Category Archives: Life

Things I Learned by Downsizing – Part Two – Books, Clothes, Household Items

Previously you read how I minimized the papers in my life. I hope that my story and tips help you reduce the amount of dust that collects in your attic. Today we’re looking at how to reduce the amount of books, clothes, and household items we have.

Books

My treasured possessions were my books. Boxes in the attic, stacks and shelves in the house and the garage. Books were everywhere! I figured it best to begin with the hardest things to get rid of. So, one night I set up three long tables in my living room, and my friend helped me stack those tables high with books. I invited people over to take whatever they wanted. I wondered if I’d regret letting my precious books go. After the last friend left with a book bag full, I packed up what remained and donated them to a local non-profit the following day. I felt lighter.

Clothes

Just today I dressed for a meeting, looked in the mirror and said to myself, “Nope. I don’t love it. It’s outta here” and I tossed it in a box. Project 333 helped me reduce my wardrobe.

Now I own about 60 pieces of clothing, half cool weather and half warm weather clothes. So far, no regrets about anything I gave away or sold at garage sales.

Unexpected benefit of owning less clothing: less laundry! I don’t know any woman who wouldn’t like less laundry.

Household Items

Bowls, plates, glasses, sheets, towels, blankets. We had WAY too many of these. My new kitchen is half the size of the previous one, so most of the superfluous items found their way to the driveway at the old house and were sold at garage sales.

Closet space is scarce at the new house, so I kept one spare set of sheets for the beds and one set of towels for each bathroom. Simple feels so good!

The greatest blessings of downsizing:

  • Friends adopting books I gave away
  • Thrift store owner loading up old patio furniture to resell
  • Children who spent their shiny quarters for board games, toys and books
  • Friends who repurposed framed art and wall décor
  • My kids furnished their homes with pieces from our house
  • Handyman using our old fence boards for projects

Thanks

I have so many people to thank for enduring this process with me: Serena, Kelly, Glenna, Silva, Bonnie, Carrie, Shawna, Dot, Aaron, Michelle, Lauren, Loren, Marisa, Toby, Fran, Joann, and the good folks at Neighborhood Thrift store.

To my dear husband: Thanks for putting up with my recovery process as a former pack rat. I love our smaller home, simpler life…and, you!

In the letting go, I was blessed to see the joy on all of these faces as they relieved us of our possessions. Switchfoot singer/songwriter Jon Foreman asks, “do you posses your possessions or do they possess you?” How would you answer that question?

Helpful links:

How The Minimalists began minimizing

If the House Burns Down Tonight – Switchfoot

Clean Out Your Closet – Project 33

Neighborhood Thrift

 

Things I Learned by Downsizing – Part One – Papers     

 

I’m back to blogging this week–finally! This last move into a smaller home has been the biggest task of my life. Impacting my thoughts, emotions, and body has been a good transformative process and I’m thankful to be settled now.

The downsizing process began a couple of years ago by reading “Everything That Remains” in two sittings. My thoughts about stuff will never be the same.

Since moving into a smaller home a few months ago with one-third less stuff, here are the things I learned about purging the papers in my life:

Kids school papers

Everything from math fact worksheets to book reports cluttered our attic. Multiply this by three since I kept schoolwork from all of my children. Instead of keeping all those papers, send them to grandparents and special people in your lives or use them to make an envelope or wrap a gift. Take photos of their artwork, they’ll be digital and last longer.

Pay stubs, bills, and receipts

I cannot tell you how many boxes of this stuff I found in the garage and attic, including paycheck stubs from my first job in the 70s and receipts from a zillion places for things we don’t even own anymore. I tried shredding and burning it all myself, but it was taking ages and burnt out my shredder. My friend offered to take dozen boxes off my hands and had them shredded for me.

Journals, recipes, letters

Hysteria erupted when my husband found my diary from high school and saw all those tear-stained pages of my true loves lost! I’m so glad we found all my journals. Now, they are together in one box, a collage of my thought life.

The butter-stained recipes written by my mother, grandmother and precious friends are in a separate box together. Maybe someday I’ll compile a book of these handwritten recipes.

My grandma wrote to me weekly when I lived out-of-state for a couple of years. She passed away nearly 30 years ago, but I have all of those letters in a special box now. It felt like a warm hug to read her words. I’ll do that again someday when I am missing her. I’ve added cards and letters from other grandparents and loved ones to that box. A separate box holds the cards and letters from my two best friends I met in first grade and we are still best friends today.

Cards

So many boxes of cards! Some of those are in my new garage waiting to be sorted. I saved the ones with heartfelt notes inside and the ones my kids made all those Mother’s days ago. Though, most of the cards landed in the recycle bin.

Rewards of purging paper

The rewards are too numerous to mention, but the greatest is how much lighter my life feels. I felt buried underneath all of this paper/memorabilia and I’m glad it’s almost all gone.

Tips for a successful paper purge:

  • Hire a professional organizer. My favorite organizer works locally here
  • Keep your children’s original writings and art
  • Don’t buy storage containers–you’ll have plenty once you start getting rid of stuff
  • Follow “minimalist” types on social media
  • Keep receipts for big items, like furniture, vehicles, and home improvements

Is it time for you to shred, box, give-away, or recycle some papers?

Come back next time for tips about clearing out books, clothes, and household items.

Balance on the Tightrope of Life

Huffington Post image

I talked with my friend about the tightrope that we women walk today. While it is true that women have broken many social and occupational barriers, it’s ridiculous to think we can do and be everything to everyone. As sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, and friends we walk a thin line and wear ourselves out. Why?

Overcompensating?

If you or your loved one struggles with an addiction, you’ve likely fallen into the trap of overcompensating, living a false reality, and worn yourself out trying to make life more livable for you and your family. Much like walking a tightrope in the wind and fog, you can’t see where you’re going, yet you must trust yourself enough to take the next step.

I’m not a fan of Oprah Winfrey, but she is one of the most recognizable successful women in our world today who seems to have and do it all. She says, “I’ve learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time.” Yet, we feel like failures if we aren’t doing or being everything to everyone: having a perfect body, wardrobe, husband, job, children, house, image. That, my dear, is a tightrope and virtually impossible to walk without faltering. There are responsibilities and standards we need to let go of to maintain balance in our lives.

Staying Balanced

Have you seen Nik Wallenda, 7th generation funambulist, walk across Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon? (Take a couple minutes to watch one or both of those videos.) Are the circumstances of your life equally precarious? Nik generally carries a 40’ pole, which naturally bends lower on the ends and helps him maintain a balanced center of gravity. What do you carry that helps you stay balanced? What can we learn from this tightrope walker?

Balance requires focus.

Carry only what is necessary.

Staying balanced can also be influenced by what/who you listen to/watch/read/consume. Wallenda heard his father’s voice cheering him on as he walked the wire. Wallenda’s family has been walking tightropes for generations and they spend hours in practice and need the support of loved ones. The same applies to you and me. We need others who love and encourage us to stay on course.

Chasing the wind

Do you ever feel like you’re trying to do and say all the right things? Do you say yes to things you’d rather not do? Do you take on more commitments than you’re comfortable or simply able to fulfill? Do you feel like King Solomon who said, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.”

Ladies, we must stop chasing the unattainable. Walking this tightrope is something we’re not equipped to do well. We’re wearing ourselves out and living unfulfilled lives as a result. We are tired women in need of rest and balance. The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to consider what we need to let go of and what we need to pick up, like Wallenda’s balancing pole.

William Arthur Ward, American author and teacher said, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”

Let’s make 2017 the year to get off the tightrope and live more balanced lives.

The Springs Silent Retreat – Walking, Drawing, Reading – Part Two

I spent the first day of silent retreat settling my brain and body. Unplugging from all electronic devices felt freeing. So many hours filled with contemplation and simpler activities were like water for my thirsty soul.

 

Walking

A workday’s worth of solitude and silence was like an oasis in the desert. I walked several miles, ate lunch in a meadow (a golden meadow because it’s been a hot and dry summer here in Central California). I was alone and it was sunny and quiet.

As I left my picnic spot and looked back at the oak tree whose shadow I’d sat underneath, I saw a tiny oak tree in its shadow. It was the perfect picture of how I felt that day, covered in God’s love and grace. When I got back to my room, I filled more pages in my journal with words and drawings.

Drawing

I love to doodle. It’s stress relieving for me. The session called “Quilt Making” provided the familiar experience of having crayons, colored pencils, and markers in my hand. We were to draw something representing significant memories. The leader shared a reading that inspired us to remember the good things in life. When our drawings were complete, we hung them together, seamed like a lovely quilt of hand-drawn memories.

Reading

As you know, I love to read. While packing for the retreat I wrestled over which books to take with me. Ultimately, I decided not to take any, which felt really weird – I never leave home without a book.

However, I borrowed “Life of the Beloved” by Henri Nouwen from the lending library and read it in a day. In true Nouwen style, a contemplative read and suitable addition to my silent retreat experience.

Going Home

Like a missionary returning to home after traveling abroad, it was overwhelming to turn my cellphone on and see the numbers in red bubbles indicating missed text messages, emails, and social media posts. I returned home just days before the 2016 Presidential election and all that noise, too. I realized that I could better control how invasive technology is in my life by creating time frames and boundaries. The first being little to no usage on Sundays and only during specific times during other days.

I know it’s challenging to find peace, solitude and silence in the day-to-day. At least once a year, if not more often, it’s good to unplug, move “off-the-grid,” and find some solace. The mind and body need that down time to function more efficiently.

Have you ever been on a silent retreat? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. I’m looking forward to The Springs silent retreat next year, you’re welcome to join me.