December 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
Um, yeah. So when you’re de-cluttering it is important to make sure you don’t throw out a project your kid worked on for several hours and is due after the holiday break.
You see, our kids have never, ever had homework assigned over a holiday weekend. That’s why, when I did my clean sweep of my 10 year-old’s backpack over Thanksgiving break (while his dad took him to the movies), I tossed out a map of the United States that was meticulously labeled with the state names and capitals. I assumed it was a project he’d done in class, so into the bin it went!
I forgot all about it until yesterday when George returned from dropping the kids off at school and told me that our youngest had lost the school project that was due, and, boy, had he really lit into him. We’ve been having some issues with the kids not being organized and losing their stuff, so when he lost something yet again, George just went sort of nuts – the way a parent goes nuts when they’ve already gone nuts over the same topic 497 times.
Turns out that George had him complete the project early while I was out of the home on one of my jaunts to the corporate office. I had no idea that any of that had happened, which is why I assumed that it was an in-class project he had just brought home for us to see.
So poor little guy gets lambasted for being disorganized and it’s really my fault.
Cue the guilt.
George went in to talk to the teacher about what had happened, and it turns out that she extended the deadline to Friday anyway. Whew.
Fortunately this kid is pretty easygoing and he took it in stride. He just re-did it and handed it in this morning. It looked great. I still feel awful.
I have apologized profusely to both dad and son, and I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t throw other people’s stuff out without checking with them first. (Mostly.)
Have you had any de-cluttering mishaps?
November 16, 2011 § 4 Comments
On this journey to find calm in the chaos I’ve made some big moves. I can now officially claim that I eat a vegan diet. I have slashed my spending by epic proportions, and have bought down the principle on my mortgage enough to be able to re-finance to lower my monthly payment by $1600 – even though I’m technically underwater. My family has successfully survived with one car and one cell phone for four people. I hate how my hair looks, but I’m pretty ok with the fact that I have not colored it in 13 months. I actually turned down a freelance job earlier this year because it didn’t sound like fun.
August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve been thinking a lot about wastefulness. In the government, something is defined as wasteful when it’s something your opponent wants. In the home, wastefulness can be defined as throwing perfectly good food away (or letting it rot rather than making a meal plan for it). It can also mean leaving the lights on when you’re not in the room, letting the water run while you’re brushing your teeth, or taking 30-minute showers. At school and work, wastefulness not only applies to money and resources, but also time. And in a consumer society, wastefulness could mean that you’re buying more stuff than you could possibly ever need or use.
When we shift our attention to creating a minimal lifestyle, it’s natural that we begin to take stock in our wasteful behaviors and patterns, and then begin to correct them.
The problem I’m having with this approach is that my Type A personality creates a tendency to punish myself when I don’t live up to my goals of eliminating wastefulness in every area of my life.
Recent example: Yesterday George volunteered to do the weekly shopping for me. I wrote the list and the meal plan for him, and one of the items we needed was a handful of Kalamata olives. When I do the shopping myself, I always take my own glass jar specifically for olives so that I don’t have to take the store’s plastic tub. I forgot to pack the jar for George, he came home with a plastic tub, and I nearly had an aneurysm. I felt like a failure. Seriously.
I realized that by creating a goal of “eliminating wastefulness” I have locked myself into a pattern of thinking that is deeply negative. “Eliminating” has a particularly menacing connotation. And “wastefulness” is just loaded with baggage, in my opinion.
I propose that we move away from this double whammy of negativity. Heretofore I will no longer “eliminate wastefulness.” From this moment forward, I “embrace wastelessness.”
“Wastelessness” is an idea that’s long overdue. Rather than chastising myself for a wasteful purchase after the fact (or beating myself up for wanting the wasteful item in the first place), I will instead ask myself if the item is wasteless before I purchase. Or — even better — try to envision all of the creative uses for every aspect of the item, even the parts that are considered throw-aways. I can make these decisions creatively, feeling empowered rather than punished. By discovering if a thing or activity is wasteless before we buy, use or participate, we immediately snap our thoughts to the often limitless creative uses for things (or time) and can make a more enlightened decision.
A wasteless way to view a bunch of carrots, for example, would be to see that you can make a delicious soup from the orange part, and a tasty pesto from the greens. Not a bit of the carrot is wasted (and it’s all in my belly.) A wasteless way to view a bulk-sized plastic bottle of vinegar is to use the vinegar to clean your home, then cut the bottle in half. Use the top part as a funnel. Use the bottom part as a scoop for the dog food. (These are both recent examples from my own home, although I must give credit to George for thinking up the funnel. I’ve used it, like, 100 times since he made it.)
Wasteless spending. Wasteless time management. Wasteless energy usage. Wasteless meal planning…. In what areas of your life can you embrace wastelessness?
August 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
June 15, 2011 § 2 Comments
Here’s a shot of my recent haul. I have a lot of books. Since I decided that I wanted to purge two of my bookshelves — one is a really cool library carousel thing that spins around, and the other is an unpainted piece that I bought nine years ago with the intention of staining it or painting it or somesuch nonsense (never happened) — it’s time to thin the herd.
I’d like to give a quick shout out today to some blogs that are very inspirational for de-cluttering. If you’re having trouble kick-starting your cleanup, just pop on to some of these pages to see how some real pros are handling it.
Unclutterer.com: Quite simply the blog Bible for keeping it clean.
365lessthings.com: I’ve really enjoyed reading this blog for the past couple of weeks. Colleen’s a cleaning machine. Plus, she offers fun little missions and inspirational words.
Thezerowastehome.com: If Bea Johnson’s blog doesn’t inspire you to clean out your closets then nothing will.
Guynameddave.com: Creator of the 100 Thing Challenge, Dave keeps a great-looking blog filled with thoughtful essays about living with less.
What can you de-clutter today?
May 25, 2011 § 11 Comments
You’ve decided to simplify your life. You’re minimizing your reliance on material things, being more mindful of where the items you purchase are created and paying attention to the amount of packaging you allow in your home. You’re spending more time on things that fill your spirit rather than things that empty your wallet. It’s an exciting time because you can see the benefits of your newfound minimalism in your increased free time, your elevated energy level and your excitement about your day.
But what happens when you have a disagreement about your new lifestyle with your friends, family or businesses you patronize?
In the case of my friends, I’ve mostly gotten some bemused questions. Only one person was a little hostile and incredulous. But for the most part the folks I hang with are ok with idea that I’m dialing down.
Most of my family lives far away, and the topic hasn’t really come up. So I’m not sure how they’d respond.
But I recently had an experience with a wine club we joined that I’d like to share. The winery in question is a block away from our home, so it made financial sense to sign up for the 20% discount that came along with membership – useful on the rare occasions we need to run out for a bottle of wine. Plus, we like to support the businesses in our downtown area. Our little square, like many other districts in the country, has suffered during this economic nightmare, and we feel that it is our responsibility to support the local guys.
On Saturday they FedExed us a package. My initial reaction to this was that we live a block away, and have mentioned to them on more than one occasion that when our quarterly wine allocation is ready, we’ll just pop over to pick it up. I was sort of surprised, but no biggie.
It was only after I opened the outer box, pulled out the inner box, then the wine bottle, then removed a rolled-up piece of paper from inside the wine bottle, discovered an RSVP card AND envelope, plus about 50 styrofoam peanuts that I realized that this wasn’t our wine shipment – it was an invite to a FREE event in September.
Are you kidding me?
There was not one single recyclable thing in this mailing, not to mention I felt sort of bad that they probably dropped $15 to send us something that we would have been happy to go get. (We LIKE going in there.) And styrofoam peanuts? Speechless. Obviously, I had an issue.
I wrote them an email. It said, in a nutshell, that we are so happy that they are here in our town, that we love their wines and that we are very pleased to support the wine club. But, hey, we live so close we’d be more than happy to pick our shipments up, and, since we’re sensitive to packaging issues, they could feel free to just shoot us an email for future events. At no time did I threaten to stop shopping there, quit the wine club, storm down there to kick over their trashcan or anything else. I just wanted to remedy this little hiccup politely.
What I got back was a short email that explained that everyone else loved the invitation and if I have a problem they understand completely if I drop out of the wine club. They touted their “individualized service” and explained that that an “email wouldn’t suffice” for future invitations. But if the service is individualized, why can’t they personalize their communications to my preference? From a strictly business perspective, my way saves them money, right?
I’ve learned from watching Celebrity Apprentice that it only hurts you to take the low road, so I simply responded that we had no intention of quitting, and thank you for reading my message. I also said we look forward to seeing them again soon. These folks are my neighbors, you see, and the last thing I want is to cause a conflict with people whom I actually see while running errands.
So I’m a bit perplexed. I know that I can’t force people (or businesses) to see things my way, or change their practices to suit my worldview – and I wouldn’t want them to do the same thing to me. But, do I have a responsibility to drop out of a club that doesn’t seem to want me as a member? Or am I blowing this out of proportion? Should I have just kept my feelings to myself?