by meeting an older couple who chatted with me outdoors for a while.

Afterwards, I came home and tore up the garden.

The neighborhood varmints ate half my zucchini. Literally. They ate the bottom half and left the tops to rot on the vine. Imagine reaching to pick a beautiful squash and feeling it squish between your fingers because inside the skin is nothing but rotten mush. Curse you, cute but destructive rodents! I picked whatever was intact, no matter the size or color.

The delicata, a winter squash, had withered from the roots outward, giving no more nourishment. Normally I’d leave them out to harden, but I couldn’t chance the squirrels. The cherry tomatoes were various shades of green, but gardening friends assured me that if I put them in a paper bag and let them sit, they’ll ripen in a few days.

I spent several hours pulling vines, pulling weeds they’d been hiding, and cutting off the remains of flowering plants. Everything was stuffed into three bags for the community compost.

This week I’ll do the more onerous tasks: transplanting flowers, digging up and resetting pavers, and landscaping the now-empty ground around the shed.

An Invasion of Arachnids

Last week, I killed three spiders in my bedroom and another yesterday. It is now a bedtime routine: I put on my nightshirt, turn on the TV, and prepare for an hour or so of entertainment. Then a familiar shadow moving on the wall or the doorframe, just enough to draw my attention.

Blammo! with a shoe or a tissue box.

I killed a black marauder (not its name; I don’t know what they are) in the bathroom. It was enjoying a siesta on the paper roll when I reached over… That one ended up going on a flume ride.

A delicate cellar spider died in the shower under mysterious circumstances. (Note: “Mysterious circumstances” connotes “a full-blast faucet and a squeamish bather’s feet.”)

Today I surveyed the garden – the delicata are coming along nicely, but the tomatoes are lazy. Afterwards, I hopped in the car to do some errands. And banded garden spider was hitching a ride on my thigh.

Immediately I jumped out of the car and started doing the Get-Off-of-Me Dance, complete with brushing my pantleg and yelling “Get off me!” (Which is rather silly, because spiders don’t understand English; they speak Italian sotto voce, naturally.) The spider bungee-corded into the grass.

After regaining my composure, I opened the car-door and began sliding behind the wheel…. The unwanted passenger had cleverly moved to the inner side of my pantleg.

Gah!

(Flashback: Biggest Brother mercilessly refusing to kill spiders for me. I thought he was Being Mean. In hindsight, he was like the drill sergeant forcing the new recruits to toughen up and face the enemy head-on. It was For My Own Good.)

I think it’s time for chemical warfare. After all, I can sympathize with spiders craving a bath and a nice place to sleep. But hijacking my car? No.

Of Spiders and Exploding Toilets

Returning to La Casa de Tontería after more than a week away, I settled to the usual post-vacation routine: doing laundry and evicting spiders. I killed two in my bedroom, drowned one in the shower, and made plans to clear the shed* when the weather cools next week.  Michigan has only one poisonous spider – the brown recluse – but an array of house spiders and wanna-bes.

Exploding toilets are a looming threat. Continue reading

La Casa de Tontería: Mine!

Having debt bothers me. A mortgage loan for a house is called “good debt,” but I never thought so. Consistent monthly payments were better than the arbitrary rent-increases that set me packing, but the niggling thought of foreclosure was always there. The more I improved La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), the more I wanted to own it outright.


With penny-pinching and do-it-myselfing, I planned to pay off my mortgage in December.
At the beginning of work-from-home, I turned the inside of the front door into a central planning center for tasks and bill deadlines. The up-to-date loan statement, posted next to the calendar, often caught my eye. The dropping interest portion pleased me – except when I compared it to other monthly expenses.


Today I went into the bank and, after comparing mortgage and savings account balances, paid it off. Finally La Casa de Tontería is truly mine.

Putting the Middle-Man Back In

Please forgive the delay between posts. I was in a lovely place with spotty WiFi and, at the best times, WordPress had endless loading patterns.

This past week, I returned to brick-and-mortar stores. Having items delivered to my doorstep wasn’t saving money nor helping my community. Plus, it’s difficult to judge something like color and fit online (although fitting rooms are still closed).

It was a rather strange experience to have no Canadian visitors, to avoid other people like the literal plague, and to smile despite a mask (“invisible” smiles are high on my list of Things I Hate About Covid-19). The current coin shortage has forced me to use a credit card, putting a new wrinkle in budgeting. But there was the clearance rack (replacing workout clothes was $4.35 cheaper than anticipated) and the book I wanted was in a logical spot despite the rearranged, distancing-pattern shelves.

As for The Young Human Factory, we’re waiting to hear from the governor about what stage we’ll be in for the reopening. We are using a “middle man” regardless: lessons via live chats and online assignments). Ugh.

Saturday Night Check-in

Writing: Meh. I spent a lot of time sorting files, looking for handwritten notes on the next chapter. I have  a LOOOOTTTTT of notes. As a result, only about 1500 original words this week.

Work: Two weeks after the contractual end of the year, The Factory finally closed for two months. I’ll be heading back early. The second week of August is a training session in, ironically, Kagan Cooperative Learning.  So far, the CDC guidelines for reopening schools don’t allow students to be facing each other and advises that social distancing be maintained in the classroom.

Garden: A single radish plant has supplied me with three harvests of seedpods. The first squash blossoms have appeared – on the plants grown from the last-minute seeds carelessly tossed into a sinkhole, naturally. A dearth of landscape fabric forced me to use cardboard boxes as weed-block around the shed, which looks terrible but can’t be helped.

La Casa de Tontería: Inside, the house looks like a cyclone hit. I returned the last box of work material to The Factory, except for two boxes of reading materials I purchased to supplement a class. This weekend, I’m tidying and deep-cleaning – a real chore.

Mindful Spending: I was privately messaged about this, but a blog-answer is best. I stopped posting monthly updates because the Shutdown changed the cost and availability of everything. Not to mention a new category of expenses appeared: working-from-home. I begin July anew.

 

 

Radishes in bloom

Yes, I’m well-aware that before going to seed, garden plants bloom. I battle the rhubarb every year, breaking off five to eight fist-sized blossoms before they can open. And the chives, like other alliums, boast spheres that attract bees.

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Rhubarb flower

But I had no idea that red radishes have pretty flowers. Looky! Two of the salvaged salad leftovers are going to seed. When I told a real-life gardener, she said the flowers were edible and the seedpods before they get “woody.” But I’m going to enjoy them as they are.

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