pare down

1 Gilbert_McCarragher_Steeles_002via Remodelista

The older I get, the less stuff I want. I’m acutely aware of this shift in so many different ways.

1. I had to run a few errands on Saturday, and one was to a jewelry store in the mall to get a replacement earring back that I lost last week – for my only set of earrings. I make so few trips to a mall these days, and I don’t miss that one bit. I was inside for less than thirty minutes, and I could recognize the feeling that walking past store displays was actually triggering thoughts in me that I “needed” something that I saw. When I left with my newly restored earrings in place I felt relieved.

2. Last year I simply did not have the time to do the nearly constant “editing” that I now realize I do on an almost daily basis. It was one of the things that I had to let slide, but it doesn’t take long to come back to bite you. With just a slight shift in my morning commute, I drive past Goodwill. I’ve been taking bags on a weekly basis. There is much more to be done.

3. I made one pass through my closet and drawers last week. It felt good, but I need to go further. Very few things I own really speak to me right now – I only have a few favorites. I’d love to get to the point where I have about 25-30 pieces total that get me through the year. Finding those things takes time, and I’ve never been great at giving myself that time, but I’m working on it.

4. As we work through ideas for the new addition, I’m also working through what I want to get rid of. It could be tempting to think of adding new space = adding new things. I want more space, and less things, and then more people in that space. I’m taking daily notes on what I use in the kitchen. The thought of having an open pantry makes me really excited. I want a very minimalist setup in the kitchen workspace area, with little visual clutter. But I want an open pantry that doesn’t allow for anything to get stuck into a corner to hide for five years, forgotten, but still taking up space.

5. Meal planning that self-cleans the refrigerator. My fridge is stuffed right now, and not particularly organized. But that’s because it’s early in the week, and all the pieces have a future calling. I take a strange sort of pleasure in reducing the fridge to nothing by the end of the week. It gave me a great idea for a weekly blog post that features a menu with accompanying photo of ingredients (using similar ingredients in different dishes to avoid waste), and then another photo showing the end of the weekend, and the few stragglers left over. Those leftover bits and pieces of ingredients would provide the starting point for next week’s menu. I operate that way now, but I don’t document it. As is frequently the case, I have more ideas than free time to execute them, so I’ll have to table it for now.

6. Most of January was spent unpacking and sorting and catching up on things – bills and forms, etc. We made great progress, but I’m afraid we still have a long way to go. It’s hard to find the time to do it outside of working hours and morning / evening routines. The girls spent a lot of time being frustrated* that we were too caught up in these things to do many fun things on the weekend. We spent a lot of time being frustrated* that we work so much and so hard, and then when we’re not working we’re constantly doing chores, and if we got a little more help around the house with the omg.never.ending.chores, then we’d have more time to relax and hang out together.

*frustrated=crying and yelling (F used to say something like “frusserated” which perfectly sums up the feeling of fussing and frustration.)

Which brings this around full circle. Those last two statements about frustration are pretty accurate. The girls are frustrated that we have so many things to fuss with outside of work. The grownups are frustrated that we don’t get more help with all the things we have to fuss with outside of work. There are just too many things, and I’m not sure where to start to reduce them. I’m working on it though.

5 Responses to pare down

  1. Everything you say in this post speaks so directly to me. I am at the same crossroads of redefining how we live in our house, and how we live in general… trying (always, endlessly) to rid clutter and excess stuff, trying to “eat like Europeans” (without a lot of extra or excess of food in the fridge, but rather just what we need), and balancing work, housecare, and endless chores with really BEING a mom and enjoying these years. Two thoughts for you: 1) Wardrobe-wise, I just found “project 333” and am considering giving it a go (though I think I need to go shopping first for the right pieces), 2) We remodeled our kitchen 8 years ago. At this point, we need some new finishes (paint, rugs) and new island stools, and if I were starting the remodel today I would definitely make a few different decisions (countertop height and depth; the flourescent light cans that are “code” in our town; the floor which has ended up being high maintenance) but all these years later I’m still thrilled that we decided on no upper cabinetry with only drawers below, and limited open shelves. Our kitchen looks nothing like the “dream kitchens” of McMansions, and isn’t full of useless or unused kitchen items. I love it and am glad we bucked a lot of trends. Love your blog! Looking forward to following your new addition, and “living with less.”

  2. You touched on several things I’ve got in the works to write about…

  3. I decided to jump on the bandwagon and read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m only a third of the way through, but I’ve already warned my husband that I may be giving away half of my belongings by the end of it. I’m so tired of taking care of all the “things”. And I’m saddened by how much time I spend butting heads with my son about the caring for and placement of STUFF. Here’s to being brave enough to change! Thank you for sharing.

  4. I’m reading that as well! I found a used copy and was intrigued. I didn’t realize it was so popular, but I’m not surprised.

  5. Longtime reader/admirer/lurker – 1st time commenter. Like Nancy, everything in this post speaks to me! I love that you cover the spectrum of life with a voice that is equal parts honest and aspirational.

    Like many others, I am in a constant struggle to avoid being overrun, physically and mentally, by things. Choice overload is a personal demon! The consumer culture we live in makes one feel as if our wants are really needs, which is why I love that you put the word “needed” in quotations. Such a simple shift, but so important to the overall goal.

    Which is, for me anyways, to add value to my life. It’s not about living sparsely or taking up the least space that you can fit in – but living in a space, and with people and things, that you cherish and that bring you joy. Your outlook on wanting your new kitchen space to fit people, not necessarily things, really hit the nail on the head for me.

    My daily zen right now, from Bruce Lee – “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, and add what is uniquely your own.” Thanks for the inspirational post!

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