Really Good Post on "STUFF"

I just have to share this with you because it perfectly sums up what I am getting at with my Happy Shiny Me quest towards minimalism.

If you like decluttering, then it's worth the 2 minutes to read it.


This part in particular could have been written about me 10 years ago:

It wasn't always this way. Stuff used to be rare and valuable. You can still see evidence of that if you look for it. For example, [a house] built in 1876, the bedrooms don't have closets. In those days people's stuff fit in a chest of drawers. Even as recently as a few decades ago there was a lot less stuff. When I look back at photos from the 1970s, I'm surprised how empty houses look. As a kid I had what I thought was a huge fleet of toy cars, but they'd be dwarfed by the number of toys my [kids] have. All together my Matchboxes and Corgis took up about a third of the surface of my bed. In my [kids'] rooms the bed is the only clear space.
Stuff has gotten a lot cheaper, but our attitudes toward it haven't changed correspondingly. We overvalue stuff.
That was a big problem for me when I had no money. I felt poor, and stuff seemed valuable, so almost instinctively I accumulated it. Friends would leave something behind when they moved, or I'd see something as I was walking down the street on trash night (beware of anything you find yourself describing as "perfectly good"), or I'd find something in almost new condition for a tenth its retail price at a garage sale. And pow, more stuff.

It was my affliction too. Thrift Stores were my Siren's Song... it caused me physical anxiety to drive by my favourite places for fear that I was missing out on some underpriced treasure! It would be different if I had an antique shop or an eBay store specializing in vintage toys to flip these things at... I didn't. I just WANTED them because they were cool and cheap and "worth more" than I paid for them.

Now owning fun, vintage things just for the sake of owning them is done for me (at least 90 % of it), and I am willing to just let go. Some other person in that accumulation phase will find them at the charity shop and squeal with glee and maybe even be able to turn a profit, but that's not where I am anymore. And the value of the experience of having these things when they brought me pleasure is done.... finito, over.

I guess I don't feel "poor" anymore!



There is a connection that I need to share... clutter isn't just crowding your home, it's affecting your health too.

A cluttered home can lead to unhealthy food choices - counters crowded? scared to open your cupboards? can't find anything in the pantry? chances are you will throw your hands up in surrender and either go out or call in some quick-fix meal with a million calories. Or maybe you are depressed by the mess? Eating a cookie (or 10) is easier than tackling the insurmountable mountain of stuff. And opening that chocolate bar is so much easier than slogging through an over-stuffed fridge to liberate the carrot sticks (the clutter/fat connection has been covered by Peter Walsh in a book in some detail)

A cluttered life can lead to a lack of meaningful exercise - When it takes all day to clean around your stuff, you have no time to hit the gym before work, go for a walk after dinner, or take the kids to the pool/beach/park on the weekends -- trust me, I know what I'm saying here. I guess you could just let the dirt accumulate -- but ewwwww. (On a personal note: having a dog made my life a non-stop chore of dirt/hair removal, and kids made the ever increasing toy round-up. The more stuff I had the harder it was to keep up with it, and my disgust had reached critical levels to the point where I was secretly hoping the house would burn down!) So if your idea of an "ideal me" involves going to the park with your toddler every day, romantic walks at sunset, or you aspire to a buff body that can turn heads and climb mountains, you have to have LESS STUFF. Even with my slow and steady decluttering, I have found way more TIME to do what I really want and more time to honour my body's need to move instead of shifting the stuff from one place to another to clean in, around, under it all.

A cluttered approach to money management can lead to a cluttered home - "oh I LOVE that" without a 2nd thought "that"comes home with you, and the lingering guilt when the credit card bill comes keeps you from parting with "that" when the first blush of love is gone. Similar scenarios are "I deserve it", "This looks useful", "What a good deal", etc... the trap is (without any consideration about the true cost of the item, cost for maintenance and the space the item takes up) the money gets spent. THEN the interest starts growing on the credit. You are now committed to making that payment (among all the other bills) and you still want to shop. It can be a vicious cycle if you aren't the kind to pay the card off every month. And buyers' remorse can follow (pass the cookies again). ** It's been my observation that the people that are closest to the line financially have the most "toys" and gee-gaws in their homes. They are soothing their feelings of being "poor" with shopping! (I am making broad generalizations here, I know, but it's what I've seen.) I have been one of these insecure shoppers for years and years. It's as if surrounding myself with "stuff" was a great big cushion against disaster -- only it can bite you in the butt because it can cause more trouble on the home front (and the career front too if you are losing things or late too often thanks to the mess). On the financial flip side, there are the folks I know that "have it together" financially on their quite modest incomes. They are content with less stuff in their homes. They may even be minimalists! Their incomes may not be any more than the Clutter-toy-shoppers, but they have found a budget that works and are happy with what they can do with it. They save for the big purchases and have a plan for their future. They have learned to say "no" to the distracting impulse wants and that false sense of security that buying lots of stuff gives, and in exchange, have a deeper satisfaction found with financial responsibility and fewer possessions.

Next time you want to bring that item into your house consider if it will in any way distract you from your health, weight or financial goals. There is a clutter connection.


Hazards of Being a Packrat

Though my house is looking better all the time, my pack-rat to minimalist journey has only just begun.

I know this because:
  • I am still struggling with my systems not working.
  • Things still get lost.
  • I can still be late.
  • Things not regularly getting finished on time.
  • And there is ALWAYS an underlying sense of dread that am forgetting something really important
  • And there is always the fear that I am going to lose something really important at an inconvenient time (keys as I'm leaving the house, T4s when it's time to do taxes, checks when it's time to go to the bank....etc...)

But, I have to say, it really is getting better with every bag of (formerly loved) things that leave the house, and every decision NOT to buy something I want (fleetingly). I can see the results, I can feel the difference! And that gives me the strength to continue.


Free Space is Room to Breathe


In the 2 boxes of stuff I took to charity last weekend, some of it was kitchen stuff. It was surprisingly hard to part with these things. A good quality stainless steel mixing bowl set, a pan with egg coddlers (and tight-fitting lid), some genuine tupperware sippy cups. These items have lots of good life left in them, but did not get used in my day to day life (anymore). I have been lugging the mixing bowls and pan around for 20 years (that's how long I have had my own kitchen) but I always chose the OTHER mixing bowls to actually use, and the pan never seemed to be the right one for anything I make, the sippy cups are from when the kids were much younger. Letting go of all these things was strangely hard because they are so useful LOOKING.

Now that a few days have passed, it has been glorious without these things!
I can't over-state how wonderful it is to open the pot-drawer to put things away and have SPACE for everything without an inpromptu game of pan-tetris.
The plastics cupboard is liberated without the sippy cups -- the teetering stack of colourful plastic is off to a new family somewhere, and now my ziploc containers can be found easier.
But the most dramatic difference is in the corner cupboard where the mixing bowls lived. It now has at least a full square foot of more space, tipping the scales from frustrating to functional. I still open the cupboard with a hand ready to catch what may fall out, but nothing does!

It feels like there is more air to breathe as I'm unloading the dishwasher. It feels like just that much less stress as I'm searching for something...

and so bolstered by this success I look ahead... there are many, many more cupboards.

What "useful" items are you not using in your kitchen cupboards? I challenge you to try removing them from your cupboards and experiencing better functioning cupboards.


Dressed for success

Thinking about the connection of footwear and clothing, I now have a small bag of clothing ready to go off to a new home:

1 slip dress,
1 tiny cocktail dress,
2 x wrinkle-prone cotton button up dresses,
1 summer print dress that is too snug around my bottom
1 knee length striped skirt
1 wrap top that is too long to be a top and too short to be a dress
1 frumpy tank top
1 white, flowy cotton skirt that is too see-thru

What does this add up to?

Enough hangers to for my remaining summer dresses to each have their own hanger!

Are you wearing all the summer dresses in your closet? Go have a look and see if any forgotten frocks can find more love in someone else's wardrobe. Be honest! Does it fit? Is it comfortable? What do you feel when you look at it? How do you feel when you wear it?

shoes shoes shoes

Alright folks... here is a dirty little secret. By splitting them up into several areas of my home I have accumulated A LOT of shoes without the impression of clutter. But I figured now was the time to fess up.

I did it back in May of 2009 but I don't seem to have improved....

Not pictured:
-Winter boots (pretty pair and snow pair)
-Work boots (steel-toed hikers)
-High heeled long boots
-Motocross Books

Wow, I'm such a typical girl! So many of them make me feel happy to look at (I'm looking at YOU red Keds pumps with the blue quilted insoles)

The thing is... I DO purge shoes... the worn out or blister causing are removed from the closets!

So WHY do I still have so many shoes?

I blame my clothes.... specifically the diversity. 
The business slacks don't go with the casual slip ons, the pumps are saved for certain outfits (the shoe choice depending on formality of the event), the heels for "date nights", and the cute shoes are worn with summer dresses while the comfy shoes are saved for everyday jeans or capris. The beach sand shoes are different than the river rock shoes and the crocs are for wearing around the house. The deck shoes are for boating and the runners are for running and the suede lace ups are for hiking and the slip on sneakers are for errands in the car (I wear these most during the school year). You see they ALL have their purpose! So the only way I can reduce the number is either A) get rid of the associated outfit(s) at the same time or B) tackle multiples of the same function.

Let's start with "B".... here are the ones that are going:

I picked the most comfortable water shoes, the best deck shoes to keep and cut my flip flop choices in half. Chopped are the not-as-good real running shoes and  my ugliest crocs slated for the bin. The harder part was 3 of my least worn black dress shoes going to charity (the $289 italian leather granny shoes are hard to part with but I inherited them and have never found the right outfit to go with them)... 11 less pairs of shoes.... I must keep better track of these things!

That feels better!

If someone told me that I must chose one pair of shoes (and only one pair) to mold my life around I am happy to say the choice would be very easy... not the prettiest, not even the most supportive, but simple, comfortable and cushy... my TOMS!

NOW I challenge you to line up all YOUR shoes and take a picture. Are you horrified? Proud?


Less is More

"the less you have, the easier it is"

I don't know exactly where the quote came from.... but doesn't it make great sense!?

after all.....

the less you have, the easier it is to put away
the less you have, the easier it is to store
the less you have, the easier it is to keep track of
the less you have, the easier it is to care for
the less you have, the easier it is to give it the attention it deserves
the less you have, the easier it is to use it up before it goes bad/gets lost/loses relevence, etc...

It works for all sorts of possessions and stress and debt too.

A road less travelled

I have always been a frugal consumer. My sister calls me "cheap", my mom calls me "a tightwad"... but my stepdad calls me "sensible"... who is correct?

if I can find it used, I won't buy it new.
if I can live without it, I will wait years to find what I want at the price I want to pay
if it breaks I will fix it before even considering replacing it
if I find it really cheap but needing TLC, I will buy it and give it TLC
if I can cook it at home I won't order it at a restaurant
if I can get home for a meal I won't eat out
if I can get it from the library, I won't buy it

I have no problem donating my no-longer-needed, usable items to charities or friends instead of selling them
I feed my family very good food
I have good quality furniture and clothing
My family engages in somewhat expensive recreation
We always host the big holiday family meals

I believe quality is more important than quantity and saving for something I really want is well worth the wait. I don't want to buy something just because I can. And I don't want to waste resources buying new things that won't add anything more to my life.

I am bucking the trend, going against the grain, ignoring the Jones completely and living my own life.... in my family I am taking the road less travelled.