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…

Continue reading

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!

Many Unhappy Returns

In a rare bout of impulsive shopping, I ordered a hoodie with a reindeer motif online. It ended up being a strangely off-black with gray patterns, not white as shown in the photos.

I hesitated to return it. First, because it’s still rather cute.

Second, it’s a hassle: I’d have to buy a return plastic envelope and drive it to the UPS store in a nearby town.

Third, it’s a light enough fabric that I can use it as a second layer between a T-shirt and a sweatshirt.

And today came the clincher: Returned Goods Get Sent to the Landfill

Good grief! Plus I learned a new term, bracket, which means “buy a medium, small and large…, and try them all on and then return the two that don’t fit.” That seems a waste of resources in and of itself.

I think the researcher’s solutions are sound, particularly buying secondhand.

And so I would encourage you to partake in [secondhand] and to look for brands that are actually part of the circular economy… repairing, refurbishing and fixing goods at the end of their life so that they can have a second life.

 

Five Planned Expenditures for 2020

In anticipation of my 2020 challenge A Year of Mindful Shopping, I put together a list of above-and-beyond expenses. I was going to estimate their cost, but I really can’t.

  • Four nights in hotels. A family reunion and a weekend trip are in the works.
  • Materials for sprucing up the powder room. Labor is free, thanks to BabyBro’s generous nature. (Honestly, I think my MacGuyvered flooring pulled at his heartstrings.)
  • Admission to at least three museums and five gardens.
  • A new water heater.
  • A new headboard for the guest room.

On the Mend… clothes, that is!

I had the misfortune of walking through rotting mushrooms and neighbor-dog residue while gardening. They made quite an adhesive for pasting mulch and leaves to my white sneakers.  For a moment, I contemplated tossing them into the garbage. Then I got the bucket and the bristle brush. Then, after a spin in the laundry with a bit of whitening agent, they were ready for many more seasons.

That is, if I take care of them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying from the Great Depression: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

My quest for clothes that fit has shown me how easy it is to donate and buy, donate and buy, etcétera ad nauseam.

It’s also easier to toss than to mend.  Yesterday I discovered a hole in a nearly-new patterned sock. Contrary to rumors spread by Young Humans, I don’t have clawed feet (or eat children), so I wasn’t expecting early-onset sock failure. Luckily, it’s a seam opening, not a tear.

I’m grateful that my mother taught me rudimentary sewing skills, although I’ll never sew clothes like she and my grandmothers. A stitch in time saves nine and a little seam repair or darning saves space in the landfill.

Related Reading

Benjamin Leszcz writes about “The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do”

An oldie-but-goodie post about how to follow the philosophy Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do, or Do Without

 

 

Eating the Decorations

7157AA43-6016-438F-94C1-B757716D3CAC
I don’t decorate for Thanksgiving* but I add a few autumnal touches close to Halloween. My friend Sissy gave me a silly squirrel tea towel last year, joined this year by her hand-made matching pillowcase for a travel-pillow. My favorite decoration is a bowl or two of squashes and small pumpkins from local farmers.**

Then I cook and eat them.

Last week I enjoyed butternut and acorn squashes. This week it was delicata, which I’d never had before. Verdict: very pretty and delicious. All that remains are a pumpkin and a spaghetti squash.

I highly recommend decorating with regional edibles. It’s a twofer: Nothing goes to waste and it supports local growers.


*Halloween decorations consist of a felt skeleton for the door and a fancy candy bowl for the trick-or-treaters.

**Note: Unlike suburban farm markets, rural markets really are cheaper than grocery stores. And the produce sometimes comes in odd shapes.

September 2018 Progress Report

It was the best of times, it was the mediocrest of times. (NOTE: not a real word)

Budget Planning

My dearest, oldest friend laughed when I told her about the no-spending challenge. To paraphrase, she thought I was just asking for trouble. After paying for a transmission repair, dry cleaning, and bandages and ointments, I agree! That’s not including the waste of money on groceries like beans and grains I cannot eat on restricted diet.

I will not go into the details. Suffice to say that my savings account dropped drastically.

Home

I need a plumbing inspection, a survey, and an estimate on a shed. Due to budget constraints, I contented myself with collecting papermill boxes (free!) to serve as weedblockers when I transplant plants.

I also gathered acorns to put out for the squirrels this winter. Bonus: fewer seedlings sprouting from various and sundry places.

American Life Cleaning VS the Middle School Mafia

Faithful readers may remember that last year The Young Human Factory shuffled the duties of employees, resulting in my new position as a Quality Control Inspector for the self-same hooligans that terrorize the neighborhood. This year, there are MORE widgets stuffed into my room.

They are like adorable deranged monkeys on Kickstart, Redbull, and whatever bad-idea beverage they can get their paws on.

Case in point: Last year, a boy got in trouble for picking paint off the walls while a substitute was covering the class. This year, while I was in charge of the room, one of the teeming horde continued the deconstruction. It dug through the blah beige of the Nineties, through the turquoise of the Eighties, and down to the Seventies’ persimmon orange.

I had to halt the production line and proclaim a Bold New Strategy(tm) of historic site preservation before anyone passed the psychedelic Sixties and reached deep enough to break through the brick and into the Tenth Dimension.

On the flip side, they say thank you and please and I spend only a couple hours each day contacting their progenitors, the discipline officer, and law enforcement.

But as a result, I come home and achieve little besides daily chores. Better luck this month!

August 2018 Progress Report, Part I

I had possibly the worst circumstances I’ve ever had for progressing on my goals. The antibiotic I took at the beginning of the month made me photosensitive and lightheaded. The final one gave me side effects that interfered with digestion and sleep.

As much as possible, I rolled with the punches. Wide awake at 2 am? Time to spackle the bathroom walls. Too dizzy to stand on a ladder? Work at the table.

In the end, I got quite a lot done. Continue reading

Minimal wardrobe

I thought this was an interesting article about wearing a minimalist wardrobe as a realtor work uniform. My mother knew a woman – a law clerk, as I recall – who always wore black blouses with black trousers with accessories supplying color and variety.  For those who adopt such habits, dressing becomes an absolute no-brainer.

My own wardrobe is divided in half: work clothes and play clothes. Never the twain shall meet, with the exception of informal clothes like a T-shirt under a suit jacket. A few years ago, I had casual clothes only for summer, not even a pair of jeans.