10 Chairs

After years of minimalism, I have decluttered many items. I have highlighted the great coffee cup purge, downsized my wardrobe, and decluttered my entertainment media. So how in the world did I end up with 10 chairs for one person?

Talk about a fantasy self. I will admit that 4 of the 10 chairs were acquired since buying the house. Why 10 chairs? Well, here they are:

2 wooden kitchen chairs that match my kitchen table

2 green plastic upright chairs that were on the porch at the apartment 

2 folding camping chairs – 1 small easy to throw in the trunk of the car for impromptu outdoor outings, one is my luxury wine glass holding relaxation chair for Adirondack camping

4 blue plastic Adirondack chairs – It has always been my dream to own an Adirondack chair. Of course, the wooden real ones are too expensive. I compromised and purchased plastic Adirondack chairs when I bought the house. I had been relaxing on the front porch with the people who helped me move, and there was not enough seating. Some of us sat on the porch ledge. I thought that getting 4 outside chairs would be used. My train of thought was the fall time camp fires we would have using the outside fire pit. Of course, that was a fantasy self. Covid hit, and almost all of the people who helped me move into the house have died. I don’t have anyone over because we are still in a pandemic. Not that hardly anyone I know is still alive anymore.

That’s how I ended up with 10 chairs. It’s ridiculous. One person does not need 10 chairs, especially when almost everyone I know is dead.

I will be decluttering my chairs. 

First off, two of the blue plastic Adirondack chairs will be leaving. I have always wanted Adirondack chairs. Now that I have them, I will keep two. I am using two of them. I use one upstairs in the bathroom to sit in when changing my clothes. I also use the two of them to help drape sheets for air drying after going through the washing machine.

My luxury camp chair is staying. The arm rests are specially designed to hold a wine glass. The chair also reclines. It is the blue chair I take to the Adirondacks with me.

The small folding camp chair is questionable. Right now, it is hanging in the garage. I do use it in the fall when I want to sit at the outside fire pit. However, I could also use my luxury camp chair for that. I have not yet made a decision about the small folding camp chair.

The 2 green plastic upright chairs are being used. One is my desk chair for work. The other, the cats enjoy using to sleep in at the end of the bed. It has a blanket on it for them. For the time being, both green chairs will stay.

The two wooden chairs with my kitchen table are staying. I use them. I use my kitchen table. Sure, I am one person with two kitchen chairs. One of the kitchen chairs is used by the cats. 

Realistically, I should probably declutter down to 5 chairs. I am thinking: luxury camp chair, 2 kitchen chairs, and the two green upright chairs. 

We will see. I will not officially declutter the chairs until spring 2023. It just amazes me how I have overlooked CHAIRS in my whole decluttering process. 

One person with dead friends does not need 10 chairs.

How many chairs do you have per person? 

Minimalism – How It Started

There are hints that I have always been a minimalist from a young age. It’s possible it comes from a childhood and youth of homelessness or from living with a mother who is a hoarder or both. Research is evolving that says that responses to homelessness can be either extreme of hoarding or minimalism. Many people tend towards hoarding. I tend towards minimalism.

My childhood was rough, and there were many times when I had to move someplace or flee with only what I could fit in a single backpack. You learn fast how to make decisions and what is important or not important to take with you when you are given 20 minutes to pack a single backpack.

As an example, we will flash back to the year 1994. I had been tossed around homes and foster home situations due to abuse. I had a law guardian. The “child welfare system” worked a lot differently in the 80s and early 90s than it does now. To make a long story short, I was in abusive home in 1994 and was reporting the abuse to my law guardian. The school I was attending was reporting it too.

In the mornings, I was left home alone for roughly 30 minutes. The abusers I was living with went to work. I was left standing in the driveway waiting to be picked up for school. On one April morning about 10 minutes after the abusers left, the phone rang three times and then stopped ringing. I was never allowed to answer the phone. However, I knew that three rings that stopped was my signal that someone was coming for me and it was time to flee.

I quickly dumped all the books out of my school backpack and ran around cramming everything in it that I thought it was important to have to leave. I walked out the door, same as any other morning and stood in the driveway to be picked up. However, instead of being picked up to go to school, I was going to be picked up to be taken to a safe place – and it all had to be done before the person arrived to pick me up for school so nothing would seem amiss. The person picking me up for school would simply notice I was not outside and assume I was home sick for the day.

The car tore into the driveway. I jumped in the back seat and laid down on the floor behind the front seats with my single backpack. I was covered with a blanket to hide me. We tore out of the city. I had to stay hidden in the backseat with my backpack covered with a blanket until we were a safe distance away for me to be able to sit up and move around in the backseat properly. 

This is a true story and it is how I escaped one of many abusive situations in my lifetime. 

That one backpack held a few changes of clothes and some keepsakes. When I arrived at my safe destination, they took me shopping for more clothes so I would have more than two or three outfits. I did not pick out many clothes. I didn’t think I needed that many. I don’t like being responsible for lots of things in case I need to leave quickly due to an emergency situation.

Many months after my exodus from that abusive situation, all of my belongings that I had left behind were brought to me on a small tow-behind trailer. My books, the rest of my clothes, the music I had left behind, was all returned. At that time, I didn’t feel like I needed any of it. I had left it all behind and lived without it for many months. It was all creature comforts. None of it was needed to survive. What I needed was to be in a safe place, free from abuse.

At times in my life when I have been in safe places, free from abuse, I have accumulated things. I have accumulated LOTS of things. Most of this accumulation of things has been the result of convenience. When I was working 80 hours a week at three jobs, it was easier to have duplicates of items because I couldn’t find something or was too tired to wash or clean an item for reuse. In a nutshell, it was laziness.

My first big foray into the minimalism journey I am now on started about in 2010. I wanted to move. I had been wanting to move for a decade. You see, I moved from Massachusetts to New York in the late 90s. I had said I regretted the move and wanted to go back to Massachusetts. I knew that to go back I would have to downsize from a 2-bedroom apartment to a single room. Rent in Massachusetts is about 9 times higher than rent in New York.

My initial declutter into minimalism was with the goal of a move in mind. That, and I had been in a safe place free of abuse for a few years and had accumulated a lot of stuff. Honestly, it was making me anxious to be surrounded by so much stuff. What if I needed to leave? Yes, I know what I would grab to take with me. What about all the crap left behind? Besides, now that I am an adult, there is more responsibility than when you are a child.

I started downsizing with an inter-state move in mind. The move never happened, as I was not financially able to find a job that would pay me enough to even rent one room in Massachusetts. I’m still in New York. While I do not want to be in New York, I have no regrets about my failed attempt to return to Massachusetts.

I digress.

I have been on this minimalist journey for about a decade. Each burst of minimalism or decluttering has basically been a response to some traumatic life event. I decluttered A LOT when I moved from the apartment to the house. We were literally 3 hours away from being homeless when I bought the house. I knew we had to leave the apartment. I knew we were moving. I just didn’t know where we were moving to. I was prepared to live in the car with the cats until the house actually came through. That is how close we were to homelessness at the time.

In the pandemic, I am staring down the real possibility of death. Everyone around me has died. I will die eventually too. No one is going to want to go through my crap when I’m dead. I’m going through it now. On a more positive note, I would like to move internationally. I like to think I am now downsizing with an international move in mind. We will see if my wish to move internationally becomes a reality or a pipe dream. For now, that is what I am planning to do.

Combine my wish for an international move with the reality that I do not feel safe in this house due to the neighbors, and I am in the perfect situation to declutter. I am not in a safe space. I need as few items as possible. I need to know exactly what needs to go with me if we need to flee from here for safety. I don’t want to be responsible for a bunch of crap left behind.

To be honest, being surrounded by fewer things reduces me anxiety. I have enough to worry about taking care of the cats and keeping all of us together. I don’t want to have to worry about or be responsible for an entire house full of stuff too. So, I am getting rid of the stuff. I am only keeping what I use or what truly makes me happy. I am trying to reduce my things to only what is necessary so that I can focus on what is truly important in life.

I don’t want to spend hours cleaning this house or all of the stuff in it. I want to spend my time enjoying my life with the cats, as my life and their lives are so very short. 

I’m pretty sure I have always been a minimalist since I was a child, but I did not have the vocabulary to express it at the time. When you grow up poor, you only have a few items because you can’t afford to buy things. However, the longer you are alive, the more stuff you accumulate. If you are in a safe place, you tend to accumulate stuff as well. 

If you have lived through multiple emergency life situations such as I have, then you realize that you just can’t be responsible for a boatload of stuff. You need the necessities and that is all. 

Before I started minimalism, I had a lot of clothes. Taking after my hoarder mother, I had 3 closets and 5 dressers full of clothes. Now that I am a minimalist, I have one dresser and 10 hangers of clothes. That’s it. I have everything I need for 4 season of weather conditions. 

Some people marvel at how much I am able to pare down, however, this did not happen overnight. It has been a journey of stops and starts well over a decade. It all depends on where I am in life. 

Right now, in the pandemic, I am acutely aware of how short and precarious life is. I am more ruthless at this point in my minimalist journey than I have been in the past. Whether I die or actually achieve my dream of moving internationally, I am going to go someplace. I know that there is no one on this Earth who is willing or able to go through my crap after I’m gone, so I’m going through it now. You can’t take it with you, whether that’s in death or to some other country.

That is how my minimalist journey started. I started this blog to keep myself accountable along the way. I don’t want to go in the opposite direction of my hoarder mother who literally has her house packed full wall-to-wall and ceiling to floor of just STUFF. Her house is so full, you can hardly breathe in there. 

I want more time to spend with the cats and enjoy my life. I do not want to spend the little precious time I have here on Earth cleaning my house or taking care of my stuff.

What was your prompt to start minimalism and what does it mean to you?

Minimalism – Entertainment Media Part 2

Back in February 2022, I had written this post about my minimalism goals for my entertainment media this year.  To be honest, I have surprised myself with the progress I have made in this area, as CDs and DVDs are some of the most challenging areas for me to minimize.

This is an update on my progress.

I have been ruthless with decluttering my media. With all of my items, I am considering if each CD, book or DVD is something I would want to pay to have shipped if I move out of the country. In the first round of my decluttering, I would say I was able to get rid of about half of my items. I got rid of the low hanging fruit. Items I weeded out were those that do not bring me happiness. They are items I do not want to pack up and move with me again.

Then, when the bad neighbors across the street drove into the front of the house again and I have been forced to empty my living room, I got more ruthless with my media decluttering. I now have an entire room in my house I am unable to use. It was the room that held all my entertainment media. I am now stuck trying to find other places for these items in my house. 

Books

Surprisingly, books have been the easiest category for me to declutter. I am perfectly fine with using audiobooks and libraries. I do not want to ever have to haul a box of books when moving again. It’s not worth it. 

I have been able to declutter myself down to three books. I have three books that I am willing to keep and pack up and move with me next time I move. 

There are some books that I have in the donation box that I was keeping only because they were signed by the author. I took photos of the book cover and the signed inscription. They are honestly not bringing me joy. It is time for them to move on and be enjoyed by someone else. These are books that were just taking up space on my bookshelves. They are not books that I pick up and read. I have read them once, and once was enough.

The three books I kept are one reference book, and two books that I have read repeatedly. If I had to pack a backpack and go someplace, these would be the books I would grab to take with me. I am fine with re-reading the three I am keeping.

DVDs

Since I have been forced to completely empty my living room due to the neighbors trying to murder me by driving into the living room in the front of the house, I have realized what a huge pain it is to move the TV, DVD player and all of the DVDs.

I can tell you right now that when this TV set dies, I will not buy a new one. I will live without it. I have never paid for cable in my life. My bunny ears do not get any channels here. The TV set is only used to watch DVDs. There were many years of my life when I did not have a TV set or DVD player. When this set dies, I will go without once again.

I estimate that I have now decluttered about two-thirds of my DVDs. I am keeping only the ones that truly bring me joy that I watch repeatedly. Between the three TV series I have kept, my baseball games and movies, I think I can watch something different every Friday for “movie night” every week of the year. 

As I declutter DVDs, I am keeping in mind that at some point, I will no longer have the TV set and DVD player. I am only keeping those I really enjoy watching and would want to move with me if I ever move again.

Again, DVDs are also something that I can borrow from the library. Most of the DVDs I am keeping are ones that are not available at the library or beloved treasures that I watch repeatedly. 

Records and CDs

My records and record player are now in the closet. Putting on a record is a major pain in the ass. I hardly ever use the record player or listen to records. I put them in the closet for the next year to see if I can live without them. If they are still in the closet next spring, I will look to sell my record player and records. Right now, I think they are just collecting dust. I don’t really use them. Honestly, my record player was one of the most challenging things to move when I moved into the house to be sure it did not get damaged.

The first pass through my CD collection, I listened to all of my CDs. Every. Single. One. I boxed the ones I did not love enough to keep. That was about half of my collection. I will admit that there were some albums I gave a “free pass” because I did not feel like listening to them. That was a mistake. If I don’t feel like listening to it, then it needs to leave.

Since the neighbors drove into the front of the house and I have been forced to empty my living room, I have gotten more ruthless with my CD decluttering. I have decided to declutter from three pieces of furniture holding my CD collection down to one piece of furniture holding my CD collection. This means I only have space to house about one-third of my original collection.

I am not in Round 2 of my CD decluttering spree. This time, I am paying attention to CDs I reach for and play. Obviously, if It is one I listen to a lot, I am keeping it. 

I am also doing a second round of “listen to every single CD.” This time, as I listen to every single CD, I am doing it with this thought: “Is this a CD I would pack up and pay to ship to a different country?” If the answer is no, it is leaving. I want to curate my collection so I am only keeping music I absolutely love. I still have radio. I only need to keep music where I absolutely love listening to the entire album and albums that do not get much radio play. My CD collection is the most challenging for me to downsize.

Conclusion

All of the media I am currently decluttering is being boxed to be donated spring 2023.  Given the ruthlessness with which I am decluttering right now, I want to allow some time in case I change my mind about certain items.

I have never had any regrets about any item I have ever decluttered and I don’t want to start now. I figure that if the books, CDs and DVDs stay in the boxes for a year, then I am ready to part with them and they can leave. 

However, if I find myself pulling a certain movie or CD out of one of the boxes in the next year, then that is an item that should probably stay. 

The typical advice is to box things for three months and if you have not opened the box in 3 months to donate it. With my books, CDs and DVDs, I am going to box the items for about 10 months and then declutter them. I am going with a longer time frame because I am more attached to music and movies and they are harder for me to declutter. I want to be absolutely sure I am ready to part with them before I donate them. 

What is your most challenging decluttering category? Have you moved to a different country, and how much did you take with you? 

Journals and Memoir

The bulk of my decluttering is done over the winter months. I put everything into a spare room upstairs. In the spring, I go about donating everything in the spare room. I emptied the spare room early this spring, as I had a week off from work in March. This year I also had that one-time junk truck come to get rid of all the items that had been left in this house when I bought it that were not able to be donated.

Anything that goes into the spare room now will be leaving and donated in the spring of 2023. It is possible that some things may be donated this fall. We will see how life goes. 

I am trying to get as ruthless as possible with my decluttering as my ultimate goal is to leave the country. Of course, when you are planning a major move, you want to travel as lightly as possible. 

The most difficult items to declutter are always sentimental items. I have one box from childhood I am hanging onto. I am going to put a note on it that says it can be donated or junked after my death. I’m trying to make things as easy for whomever has to clean this house out after I die as possible. If I do manage to live long enough to leave the country, then I will personally take the entire box of childhood items to be donated or junked, as appropriate.

I have a small box of all of my running logs spanning well over a decade of my running career. I also have a small box of journals and scrapbooks from well over a decade. I’m quite sure that when I’m dead, no one will care to read either the running logs or the journals. I also know that if I leave the country, running logs and old journals are not going to be going with me. I’m not paying for a box of that dead weight to be shipped overseas.

The running logs have been useful to me in planning my training for races. I will look at training for prior races to see what I did or how I adjusted for certain situations. I am currently in the process of gleaning as much information as I can from these running logs and consolidating everything into one three-ring binder. My goal is to recycle all the running logs next spring. I will have one three-ring binder that contains training plans and tips.

My journals and scrapbooks are a little harder.  I do revisit my journals alongside my running logs to read about certain races. I like to read how I was feeling for the race and what I was thinking. Was I feeling well for that race? What adjustments did I make? Did anything unexpected happen? I also enjoy revisiting some of my camping memories that are in my journals. Now that I have lost so many people to COVID, they are nice to re-read to remember memories with loved ones. Sometimes I worry that I will forget those I love because they have died.

I am currently using both my running logs and my journals to work on my memoir. Once my memoir is complete, my goal is to recycle/shred all of my journals and scrapbooks. My goal is to complete my memoir by the end of this calendar year. I want to be able to shred all of my journals next spring.

I’m not going to lie. Decluttering sentimental items is hard. They should be left to the last thing, once you have had time to flex your decluttering muscles. 

I will say that to this day, I do not have any regrets over anything I have decluttered. I do not miss a single item. I can’t even begin to tell you all of the items I have decluttered over the years. As soon as they are gone, I forget about them. Not once have I thought, “now where is …” and have it become something I miss because I decluttered it. Typically, I can’t find something. It is in the house, not decluttered, and I find it later. All is well.

Sentimental items are hard to declutter and nothing is more personal than your own thoughts and memories. Well, I like to think I will keep the memories. I certainly have photos. Last year, I created my “greatest hits” photo album with my favorite memories and highlights of my life.

While the idea of shredding my journals and scrapbooks is hard, it is a necessary step for 3 reasons.

First, my journals and scrapbooks are reminiscent of my past. I’m not going there. I live in the here and now. I am moving forward. They say that living in the past causes depression, living in the future causes anxiety, and to live in the now, that’s why it is called the present. 

Second, I don’t want people reading my innermost thoughts from my journals after I’m dead. I’m pretty sure no one wants to read them anyways. Who cares what I thought on June 28, 2008? I’m pretty sure if someone were to pick up, say 2011, to read after I’m dead, they would think I was crazy. 

Third, if I leave the country, they are not coming with me. I’m trying to think positive here. When I leave the country, I will have to get rid of a lot of large items like furniture and my house. Why make my life more difficult by trying to clean out an entire house? I can get rid of the journals now. I may as well declutter as much as I can before I move internationally. 

I am currently about halfway through the writing of my memoir. Shredding all of my journals will be contingent upon completing my memoir. Once my memoir is complete, then I will shred my journals. The goal is to complete my memoir this year and shred the journals in spring 2023.

How are you with decluttering sentimental items? Do you keep journals or immediately get rid of them once you have filled the book? 

I am currently putting everything in the spare bedroom upstairs that will be leaving spring 2023. Every year, I declutter just a little bit more. I am hoping to make my international move as easy as possible when the time comes. If I do not make it to an international move, then at least this house will be easy for someone to empty after my death. 

The Great Clean Out

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When I bought this house 3.5 years ago, the gentleman who owned it had passed away after living here for 60 years. His family cleaned out his personal effects, but there was a lot left in this house when I bought it and moved in. 

Over the years, I have been gradually going through what was left in this house in addition to my own minimizing and downsizing. I have recycled and donated as much as I can. Some of the items were quite interesting. For example, I donated a 1940s era fire alarm to the Historic Society. There were a few other historic items donated also.

I finally came down to the point where everything that could be donated, recycled, or reused had been. All that was left was junk. There were old tools that were rusted and that no one would want or use because we now have power tools to replace the old hand tools. There were old tools from the days when Americans would travel by horse and buggy before there were cars. This house was built in 1911. There was just a lot of stuff.

Winter is typically the time I declutter and work on all my indoor house projects. In the spring and summer, I donated everything. I took a week off for my birthday to complete my house projects.

This week I hired someone to come get all the junk. I was looking at renting a dumpster, but did not want all of this stuff to end up in a landfill. Instead, I hired a small family business who came and picked up everything. They will try to recycle things as much as possible in ways I simply could not recycle them. For example, they have a way to recycle all the metal that I simply don’t have access to. I’m not sure exactly what recycling metal is all about, but I know that they are going to try to recycle the items as much as possible to keep them out of the landfill. That makes me feel so much better than if I had simply put everything in a dumpster.

This week, all the junk left as part of the great cleanout. Everything else that is left in this house, I can either donate, recycle, or dispose of one by one if needed. All the junk is currently gone unless something happens to break beyond repair.

I am getting ruthless on cleaning out this house for a few reasons. First, someone is going to have to clean out the house when I die. I don’t wish that chore on anyone. I am trying to make the house as easy to clean out as possible when I die. 

Second, on a more positive note, if I am able to survive the pandemic and outlive the cats, I want to leave the country. It is going to be easier for me to leave the country with less items. I am downsizing with the idea that I am going to leave the country. 

Third, this house is difficult for me to handle. The more stuff I can get rid of, the easier it will be for me to take care of the house. My true goal is to get everything onto the first floor of the house, but with the bathroom and my office on the second floor, I don’t really see that happening. I’m doing what I can to decrease my possessions as much as possible.

All that stuff that we keep “for an emergency?” The emergency is now. We are living it. If a global pandemic and what looks to be World War Three is not an emergency, I don’t know what is. If you haven’t used something over the past 3 years, you aren’t going to need it. We are living the emergency now. Get rid of it. Only keep what you need and what truly makes you happy. 

As spring approaches, I am winding down on my decluttering project for this season. With the exception of some ongoing projects (like my CDs), I tend to take a break of several months once the weather cooperates to be outside. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. I have things to do other than declutter and maintain my home.

I feel so much lighter now that the great clean out has occurred. All of the items in my garage and basement are items I use and need for the house. All of the rusted metal and weird horse and buggy items are gone. I am still on my minimalist journey, but with this clean out have made significant progress. 

Minimalism – Entertainment Media

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When it comes to downsizing or decluttering, they say to always leave the most difficult items until last. For many, the most difficult items are sentimental items. For me personally, the most difficult items are CDs and DVDs. I love music. I love CDs. 

Artists create albums as a work of art. It’s not just the music, it’s the cover art and the insert that goes with the disc. In this way, CDs are similar to records for me, only CDs are smaller. The exerience is almost the same. The one key difference is that the sound of a record is vastly different than a CD, but I digress. Everything else is essentially the same.

I am at that point in my minimalist journey where I feel comfortable tackling the hard stuff. I do think that part of this is pandemic related. Part of it just happens to be where I am in my journey not related to the pandemic. I also have goals in life that are causing me to be more ruthless in my decluttering strategy so that I am prepared to meet my future goals with less stuff.

Here is my strategy and how it is going with my some of my most challenging decluttering categories.

Books

Originally, I thought books would be a hard category to downsize. However, when you look at CDs, DVDs and books, I found it very easy to downsize books in comparison to music. I started with close to 1,000 books. I would spend hours cataloging them by various methods – author, title, genre, ISBN. 

I can borrow books from the library and frequently do. In fact, I was borrowing so many books from the library that I was not reading the books in my house. There is no point in keeping all those books if I am not going to read them. It is time to pass them on so they can be read and enjoyed by other people.

Decluttering my books has been a very gradual process over the past decade. When I declutter books, I donate them either to the library book sale or to the Little Free Library cabinets that I tend to find in parks. 

If I enjoy a book so much that I have checked it out of the library at least twice to read it (two different distinct times, not simply renewing a book I did not have enough time to read), then that is a book I need to own. My goal is to only own books I enjoy enough that I read them several times. If I only read a book once and do not have the urge to read it a second time, then it is time for that book to move on to be enjoyed by someone else.

After a decade of going through this process with these perameters, here is my current status. 

There are 8 books on my book shelf that I have identified as books I have read multiple times, intend to read again in the future, or simply cannot part with (books that have special autographed messages from the autthor). 

In addition to the 8 books on my bookshelf, I currently have one reusable shopping bag full of books that I intend to read. As I make my way through this bag of books, I am deciding if I will keep the book or if the book will be donated and move on to be enjoyed by someone else. So it is entirely possible that I will end up with more than 8 books on my bookshelf as I make my way through the bag of books I have.

My goal is to make it through this bag of books this calendar year in 2021.

 DVDs

My goal for DVDs is only to have as many as I can fit in the DVD cabinet. Right now, not only is my DVD cabinet full, but I have DVDs that have invaded by bookcase. DVDs have been an escape for me in the pandemic, and I do not have cable to watch TV, so I have more DVDs than space allows.

I have decided that I am definitely keeping all of my TV series and my baseball World Series. I am currently watching all of my movies to decide what is staying and what is going. This has been a challenging exercise. 

I will admit that there are some DVDs where I am on the fence. If I am on the fence, those DVDs are going in a special box. They will not be donated to the library book sale this year. I labelled the box 2023 and am going to put it in a closet. If I don’t feel like watching any of those movies in the next year to the point where I pull them out of the closet, then they will be donated in 2023.

There are some movies where I watch them, and right away, I know that I am done with that movie. Either it has served its purpose – I enjoyed it, but it is not one I reach for on a regular basis, or I have “outgrown” the movie. I am no longer at a point in my life where I feel like I will watch that movie again. I have enjoyed it and it is time to move on.

I am currently working my way through watching my movie DVDs to help everything fit in the space provided. The goal is that the DVDs will all fit in the DVD cabinet and that there will no longer be DVDs invading the bookcase.

Records and CDs

This is probably going to be a shocker for those who know me well, but I have decided my records and the record player will be leaving. I had a record player and records long ago that were lost in a flood. Then, for graduation for one of my four degrees, I was gifted a record player. Over the years, I acquired a milk crate full of records all second hand from either the library book sale or from the used record store in town.

In looking through my records, almost 100% of my record collection is a duplicate of an album I own on CD. I rarely listen to the records. To be frank, it is a pain in the ass to connect the record player, place the vinyl on the turnstyle and line up the needle to play. Sure, I love records. I love the feel, smell, and sound of them. However, I am getting much more enjoyment out of my CDs and they are easier to use. The records and record player are just weighing me down at this point. I have future goals that require me to be as light and nimble as possible.

When it comes to CDs, this is my most challenging category to downsize ever. I love music. I love CDs and my collection. A few years ago, I got rid of a shoebox full of CDs. At the time, it was hard. I was all emotional donating a shoebox of CDs. You know what? I don’t even remember what CDs were in that shoebox. I don’t miss them at all. 

Looking at my CD collection today, I have 700+ CDs. I don’t listen to them a lot. CDs are similar to the 80/20 rule for clothes. I listen to about 20% of my CDs 80% of the time. 

The CDs are also way out of their space. All of the CD cabinets are full. CDs have invaded the bookcase. They have overflowed even the bookcase and are just laying around in boxes on the floor. I have way too many CDs. While CDs are my most favorite form of music, I’m not listening to them as much as I used to.

A few months ago, I stopped listening to radio. I just can’t take news anymore in the pandemic. I had to stop listening to news in order to keep my sanity. I still get news. I do not bury my head in the sand about anything that goes on. Now I go to a few different news source’s websites a few times a day to get my news instead of listening to it on the radio. This way, when I have had enough news, I can stop looking.

I also splurged and put Sirius radio on my phone a few months ago. I now listen to music without commercials and without news. I am thoroughly enjoying a bevy of my favorite music stations. I enjoy satellite radio so much, I am not listening to my CDs as much.

This does not mean I can live without my CDs. I still love them. I still have times when I listen to CDs because I want to hear a certain album or a certain song whenever I want. Although I am enjoying radio on my phone, digital music is my least favorite form of music for listening. My CDs still hold a tremendous amount of value for me.

In 2022 this year, I have embarked on a project to downsize my CDs. I am listening to every single CD.

Yup, that’s right. Every. Single. One. 

As I listen to them, I am deciding which ones I am keeping and which ones I am donating. Sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised. I will pick up a CD and think “this one should be donated,” then I listen to the CD and fall in love with it all over again. It stays. There are other CDs I pick up and think “this one should have a free pass to stay,” but I force myself to go through the listening exercise anyway. Then Ilisten to the CD and think “why was I going to give this one a free pass? I never listen to it and it’s horrible.” 

I have come to realize that just because I enjoy a specific band or musician does not mean I need to own or like every single piece of music they make. There are some bands where I have all of their albums just to have all of their albums because I love the band. But you know what? I may love the band, but some of their records really sucked. And that’s okay.

This year I am enjoying a muscial journey through every single CD I own. Again, the goal of this exercise is for all of the CDs to fit in the CD cabinet. CDs should not be invading the book case and overflowing into boxes of CDs sitting on the floor because there are so many of them. 

I only want to keep what I truly love and enjoy. That is the entire purpose of life. Just because I love a band does not mean I need to keep their one album that sucked. No artist is able to produce albums where every single one is stellar. Some are less than stellar. That’s okay. 

Conclusion

My biggest goal as a minimalist is to only be surrounded by things that are useful and things that I love. Just because a band brings me joy does not mean I need to keep an album that I did not love as much as the others. 

I also now have future plans that are going to require me to be nimble and easy to move. The more I am able to downsize, the easier it will be for me to realize my future goals. Even if I do not realize my future goals, my goal for right now is to only be surrounded by what I love. If I don’t love something, then it needs to leave. 

Yes, I love CDs. I love music. CDs are my favorite form of music. I’m sure I will be just as happy with 300 CDs as I am with 700 CDs. As long as they are all albums I love, that’s the point. I do not have a set number of CDs I want to declutter down to. I just want them all to fit in the CD cabinet and not overflowing and invading other spaces. 

What is your most challenging decluttering category?  

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! 

 

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?

Empty Rooms

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Part of what makes vacation so appealing is that it is not only a break from everyday life but also offers a clean slate. Sure, you get a break from cleaning the house, paying the bills, doing your job. There is also the little thrill of staying in a hotel room with no worries.

Hotel rooms provide a bed for sleeping, a bathroom for the essentials, and usually a TV or some type of entertainment when you are trying to wind down for sleep. You don’t have to worry about cleaning them. All you have to deal with is your luggage – which is probably just enough for the time you are there.

 

One of the items I decluttered this week on Minimalism Monday was luggage. I have been experimenting since about 2012 with minimal packing and minimal luggage. Over the past almost 7 years, I have flown to Chicago, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia for 4+ day trips, ran full marathons, and taken camping trips (some a week long) with one small piece of luggage. Each time I flew, my luggage was considered a “carry on,” so I had no checked luggage. Each time I flew was with one backpack. I typically travel with one backpack or one small duffel bag.

When I say one small duffel bag, I mean the small LL Bean size duffel bag. In decluttering my luggage this weekend, I discovered that I also have several medium and large duffel bags for luggage that are never used. I could pretty much fit my entire wardrobe in the medium duffel bag. I can’t think of any travel destination that would require my ENTIRE wardrobe.

I did not even use my luggage when I moved. I left all the clothes in the drawers, and removed all the drawers from the dresser. For closet items, I put a garbage bag over all of them and just picked up the bunch and went.

Luggage was an item I got rid of this week. Since I only use either a backpack or the small duffel bag for traveling, that is what I kept.

Back to the hotel room scenario …

Hotel rooms offer clean slates. You just deal with your luggage each day and everything else is about experiences. In a hotel, you shower, dress, and go out to enjoy the day. This is not like home, where you go through multiple outfits in the morning, throwing clothes all over the room, and struggling to get out the door. On vacation, you wear what you packed because that is all that is with you.

By the way, if you have mornings at home like I described where you go through outfits in the morning trying to decide what to wear because you “have nothing to wear,” then I highly recommend a minimalist wardrobe. I would start with Project 333. It’s an amazing feeling to wear what you love every single day.

When I moved into the house, it was like I was offered a clean slate, similar to a hotel room. Here is this empty space – what are you going to put there?

Even though I have more space in the house, I am still getting rid of things. As I have said repeatedly, I do not want to be chained to this house – I want to be able to go out and enjoy life, whatever that may look like.

So, the goal in the house is empty rooms. Yes, I realize that sounds insane. However, I went from a 5 room apartment to a 9 room house complete with basement, attic and garage. That’s twice as much space to maintain and clean.

This month for Minimalist Monday, I decided to start decluttering one closet. It ended up turning into going through and rearranging the entire upstairs, which lasted almost all day. However, at the end of it, I have 6 boxes for donation, one completely empty room, and another room that will be empty once everything goes to donation.

This is progress. Empty rooms are easy to clean and not time consuming. Wash the windows, floor, and molding. Done.

I only keep things in my home that are either useful or beautiful. Yes, I do the whole “spark joy” thing. I know many people roll their eyes over the whole “does this spark joy method.” However, with the house, I feel that some of the questions I’m asking as I declutter are slightly different.

Instead of asking “does this spark joy,” I am now more commonly asking myself “do I really want to clean and maintain that?”

Do I use this?

Do I love this?

Does it bring me joy?

Do I want to clean this?

Belongings are supposed to make you happy. I look at a Monet print in my living room. It makes me smile and I’m happy. I’m totally fine with cleaning the glass every week to see this beautiful painting.

However, if you are constantly grumbling that your Saturdays are being taken up by cleaning when you would much rather go to a movie/go ice skating/play a game with your child, then you need to also look at your belongings and ask “Do I want to clean this?”

I actually did get rid of about four wall hangings when I moved into the house for this very reason. That is four more frames I have to clean. Yes, I liked the prints. However, the amount of joy they brought me was not enough to override the amount of annoyance that cleaning it brought me. I kept and hung the pictures that I really love.

I get to see and use “special occasion items” every single day. What “special occasion” are you keeping that china/those keepsakes for? Isn’t every day life enough of a celebration? Use the fancy plates while you are here to enjoy them. Use them while your kids are home before they go off to college and leave. You’ll have great memories of family dinners with the fancy plates while the kids were home.

So yes, the goal this year at the end of Minimalist Mondays is to have two empty rooms and one empty closet. I currently have one empty room, so that is progress. I know that some people get weirded out by empty rooms. However, I am one person in a big beautiful house who wants to spend my time enjoying my beautiful house and not cleaning it. I want to sit in my yard in the summer and have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. I don’t want to be stuck inside maintaining this house. If there is not stuff every where, I can enjoy life. Empty rooms make sense for me.

Deep down, empty rooms make sense for a lot of people. Isn’t that why we love hotel rooms? They contain the essentials we need for a few days and the only thing we have to be responsible for is the luggage that came with us. Why can’t home feel like vacation too?

 

 

The Magic of Three

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Simon enjoying his new beanie animal

Many times, I have written about the magic number three in my decluttering/minimalism goals. Three items on a surface, three things hanging on a wall … This week the magic of three does it again.

Minimalist Mondays this year are a way for me to try to organize and declutter my house. I want to be sure what I have is only what I love and what I need. Just because I have double the space now, does not mean I need double the stuff.

This week was kind of a wash. I have not been feeling well for most of it. Thursday I was pretty much a vegetable. For minimalist Monday this month, I have four Mondays to address the area in question for January. That area is one of two walk-in closets. Since there is a holiday coming up on January 21, I am hoping to catch up then since I have been under the weather this week.

Where the magic of three fits into all of this is in cleaning. My goal in decluttering is so that I can actually enjoy my life my being able to do things and not be chained to this house having to clean it all the time.

This week I discovered that by putting three CDs into the CD player, I can clean the whole house. #Score

Three CDs of cleaning. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

While the first CD was playing, I worked on cleaning downstairs. By the time the CD was done, I had everything clean downstairs except for mopping the kitchen floor. As the second CD began, I mopped the kitchen floor.

I can’t clean the entire house in one go. It’s just too much for me. Especially since I have not been feeling well this week, I was way too tired to clean the entire house in one swoop.

Once the kitchen floor was mopped and the second CD was spinning merrily along, I took a break. Not only did I take a break, but I cranked the volume and danced around in my socks (and Victoria’s Secret yoga pants, of course #weekend) a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

I’m sure if any of the neighbors bothered to look in any of my windows they were probably laughing hysterically. I mean, I washed all the windows, so they definitely had a clear view.

One of the things I absolutely love love love about the house is that all of my CDs are unpacked and out. They are displayed, organized, and ready to use. Not only that, but I can play them as loud as I want. In the apartment, the maximum stereo volume was 10. In my house, the minimum stereo volume is typically 16.

So for the second CD of this exercise, I took a break from cleaning. If you decide to try this at home, be sure to pick some kick ass tunes for all three discs.

Then, when the third CD came on and I was sufficiently rested, I cleaned upstairs. Just like with the first CD, by the time the third CD ended, I had the entire upstairs clean with the exception of washing the bathroom floor. So then I washed the bathroom floor and the whole house was clean.

It basically took three CDs to clean the house. It was a lot more fun with music.

Now, with both upstairs and downstairs, when the CD ended, I had everything done except mopping. I hate mopping, so I always leave it for last. My personal goal is to get the house minimized enough so that by the time a CD ends, the entire area of the house is clean.

We’ll see how that goes. It may be wishful thinking. Three CDs worth of time to clean an entire 1600 square foot house is pretty good, I’m thinking.

When I am feeling better to get to minimalism Mondays this month, the area for January is one of two walk-in closets. Some of this is organization. For example, the walk-in closet in question has all my camping stuff. However, I have found camping equipment in two other locations in the house. It’s a consequence of moving. Part of minimalist Mondays is going to be recreating my “zones” in the house. Once I get all of the camping equipment together, then I can evaluate it.

For the record, while many people’s walk-in closets are jam packed with clothing, mine are not. I have been doing pretty well with my minimalist wardrobe. My walk-in closets are mainly storage for seasonal and sentimental items. I’ll be going through things like camping, running gear, luggage, Christmas, fans, and the “sentimental” box when I finally hit the closet this month.

I would love to get everything down to one walk-in closet instead of two, but I don’t see that happening. I have too many summer hobbies that require equipment. Yes, I actually do USE all of that equipment.

Maybe when I’m engaging in minimalist Mondays, I will have to invoke the magic of three. If I can use three CDs to clean the entire house, I should be able to use three CDs to declutter and organize and entire closet, right?

I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting here in my shades grooving to some cool tunes in my clean house.