Death Cleaning

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Spring is coming and we all tend to come out of hibernation and move around more. This includes spring cleaning, minimizing, and downsizing.

I have a room upstairs that I use to collect items throughout the year for donation. I wait until spring when I can get around easier to take everything to be donated. Thankfully, the place where I typically take donations has an outside contact-free drop off point. 

This weekend I went through all the items upstairs for donation. I sorted everything into piles based on where it needs to be donated. For example, there is one box of items specifically for the animal shelter (old towels, sheets, etc). There are also items that can be recycled now that it is easier to put recycling out since the snow is gone.

I have a few items that, quite honestly, need to go to the dump. I do not have a clear idea how to get rid of them. One of those items is a broken vacuum cleaner. When I moved into the house, there was a vacuum cleaner already here. I had brought my vacuum cleaner from the apartment. It worked out perfectly so that I could have one vacuum cleaner upstairs and one vacuum cleaner downstairs without having to try to lug a vacuum up and down the stairs. 

This past fall, the vacuum cleaner that “came with the house” broke. Now I have to figure out how to get rid of it.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about downsizing and minimizing even more so than in previous years. I have been on the minimalist journey for about a decade, and the journey never seems to end.

In working on my photo project of making an album for myself, I thought about all of my belongings more ruthlessly. What do I really need? What would happen to things if I die?

The way the pandemic is going, I will honestly be surprised if I survive it. My only goal is to outlive my cats so that I can keep them all together. Right now, that seems like a very big and very impossible goal.

 I have applied some minimalist philosophies, such as getting rid of things that are part of your “fantasy self,” and packing things up for 3 months before getting rid of them. However, there are still some items that seem to stay.

The twin bed in the upstairs bedroom is one example. Years ago, I debated whether or not to get rid of the bed in the spare bedroom. I decided to keep the twin bed. It even moved with me from the apartment to the house.

I have had this fantasy self that thinks it is there for an overnight guest. I like to think I am fully set up for company if anyone ever needs a place to stay. I have only had this actually happen one time when one of my friends was in nursing school and my apartment was closer to the hospital where she was doing her residency. She stayed with me for the duration of the residency. That was actually the impetus for purchasing the twin bed.

The twin bed does not actually get used. Sure, I use it myself occasionally when I feel I need a change of scenery or want to feel like I am on vacation while I am at home. However, there are a total of three beds in this house for one person. I can get rid of the twin bed and still have two other beds in this house.

There is my bed (full size) and the couch pulls out into a bed. In fact, I took vacation last month for my birthday, and the cats and I camped out in the living room on the bed that pulls out from the couch. We never even used the twin bed upstairs. 

With the pandemic, I honestly don’t see anyone visiting me for an overnight stay. Even if I did have an overnight visitor, there is still the bed that pulls out from the couch. That bed is pretty comfy. I slept on it for two years before getting the bed I have now.

I am becoming more ruthless in what I am getting rid of due to the pandemic. When I die, someone is going to have to go through all of this stuff. I’m sure most of what I own will be donated or trashed. If that is the case, I may as well donate or trash things now. I only need to keep what I absolutely need and am using.

Of course, the less I have, the easier it is to clean the house as well. That is a definite plus.

In addition to the twin bed, another item I have held onto for an absurdly long time is the metal bed frame to my full size bed. Well over 5 years ago now, I took my bed off the frame and put it on the floor. Kitty had arthritis in his back legs and was having a hard time getting in the bed with me. Once I put the bed on the floor, it was much easier for him. Kitty passed away 4 years ago. My bed is still on the floor because it is easier for me to get in and out of, as well as the cats who are with me now.

I honestly don’t think I will ever put my bed back on a frame again because it makes the bed too high. I think it is time to get rid of the frame.

Both the bed frame and the twin bed are items I have held onto for a long time. Part of it is because I figure I have the room for them.

However, with the pandemic, I am realizing that someone is going to have to go through all this stuff when I die. Even if I do manage to survive the pandemic and outlive the cats, there will come a time when I need to leave this house to either go back into an apartment or a nursing home. 

You can’t take things with you when you die.

This year, I am going to start employing the Swedish Death Cleaning method to my belongings. I am starting with the twin bed and the full size bed frame. I have many other things to go through as well. It will be a process of trying to figure out what I am absolutely using and what items can leave. I want to make my life as simple as possible. 

Swedish Death Cleaning is the notion of cleaning things out before you die so that your loved ones are not left to do it after you are gone. I did not think I would be death cleaning in my 40s. I thought I would be death cleaning in my 60s. But here we are, in the middle of a pandemic. Life is short. The time to death clean is now.

The most difficult part is trying to figure out how to get rid of everything. Not all places are taking donations of items right now. That means it’s possible that more items will end up in landfills, which is not what anyone wants either. 

My project for the next 6 months or so is not only to death clean through all my belongings but to actually get rid of the items. This past year I have just shoved things into a room upstairs. Now it is time for belongings to leave so that I can have an empty room I don’t have to clean.

I have gone through just about every minimalist philosophy so far. I have asked items if they spark joy, I have played decluttering games, I have packed boxes and then gotten rid of them after 3 months. Now is the time for death cleaning.

For some, death cleaning may seem extreme. Given we are in the middle of a pandemic and many people are dying, I think the time is now. 

Have you tried death cleaning? How did it go? What are some items that you got rid of that were surprising to you?

Use It Up

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Snow after once of our recent storms

The widespread food shortages we have been experiencing throughout the pandemic continue. Sometimes it changes, what is available and what is not. Some items have been consistently unavailable. For example, I have not had a banana in over a year because there are none to be had anywhere. 

In addition to the widespread food shortages, there are shortages of supplies also. I have been unable to obtain toilet cleaner since running out. I now go “old school” and use baking soda to clean my toilet since cleaners are not available. Lately I have had extreme difficulty in getting cat litter. That is something new. You never know what is going to be in short supply. Last spring I was able to get allergy-friendly pasta but not allergy-friendly flour. Now I have plenty of allergy-friendly flour and am unable to get allergy-friendly pasta.

Combine the shortages with my precarious financial situation and No Spend 2021, I am having to get creative on some things. I have taken to looking around my house to see what I have that is not being used and trying to figure out how to use it. As I mentioned above using baking soda to clean the toilet, I didn’t realize how many uses there are for baking soda until now. 

During this time of The Great Depression 2.0, I am going by the old adage: use it up, wear it out, make do or go without.

Today we are highlighting Use It Up.

I have always been one of those ones that when I start to get to the end of a container will turn the container upside down or use some sort of tool to try to get it all out. I do this with body lotion, shampoo, etc. I try to use it all and get what I can out of every container. 

There are some things that I do keep in “stock.” For example, all of my allergy-friendly toiletry items come from a company in California. Ut typically takes 1-2 weeks for my order to arrive. I typically place two large orders per year from the company so that I can get free shipping and also to be sure I have plenty of toiletry items on hand. I get all of my shampoo, soap, lotion, sunscreen, etc from this company, as they are the only company in the country who makes items completely free from my allergens. It’s not fun to go into seizures in the shower just because your body wash contains almond oil (yes, I had that happen prior to finding this ONE allergy-friendly company I now use).

As far as toiletries, right now I have plenty of shampoo, soap, sunscreen, bug spray and body lotion. However, I just opened my last bottle of conditioner. I use hair conditioner for shaving, as there is not a single company in the entire United States of America that makes allergy-friendly shaving cream or shaving gel. So, I use a hair conditioner for shaving.

I do not want to place a large order from the allergy-friendly toiletry company when I technically only need one item. So I decided to look around the house and see if I could come up with anything else that could do dual purpose and act as shaving cream.

I am trying to literally use up everything in my house. So if something is lying around unused, I am actively trying to find a way to use it.

I read online that coconut oil can be used for shaving. I currently have three jars of coconut oil. I had originally purchased them to use for body lotion before I found the allergy-friendly company in California. The downside to using coconut oil to moisturize is that it completely ruins your clothes, sheets, and basically every single fabric it comes into contact with. So I have 3 jars of coconut oil in my cupboard that are not being used.

Since I have one bottle of conditioner left to use for shaving, I am going to rotate in coconut oil for shaving on a trial basis to see if it works for me or not. If it does, that’s great. I can save money by not putting in a toiletry order. I can use up the conditioner I currently have and then use the 3 jars of coconut oil that I have. Not to mention, coconut oil is cheaper than the allergy-friendly conditioner I buy. We will see if coconut oil for shaving actually works or not.

If, for some reason, using coconut oil for shaving does not work out, then I will have to find another use for the coconut oil. I will have to place an order for allergy-friendly toiletries because I will need conditioner. That is a worst case scenario. I am hoping that coconut oil for shaving works out for me. That would be the best case scenario. 

I will continue to look around the house for things that I am not using and try to figure out how to use them. In this case, I am saving money on cleaning supplies by using baking soda to clean since traditional retail cleaners are unavailable. If coconut oil works out, that is an allergy-friendly option that will save me money from having to place a toiletry order.

What items do you have that you are trying to use up? Have you found creative uses for items to try to save money in the pandemic?

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Wardrobe By Number

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“Be Kind:” One of the new shirts I obtained to replace the threadbare ones.

Many minimalists have some sort of magic number for either their clothing or total items owned. You hear of people with 100 possessions, 37 clothing items, etc. I have always said that minimalism is not so much a numbers game as it is being content with only having what you need or have space to store. There are times when I do enjoy playing by numbers, but I had yet to apply a numbers concept to my clothing. 

For my wardrobe, instead of going by set numbers, I have always gone by space available. I use one closet for my clothing and I do not want the closet to be stuffed to capacity. I have a four drawer dresser, and as long as everything fits in the assigned drawer without being crowded, I do not count number of items.

I do laundry one day a week. As long as I have enough clothing to get through the week until laundry day, I do not count the number of clothes I have. When I was a child, laundry was a once a month thing and it was a huge production.

As a child, your clothes were always in garbage bags. There was no dresser and no closet to store clothes. You had a garbage bag of clean clothes and a garbage bag of dirty clothes. Laundry was not done until you were literally out of clothes and were not able to get dressed tomorrow without wearing something for the 5th time or just being naked. 

I remember being dropped off at the laundry mat with several garbage bags of laundry and a $20 bill to obtain quarters. Laundry could take an entire Saturday. It was a chore to be endured. Frequently, clothes were worn multiple times no matter how dirty they were because we just did not have the money for quarters to do laundry. 

As an adult, I do laundry once a week. I am currently very privileged and have both a washer and dryer in my house. Theoretically, I can do laundry whenever I want. I could do laundry every single day if I wanted. I do not want to spend my life doing laundry and I do not want to get in the habit of being dependent on the luxury of having a washer and dryer. Laundry once a week is reasonable and sufficient. 

Last year, I went through and updated all of my underclothes. For the first time in 5 or more years, I updated my bras, underwear and socks. I am very glad I did that before the pandemic hit. As every single item in life is either scarce, hard to get, or expensive, I am grateful that I have new and clean underclothes. That is one less item I have to worry about obtaining. 

This year, as we are quarantined and I am home more, I have noticed that many of my tee-shirts are becoming threadbare and see-through. They have deteriorated to the point where they cannot even be donated. They can be used as rags, but they are no longer suitable to be worn. Two tee-shirts in particular are surprising. I had bought them just last summer at a rather high-end store. The fact that they only lasted a year is very disappointing.

Normally, I would not notice the threadbare tee-shirt issue, as I only wear tee-shirts two days a week. Five days a week I would be in the office in my business casual wear. Since business casual attire is expensive, I have not been wearing it while working from home. I am “preserving” it for when we are able to return to the office and I have to wear business casual attire again.

So, I have been living in shorts and tee-shirts this summer. The threadbare tee-shirt situation is forcing me to take a new look at my wardrobe and it’s requirements. While I have previously focused my wardrobe on available space, I am now looking at my wardrobe by numbers. Maybe it is pandemic related, and I am trying to exert some sort of control by doing wardrobe by numbers. Who knows? There is some comfort in knowing exactly how much you have and that what you have is enough. 

Here is what I have determined is going to work for me for wardrobe by numbers. My formula is based on the premise that laundry is done once a week, on the same day each week. For me, laundry day is Monday right now. 

Given that every Monday is laundry day, that means I need at least 8 outfits to make it a week from one laundry day to the next. Yes, there are 7 days in a week. But you don’t really want to do laundry while naked, so you need an 8th outfit to wear on laundry day. If you want flexibility in your schedule, then you need more than 8 outfits. You may need 10. 

For example, if you are not able to stick to a strict schedule where every Monday is laundry day, then you need more than 8 outfits. Say one Monday you are really busy, and can’t do laundry until Tuesday or Wednesday. Well then, you better have more than 8 outfits or expect to wear things multiple times.

I am going to take advantage of the luxury of in-home washer and dryer and go with 8 outfits. If I had to use the laundry mat, then I may go with 10 or 12 outfits. For me, 8 will work.

Here is how my formula is going to be put in action:

For my business casual work clothes, I am actually not touching them right now. I am just letting them be until it is time to wear them again. The formula that I have devised for them when the time comes is as follows: 

8 tops

4 bottoms

2 sweaters / cardigans / extra warmth layer

For work clothes, this formula is actually a little excessive, as work clothes are not worn everyday. They are worn 5 days a week. As far as bottoms go, since I work in an office environment that is not overly messy, I am okay with wearing a pair of pants twice before washing.

Some people will suggest when minimizing your wardrobe that you should do away with the distinction between “work clothes” and “home clothes.” To do this, it is recommended to dress up your “home clothes” a little, and dress down your “work clothes” a little so that you have one wardrobe kind of in the middle and whatever you wear is fine for work or home. If this works for you, fine. It does not work for me.

I prefer to have two separate wardrobes. The reason why is that I find office attire to be extremely uncomfortable. If I had a job where I could choose the dress code or that did not have a dress code, I would not pick business casual. I do not want to wear “work clothes” any longer than I absolutely have to. As soon as I come home from work, I change because my office wear is so uncomfortable. 

Some people will argue that if that is the case, I should purchase more comfortable office wear. That is an oxymoron. Comfortable office wear does not exist. My preferred standard uniform is something like shorts and a tee-shirt or jeans and a hoodie. I digress.

For my “home clothes,” I have the following formula to see me through 7 days of working from home:

8 tops

4 bottoms

6 extra warmth layer

For summer, my 4 bottoms is 4 pairs of shorts. For cooler weather, my 4 bottoms is 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of yoga pants. So, I do have seasonal elements to my wardrobe. I plan on wearing each “bottom” twice before washing. 

For tops, I do have tank tops for summer. I am pretty sure there are 4 of them. For the 6 extra warmth layers, I have 4 flannels shirts, and at least 2 hoodies. When the weather is cooler, I like to layer things on top of my tee-shirt. Tee-shirts are the first layer that is worn pretty much year round, so those get a lot of use. 

For tops, I prefer to wear them once and then wash them. Especially in summer, when weather is hot and we are sweaty, I do not like to wear a shirt twice. That just feels gross.

I am applying the same concept to my pajamas. Even though I am now wearing pajamas twice before washing and could get away with 4 nightshirts, I already have 8 nightshirts, so I will use what I have. I am not going to get rid of nightshirts just to get down to a certain number. However, this means that as nightshirts wear out, I will not replace them. If one night shirt wears out and leaves me with 7 nightshirts, I am not going to replace that night shirt. I will wait until I get down to 4 or 5 nightshirts before replacing one.

I currently have 4 bottoms for my night wear as well. That keeps with my current formula of 4 bottoms. There are other aspects of my wardrobe that are slightly “over number” right now as well. For example, I have one storage tote labelled “winter,” This storage tote holds all my sweatshirts, sweaters, and other “extra warmth layers” for winter. I am not sure how many extra layers are in there. The winter box may be another situation where, instead of getting rid of items, I simply do not replace things that wear out. 

My wardrobe formula is currently acting as a minimum threshold. My available space idea is a maximum threshold for clothing. The reason why I decided to come up with numbers for the minimum threshold is that I am looking at replacing at least 4 threadbare tee-shirts in my wardrobe. So I seriously began to question if I really need to replace them.

The answer is yes. Now that I am home in quarantine, I do need to replace those tee-shirts. Tee-shirts are my base layer year round. However, given that I spent $20-$30 apiece on two tee-shirts at a high end store last summer that barely lasted a year, I do not want to make another worthless investment in my wardrobe like that again.

This year, I opted to replace those tee-shirts with some more affordable options, each below $10. Time will tell if the tee-shirts I purchased for less than $10 each last longer than the ones I bought for $20-$30. If I have learned anything, it’s that just because something is expensive, does not mean it is good quality. 

The only aspect of my wardrobe this does not apply to is my running wardrobe. That has its own set of rules and is a post for another day. 

In general, my wardrobe goal is 8 tops, 4 bottoms, and 2-6 extra warmth layers to allow for seasonal fluctuations. This works for me with doing laundry once a week. While some categories may be above those numbers, I am not going to get rid of items just yet. I am simply not going to worry about replacing things that wear out. 

This gives me one less thing to worry about while giving me the illusion of being “in control” of something in the middle of the pandemic. 

How do you organize clothes? Do you use available space or wardrobe by numbers? 

 

Bathroom Minimalism

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Simon is cleaning Jolene’s ear, while she cuddles with one of her “babies.”

A few years ago, I focused on kitchen minimalism when I was still in the apartment. It definitely made the move from the apartment to the house easier. I have no regrets over anything that I got rid of from the kitchen. I have everything I need for everything I make to eat. I seem to use all of the kitchen items in my cupboards on a regular basis.

Since I recently made the switch to cloth baby wipes to conserve toilet paper for the pandemic, I decided to do a little bathroom minimalism. Many bathrooms tend to be overflowing with items either in the shower or on the back of the toilet. If you have cupboards in the bathroom, we often forget what is there.

I do not get to use my bathroom much, as it is difficult for me to use the stairs. I have a commode I use downstairs. But at least once a week, I do make it upstairs, at least to clean up there. Actually, I do make it upstairs every few days to shower. Even though I could technically use the sprayer on my kitchen sink downstairs to “shower,” that is not preferred unless I am having a day when I cannot do the stairs at all. In that case, I typically go without the shower. I digress.

Here is my process for bathroom minimalism.

Mouth & Eyes

My toothbrush and contact stuff / glasses are downstairs in one of my kitchen cupboards closest to the sink. I have two reasons for this.

First, it is difficult for me to do the stairs, so it is easier for me to have my toothbrush and glasses on the first floor where I spend most of my time.

Second, even when I was in the apartment and there were no stairs involved, I kept my toothbrush and glasses in a cupboard near the kitchen sink. I heard that there are many germs in the bathroom – flushing toilets, etc and it is not good for your toothbrush to be in that environment. Also, I heard it is best for your toothbrush to be able to dry completely between uses. 

Therefore, I keep my toothbrush and glasses in the kitchen, not in the bathroom. I keep them in a cupboard near the sink so that they are not cluttering up my sink area and are out of sight.

The shower

Many times, people have very cluttered showers. There are lots of shampoos, conditioners, soaps, etc in there. For me, this makes it harder to clean the shower because I have to move all of those things for a proper cleaning. I try to have only what I need in the shower.

So, what’s in my shower? Here are the details – my shower has sliding doors, so on the door outside the shower hangs a hand towel and the bath mat. I have a vertical grab bar to help me get into and out of the tub/shower without falling (this was a frequent occurrence before the grab bar was installed). The grab bar also helps me to safely get out of the bathtub if I actually take a bath. 

Once inside the shower, I have a non-skid mat on the bottom of the tub that helps me to not fall down. I have a little rubber thing over the drain that allows the water to drain but catches hair so the drain does not clog. 

On the little soap shelf, I have the plug for the tub in case I want to take a bath. Next to that is a rubber frog (like a rubber ducky, but a rubber frog) for bath tub use.

On the bathtub ledge, is the pump shampoo / body wash. There is only one company I have found in the United States that makes toiletry products without all of my allergens. Therefore, I can only order bath products from this one company. Luckily, their shampoo is also a body wash. It works wonderfully. One item in my shower washes my entire body. 

On the bathtub ledge is also my allergy friendly conditioner, which I use for shave cream. There is no allergy friendly shave cream, so my work around to that is to use conditioner. Next to that is my Billie razor, which is one of my favorite products ever.

That’s it. That’s all I have inside my shower. No caddy. No over the spout hanger. No products lining the wall falling down all the time. That is everything in my shower. I have two bottles of product, a razor, a rubber frog, the tub plug, bathmat, and drain catcher. 

When I am in the shower and the bath mat is on the floor in preparation for me to exit, my bath towel hangs on the outside shower rail, so it is close to grab.

Bathroom sink and medicine cabinet

There is no cabinet underneath my bathroom sink. I do have a medicine cabinet above the sink. Sitting on the side of my bathroom sink is one pump bottle of my allergy friendly hand soap. That’s it. What else do you need on the side of the sink to wash your hands? The hand towel is conveniently hanging on the outside of the shower door.

The following items are in my medicine cabinet: razor cartridges, band-aids, neosporin, small manicure set (nail clippers, tweezers, etc). 

There is nothing else in my medicine cabinet. I have heard that heat and humidity found in bathrooms is not good for medications, such as tylenol. Due to this, all of my medication is downstairs in one of my kitchen cupboards. I have a shoebox of medication downstairs. Every 6 months, I go through the shoebox and pull out any cough syrup or anything expired to take to the medication disposal events in my county. I do not keep medication in my medicine cabinet.

Toilet area

Many homes have lots of things on top of their toilet. Items are either directly on top of the toilet, or on a rack or shelf above the toilet. I have no rack or shelves above my toilet.

My toilet has grab bars on both sides that help me to sit down and stand up. The only thing on the back of my toilet is a box of paper facial tissues. That’s it. If for some reason, I need to take the lid off the back of the toilet, I do not want to have to deal with “cleaning it off.” I have one box of tissues on the back of my toilet. 

However, now that I am using cloth baby wipes for pee, I have a basket of clean baby wipes on one side of the toilet, and a bucket for used baby wipes on the other side of the toilet. I also have a small wastebasket next to the toilet. That is all.

Open Floor Space

I am blessed with a large bathroom. In a corner of the bathroom, I have a chair so I can sit down to get dressed. This helps me so that I do not fall. Above the chair are three hooks on the wall. On the hooks, I hang my towel post-shower, and my pajamas. Sometimes there will also be a hoodie sweatshirt or flannel shirt on one of the hooks in case I am cold. 

Next to the chair, I have a little stand with my “toiletry tray” on top of it.

These are the items in my toiletry tray: 

Flashlight (I have a flashlight on every floor for emergency purposes)

Bottle of perfume

Allergy friendly body lotion

Deodorant

Half pint size mason jar filled with Q-tips that has a reusable plastic lid

Vaseline

Those are pretty much all of the items I need post-shower. I try to make myself as low maintenance as possible.

Bathroom Storage

I do have a closet and two cupboards in my bathroom. The closet contains all my clothes and the cleaning supplies for the bathroom.

In the two cupboards above the closet, are my winter blankets, my hair clippers, extra towels, wash clothes, feminine hygiene items. 

I also have all the back-ups for my allergy friendly items in bathroom storage. I typically order two of each item so I have one to use and one for back-up. It takes 1-2 weeks for me to receive items when I place an order. I also like to place a big order when I do order so that I get free shipping. So there is an extra allergy-friendly shampoo, allergy-friendly lotion, allergy-friendly hand soap, etc in my storage cupboard. Really, what else do you need to store in a bathroom? 

Technically, the winter blankets should probably be stored elsewhere, but I have so much storage space in my bathroom, that I decided to take advantage of it.

How many towels?

A few years ago, when I went through my bathroom, I had downsized my towels, hand towels, etc.

When I moved to the house, I had to buy all new towels, as the bad water the last 4 months I was in the apartment dyed all my towels this funny blue color and I could not get it out.

I have three towels, four hand towels, and about 8 washcloths. I am one person, so this works for me. All of my towels are beach towels, so they are multi-purpose. I love using beach towels as everyday towels because they are bigger and I can cover my whole body with them. Plus, the beach towels feel more plush and luxurious than normal bath towels. I typically use about two towels a week. I figure I have a third towel in the unlikely event I have company. 

The third towel can also actually go to the beach as a beach towel. I have plenty of towels for one person. I rarely have company. 

Conclusion

Of course, everyone’s bathroom space is different. I am fortunate in that I have a large bathroom that allows me to move around safely and can accommodate extra items like grab bars and a chair to help me. 

Everyone’s bathroom routine looks different. I try to keep mine as simple as possible. I’m sure that for most people, their shampoo and body wash are two completely different items. For me, the one company that makes my allergy friendly stuff has a shampoo/body wash combo (and that’s the only way it comes), so that is what I use. Thankfully, even though it is one company, I do have choices in my shampoo. For example, I can choose tea tree oil, unscented, lavender, etc. So while I may have one shampoo/body wash choice, at least I have multiple options. 

If you are still in quarantine, maybe take some time to look at what is in your shower. Do you really need all that stuff? Only have what you need, and not only will you shower more safely, but it will be easier to clean. 

The First Rule of Minimalism

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Jude decided to sit in the fabric box.

One of the first rules of minimalism is to put like items together. By putting like items together, you can rid yourself of duplicates and make an accurate determination of just what you have and what you need.

Maybe it’s because I have a challenge doing stairs, but I do have duplicates in my house. There are items I have on the first floor that I also have on the second floor. For example, I have a vacuum cleaner on the first floor and I have a vacuum cleaner on the second floor. I have a hard enough time doing stairs without falling when it is just me on them, forget trying to carry a vacuum cleaner up and down steps. In this instance, having the duplicates makes sense for my level of functioning.

There are times when duplicates do not make sense and that is when we minimize. Early in my journey, I remember going through my kitchen cupboards and putting every single coffee mug on the kitchen counter. I happen to really enjoy glassware. 

When I put all of the like items together, I discovered I had something like 38 coffee mugs for one person! I could use a different mug every day of the month and not have to do dishes. That is entirely gross and also unnecessary. I paired down the coffee mugs so that now I have 8. 

This weekend I was working on the upstairs of my house. The goal is to make the upstairs as empty as possible. I spend 95% of my time downstairs, as stairs are a challenge for me. If I can reduce the amount of stuff on the second floor, then everything will be on the first floor where it is accessible to me. 

While working upstairs, I happened to remember that the first rule of minimalism is putting like items together. This is helpful in identifying duplicates and being able to rid yourself of too many items.  I also discovered that putting like items together is helpful in this time of pandemic to remind us of how much we have and to be grateful for it.

Everyone is having meltdown right now about not having enough supplies. Some people are hoarding. Last week, I was down to two rolls of toilet paper when I received a shipment of 12 rolls, bringing my total up to 14. 

When I started to put like items together upstairs last weekend, I suddenly remembered that there was also a roll of toilet paper in with my camping gear. I got it out and put it in the pile of 14. Then, I discovered that way in the back of the bathroom cupboard was 4 individually wrapped rolls of emergency toilet paper. 

First, I would not have been able to access those 4 rolls if I was having a bad balance day because I had to stand on a chair to reach them. Second, I took the 4 forgotten rolls and added them to the pile of toilet paper and I now have a grand total of 19 rolls! I officially have enough toilet paper to last at least until the end of the year, if not longer. I also relocated the toilet paper to a place that is easier for me to reach so I do not have to stand on a chair and am fully aware of exactly how much I have.

Because this house is so large, I kind of have things spread out everywhere. Going back to the first tenet of minimalism has been helpful in getting me to identify and reduce clutter. When you put everything together and see how much you have, it is easier to get rid of. I am going to continue to work on reducing the items upstairs by either boxing them to leave or rehoming them someplace downstairs where I can use it. 

Remember when looking to reduce the clutter that is in your home – start with just one item. Make sure that item has a place. Only keep however much of it you need.

Are your items spread out all over your house too? They probably are! Houses are meant to be lived in and life is messy! Take an hour during quarantine and identify an item you want to minimize – whether that is coffee mugs, sweatshirts or something else. Gather all of that item in one place and reduce. You will be glad you did! 

 

Minimalist Cleaning

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The easiest way to clean as a minimalist would be to live in as small of a space as possible with as few belongings as possible. Is this feasible? I’m sure there are people doing it, but it is definitely not for me. Everyone’s version, journey and definition of minimalism is different according to what works for them and their family.

Even though I live in a large house that is challenging for me, I like the idea of open space. I live with three indoor only cats, and they have plenty of room to play or just to be alone from each other. I have a great big world to be in, but for my cats, this house is their world. So we have a large house with a few things. My goal is always to maximize open spaces. 

So far, on my minimalist journey, I have been doing a decent job of paring down items so that I only have what I need and things that I may not necessarily need, but enrich my life and make me happy. Over the past year or so, I have written about my transition to handkerchiefs to reduce the amount of facial tissues I purchase. I have also made the transition to cloth napkins. I can tell you right now, that I have not bought a single paper napkin since. 

I have significantly reduced my paper towel use, saving paper towels for only the most unsavory of cleaning jobs. An example is that I use paper towels to wipe out the cat pan after having soaked it in hot water with a little bit of vinegar. By my estimate, I have reduced my paper towel usage to about four rolls per year. Actually, I think it is slightly over three rolls, but I rounded up to four. 

I have been using cotton cleaning cloths for dusting and washing windows. I do also use disinfectant cleaning wipes for some areas. 

Cleaning is not my favorite activity. Is it your’s? If so, why? I try to spend as little time cleaning as possible while still living in a clean, organized and sanitary home. I feel that I have more valuable things to do with my time like being with the people I love doing things I enjoy.

My next step in trying to minimize my cleaning is going to be the introduction of microfiber cloths. I recently had to dispose of an empty can of Pledge and discovered that is a difficult thing to dispose of in my area. I also dislike dusting and cleaning windows. I realized that one of the cleaning cloths I have been using is a microfiber cloth. I did not think anything of it. 

I decided to google microfiber cleaning cloths to learn more about them. The one that I have been using seems to be less effective. I have had it about 2 years and was thinking it was time to buy a new one. So it piqued my curiosity to research cleaning cloths. I had bought the microfiber cloth to reduce my paper towel usage.

Researching microfiber cloths was eye opening. I learned that while it is okay that I have been using the microfiber cloth with windex, that windex is not technically necessary. If I had two microfiber cloths, I could use one slightly damp and one dry to achieve the same effect. Or, I could simply just use one and go around wiping absolutely everything in sight with no cleaners whatsoever.

This is definitely a game-changing idea. I have a set of cleaning supplies upstairs. I have a set of cleaning supplies downstairs. We all know I have challenges with stairs. By having a complete set of cleaning supplies on each floor of the house, then I am not having to haul things up and down on a regular basis. 

If I can reduce my usage of cleaning supplies, not only will I save money but also time. I can just go around wiping everything with a cloth.

Since my one microfiber cloth needs to be replaced, I have actually ordered a package of multiple microfiber cloths in a set of three colors. This way, when they arrive, I can have one color for the bathroom, one color for the kitchen, and the third for windows, dusting, and everything else. 

I will let you know how things go once I make the full transition to microfiber cleaning cloths. I am currently waiting for my order to arrive. Do any of you use microfiber cloths for cleaning? Does it simplify your cleaning routine? 

 The introduction of microfiber cloths carries with it the same challenges as the introduction of handkerchiefs and paper napkins. The initial outlay of money for these items can be hard for working class people. However, if you can afford the initial payment to purchase these items, it will save money in the long run because you will be purchasing less disposable paper products. 

Thus, the reason why it has taken me a few years to make the transitions to handkerchiefs, paper napkins and microfiber cleaning cloths. 

I am definitely seeing cost savings in that I am purchasing zero paper napkins, significantly less paper towels, and significantly less paper facial tissue. Let’s hope that the switch to microfiber will save me not only money, but time as well. 

Do you have any other minimalist cleaning tips to offer? Or time savers? My greatest nemesis is mopping. Personally, I would rather vacuum than sweep or mop. But you cannot have carpeting everywhere. Any mopping or floor cleaning hacks? 

Return to Minimalism

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As the snow flies, life seems to slow down. My fall was busy preparing for winter. I had put minimalism on hold. Since winter equates to being stuck inside the house, I have the opportunity to return to my minimalism journey again. I had put things on hold briefly trying to get settled into the house for the past year and half.

Everyone’s minimalist journey looks different and may change over time. My current location on this journey is that I am trying to get as much of my belongings on the first floor of my house as possible, as I have difficulty doing stairs. In the upstairs of my house is the bathroom and the spare bedroom. Aside from those two spaces, my goal is to have everything downstairs on the first floor so that it is easily accessible to me.

I currently have one closet of items upstairs to go through to achieve this goal. I have about 3 boxes of items to leave the house and go to donation centers as soon as the weather clears. It amazes me that no matter how much I remove and donate, I still come up with more items to leave the house each year.

Of course, the number of items coming into the house has decreased, so that is helpful. There is no area in the house that feels particularly cluttered or overwhelming. I am trying to make things as easy for myself as possible.

Even though the house is about twice as large as my former apartment, square footage wise, most of the largese is on the second floor of the house. The first floor of the house is in fact 100 square feet smaller than the apartment we previously occupied. So I am technically trying to get rid of 100 square feet worth of stuff in order to fit everything on the first floor. Of course, some of that 100 square feet of stuff is in the spare bedroom on the second floor. I just need to be sure that it actually is set up as a spare bedroom and that there is not anything in there that I need on a daily basis. 

Typically, when I go about minimalism, I do one room or one area at a time. For example, I recently went through the closet in the spare bedroom. I emptied the entire closet, then I only put things back in there that I knew I was keeping and would not need on a daily basis. The closet in the spare bedroom now contains the Christmas tree and Christmas box, the summer/camping boxes, and the upstairs vacuum cleaner. 

My goal this winter is to get the closet in the third bedroom up there completely empty. That could mean that the items in that closet completely leave or it could mean that the items in that closet find a place somewhere else in the house. Once I achieve the goal of emptying that closet, then I will work on the downstairs of the house one room at a time. The downstairs is my main living area.

Downsizing the upstairs is practical in that I cannot do the stairs well to get up there. If I have so many things that I need to have daily items upstairs, then I have way too many items. Everything needs to be downstairs with me, so I need to make it work down here. If my upstairs is relatively empty, then I do not have to worry about going up the stairs to take care of anything. If something ever happens to me, then it is less for other people to have to deal with as well.

For me, minimalism has practical applications in that I am using it to enhance my functioning. Having clear floor space downstairs is an accessibility issue for me. I need the space to be able to get around and the cats need space to play.

Do you have minimalism goals for the winter? This seems to be the time of year I work more on inside projects and save the outside projects for better weather. 

Stay warm.

Unmentionables

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There is a lot out there about minimalism wardrobes, capsule wardrobes and how to downsize your closet. Almost all the advice and recommendations focus on what we wear every day. Underclothes (unmentionables), pajamas, and workout gear are all exempt. That is, all workout gear, that you actually wear to workout, like the time my yoga pants actually went to yoga. 

There are many different recommendations and formulas such as number of items, quality of items, etc. However, today I’m going to focus on the unmentionables section, since I have spent the past several weeks updating that section of my wardrobe. Keep in mind, that reducing your wardrobe and decluttering is not an excuse to go out and by a whole new wardrobe. The trick is generally keeping a high quality stock of functional clothing that is rotated in and out as it serves its purpose or wears out. The exception to this rule, is underclothes.

Taking a top down approach to “unmentionables,” let’s start with most female’s least favorite clothing item: bras.

Bras are uncomfortable. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that they are my least favorite wardrobe item to shop for and wear. According to research, most women in America are not even properly sized and are wearing bras that are simply ill-fitting. Bras are one of the first items we put on every day, and very rarely seen by anyone other than ourselves. So, it’s no wonder if we tend to overlook such a hardworking piece of our wardrobe.

I recently came to this realization that none of my bras were properly sized for my body type. They are extremely uncomfortable, and are one of the first clothing items I remove when I return home each day. When I really looked at the state of all my underclothes, I realized I had completely ignored this category of clothing in my minimalist efforts.

I started by being properly sized for bras. This is for both cup size and inches. I can tell you it made a world of difference. Once I was properly sized, I purchased new bras. The fit is much better and my new bras are more comfortable. Not only were my old bras improperly sized, but the elastic was worn out, the fabric on the sides worn almost threadbare, and they had basically served their time.

Now, as a minimalist, when downsizing any piece of my wardrobe, I try to donate clothing items as much as possible to reduce the amount of textile waste in our garbage system. What to do with old, worn out bras? Turtle rehabilitation.

Yes, you read that correctly. Turtle rehabilitation. There are sanctuaries that care for turtles who have injuries to their shells – whether they were caught by a boat propeller that cracked their shells, or were caught in some plastic polluting our oceans, the cup part of bras are used to help turtles shells heal. Even if your old bra is so worn out that it’s not supportive for your breasts, the cup portion can help a turtle in need. Goggle bras for turtle shells to find information on a turtle sanctuary near you where you can send your old bras to help with turtle rehabilitation. They need and take all sizes. 

By the way, we are still at the end of October. This is also a reminder to have your mammogram. 

By purchasing new bras, my clothes fit better as well. I honestly don’t remember when the last time was that I updated my underwear drawer. It was definitely years ago and long overdue.

Speaking of underwear drawer, that is the next item of unmentionables that I updated.

I am not sure how I have been overlooking this clothing item, but if you have not updated your underwear drawer in awhile, do it now. I hear that some people do this annually at Christmas. People may loathe receiving underwear for Christmas, but it is definitely a wardrobe item you need to keep up to date. 

When I was growing up, Christmas stockings usually included a new toothbrush, some fun kid’s toothpaste that was normally “too expensive” to obtain, and an orange. Underwear is rarely ever on my radar. Yes, I wear it, but be mindful of replacing it. If you are one of those families who gifts underwear and socks for Christmas, be thankful.

I was lucky in that when I replaced my underwear, there was some sort of special sale pricing. I now have 10 new pairs. As far of disposing of old underwear, I do not have any suggestions for that. Unfortunately, the old underwear went in the trash.

This brings us down to socks. Socks are pretty obvious in that when they have a hole, you either repair them, which happened more frequently back in the day, or you get rid of them, which happens more frequently today.

When I really analyzed my sock drawer, I realized that although they did not have holes, I had worn out the elastic, and the white was just not bright anymore. It was rather shocking when I did buy new socks and saw the new socks next to the old socks. The old white socks looked rather grey. That was gross.

As far as recycling or re-purposing old socks, they are great for cleaning. I put one on the end of my broom handle and use it to dust the blades of my ceiling fan. You can also just put an old sock on your hand and use it to dust your whole house. Not only can you do this with old socks that are no longer useful, but if you have the type of household where you have a sock that has lost it’s “mate,” you can just use the sock for dusting. I have also taken old socks and turned them into cat or dog toys. 

My next project I am working on is my pajama drawer. It’s been about five years since I have bought pajamas and all my sleep shirts are pretty threadbare. These are just some of the hardworking clothing items we wear every single day and rarely think about when doing a wardrobe overhaul. Other people may not see us wear these items, but updating them can still make you feel good about yourself and loved. Have you updated your “unmentionables” recently? 

 

Baby Skunks, Dead Birds & Crazy Squirrels

 

Reason # 538 why I am not equipped to be a home owner. I pet a baby skunk this morning on accident. I didn’t know it was a skunk when I started petting it. I thought it was one of the homeless cats in my neighborhood. I have never seen a skunk in person before.

This morning, I went out to the outdoor cat shelter that I constructed this winter for the homeless cats at about 6:30 am. With the 80 degree heat, I have been leaving bowls of water out for the outside cats. The homeless cat for whom I made the outdoor cat shelter, Clarence, is a black cat with one little patch of white on the front of him.

When I went outside at 6:30 am, there was a little furry butt sticking out of the outdoor cat shelter. It looked like Clarence was having a drink. For the first time, he did not run away. I took this as a positive – he must be getting used to me.

I started petting what I thought was Clarence. Then, when the animal finished drinking and turned around, I was able to clearly ascertain that it was not a cat, but in fact, a skunk. I’m pretty sure it was a baby skunk, as it was about half the size of one of my indoor house cats. 

I slowly backed away and left the garage. 

No, I did not get sprayed. The baby skunk did not seem fazed by me at all. 

Tonight, when I got home, I removed all water bowls from the outdoor cat shelter. I wiped everything clean. I completely closed the garage door. If I happen to notice a cat outdoors when it is below zero again this winter, then I will reopen the door so the cat can have shelter. But I can’t really encourage skunks to hang around. I have no idea where baby skunk came from, but that was not the best surprise at 6:30 am.

The baby skunk incident comes about a week after the dead blue jay incident. One morning last week, I noticed a blue jay laying in the grass next to the bird feeder. It was my first encounter with a dead animal for which I was responsible for disposing of. I used a shovel to pick it up and throw it behind the garage. It had a broken neck. I’m not sure if it flew into a window, a building, or what. What is even more weird is that a few days after that, I was outside doing yard work, and the carcass was completely gone. No idea what happened to the dead bird. 

There are two squirrels terrorizing my bird feeders. These things are getting bold. You would not believe the acrobatics they are doing to reach the feeders. I was going to get a super soaker to start spraying them, but every time I open my door, they run away. There is no way I would be able to attack these things with a super soaker. They are annoying just the same. 

I’m having adventures in wildlife just as I am beginning to adult this summer.

More on adulting to come. I’m quite impressed with some of the positive changes I have either made this summer or have in the works.

The best part is, that baby skunks, dead birds and crazy squirrels are no big deal. They are no big deal because I have slowed my life down to a point where I am calm and able to handle the crazy. I’m pretty sure that if I had encountered a baby skunk, a dead bird and crazy squirrels a few years ago, it would have been a crisis because I was so overwhelmed with life that I was not able to handle anything extra being thrown at me.

One of the benefits of minimalism is that when you slow your life down enough, events like wildlife encounters are no big deal. As they should be. 

My summer is wicked busy, but busy in the best possible way. I have not had a summer this good in at least 4 years. Expect to hear more from me in the coming weeks about the positive changes I have made and the ones in the works for the fall.

For now, let’s hope my adventures in wildlife are coming to a close. Hopefully baby skunk will get a clue to go elsewhere when he sees the garage door closed tomorrow morning. I pet a baby skunk and remained scent-free to tell the tale. How many people can say that? 

Points of Privilege

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Note: This post is in the same series as The Toilet Paper Chronicles and Cowboys & Hankies. They can each be read independently, but if you would like more on the same topic, click the links.

Studies have shown that homelessness can cause anxiety and that people typically end up on one end of the spectrum or the other. The one end of the spectrum is hoarding. The other end of the spectrum is minimalism.

Hoarding makes sense on multiple levels. When you live in poverty, you often do not have the money or resources to be able to dispose of trash or other items. There is also a sense of urgency in procuring things and holding onto them “in case you need them.” Some people go from having absolutely nothing to wanting all the things.

I have a family member who falls into this category. Their house is quite literally filled with wall to wall, floor to ceiling stuff. It is all very clean and well maintained. They are constantly buying even more things. Their basement, attic and garage are all full to the brim. I refuse to go to this person’s house because it is too anxiety provoking for me.

Then, there is a smaller group that falls into minimalism. That is the group into which I fall. When I was homeless, it was very stressful trying to hold onto and keep track of your things, even if all that you had in the world was only enough for a paper grocery bag (yes, I lived like that at one time). I personally experience extreme anxiety when I am surrounded by a lot of things. I do not like being responsible for things. The things I do have, I keep nice. Too many things that I have to keep nice, maintain, and dispose of just drives me nuts.

There are points of privilege and points of loss in everyone’s life. For some, minimalism is a necessity. Like when I was homeless and everything fit into a paper grocery bag – that type of minimalism is a necessity. That is all the stuff you have in the world.

Then there is the form of minimalism in which I now engage that I feel is a privilege. It all comes down to economics, economics, economics.

Going in the same vein as The Toilet Paper Chronicles and Cowboys & Hankies, I did recently decide to order a set of ladies’ handkerchiefs from a maker on etsy. I have been doing quite well with the $4 handkerchiefs I had purchased at Walmart, but was having difficulty making 6 of them last a week until the next load of laundry.

I purchased a set of 10 beautifully handmade ladies’ handkerchiefs in a bunch of fun designs from etsy. These ones are also flannel cotton and much softer on my nose than the Walmart ones. In fact, the ones from etsy feel like heaven on my nose.

I realized this weekend that the fact that I had $20 to spend on cloth handkerchiefs is in itself a privilege. It is a good investment. With the money I am saving on paper facial tissues, the cloth hankies will pay for themselves in about 2-3 months.

However, it is that initial layout of cash that most people don’t have. As with the toilet paper scenario, with facial tissue, it feels cheaper to shell out $1 for a box of tissues when in fact that $1 is more expensive. It is that balancing act of having to live on a small finite amount of money.

I have the added benefit of the fact that I have room in the house to store a stack of (now 16) cloth handkerchiefs. I also have a washer and dryer to launder them on-site without having to trek to the laundromat. Someone living on the streets with all their belongings in a paper grocery sack or a back pack does not have any of these privileges.

I also recently decided that I want to try to use less paper towels. Paper towels are something I have to buy and spend money on. I am trying to decrease expenses. Sometimes, to decrease expenses, you have to have an initial outlay of cash and it can take months or years to see the benefits of your purchase.

In an effort to try to decrease my paper towel usage, I purchased microfiber cloths that I am using when I wash the windows. After I use a microfiber cloth, I can put it through the wash and it comes out clean again for reuse.  Now, the only thing I am using traditional paper towels for are cleaning the cat pan or anything else that is really gross. I just can’t bring myself to use cloth to clean really gross things.

My next task will be switching from paper napkins to cloth napkins, but that one may take a little bit. I am looking to buy cloth napkins from the same maker on etsy who made my cloth hankies.

Sometimes, when I think of minimalism, I ask myself: “What do I really need to survive?”

This is the extreme form of minimalism where people try to have fewer than 100 belongings or whatever can fit into a back pack. This form of minimalism works for some people. That’s great, but that’s not me.

Some people are forced into that type of minimalism by life circumstance.

For me minimalism is what do I need to survive plus what gives meaning to my life. Minimalism is not just about taking away, it is about what adds beauty to my existence here on Earth.

Of course, I try not to have frivolous things. But, I do. I’m sure we all do. Even if you live out of a back pack, I am sure you have even just one item that probably is not completely necessary to your survival, but is meaningful to you.

When I visit friends who have fewer things, I envy them. I get so overwhelmed being in this big house. I did not want a house this big, but this was the one that met all the requirements for the low income housing program I was in and I needed a way to keep my family together. So, here we are. One person and two cats rattling around in a huge space. The cats love it, of course.

I constantly look around thinking “do I really need that?” Do I want to clean that?

Then I realize that some of those people I envy live that way not by choice but by necessity. I am fortunate in that I have many privileges. But still, I think, I can get by with just a little bit less.

Even though I am on the minimalist spectrum after my homeless experiences, I do have some hoarding tendencies. As previously discussed, toilet paper is probably the biggest hoarding tendency I have. I always buy the  jumbo packs because they work out to be cheaper, and tend to get another one when there are 4-6 rolls left because I am so paranoid about going without after the childhood I had.

I still think there are things I can declutter on this minimalist journey. Sometimes, you reach a plateau. That’s ok. Right now, I think I’m taking a break from decluttering for a month or two. Mostly because it’s summer. When the weather is nice, I like to be outdoors as much as I can. Who wants to be stuck inside cleaning or decluttering?

For me, minimalism is a choice. I have over 1600 square feet that I could fill with stuff, but I purposefully choose not to do that. For me, minimalism is a point of privilege. I have the resources to take things I don’t want and dispose of them, recycle them, or donate them. I have a vehicle that I can use to take things out of my house as much as some people use their vehicle to buy things to haul to their home.

I have the convenience of an on site washer and dryer to be able to keep things clean and buy cloth items that can be reused so that my consumable expenses decrease.

What are the points of privilege in your life and how does that effect your minimalism journey?