Tag Archives: minimalism

Letting Go Challenge: Week 29 and 30

Weeks 27 & 28 (2)

 

I fell behind again.  Again.

The past few weeks has seen me fall behind on a LOT of things. Seems like everything, although I know that it’s not  necessarily true. With this posting, I’ll be one week behind (as of Sunday), but it’s better than being three.  So there’s that.

One of the things I’ve been confronted by is my sheer lack of focus. The past month in particular has been tough. I’d have all these goals and ideas and what-have-you only to be distracted by–what was that shiny thing? Oh my god!

Kinda like that Doctor Who episode “SIlence in the Library” when Donna’s transported out of the library, and finds herself in a life that passes by instantaneously. She’s talking to Dr. Moon: “You said ‘River’ and now we’re feeding ducks.”  Her saying she will bring her children to the park brings her to the park without any of the actual journey.

That’s what my life feels like right now. Only more tedious. Like I’ve lost the time, don’t know where it’s at, but have nothing to show for it.  I just find myself having done this or that and managing to skip over what I was supposed to be doing for that better life thing.

And here I am. Starting over. But not really starting over. I’m still 47 things lighter, even if it took me 2 weeks to do it.

It’s a little bit better than a start, at any rate.

Allons-y!

THE JUNK:

  • 1. Bubba cup (cracked–I loooved that cup)
  • 2. Fancy schmancy Christmas ornament
  • 3. Mason jar without lid
  • 4. NyQuil Cold and Flu: Exp date 2013
  • 5. Salon pas (didn’t work for me…held onto because…maybe they would work magically one day? I have no idea)
  • 6. Famotidine Exp 2014
  • 7., 8. White disks something-or-others (maybe floor protectors?)  x 2
  • 9-14  Coffee cups X 6
  • 15. Clear lax for the dog — exp date 2014
  • 16. Bottle of pills so old and faded I have no idea what it even is
  • 17. Christmas candle
  • 18. Ibuprofen — Can’t use it now with my every day Nsaid–finding it a new home
  • 19. Plastic cup
  • 20. Styrofoam cup
  • 21. Hair clip (not necessary since I chopped my hair off)
  • 22. Rusty spoon
  • 23. Pink stuffing paper (??)
  • 24.-27.. Four un-mated lids from the garage
  • 28. Sock–lonely and hanging out in the garage
  • 29. Bag of “silverbells gem mix” (??)
  • 30., 31.  Empty DVD case x 2
  • 32. Movie: Face Off
  • 33. Movie: Analyze That
  • 34–37, Four plates
  • 38., 39.  Christmas stockings x 2
  • 40. Hurricane instructions from 2006
  • 41. Book: Non-Profits for Dummies
  • 42. Movie: Bad Boys II
  • 43. Movie: Hide and Seek
  • 44. “Sherry” shaped glass
  • 45. Book: Walt Whitman “Laws of Creators” — ruined in the rain
  • 46. Notebook with writing–Also ruined in the rain
  • 47. Decorative metal pot-type thing
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Letting Go Challenge: Week 27 & 28

THE JUNK:

Weeks 27 & 28Not pictured-

  • 5 “cleaning rags”
  • cat food jug
  • Wrecked gift bag
  • Broken “flower pot”
  • Many pet pamphlets
  • Wiggle giggle ball that doesn’t giggle when it wiggles any more
  • Post its (this time not from work)
  • Out of date Vitamin D
  • 4 magazines
  • Dog-chewed lid
  • Broken scissors (put back in the drawer, even)

Med bottles and various other things from the cleaning closet that I’m just too beat to list. It probably wasn’t nearly 42 things. But it was something.

After a week off (funny how life just happens and suddenly I realized I missed a week), I was attacked by my cleaning closet.

This is what the closet looked like:

In the process of finding way too much stuff to get rid of, I discovered whatever the opposite of a treasure trove of stuff is:

  • A bread bag (really?)
  • Spoons from MREs. They were leftovers from Katrina, my only guess is that I brought them into the house before I had silverware
  • A bottle of Windex with a quarter inch or so of Windex still in it.
  • A jug of vinegar with even less
  • Lightbulbs I didn’t know I had
  • A bag of clean socks (whaaaat?) with medical papers in it (double whaaat?)

I had “stacked” (and I use that term loosely) torn towels and t-shirts in the closet, presumably to use them as cleaning rags.

NOBODY NEEDS THAT MANY CLEANING RAGS!

This week was an epiphany of sorts: I really want to spend as little money as possible. I want out of here.  I had left Mississippi years ago, returning after about five. After living in the desert, I fell in love with her all over again. Got a job, got my degree, got another job.

This week I sort of “woke up.” I’ve been complacent. I’ve held my current position for almost eight years–that’s far longer than I’ve held any job before. With an awesome boss and awesome coworkers and a work load that doesn’t ask too much of me, I’ve grown complacent.

Everything I love about Mississippi is wrapped up in my family and my immediate surroundings. I was born here and left the state for about five years in my mid 20’s.  The summer nights, filled with fireworks and lightning bugs; the boat rides to Ship Island and from Long Beach to Biloxi and back again; the sheer greenness of the honeysuckle, grass, and oak trees stood in stark contrast to Arizona–a place whose state color should be beige. Beige for the rocks, beige for the houses. Everything running together and nothing really standing out.

So wrapped up in my memories of childhood, I was shocked when the South came thundering back in all its greenness and pinks and yellows and purples of flowers, demanding that I take her back again.

And I did.

But now it’s time to go.  I’ve been back for thirteen years now, so very much of that spent miring in complacency. It’s time to go. But there are many steps between here and there.

Paring down the house is just one step. Another is saving money.  One thing I did do this week is to change my cell phone plan. From unlimited everything (and I swore, they’d have to pry that plan from my cold, dead fingers) to a finite amount of data. In doing so, I saved $10 a month.  After watching how good I am at seeking out wifi, I may be able to pare it down again, for a total of $25 saved a month.

Sure it’s only $10 now (and .70 cents that the state will no longer get in sales tax), but it’s a start. I may be able to pare it down again when I see how my data use works when I’m paying attention to being on wifi.

Ten dollars and seventy cents a month. It’s a start.

Oh, and I also did my taxes. And my brother’s taxes. And go grocery shopping.

And cook up some chicken at 830 Sunday night because I refused to let it go to waste.

It’s been a productive week.

Letting Go Challenge: Week 26

THE JUNK:

  • 16 plastic containers and at least a dozen extra lids (lids without bodies, not counted)
  • Coffee cup
  • Expired license (as of May of 2015)
  • “New Pet folder” given by Vet
  • Book: Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery
  • Med Bottle
  • Dog food mat

Twenty-two things.

I try to get my food together for work on the weekends: Yogurt, nuts if I have them, cereal, etc. and something for lunch, but I’ve been pulling my hair out lately trying to find stupid containers that are a) easy to transport and b) actually have a mated lid.

The first time I cleared out my cupboard, I took pics and pretty much texted them to everyone. It was that momentous of an event.

And there I was, back in the same situation without knowing exactly how I got there. Well-trained by my mother, I’ve held onto every ham/turkey plastic package, every yogurt tub, every little thing. It wasn’t even conscious. More things were migrating back into my house, and it was making life more difficult.

I really like the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid set. They stack well, the smaller ones are perfect sizes for individual servings, and they’re just so simple.

This is what they look like. I’m not promoting Bed Bath & Beyond (I could never with their careless disregard for commas), but the site does have a “zoom over” so you can see exactly what they look like up close.

I need a couple of more of the smaller pieces to do exactly what I need: have a very compact storage set for five days of three or four different items. I’m trying to pay closer attention to my eating and eat smaller things every couple of hours. These storage things are perfect. I don’t have quite enough for five days of cereal, so, in the mean time I’m using sour cream containers until I replace them with what I really want. When stacked, they take up a LOT less room than what I had before, therefore making room for actual cooking things.

These things work for me, and I’m really loving not feeling guilty about spending money about something that really, really works for me.

I haven’t finished the garage still, but I did have room for both the water filtration system and for the people to work in, so I’ll take it for now. I got away from my filing, and I realized that, here it is the end of March, and I still haven’t done my taxes. I put my W2 somewhere “I wouldn’t lose it,” and now need to make the filing part of organization a priority. So there’s that.

In other news, I finally finished Up From Slavery. I had started it months ago in my quest to read the books I have, only to misplace it, start another book, misplace that one too, and so on.

Washington earned a lot of criticism–both fair and unfair, I think. One of his greatest talents, though was having two messages. One was of “racial accommodation,” that is, leading African Americans through the paradigm that whites had created–that is–stressing education only to the level that allowed them to work with their hands, all the while backhandedly stressing equality very subtly. Washington was gracious and warm in the face of detractors and yet worked around differences in opinions to accomplish his vision.

I think he was a called statesman who was unrelenting in his efforts to better the lives of African Americans while working toward a unified nation of people. The criticism he received from other African Americans was that he wasn’t doing enough.  He didn’t push hard enough or expand his goals far enough.

Washington was accused of being an incrementalist–a gradualist.  And he was. When others called for more dynamic changes, he took one “baby step” at a time, over and over and over again.

And what he created was magnificent: Tuskegee. It was and still stands as a stepping stone to further progress. Read a little here on Wikipedia if you’re interested.

Sometimes I get caught up in other people’s progress, measuring my accomplishment of goals against that of others. But I can’t. In the end, the only thing that matters is how I stack up against yesterday. Or a year ago. Or decade ago.  Have I slacked off, or  am I still taking baby steps?

Because many baby steps over a period of time can cover a hell of a lot of distance.

 

Letting Go Challenge: Week Twenty Five

Week 25THE JUNK:

  • 11 Magazines
  • 5 Styrofoam cups
  • Word Count Map — haven’t updated it in almost a year
  • Hospital arm band
  • 4 Post it Pads
  • Stack of out of date coupons
  • Red nose
  • Ecig box
  • A lock–I don’t even know where it came from.
  • A magnet too weak to hold a note card

Twenty-seven things, and this week was just my scrambling to get the things together. I REFUSED to miss another week.

I also cleaned out my refrigerator, which I didn’t count, and got rid of even more medicine bottles. Also not counted.

The cups, another holdover from my mother (did you know styrofoam cups can be washed through the dishwasher once or twice?). The post-its, accidental thievery from work–they will be returned on my next day back. Why on earth would I keep a hospital arm band? I mean, really? It’s not like it’s a nostalgic time I want to re-experience.

I am coming face-to-face with my waste, and it’s a bit shocking, to be honest. I am really starting to understand why I feel as if I never have any money–it’s being spent on half-eaten food, shoved to the back of the refrigerator, a magazine subscription that was a “free” trial, and I was too lazy or forgetful to cancel it.

I don’t think I even read any of the magazines.

It’s being spent on notebook after notebook, scattered around (and now being piled in the office until I go through them). Half-written, half-focused, notes from a class merged with to-do lists merged with letters I started writing but never finished. Clothes that “almost” fit that I never wore once I could fit in them. So on and so forth.

I look around, and instead of seeing stuff that makes my house “mine,” I see more stuff to dust, more stuff to move around, more stuff I don’t want to take care of yet don’t want to lose. My drum, for example. I can’t even think of parting with it, and yet I never play it. It’s a pain in the ass to dust.

But still I cling.

This is a process, I know. But I want a tidy and organized house. I want to have less shit to deal with. I want less waste and more efficiency.

I want I want I want.

I guess I’m getting there.

What I’ve discovered is that stuff isn’t just stuff. If it were, it’d be easy to get rid of. For me, it’s about memories, about identity, about security and control. It’s about letting go of the need to remember moments when life seemed brighter, or more honestly–to  in the past. The stuff is representative of my need to identify myself by the things I own and the things I remember. I’ve never considered myself materialistic, and, yet, I have drums and books and tie-dyed this and that which have become part of how I present: I’ve read these books. I play this drum. I am a hippie, see, I have tie-dye!

It’s about a certain amount of security I’ve attached to having certain things.

After Katrina, it was so easy. Most things had been swept away. There wasn’t indecision or suffering with choices; those had been taken care of for me, literally swept away down the river. There was a bit of mourning and moving on. “It’s just stuff,” I said, proud that I had let go, even as I unwittingly began the process of collecting more stuff.

Stuff isn’t just stuff. Maybe it’s never just stuff.  But clearing out is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s been–and continues to be–transformative. And I am ever, ever so grateful that my dear friend started before me, inspiring me to begin my own journey.

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go Challenge: Weeks Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four

 

 

Weeks 23 and 24

THE JUNK:

  • 5 Pairs of Pants
  • 1 Pair of Shoes
  • 21 shirts
  • 1 Vest jacket
  • 1 Pair of socks
  • 1 Blu Ray Set plastic cover
  • 1 Bell
  • 1 (very old) hand sanitizer
  • 1 Benadryl spray (out of date by 5 years)
  • 8 medicine bottles
  • 1 pack of hairbands
  • 1 cut up credit card

Forty-three things.

I missed a week. After 22 weeks of continuous clearing out, I missed a week. Sooner or later, I always drop the ball. Usually when that happens, I get discouraged and distracted and months later wonder how I went from doing whatever it was every day to having gone months without doing it.

Not this time. I missed a week. One week.

Tom Robbins said, “Stay committed to your decisions but stay flexible in your approach.”

So here I am, picking up where I left off.  I don’t know if I’ll have 42 items this week–I’m writing this in between gathering stuff, doing chores, etc.–but I will have only missed one week.

Not too shabby for a gal with the attention span of a Mexican jumping bean on meth.

This week I discovered a COLOSSAL waste of money. I had bought 2 sets of Breaking Bad deeply discounted with the intention of selling it. It never happened. I just couldn’t do it. I ended up giving it away to a friend who’s as appreciative of the series as I am. Maybe not such a huge waste of money after all. But still a “holy shit” moment. As

I also realized as I was gathering items–specifically the med bottles–that I’ve gotten rid of  a lot that I haven’t documented. I’ve had a lot of med bottles. Small boxes, and things like that.

But I get it honest. This week, my dad texted me a picture of his doctor’s record that showed him bringing me into the doctor. In 1974. Apparently, my mom is going through stuff at her place, too.

I’m in the process of reducing two bookshelves to one; I don’t know if I’ll have it finished this month, but it’s closer. I discovered that by getting rid of a Wii box in the entertainment center, I could move my movies there, clearing out almost a full shelf. The reference books that I have no intention of getting rid of (mostly writing books and some lit books from college), I’m moving to the office now that I have room on the shelves in that room.

I had high heels on it previously. I have NO idea why I thought putting them on office shelves was a good idea, but I got rid of them a long time ago.

There is no horse to get back on. There is just this: my getting rid of things, simplifying my life. Sometimes life gets in the way of those plans.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

 

Letting Go Challenge: Week Twenty-Two

wp-1456703795075.jpeg

THE JUNK:

  • 1. Sharps box
  • 2. Shampoo Bottle
  • 3. Conditioner Bottle
  • 4. Plastic dish that no lid would fit
  • 5. Snowman Christmas ornament
  • 6., 7. Two pairs of shoes
  • 8. Bird cage with candleholder
  • 9. Stuffed puppy
  • 10. Xmen Origins — Wolverine (never opened)
  • 11. E-cig battery was D.O.A.
  • 12. Wii box
  • 13. Glass chess set
  • 14. Book: When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops by George Carlin
  • 15. Basket
  • 16., 17., 18., 19.  More nail files
  • 20.  Cat stuff: Pro-Pet Cat Relief hydrocortisone spray
  • 21. . Knee highs
  • 22.  Eyeshadow spongey-thing
  • 23. Antibiotic Ointment (expired in 2011)

A couple of things happened this week:

  1. I realized that I buy a hell of a lot of duplicates. A HELL of a lot. The Xmen movie–which is far from my favorite–I have both on DVD and BluRay.  I’m currently reading An Orgy of George by George Carlin, which contains Brain Droppings, Napalm and Silly Putty, and When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops. No reason to hold on to the original Pork Chop book, eh?
  2. After my house was broken into, I swore I’d keep all the serial numbers for my electronics and things. I found out the hard way what happens when you don’t. But instead of writing them down and filing them away, I had kept the boxes. Like the Wii, for example. I’ve officially started a “Serial Number” file.
  3. Because I was getting rid of the Wii box, which was inexplicably stored in the entertainment center, I had room to move my movies over, freeing up space on the bookcase. My goal is to get both bookcases to one so I can get rid of the one that’s broken. I’m not close, but I’m a good foot and a half closer.
  4. I realized what a hard time I have taking/sending things back when they aren’t what I ordered or they’re defective. The e-cig I’d ordered off Ebay. I know I could have gotten my money back, but I just didn’t do it. Now, it’s been too long. I just don’t do it. I should. I don’t. I’ll deal with that later.
  5. The only reason I included a picture of a Q-tip box (cause it’s kind of silly, right?) is that it’s a milestone. It’s the first time that I can remember throwing a box out right after using the last one.
  6. I am really, really, really enjoying this. There is something so satisfying about seeing a space–amidst the clutter–that remains unoccupied. There is something so satisfying about seeing the pictures of all the things I’ve gotten rid of.  It seems as though everything can go wrong during a week; I may not succeed at anything else that week, but getting rid of 21 things WILL happen. There is something very satisfying about seeing “holes” becoming wider–opening up space. There is something very satisfying about being able to find what I’m looking for because I know that a) I have it and b) where I’m keeping it.

Would I like to be done with it?  I’d like to have made more progress, I guess, but I don’t want to be done with it. Maybe it’ll never be done. Decluttering has turned out to be a far richer experience than I would have ever guessed.

So much so that starting in March, I’ll be doing a financial simplification. I haven’t quite come up with a catchy title yet, but I’m committing to the first week of every month. I want to see what I can do to tidy up my finances.

This should prove interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go Challenge: Week Twenty-One (AKA Lots and Lots of Words)

THE JUNK:

  • 1. Broken binder
  • 2. Broken Otterbox
  • 3. Spatula
  • 4., 5. Ice packs for shipping my Enbrel
  • 6. Box of papers
  • 7. Box for heating pack
  • 8., 9. Two jars of paint
  • 10., 11., 12., 13. 14. Five paint rags
  • 15. Paint stirrer
  • 16. Used painty-thingie for a painting edger
  • 17.  Vanilla coffee syrup
  • 18. Chicken wire
  • 19., 20., 21.  Tea that expired in 2011 or earlier, two boxes of it that I had never opened.

If I had a loose plan for finishing one room a month, I’m woefully behind schedule. Good thing I’m not getting graded on it.

I realized a couple of things this week: 1) Sometimes things just aren’t worth messing with and 2) I have bought a lot of stuff that I never, ever use.

The Otterbox has a lifetime warranty, yes. But after having replaced a couple of parts on it multiple times (and dealing with their shitty customer service), I just decided to trash it and buy a new non-Otterbox one.  It costs something like $2.50 each time you file a warranty claim. For the number of times I dealt with them, I could have paid for the excellently-rated cheapie that I partnered with shatterglass at least once–and probably a couple of times over.

There comes a point where it’s just not worth throwing money in the same direction.

As I’ve begun keeping a closer eye on my spending (aside, why is it that every time I start tracking my spending a bazillion “unexpected” expenses come up?), I’ve managed to shave a minimal amount of spending down, with the goal of cutting my spending 10% by the end of the year. Maybe because these two things are intersecting, but I’ve noticed that there’s a hell of a lot of low-dollar stuff I’ve bought that I just didn’t need. Or want. Or thought I wanted but got distracted by a shiny object.

I’ve been at the purging for over five months now. Without counting the weeks that I did more than 21 things, that makes it four hundred and forty one things that I’ve counted, and that’s not including the things I’ve thrown out but was too lazy to count because I was in a frenzied cleaning mode. (It’s about as rare as a solstice blue moon, but it does happen.)

Sometimes I amaze myself.

THE LAGNIAPPE:

A most awesome thing happened this week. In clearing out the garage, one box at a time, I discovered that I haven’t lost all my writing from before Katrina after all.

Mud-covered, faded, and stained, I have bits of poems, bits of dreams, bits of stories.  Letters from people I didn’t even remember writing me. A whole lot of bits that I didn’t even remember writing. I spent a bit of time ooh-ing and aah-ing over them, tickled that I’d found them.

Lots and lots of words. Words I’d written. Words others had written to me. Words and words and words.

It’s over ten year old writing, from a place I was before college, before the second great love of my life, before my dog, before my niece and nephew were even thought about.  Before I had a home for myself. Before R.A.

All of it is now in a file folder to be transcribed when I have the opportunity. Filed away for closer inspection.  I daresay I’m in for a bit of nostalgia.  It’s kind of exciting, a world I’ll be revisiting.

I came across this, though, before I really studied the meaning and use of words.  And here, nearly eleven years later, it still rings as true for me as it did over a decade ago:

Words
Words will be the death of me,
And in truth, I am reborn.

Words, the perfect Universe,
Perfect Circle,
Imperfect Perfection,
Perfect.

Within words, we are born,
Hatching ideas from the Egg of all Wisdom—
We create, and are created—
We expand, and are born.

Words, the jailers of our soul,
Measuring the infinite with finite descriptions:
How does one describe the essence
of God?
of a laugh?
of an orgasm?

Within words, we are slain,
Leeching our power and losing it freely—
We belittle and are belittled,
We wither and are slain.

We choose destruction when we could save;
Choose to begin when we should end.
Gather Hope, in words, for the Spiral dances,
Another opportunity, again and again,
Until it ends.
Only to begin anew.

Raise arms, in words, to destroy the truest monster
That eats away our very soul—
Apathy.
For therein lies true death, from which there is no salvation.

“Fear is not the end of this,”
“Death is only the beginning.”
Truth lies just beyond the doorway,
Embraced, sheletered, and protected
By words.

Will you dare? Do you care?
Are you even truly alive?

© 2005 N. J. Ray