week four: carload of shit

Feast your eyes on a big old pile of random. I took an entire carload of shit to the thrift store this week. An unrelated grouping of items I culled throughout the week, the sacrificial lambs included such highlights as:

– Eight thousand packs of metallic mini muffin cups. I bought out Sur la Table one day on my lunch break – they were adorable and on sale. Forget that I didn’t own a mini muffin tin at the time. Or that I still don’t. And forget that I bought them when I lived in San Francisco. Six years ago. Uh-huh, buh bye.

– Fuckin loud ass clear acrylic drawers from The Container Store. Purchased to hold everything from office supplies to panties. These drawers were going to change my life. And they did, with their cat yowl screech emitted when you opened and closed them. Added bonus: they often tipped over while opening, spilling their contents on the floor. Laters!

– Multiple boxes of packaging materials for cute products to make that I envisioned in my head but never actually got around to creating. What a dumbass I was when I first started my business. I’d be all “Hey, I think I should make wedding favors,” and then, instead of doing ANY research on what brides would buy, price points, cost of goods sold analysis, etc., I’d just plunk my credit card down and buy a shitload of random materials. Giving those boxes of never-realized product inventory away felt BADASS. Like I accepted that I had been a dumbass, but am now past said dumbassery. We’ll see, huh?

– Baby gate that collapsed when you touched it, got near it, looked at it, breathed hard, etc. Haha – sorry poor schmuck who buys that at the thrift store. Although knowing my husband and I, there’s a very good chance (maybe like 70 percent) that we simply installed it wrong.

It was a good week.

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week three part two: successful shomer shabbos

I did it. Twenty-four hours without TV, iPhone or computer. It. Was. Awesome.

My husband and I ate dinner at the table (pesto chicken pizza awww yeah). I think in the five years we’ve owned our dining room table, he and I have enjoyed dinner there together maybe three times. Typically we’re hunched over the coffee table in the TV room, watching Top Shot and zoning out while eating.

We talked during dinner. I got to look at him when he was speaking and enjoy his mannerisms. We put on a jazz record for background noise. I had a small glass of wine. It was very… civilized.

Now, my husband and I both work for ourselves, and we both office out of our home as well. So we talk a lot during the day. We see each other pretty much 24-7. But quick check-ins regarding the status of the dogs’ potty breaks or bitching about an annoying client isn’t really conversation. It’s not romantic. Dinner at the table with jazz? Romantic.

And not checking my computer every four minutes? I didn’t miss anything. Didn’t miss shit, really. I had two small sales in the shop, no important email, no must-see Facebook status updates.

It made me wonder – who the hell do I think I am? I’m a stay-at-home mom with a small online store. Not some powerful CEO running a Fortune 500. My days are swimming lessons, grocery shopping and trying my best to prevent my quick-as-all-hell crawling baby from gnawing on speaker cables or tipping tables over onto his head. Computer and email can easily be a once a day endeavor for me – if not less.

And from now on, more dinners at the table. Unless Top Shot is on and then all bets are off, yo.

week three: shomer shabbos!

“Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t fucking ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t fucking roll!” – Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

So I think Walter has something here. I heard about the National Day of Unplugging over at the Minimalist Mom. I have read some posts on minimalist blogs before about unplugging for the weekend, a week (!!!) or even longer. Her post, however, titled “It’s Just 24 Hours,” made one day seem doable.

It immediately reminded me of Walter’s Shabbos rant from The Big Lebowski (seriously the best movie ever… at least the first 70 minutes). And if Walter Sobchak is down, I’m down. But it took a few days to convince myself I could do it. That I WOULD do it.

I’m not just semi-addicted to email, texting and facebook. I have an online business that requires a decent amount of attention. So… unplugging for a week isn’t really going to work out for me. But sundown Friday to sundown Saturday could. So I’m going to do it. I wrote “try it” first, but you know how it goes: Do or do not. There is no try. Damn I’m full of awesome movie quotes today, yeah?

My rules will be: no computer, no iPhone, no TV. I probably will use the oven and my kindle – but ONLY to read my book (Anathem right now, a recommendation from husband and IT IS AWESOMEO). And the record player. If baby needs to nurse in the middle of the night, no surfing on my phone. Just me and him in the darkness, which frankly sounds lovely.

I’ll update after the event! There is no try!

week two: sparkly shoe purge

If someone had asked me – prior to this week – about how many pairs of shoes I owned, I think my guess would have been about ten. Maybe twelve? It couldn’t be more than twelve. I mean, I wear the same flip-flops every day. Every. Day. I have a cute pair of Aldo heels for going out, my wannabe-skater Vans, some sparkly black flats and some pull-on sneaks for walking around the lake. A few miscellaneous other pairs, but certainly no more than a dozen.

I had twenty-four.

True dat – it’s not a terribly shocking number. I’m sure many women scoff at 24. I did some research, and last year a study was published that concluded that American women, on average, own 17 pairs of shoes. So while 24 isn’t a shocking number, I am ahead of the national curve by nearly 50%. Really, though, what surprised me the most was that I had no idea what an accurate count was. It was obvious a had a lot of shoes that I probably didn’t give a shit about. And, as it turns out, I was right.

I gathered all my shoes up, lined them up in neat rows (hauling your stuff out to look at it in the cold, harsh light of day really helps you to be honest about what’s crap and what’s not, learned that from The Minimalist Mom) and dragged husband in to help me appraise them.

Some were easy. Previously-mentioned sparkly black flats: comfy, cute and go with everything – keep. Blingy heels I wore for our wedding that our dog chewed up: unwearable – toss. I tried on two different pairs of silver flats for husband and made him pick his favorite. He chose the sequined ones (I apparently like shiny shit) so I tossed the goofy ones with the bows (???) into the sell pile.

Some were a bit harder to let go of. Husband had bought a pair of Converse All-Stars for me several years ago. I wore black All-Stars all through high school, graffiti-ing up the toe box and sides. I would literally wear holes in them, then get a fresh pair when they fell apart. I guess I thought my twenty-something self would still like them, wear them and feel cool. But my twenty-something self never wore them, and my thirty-something self let them languish in the closet as well.

Time for them to go. And when I threw my Chucks into the sell pile (NWOB, ebay bitches!), I have to admit it didn’t hurt like I thought it would. It actually felt good. Relief. I didn’t have to wear those shoes if I didn’t want to. They wouldn’t be crowding up my closet anymore. It would be easier to find the shoes I did want to wear. That thought made me happy.

After those went, a lot followed in a five-minute purging flurry. I pared the collection down to twelve. It felt awesome. Even husband got caught up in the heady rush of throwing shit out and junked some janky flip-flops and aqua socks. Sweet.

Everything I kept I wear with some regularity. Except one pair – some semi-ridiculous red sequined d’orsay pumps. Did I say semi-ridiculous? I meant all the way ridiculous. But for now, I want them. If I ever go out past 6pm again I’ll take them out for a spin.

week one: guilt and magazines

Minimalism. I have my mission but where to start? I need something accessible, not too time-consuming so it can be basically accomplished within the nap window – and I need something that won’t hurt too bad. I look around…

On the breakfast table, beneath the miscellaneous baby clutter and toast-crumbed placemats is a stack of magazines. My magazines. A mix of home, life and cooking periodicals that come into my home monthly, are perused minimally and often filed away with dreams of the perfectly-planned road trip or a dinner party with fabulous dishes made with fennel.

I have subscriptions to – and collections of – magazines filled with content that I don’t use, don’t care about, don’t have time for or can easily obtain somewhere else. (Um hello? Internet?) Not only are these magazines taking up real estate on my kitchen table, but I actually SAVED dozens of them over the years, PURCHASED magazine organizers in order to display them neatly and CLEARED space for them in my office, family room, living room and bonus room.

The worst part? My magazine collection makes me feel guilty. Every time I look at them, prettily poised on my bookshelf, a wash of regret comes over me. I haven’t made that recipe, worked on that craft, decorated my house to the nines for Fourth of July with homemade garlands and potato-stamped luminarias. I was holding onto these magazines in the hopes I’d some day become my perfect vision of myself.

Well, fuck, I might be waiting forever on that.

Magazines, I have decided, are first on the chopping block. I rounded my collections up from their various stations throughout the house. I kept the recent issue of each and stacked the rest.

I discovered that I had 22-inch-high pile of magazines taking up space in my home. More than that, I had 22 inches of magazines making me feel guilty for not taking advantage of all the sage advice within their pages. Curious, I flipped through a few to see what indispensable info I had dogeared years ago. The perfect faux bois wall treatment! Halibut curry soup! Collections of cloisonne birds! Twelve mascaras that will change your life! The coolest places in Vancouver in 2007!

I have never once gone back to a dogeared magazine that had been shelved for more than a month or two to cook a recipe or plan a trip. If it doesn’t grab me immediately, ain’t nothin doing. There is no shame in that. I get great recipes online all the time. I ask friends for recommendations in new cities. (Yeah, or I Yelp. Maybe just Yelp.) And faux bois on my walls? Really? Like husband was ever going to let that happen. Probably a good thing.

A funny thing happened when I started piling them in a box to take to the thrift store for donation, though. I actually felt my heart speed up as I thought about giving these away. A part of me panicked. For a moment, I thought it was silly to toss out these great ideas, these beautiful layouts. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to flip through them with some coffee, linger over a feature on bed and breakfasts in Oregon or find an adorable Easter craft?

And then I stopped myself. Yeah, that would be nice. But it’s not fucking happening any time soon. No coffee or milk for me while I’m nursing. And there’s not a lot of lingering at my house these days. When baby naps I’m working, making baby food, doing laundry and picking up dog poop in the backyard. When baby goes to sleep, husband and I make dinner, watch a show, listen to some records and then race each other to see who falls asleep first. I love my life. But there’s no B&Bs in Oregon to be had right now.

I’ve also decided to let all of my subscriptions lapse this year. If I miss any of them, maybe I can get them on my kindle. Maybe not. But no more glossy stacks of guilt for me. I’m already breathing a little easier.

and so it begins…

This is it. The first step on the road to minimalism. I have been fascinated with the subject since devouring The Minimalist Mom‘s blog entries over the past month. What started as a somewhat voyeuristic look into the life changes of a woman I do not know has turned into a personal mission to purge my life of physical and mental mess. My stuff, and the strange attachments to most of it, has got to go.

When did I accumulate so much stuff? I have managed to fill a large house and garage with things, the overwhelming majority I rarely or never use. (Mainly never.) I am 30 years old. Not nearly enough time to acquire a lifetime’s worth of goods and memories. Where did everything come from?

To be fair, I do share my home with a husband who has a very difficult time letting go of anything. Anything. Holes, stains, don’t use, doesn’t fit, even doesn’t like – none of those are good enough reasons to donate or pitch something. But as much as I’d like to pin the blame for the ridiculous amount of shit I see in my home solely on husband’s shoulders, it’s just as much my fault.

I’m no hoarder. You don’t have to side-step your way through my living room to get to the bathroom, negotiating stacks of junk. I have a nice home. We have some nice things that I know we’ll have for a long time, things that give us pleasure that we enjoy having/using. But I have a closet full of clothes I don’t wear. Boxes and boxes in the garage labeled with my name, bursting with sentimental keepsakes (my old tutu, a hat from t-ball, college newspapers when I was the editor-in-chief). As I write, there is a juicer on the floor of the dining room. My beautiful home is always cluttered.

It isn’t just physical. My rising interest in minimalism is only partially about the cleanliness of my home. Husband and I have an eight-month-old son. Now, more than ever before, I want to be 100 percent present in my daily life. I have mental clutter, too. Distractions that sometimes keep my focus away from the things that matter – family, baby, experiences – and lead me to the things that don’t – Facebook, checking email, worrying about organizing my stuff.

My plan is fairly straightforward. Each week for one year I will attack something in my life. My shoe collection, tv watching, linen closet, etc. Fifty-two assaults of minimalism on the stuff and things I’ve let get too big and important in my life. This blog is my accountability. My hope is by writing about it, chronicling my progress, that I will stick with it.

At the end of the year, I don’t think I’ll be living in a yurt with one pair of underwear or anything. Like many of the minimalist mom bloggers I’ve read, this isn’t about radical downsizing. It’s about prioritizing the people, activities and experiences that I value most and letting the other stuff go. Making room for what matters most to me so I can fully enjoy it, savor it, remember it.

Let’s go.