Thursday, June 13, 2013

June Goal: Organized and Minimalized Wardrobe

I realize that we are already more than a week into the month, but I decided that I am going to post monthly goals and then post again to recap how I do reaching them. 

So June is here, now what?

Already the living room and kitchen have been somewhat addressed. They are by no means done, but I get distracted easily and need to focus on something else for a while. On my list of places to declutter are my closet, the bathroom, the laundry room, the shed and gosh the list just goes on and on! Since I want to have SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound), I will not say that I will finish with all those areas by the end of June. That would be neither smart nor attainable. I am looking to make lifestyle changes and those take baby steps. So for the month of June we are going to focus on my wardrobe. I will become a DIVESTING DIVA! 

Divest. According to Websters, one of the definitions of divest is to be 'rid' or 'free', in this case to rid or free oneself of the unnecessary clothing and accessories that languish in the laundry, muddle my mornings, and generally just get in the way.  

There are oodles of lists posted around the blogsphere showing the minimum pieces needed for a basic wardrobe and I have no intention of re-listing those, telling you what or how many items you should keep. The basic principle is wear what you own (and not just once) which means you have to own pieces that fit your life. I work full-time in a office that has a professional/business casual dress code during the week, and I like to putz around my house and play outside evenings and weekends. I need clothes for those activities. While, I haven't quite figured out what my minimalism will look like when it comes to a number of items I will keep, I do know two things for sure: 1) I have too many clothes that go unworn; and 2) I always feel like I have nothing to wear. 

Phase 1: Address the unworn minions:
  1. Sort through and get rid of the obvious items. For example, there are a pair of snow pants I have had for 5 years still with the tag. Why do I still have them? I think I must have gotten a good deal on them for starters. It's an expensive brand and I know for sure I didn't pay full price {since I rarely do}. I think I bought them after a trip to a friends cabin one winter {not sure of the logic there}. And again, I think we had been planning on going back to said cabin several times that year and I wanted to be prepared. Obviously we never went and honestly, that is way to many "I think" statements. Not knowing for sure why something was purchased is a dead giveaway, it's going in the get-rid-of pile. 
  2. Sort through and get rid of the "I could wear that if I was 10 lbs lighter" items. We all have them. And let me tell you, that doesn't provide the right kind of motivation for me to eat healthy and exercise.  I am an "out of sight, out of mind person". When I am getting ready in the morning and see those items, sometimes I think, "Oh I should really work out a little more today and NOT eat my daily cinnamon roll". More often however, it's something like, "Wow, I can't believe this used to fit me, I think I need some chocolate to self-sooth". I'm exaggerating, but really isn't that more how it goes? For me, feeling good about what I am wearing, having clothes that really fit and flatter, is the biggest motivation to keep active and eat healthy. So those don't quite fit pieces? Out they go. 
Phase 2: Pare down the rest of the items.

Had a flash of brilliance yesterday (if I do say so myself). I am going to wash all the clothes that made it through the first cut, and then tag them all with a little piece of that green painters tape. After a month, anything with tape still on it will obviously not been worn and should be removed from the wardrobe. Not sure if this will work but I am going to try it out and let you know!

So that is it, my SMART goal for June. 
Specific - Reduce the number of clothes and accessories in my wardrobe
Measurable - I am starting out with something like 200+ items (will count and update later with an exact number) and I want to get this number down.
Attainable - I am not trying to do too much, I have more that two weeks before the end of the month to finish the first cut and think I will use the month of July for the second phase {the tape experiment}
Relevant - It fits in with my overall goal of living a minimalist life
Time Bound (time frame) - Again, finish first phase by end of June and spend July on phase two. 

What do you think? What has helped you keep your wardrobe minimal?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Changes to the Kitchen Routine

Honey Dear and I were talking the other day and he {much to my surprise} suggested a change for the kitchen that would help with my minimalization project. Before I get into that, let me give you a brief glimpse into our home life and daily kitchen routine.

We live in a modest, older three bedroom house with a house-mate. This house-mate, lets call him Sandy, is an friend of Honey Dear's from way back. As in they grew up together, way back. This makes for a really fun, vacationing-with-friends kinda atmosphere. It also means that we are a little more slack in the house cleaning department than we might be if Sandy were a total stranger. Add to the mix the 70's puke green ceramic floor, an old messed up laminate counter-top, and two large Akitas... and you get a kitchen that can be pretty crunchy sometimes.

A day in the life of this kitchen typically looks something like the following:
One of the human occupants stumbles in and gets the coffee machine going in the morning. If it is one of the two males, that usually means some coffee grounds on the counter and floor. Breakfast is made for both the humans and canines {we feed raw, and as much as I can sing the praises of green tripe, it is, well... ripe smelling} dishes are left in the sink as all jet separate ways for work. Fluffy canines follow and drink from the water bowls throughout the day. Water and drool are generously spread around the floor. Sometimes they bring in dust from outside and mix up some mud. In the evening, dinner is made, more dishes are dirtied. There is usually some trash and/or recyclables in places other than the proper receptacles. Prior to Lights Out, sometimes dishes are washed and set out to dry, usually on any available flat surface.

So back to the conversation with Honey Dear. He says to me, "why do we have so many plates?" I looked in the cupboard and he was right. There were 11 plates in there. There are three of us. We don't really entertain that often and when we do its usually one or two good friends. "Lets take all the extra dishes and flatware and box it up and see if that helps with keeping the kitchen clean. We can wash after we are done, and even if we don't and everything is dirty, it won't be this huge pile in the sink." And we did. We washed all the dishes, picked out the best plates, glasses, mugs, bowls, knives, forks, and spoons, and put the rest in a box out in the shed. A few extras of everything were placed in a not so easy to reach place to discourage the use of them on a daily basis, but not so difficult to get if to we do have company.

Sandy came home in the middle of this operation. He looked at Honey Dear and then at me. I informed Sandy that Honey Dear and I were conducting an experiment and apologized for not giving him the option of opt out. He shrugged his shoulders, "no biggie".

So now we will see how it goes, will this help us keep our kitchen clean, will it free up more time in the evening? We shall see.

How about you? What changes have you made that have helped simplify your kitchen routine?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Getting started: tackling the extra stuff

Now that I have decided to be a minimalist there are some things I have to do. First, I have to get rid of a lot of stuff. Then I have to get rid of some more. There are a lot of ways people can approach minimalism, and it can mean differant things to differnt people. But one common theme no matter how you are approaching it, is having less stuff. 

My husband, Honey Dear and I recently canceled our storage unit and brought everything into the house. For a while the living room looked like this:

I had things from my apartment in boxes I hadn't touched in months, maybe years. Remember the post about 5 bottles of facial cleanser? Yeah. The hardest part was getting started. Half a day and about 5 boxes donated to Goodwill later and we have:

Its far from perfect. There are still a couple of boxes of clothes I need to go through and a chest of drawers with miscellaneous crap that must be addressed. But generally I am pretty pleased. 

As I was going through everything, I keep asking myself the questions I found here under "the How" on the blog Minimalism is Simple 1) When is the last time I used this item? 2) If I have not used it recently, have I missed having it in my life? 3) Does the item fill a need or bring me happiness? and finally 4) Is this item taking away from my end goal?

These are amazing questions and I found when I evaulated things honestly, there was a lot I didn't need to keep. What I wasn't expecting is how exhausted I was after finishing. It takes a lot to go through the things you have accumulated, but the end result is well worth the effort. 

Had a realization during the process: while I want to live a minimalist life of voluntary simplicity, I also want continue to be crafty and do the DIY thing. For a while I was thinking those two were mutually exclusive but after meditating on those four questions above, I realize they are not. I can design my own decor, make my own clothes and accessories, and grow my own vegetables and be a minimalist. The realization was mind blowing. What is more, my house doesn't have to be all black, white, and neutrals. It can be colorful and crazy, with design inspiration ranging from Arabic to Zulu. I know that might seem a bit obvious but it was a real epiphany for me. What I am aiming for is a home that contains only things that fall into one of those 4 categories above, that is organized and clean, that is a haven for my family. 

The living room is on it's way. Step by step...

Monday, June 3, 2013

"I Don't Need This"

Coworker: "How was your weekend?"Me: "Great thanks!"Coworker: "Did you do anything fun?"

And there it is, the question I knew was coming. It's Monday after all, and when your are done talking about the weather on Monday's you talk about your weekends. Well, I didn't really "do" anything this weekend. Not in the "go out and have some fun" way, the "I went to a BBQ at the lake" way. 

I started decluttering my life. 
"I uh, ya know, started some 'spring cleaning', trying to simplify a bit""Oh i know isn't amazing! It's like, I didn't know I had 2 of these!!"
And just like that I realized that I was not alone. I had that exact thought not 24 hours before. Except it was "I didn't know I had 5 of these!" and they were bottles of unopened face cleanser that had obviously been on sale. A brand I hadn't used in over three years. That wasn't the only thing, there was also the box full of bags, the type you use for grocery shopping so that you don't use plastic or paper ones at the store. I found 26. And putting those items into a donation box wasn't as easy as picking them up and putting them in the box. I had to jump some huge mental hurdles. Each bag was different, cool, interesting. What if I need one to match an outfit? Then I realized I never did that, I always grabbed whatever bag I could find. If I couldn't find one, I ended up buying another instead of paying $0.10 a bag each time I shop. Really? What is going on in my head that tells me that makes any kind of sense? 14 tubes of chap stick? 6 covers for my phone? And let's not even start with all the art project materials and tools I have.

And this leads me to...

Goal #1: Stop thinking "I need (fill in item here)."

I might need *it* whatever it is, but probably not. Would I have even known I needed *it* if I hadn't see an advertisement? Or in the end-aisle display at the store? Items I actually need: a new tooth brush every 3-4 months and new mascara every 6 months. Not 10 toothbrushes and 5 bottles of mascara at a time.

The last time I thought "I need this", I bought a mini stair stepper for exercising at home. 

That was back in December. It is now June and that stair stepper I "needed" is sitting in my living room, gathering dust. I justified the purchase by thinking I would use it while I watched TV with my husband, or first thing in the morning before going to work. I've used it once, for 10 minutes, it was awful.

So from now on, if there is an item that I see that I like and I am tempted to purchase it, I will not buy it right away. I will ask myself if I really need it and come up with reasons why I don't.

I will not impulse buy anymore. 

Better yet I will stop going to those websites that have things to buy when I don't need anything, and ignore the ads in magazines that encourage you to spend money on the latest and greatest. Petroleum jelly works just fine for my lips, and one or two grocery bags is plenty.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I want to be a minimalist

I am a child of the 80's and 90's. My parents worked hard and as far as I knew, we were never hurting. I had everything I needed and then some, but always was asking for more. The kids at school had the coolest shoes and jeans, commercials and ads during my favorite TV shows showed girls and women happily going about their days with the latest fashion, makeup, accessories and things. They were pretty and happy wearing those clothes, holding those bags from that store. I wanted to be pretty and happy, I needed those things from that store. My dad was aware of the effect those commercials had, the discontent that was planted and nurtured, and he tried to instill in me that awareness. But I was a teenager actually living in the trenches, how could he possibly know what it was like? You needed those L.A. Gear shoes to survive the minefield, and only acid wash Jordache jeans could give you the proper swagger. How could I show my face wearing hand-me-downs and thrift store finds?

Fast forward 10 years and I'm working in the financial district of SF. The cool girls are still wearing the right shoes and clothes and of course I have to fit in with them. I can't be carrying a backpack that screams college kid to my real job, and those Birkenstocks that carried me through school have got to go. New bag, new shoes. But wait, maybe this new bag I have been using for a few weeks is a little more slouchy that I want. I think I need that one with more structure, and those shoes are really only good with those slacks, so I should get another pair of slacks and shoes. Then there is makeup and hair products, both so important to finish my "look". I have got to find the perfect shampoo that doesn't weigh my hair down and just the right shade of lipstick to give me that flushed and natural glow. Oh, look at that bag....

10 more years has brought much of the same. Looking back I realize that I have always wanted to be a minimalist though I didn't' know what that even was. I have gone through many, many iterations of purging my belongings and whittling them down to the essentials, donating the rest to the local Goodwill. Once done with that exercise, everything would feel a bit lighter for a while. But then I wouldn't be happy with what I kept and would start up the search for the perfect whatever, or I would go through a depressive period and self treat with shopping. 

And there is a glimpse into my struggles with possessions. 

One of my closest friends growing up was a basically a minimalist. She was rasied by a single parent and they didn't have much. What they did have was usually quality. Even when she started working and made her own money she kept things simple. Good pieces, just what was needed. She always seemed so put-together, elegant, even if it was just us going to hang out at a coffee shop for a while and all she was wearing was a t-shirt and jeans. Fashion and beauty and quality were important to her, but the the things she owned did not define her. They were merely to fill a need or enjoyed for their beauty, nothing more. 

So what is minimalism? Webster defines it as "a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity".  Other blogs have defined it as having a richer life with less stuff. My definition encompasses all that, but I am also still figuring it out. I may not know how minimalism will look for me in a year, but I do know that I am ready to adjust my thinking. I am ready to tackle the emotional issues that have led me to the place I am now. I am ready to change my habits. I am sick of so much stuff and am ready for a minimalist life.