Cowboys & Hankies

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A stack of six white hankies on top of a rolled hand towel and beach towel.

Everyone has their own reasons for undertaking the journey of minimalism. Some people want more time with their family. Some people want to lower their carbon footprint and be more environmentally friendly. Others are looking for ways to improve their health after a life changing diagnosis. For some people, all of the above are reasons for getting into minimalism. For others, it’s something completely different.

One of the side effects that typically happen in minimalist journeys is the desire to reduce the use of disposables, specifically paper products. We replace paper towels with cleaning rags. We actually use our dishware and cutlery instead of buying paper plates and plastic forks.

Some paper products are kind of necessary. Toilet paper is necessary. We all know from The Toilet Paper Chronicles, that tp has, in fact, defined my life. There are some that have found ways to go without toilet paper. I am so not going there. Too gross. Plus, my identity. The Toilet Paper Chronicles may need a sequel one day. I digress.

Tissues. Have we ever thought about tissues? This is another area that has the potential to hold the ew factor. However, it’s not as bad as you think.

What ever did we do before the invention of kleenex?

Kleenex is a relatively new paper product that has come on the scene within the past 100 years. Prior to that, everyone used handkerchiefs. With hankies, come the stereotypes of southern belles dropping their painstakingly embroidered linens to get the attention of some passing gentleman. Handkerchiefs conjure up images of cowboys, who stereotypically wore the red paisley kind to display their outlaw status.

For me, it was relatively simple. My grandfather always carried hankies. I was one of 13 grand kids. With so many of us running around, it was rare that grandpa would share a hankie with any of us “snot nosed kids,” but when he did, you felt special. Grandpa’s hankies were always super soft and felt like a feather on your nose compared to the scratchy paper tissues that grandma would bring home from the five and dime.

My grandfather had the stereotypical cowboy hankies. They were paisley. He had them in both red and blue, although I remember the blue most often.

With the improvement of technology, commercially produced tissues have improved. In my childhood, tissues were always rough on your nose. You knew when someone was sick because the tissues would rub your nose raw. Compare this to a cotton handkerchief, which is much softer and does not product the same effect. Cotton handkerchiefs get better with time and use, while paper tissues are a one time thing.

First there was kleenex, now there are puffs. There are other brands as well. If you look at the production trajectory of paper tissues, the goal seems to be to make them softer to use. Not only has the paper gotten softer, but they now also add things like aloe and lotion. Lotion, by the way, is lethal for someone with nut allergies because it contains almond oil.

Due to the lotion issue, tissues are something I always carry with me. I don’t want to be stuck someplace where I’m having to grab a tissue from someone else, and have it contain lotion that all of a sudden precipitates the need for an epi pen and a trip to the hospital. I understand the reasoning for adding lotion to tissues, but can’t the world be accessible for everyone and we just skip the almond oil?

I’m one of those people where my nose runs all the time. It especially runs when the temperature changes. For example, when I come inside from the cold outside, my nose will run due to the temperature change. It is clear snot. I use a tissue, and my nose is done running until I encounter another temperature change (when I go back outside, it runs again). The challenge is that in some buildings, the HVAC system is so screwy, it almost feels like one part of the building is a different temperature zone than another. This can cause my nose to run simply by walking to other areas of a building. It’s annoying.

When I was re-evaluating my budget recently. Where does all my money go? I noticed that I happen to spend a lot of money on tissues. I have tissues at work, in my car, on all floors of my house, in my purse, and in almost all of my pockets.

I specifically use pockets for tissues. This means that every time I do laundry and clean out my pockets, I am constantly pulling out tissues to throw away. We have all had those times when we have done laundry, missed a tissue in the pocket, then all the clothes come out with little white cotton specks on them. It takes forever to get tissue pieces off a load of clothing with those rolling tape things. When it happens to an entire load of laundry, that really sucks.

I have decided to try to go back to the “old days” of my grandparents and return to the use of handkerchiefs. There are makers on Etsy, one of my favorite web sites, that make some really nicely patterned and sewn ladies’ handkerchiefs. Before I make that big of an investment, I want to be sure I can actually make the transition from tissues to handkerchiefs without any issues.

I bought a small box of 6 handkerchiefs in the men’s department at Walmart for $4. Unfortunately, they are not the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth. These are plain white. For a trial run, that’s okay. If I make the switch long term, then I definitely want to order hankies from Etsy because I have other cloths that are white and it is a little confusing right now.

In order to get the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth, you could simply buy a bandanna and use it as a hankie. In my experience, today’s bandannas are scratchy no matter how many times you wash them. When you buy a cloth product specifically intended for use as a hankie, it tends to be softer and more gentle on your nose.

Of course, I washed the hankies before use. While they are not as soft as I would like, they are still softer than paper tissues. The softness I remember from my grandpa’s hankies will come with time as I use the hankies and they are washed more.

For the ew factor – first of all, it’s clear snot. Get over it, people. We have paper tissues shoved into every pocket, purse and crevice, what difference does it make if it is a paper tissue or a cloth hankie? The hankie goes in the wash and comes out clean.

If you have multiple people in your household and decide to transition your entire family to hankies, then I would recommend color coding everyone. If everyone has their own color of hankie, then that gets rid of the ew factor of accidentally using someone else’s hankie.

Right now, I have 6 hankies, so I am using one per day. That is enough. I don’t even use the whole thing. Like I said, my nose will run briefly with temperature changes and then stop.

I still have paper tissues in my house for visitors. I have paper tissues at work. However, I have started to carry a hankie in my pocket for my own personal use.

The ew factor decreases if you keep in mind that key point – hankies are for someone’s personal use. Of course, personal boundaries are a little blurred if you have children, but that’s life. How many times did your mom lick her finger to fix your hair or clean a smudge from your face when you were small?

An advantage of using hankies is that if one accidentally gets left in your pocket, you won’t have to deal with little pieces of cotton paper all over your clothes. A hankie is a cloth – if it gets left in a pocket and goes through the wash, it comes out clean. No harm, no fowl.

The benefit of hankies is that I am decreasing my carbon footprint by producing less waste. How many times has your wastebasket been full of just tissues? Yes, I have to wash the hankies, but they are small. It doesn’t take up much space to wash a week’s worth of hankies in with my laundry. In fact, I would say that a week’s worth of hankies is probably about the equivalent of adding two wash clothes to the laundry as far as space goes.

Before we had automation, factories and the growth of the disposable economy, everyone used handkerchiefs. For cowboys, they were versatile. We probably don’t even think of using a hankie to blow your nose, because when we see cowboys in movies, they use them as a fashion statement. They also use them to keep dust out of their face. However, the intended purpose is to blow your nose.

For me, hankies, remind me of my grandfather. They remind me of a time before he had to use a wheelchair when he was still well and would go for long walks on the farm. He would check on all the animals and just walk the land at night to assess what would need to be done the next day. He had a blue paisley hankie that he would use to wipe the sweat from his brow in the middle of a hard, hot day in the saddle. My grandfather and his hankie was the picture of a true cowboy working the land, tending the animals, and loving his family.

Where ever you are on your journey to minimalism, I invite you to at least entertain the idea of the return to the handkerchief. You may not be able to get over the ew factor, and that’s okay. Hey, I live alone, so it’s easier for me. Consider color coding if you have multiple people going for hankies.

For me, in these first few weeks of hankie use, it seems worth it. My nose is a lot happier because the hankie is softer than paper tissues. My wallet is happier because I did not have to purchase paper tissues this month – and I was purchasing economy packs either monthly or bimonthly. The garbage man is happier because I am producing less trash, which means that the bags he’s lifting out of my trash can to put in his truck are lighter too.

While I have been good at throwing the hankie in the clothes hamper at the end of the day, I did have one accidentally go through the wash because it was in the pouch of my sweatshirt. The hankie came out clean and there were not any little white pieces of paper on my clothes. It was great.

I will formally evaluate my hankie situation after a few more weeks. At this time, I am thinking I will go on Etsy and order hankies from a maker. This way I can have a color or pattern so that it is clear it is a hankie and I do not have to think too hard about what is a hankie, what is a cloth napkin and what is a cleaning cloth when I am folding and putting away laundry. I will continue to keep paper tissues in my house and office for guests. Since I am not using the paper tissues, maybe the box will last me a year instead of just a month.

If you want to be a cowboy, find the red paisley handkerchiefs.

Be a rebel. Use a hankie.

 

Three Years After Facebook

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One of my friends whom I have known for almost twenty years lost her house in a fire a few weeks ago. This is someone with whom I also worked at two different places of employment. At one job, she was my supervisor, at another job, I was her’s. Even though we no longer work together, we have remained friends through the years and many different life events.

My friend was fortunate in that she, her husband, and all three of their dogs were able to escape the fire safely. The house, however, is a complete loss taking multiple fire departments over 12 hours to battle the blaze. The fire made both local and regional news channels at stations 60 miles away.

I spent some time over the weekend talking with my friend trying to figure out how to best help her. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose absolutely everything. Many people think that minimalism is some cold-hearted philosophy that centers around getting rid of everything and having empty rooms.

While I do have empty rooms, minimalism is not about getting rid of everything. Minimalism is about surrounding yourself with what you truly love and focusing on who matters in life. I simply cannot imagine losing everything like that. What I have in my house is only what I love and what brings me happiness.

During this conversation with my friend, one of the comments she made stuck with me.

She said that she was glad I had reached out to her because she had been thinking about how my Christmas card and letters were next to her chair.

Since deleting my Facebook account three years ago come the first week of February, I have been focusing more on being present in my relationships. I want the people in my life to know that they matter to me by receiving my complete attention when I am with them. I don’t want to miss out on the important moments in life because I am too busy scrolling through a social media feed or trying to get the right photo to post online.

This blog is my only form of social media. I have no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, nothing.

Three years after deleting my Facebook account, I still have no regrets. I could not be happier with my choice.

Back to my friend … this person is one that I try to send a card to either monthly or every few months. There are a few people in my life that I write to on a regular basis to keep in touch since I am no longer on Facebook.

I do not often get a response from the people I write. That’s fine. Life is busy between work, kids, and life. I totally get that.

What really touched me about my friend’s comment was the knowledge that she actually reads my cards I send every so often. Not only that, but she seems to look forward to them.

She lost absolutely everything in her home and one of her (I’m sure many) thoughts was, “oh, your letters were right next to my chair.” I’m sure her thought stemmed more from remembering her house and the familiarity of it than from my actual letters.

I told her I would send her another card. I did. I tried to keep it light with little to no house stuff. I’m pretty sure one of my last cards was full of first-time homeowner news (like my lawn mower adventures last fall) and I’m sure that’s the last thing she wants to hear about right now.

Now, if I had been on Facebook, I would have known about the fire a lot sooner than I did. Apparently, she posted it to Facebook about an hour into the blaze.

I truly don’t understand how people can have the emotional strength to not only live their life, but actively report on their own personal tragedy while it is happening. It’s not a judgement, it’s just an observation of something that I no longer understand.

When I had a Facebook, I remember doing the same thing. Every inane thought and one-liner to major life events was documented online. For me, social media made everything become more dramatic that it needed to be. It’s like jumping up and down in the middle of the street screaming “look at me!”

I, personally, am so happy to have the drama removed from my life. I have enough drama at work. I don’t need drama in the virtual realm as well.

Three years post-Facebook, and I don’t miss it at all. I still get the weird looks and comments of “you should be on Facebook.” I don’t think so. Sure, I may miss out on things by not being online. It takes me a bit longer to learn things when my news sources are the paper (yes, paper) newspaper and the radio. However, I still keep in touch with the important people in my life and know what is going on with them.

I treasure my relationships more because I actually put forth effort into maintaining them. It’s one thing to mindlessly scroll through your phone pushing the “like” button or typing “I’m so sorry” giving virtual support and quite another thing to actually pick up the phone and ask someone “How are you? How can I help?” and then physically, emotionally and spiritually help them.

Community is what happens in real life. Who is going to be there for you when there is no wifi?

Recently, I have heard that some people are choosing to delete Facebook due to the privacy drama going on. Drama is still drama. It has been there since the beginning of Facebook. It’s just a question of what kind of drama you are willing to put up with and how much of it. Apparently, people have a lower tolerance for privacy drama than for emotional drama.

I’ve spoken with some people who rely on social media for information, and no matter what happens will not delete their accounts. That’s fine. To each their own.

There is a certain fear of missing out (FOMO). For some people, FOMO is real. They will not get rid of social media due to FOMO. For me, I can say that when I was on Facebook, there was no FOMO. I did miss out. Big time. I missed out on important things in my life and I missed out on people who were right in front of me due to my preoccupation with social media.

Three years post-Facebook, I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything. I am present for the important people in my life. For those of you who stay on social media due to FOMO, think about what you may be missing in real life by using social media.

Social media does have it’s merits. As someone who lives in a rural area, I can see how social media would be helpful for people who feel isolated. Just keep in mind are you using social media to connect, or are you isolating the people around you in real life by using social media?

Social media use is a personal decision for everyone. I’m just here to tell you that if you are thinking about deleting social media, you are not alone. I have done it and am much happier for it.

Every so often, you will hear about a social media experiment where someone agrees to go off social media for a year or so, sometimes to get some money. There are articles on the internet about going a year without Facebook. In fact, I did a blog post about it. Part of the reason why I did a follow-up post in year two and now in year three is to show that leaving social media is sustainable.

It is not only sustainable, but my stress levels have decreased and my happiness has increased since leaving social media.

While it may have taken me a little bit longer to find out about my friend’s situation without social media, once I found out, that does not change my reaction to what happened. Without social media occupying my time, I actually have time to respond to my friend in a caring way beyond just a comment on a post. I have time to be there for someone in real life who needs a friend. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

Three years after Facebook. I have no regrets.

 

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.

 

This is the New Year

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Simon at Christmas 2018

Welcome, 2019! Every year, for the past three years, I have wished for a quiet year. And every year for the past three years, I have had challenging times with multiple tragedies that were anything but quiet. So I’m not going to wish for anything this year. I know better.

My favorite New Year’s tune is done by Death Cab 4 Cutie. I’m just going to follow their lead on this new year (listen to the lyrics, people).

What I am looking forward to the most this year is that my 40th birthday will be coming up in March. We all know that birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Plus, anytime I turn an age with a zero at the end means I get to move up an age group in running. But my birthday is still a few months away …

Something new I will be starting this week is minimalism Mondays. My house is quite larger than my apartment, so I am going to take my time in going through each room, closet and drawer to be sure all I have is what I really need.

Not to mention, there were some items that the sellers left with the house for me. Some of those items have been quite useful – I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the wheelbarrow, the front window curtains and the entryway doormat. Then, there are some items that are so old that they are no longer useful and belong in a museum. Other items are so rusted that I am afraid to use them because tetanus is one of only two vaccines that I cannot have with multiple food and drug allergies.

So, next week I will be starting minimalism Mondays and going through one area of the house per month. My goal at the end of this exercise is to have a house that is easier to clean. If the house is easier to clean, then I have more time to spend doing the things I really want to do. I do not want to be chained to this house.

The other advantage to creating a minimalist interior, is that I can then focus my attention on the outside of the house. The exterior of the home has been the most challenging part of home ownership for me to handle. I am fine with cleaning a house, but dealing with lawn care, grass mowing, and snow is too hard on a body.

In addition to minimalism Mondays, I’m hoping to get back on some sort of schedule in 2019 so that I can do the things I really want to do. I’m going to run a half marathon this year. It will be my second race post-stroke. I need to go camping. 2018 was the first time in over 20 years that I did not get a vacation and get to go camping.

So, yes, I guess you could say that I am hoping 2019 will be a quiet year. But, shhhhh – I don’t really want to say that. I don’t think I can handle tragedy four years in a row right now. The goal for 2019 will be to slow down so that I can actually enjoy life instead of just trying to survive.

I’m hoping to make some changes in life on the professional front too that will extradite me from the bullying situation I am experiencing. Getting out of that mess is going to take some time. There is a lot more involved when you have to handle something like that on your own because the powers that be refuse to address it. So I do anticipate change in 2019. I highly doubt I will get the quiet year I’ve been wanting for awhile.

Most of all, I am entering 2019 grateful. I am so thankful that will all the tragedies I have experienced in the past few years that I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people that have been helping me. I would not be able to get by without a lot of help from many people.

A key aspect of slowing down my life and minimizing what is inside of my house around me is to give me more time to show the people in my life that I am grateful. I don’t want to be spending my time maintaining a home that is twice the size of my apartment. I want to maintain my home and spend my time with the people that matter. I want to be able to give back to them as much as they have given me. I would not have made it this far without all the amazing people in my life.

So minimalism Mondays will be starting next week, as I start going through the first room on the list for the month of January. I’ll let you know my progress. I’m focusing on the large indoor areas this winter. As soon as spring/summer arrive, I have a whole list of outside things that need to be done. There is no rest for the wicked. But, that’s another song.

Happy New Year 2019.

 

15 years and 6 hours

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Christmas lights at the library

Even though I try really hard to be a minimalist and only have what I absolutely need, it still took me 6 hours to move into my house. It was overwhelming. Granted, I had lived in the same location for 14 years, so it basically took me one day to move 14 years worth of stuff. I suppose that’s good. It was still overwhelming.

I had the thought that the next time I move, it better not take 6 hours. It better be closer to 2-3 hours. However, I won’t be moving again. I bought a house. I’ll be dying here.

I suppose that is why so many homeowners have so much stuff. It’s that feeling of comfort that this place is your’s, so why not store something? There is no need to get rid of things if you have a place to put it. Then, we wonder why we are surrounded by so much stuff.

The point is, even if you do own your own home, when you die, you can’t take it with you. Some relative is going to be left with the chore of going through all the stuff stored in your house that you didn’t want to deal with when you were alive. Newsflash: your relatives won’t want to deal with it when you’re dead either.

So even in my house, I’m still striving to be a minimalist so that I am not leaving a heap of crap when I die. I also do not want to be wasting my time cleaning or keeping house.

Someone tried to give me a lamp a few months ago. I took one look at it and thought “no way in hell do I want to have to clean that.” My mouth said “no thank you.” In reality, do I need a lamp? Nope. I have enough interior lighting.

Having less stuff means less to clean when you’re alive and less to get rid of when you die. I like both of those ideas.

Christmas vacation will be coming up, and I will be continuing my decluttering process. Now that I am in permanent housing – my own home – what do I really need? Not to mention that I have more built-in storage space. I can probably get rid of an entire bookcase simply by putting the items into some of the house’s existing space. It’s my space to be used. It’s not like I need the bookcase for some future dwelling when this is the last stop.

One of the positives about being a minimalist is that it is not all about what you are removing from life. It is about removing things from life to focus on other things. In fact, you can even upgrade things.

Here’s an example. About 5 years ago, I bought a set of dishes from the second hand store. I’m pretty sure I paid about $5 for a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. I’m one person. That’s all I need. I love the dishware, but many of the bowls now have chips in them. I can’t really complain about $5 dishware. I’m sure that prior to my use, they probably served someone else quite well for a decade with no chips. But, now my bowls are chipped. I noticed it when I cut a finger on one.

One of the benefits of minimalism is that since I am not up to my eyeballs in debt (I don’t do hardly any shopping), I can spend money on quality dishware. Five years ago I spent $5 on dishware because I only had $5. All my money was going to this credit card bill or that bill or whatever.

Now, I have no debt as a minimalist, so I can go wild and pay $5 a plate if I want. And then some.

I decided to try Fiestaware. I bought one plate and one bowl. If I like them, then I will order more so I have a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. However, Fiesta is expensive, so I am ordering pieces gradually. I view this purchase as an investment in my future. I have permanent housing. I need permanent dishware that’s not cracked and cutting me. I figure I should be able to get a good 15 years at least out of the Fiestaware. I’ve heard some people have pieces from 30-50 years ago.

I never in my life thought I would be paying $15 for a lunch plate. But estimating that it will last me 15 years makes it worth it. The fact that minimalism has realigned my priorities means that when I do have to replace something, I can afford higher quality items that will last longer.

I’m expecting to live in this house until I die. Hopefully the Fiestaware will be the last set of dishes I buy too.

My single Fiesta bowl and single Fiesta plate just arrived today. We will see how I like them before I order more. Of course, if everything works out, I’ll be ordering more bowls before I order more plates since it is my current bowls with chips that are causing troubles.

When deciding on dishware, I decided to avoid the second hand store this time. I love the second hand store, but I do not want to buy another set of dishes that will only last me 5 years. I want dishware that will last me 15 years.

I had narrowed down my choices to either Corelle or Fiestaware. I currently have a few Corelle bowls. In the house, there are water dishes for the cats both upstairs and downstairs. I had to buy more bowls to put water dishes upstairs and it just so happens that they are Corelle. I like Corelle. However, the idea of being able to mix and match colors with Fiestaware was very appealing.

We will see whether I ultimately decide to go with Corelle or Fiesta once I have had the opportunity to use the Fiesta. Corelle is more affordable, but Fiesta feels more substantial and oh, those colors.

Given that I am buying new dishes, you would think I’m not really concerned about the whole having to move in 6 hours thing. This is partially true. I like to think that when I die, whoever goes through my house would be happy with 4 Fiesta bowls and 4 Fiesta plates. Let’s keep it real.

I would like to get rid of things so that it would take less than 6 hours to move, but I still need stuff to use to survive. Plus, I’m not moving again. Hopefully whoever has to clean out my house after I die will be able to do it in less than 6 hours. At least they’ll have some fancy dishware to show for it.

Don’t Fill My Space

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Owning a home is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is overwhelming. I have finally come to the conclusion that I at least need help with the grass so that I can regain some sanity. Between trying to take care of everything inside and outside, I am losing my mind. I am constantly exhausted; falling asleep pretty much as soon as I sit down at the end of each day.

I am very fortunate in that I have many good friends who have been helping and supporting me in this process. Many people have lent their time to helping me. Some people have brought me practical items – wine (consumables always welcome), screen for my vents, hedge clippers, etc.

Most people know that I am a minimalist. As a new home owner, I am already overwhelmed, so the last thing you should do is bring me a car load of stuff to overwhelm me even more. Yes, I did move from a 600 square foot apartment to a 1,600 square foot house.

Don’t fill my space.

I have spent the past 14 years in stable housing. Except for the particulars necessary for home ownership (like lawn care items), I have what I need. In fact, I was surprised to find that I have things in every room. I was honestly expecting to have empty rooms when I moved into the house, but that was not the case.

I had to purchase three new towels when I moved into the house due to the water problem at the apartment. Normally, as a minimalist, I would have taken the three stained towels from the apartment and donated them to the animal shelter. However, as a new homeowner, I have actually kept those three stained towels in a bin in my basement – I have used them twice to clean up water in the basement due to washing machine mishaps. For the record, the washing machine issues have been addressed. The basement is completely dry now, and I am laundering loads of laundry with no issues.

One of the splurge purchases I made after I moved into the house was purchasing blue Adirondack chairs. I have always wanted blue Adirondack chairs. I got four of them for my front porch. I purchased four because people have been visiting me in groups of two or three people at a time. I have had more people visit me these first two weeks in my new house than visited me in all the 14 years I spent living in the apartment.

I figure that the four chairs are a good purchase, as they can also be used in the back yard for the fire pit when we have a housewarming bonfire. I have to figure out a date for this event when I am not feeling overwhelmed and if it finally stops raining.

The four chairs will be able to be moved indoors this winter so that I can have game night at home. I definitely have the space for them. By having open spaces in my home, I have the space available for what is most important in life – family, friends and fun.

So if you feel the need to bring me furniture or other indoor household items, please don’t. I have all that. I have been living independently. Being a minimalist in a larger space does not mean that I am going to start accumulating items. It means I finally have the space for the most important things in life. In my apartment, three people felt cramped. In the house, there have been four people here at a time, and the house still feels huge.

The cats have been settling in and  enjoy running and playing. They go upstairs and downstairs all the time. I have been finding their toys strewn about, so I know they feel comfortable here when they are home alone while I am at work.

At the end of the day, the only thing that needs to fill my space is love. I have that with my family and the presence of my friends. Don’t fill my space with things.

Hell in the Hallway

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They say when one door closes, another one opens. It’s hell in the hallway. I am usually a patient person. I don’t mind waiting for things. I have no credit cards, so when I want something, I need to plan and save for it. As long as other people are not waiting on something from me, I don’t mind waiting on them.

Where I am inpatient right now is in escaping a bad situation.  I am in the hallway between places and it’s pure hell. I have no problem waiting for the new door to open completely. My challenge is that the door behind me is not completely closed. It’s still partway open.  I would rather be stuck in a hallway with a door closed behind me waiting for the one in front to open.

I have had everything packed for the past three months, when I first got the news that I would no longer be able to stay in my current housing both due to finances as well as the need to keep my family together. Everything in my current living space will be leaving, no matter where it is going. Most of it will be going to a new dwelling.

I have been going through the boxes lately asking myself “do I really want to move this?” Of course, everything is leaving. It is a question of whether it will be donated or moving. I currently have three boxes I will be taking to donate. Even though I will be taking those three boxes, putting them in the trunk of my car and taking them to the donation center, it still feels like those are three less boxes I will be moving. It’s true. While I am physically moving the boxes by taking them to the donation center, they are three less boxes I will be moving to a new dwelling on Moving Day.

I have been sitting here for three months surrounded by boxes. The more I look at them, the less I want to move them.

It’s also been more than a year since my last vacation, and since I had to cancel my camping trip, marathon, park visits, beach days and baseball, I’m just really in need of a break. I have pretty much had to forfeit my summer due to this housing crisis. This is the year of the Lost Summer. I have only been able to go to work and back because I have not had the resources to do anything else. This is what happens when you are given 2 weeks notice that your rent will suddenly take up over 60% of your income.

Basically, I’m tired with no respite in sight.

Yes, I will be off when I move, but that’s a huge job. This is going to be my first move in 14 years. Hopefully, it will be my last.

There have been so many times in the past three months when I have wanted a certain CD or DVD, but it’s packed. The only items not packed right now are those I absolutely need to function every day. This would be a fun experiment if it was only for a few weeks. It’s not fun for a few months.

There are many minimalist experiments that advise to pack up what you are not using for three months, and if you don’t remember what is in the box after 12 weeks to donate it. Well, I know I am not donating these boxes because I know what is in them, and I want to use what I have. I am actually missing some of my items that are currently in boxes.

I am fortunate that in all of my downsizing and minimizing, I have not missed a single item I have donated or purged. In fact, I could not even begin to tell you about any of the items I have gotten rid of because I don’t remember them. I do, however, remember what is currently in the boxes I have packed, which is telling me this is stuff I need to keep. They are things I like and want to use.

I’m sure that there will be some items when I unpack that I look at and say “oh, I had forgotten about that.” That may be an item that needs to be donated. For the most part, I have been missing the items I have packed.

I’m pretty sure that I am moving this month, in August. I’m just waiting for a moving date. I’m hoping to get a moving date soon, because each month I stay here, my expenses increase, and there is the threat of “housing or family.” As eager as I am to escape this situation, it is hard to think of how it is happening.

I have been in my current living situation for 14 years, which is the longest I have ever lived anyplace and it’s the only place that has ever felt like home. It’s a hard pill to swallow that I am being forced out. Keeping my family together is my number one priority, so hopefully we will be able to escape the nightmare soon.

The one positive in this situation is that my current dwelling is much easier to clean now that everything is packed. I have already decided that when I unpack in my new living space, I will be taking a harder look at wall hangings and decorative items. Less clutter means less to clean. Less to clean means more time to do things I want to do. Of course, right now, I have plenty of time and can’t do anything because I’m even struggling with groceries. I’m not eating enough to train or to even run very far. All my money is currently going to housing.

It is very possible that once I am in the new living space, my rule of three may be revised to be the rule of one. One item on each wall and surface instead of three. Of course, I will only be keeping and using what is meaningful to me. A new living space is a fresh start. We will see what resonates with me when I unpack.

One thing that has become clear with this exercise is that music is my priority. I have no problem getting rid of books or DVDs. I use the library a lot for books and DVDs. What I cannot seem to part with are CDs and vinyl records.

That’s ok. Music is my thing. If my music collection is the one area that I do not downsize, I am okay with that. Minimalism is not an exercise in how to live without. It’s a way of living that allows you to optimize your time for what you love. Music is what I love and a huge part of my life, so there is no need to minimize that area.

Having everything around me packed for the past three months has definitely reminded me of my priorities. I basically have to keep my family together. Beyond that, my life is filled with music. I have music on all the time at my house. The cats even listen to the radio while I am at work all day.

Right now, my family is together, and we have music. So while its hell in the hallway, at least I know my priorities are firmly in place. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to kick that door closed behind us and fling open the one that’s cracked. I’m ready to move on.

 

 

 

 

Closets, Clothes & Packing For A Move

The kids are ready to go! Destination and moving day unknown.

My closets are the cleanest and most organized part of my house. This probably seems like an oxymoron and I’m sure you hate me right now. For most people, the opposite is typically true. Closets are usually the most cluttered and messiest part of a room. Company coming over? Gather items in your arms and shove them in a closet – instant space and instant closet mess.

I’ve been downsizing for a while now, and I got to a point where everything has its own place. When every item has a place to live, you don’t feel cluttered anymore. It’s only when things are overflowing that we tend to feel cluttered. This also means that we have a tendency to adapt to our space.Your stuff evolves to fit the space in which you live. Bigger space, means more stuff. Smaller space, you need less stuff. It’s all about balance.

For me, my closets became organized because I have been ruthlessly decluttering for years now. Every object has a place. Items in my closet have been culled and are there for a specific purpose.

My coat closet contains my winter coats (2), snow pants, boots, storage bin of hats, gloves, scarves and snow tires. My linen closet contains towels, sheets, cleaning supplies, and a box of toiletries. I do place large orders of toiletries in “bulk” as everything from shampoo to lotion has to be special ordered from one company due to my allergies. You would not believe how many toiletry items contain almond oil so I have to special order everything to be nut-free. Aveeno body lotion sent me into full anaphylactic shock one time, but I digress.

My spare bedroom closet contains Christmas and camping supplies. Everything is in its own storage bin. As you may know from prior posts, I have decluttered Christmas so that everything fits into one storage bin, plus the tree. I’m pretty sure when I started there were three Christmas bins.

My closet in my actual bedroom has my clothes, my luggage, and the storage bin of seasonal clothing. The seasonal clothing storage bin currently holds winter – hoodies and sweaters. My bedroom closet also stores the air conditioner when it is not in use in winter.

Everything else in my house that is not in a closet is out, in use, or in its designated place. The only items overflowing are the CDs. More on those later.

Back to closets. The only reason why I noticed how clean and organized my closets are is because I started packing. I don’t know where I am moving to yet or when, but I am packing. In looking at my closets, there is really nothing in them to pack. Pretty much everything in all the closets is already in some sort of storage bin or container, so all I have to do is pick it up and move it. The only exceptions are the coats in the coat closet and my clothes.

Let’s move on to clothes. I am a big fan of capsule wardrobes and Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I’m not a huge stickler on the numbers. Again, I’m one of those that as long as all my clothing fits in my dresser and closet and I only have one bin of seasonal, I am fine. I have no idea if I have 33 items of clothing or 50. I know that everything fits in my designated space, and that I wear everything I have. My clothing is comfortable, fits well, and has no tags or holes.

Since I am packing, what exactly do I have for clothes? Well, since I am not moving right now, I can’t actually pack the clothes. I literally wear and use everything I have. When I do move, moving my clothes will be easy. Remove the drawers from the dresser and carry clothes that way. For the closet, take a garbage bag to wrap the clothes in to keep them clean.

What is in my closet and drawers?

I actually do have work clothes and everyday clothes. I am not one of those people who is able to have one all-purpose wardrobe. I’m a jeans & baseball shirt type of girl; that doesn’t really fly when my office is business casual. I don’t like business casual. It’s an uncomfortable but necessary evil.

In my closet, I have 15 hangars in use. Some are random, like the one that holds my hockey jersey. Hey, I’m not perfect. I do have random things that bring me joy. I don’t have a set number of items.

I would say that there are 10 hangars in active use. For work, my color palate is a base of black or grey that is accented with jewel tones of blue, green, and purple/burgundy. So, on 10 hangars, I have:

4 pairs of work dress pants (2 black and 2 grey)

2 blazers (1 black, 1 grey)

2 cardigan sweaters (1 black, 1 grey)

2 dresses (not work appropriate, totally summery, for going to the theatre, a wedding, etc. If you are interested, one is pink and the other a summer orange and they are both fun.)

My dresser has 4 drawers.

In one drawer, is my everyday tops. These are mostly baseball, football, or hockey shirts. Yeah, you’ve seen them. They have the team on the front and the number and name of player on the back. I have about 8 of these in a drawer. Along with 2 thermals and 2 flannels for winter when it gets chilly so I can layer. That’s one of my four drawers.

There is one drawer of pajamas. For every capsule wardrobe or challenge I have read, pajamas, underclothes and workout wear don’t count as “wardrobe” if you’re doing one of the number challenges like 50 items or Project 333. I have one drawer of pajamas and the color scheme here is very heavily pink. I like pink nightwear. I have a bin of summer running clothes, a bin of winter running clothes, and one of those plastic containers with 3 drawers that has bras, undies and socks.

My third drawer is work tops. Again, my color scheme for tops is mostly blue and green with some purple thrown in. I have about 8 different work tops. Right now, I also have “summer” in this drawer, which means my tank tops (not work wear) for when its 80+ degrees out like it is now.

In my fourth drawer, I have everyday bottoms. Like work clothes, I have 4 bottoms. Except for everyday, this includes 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of my infamous Victoria’s Secret yoga pants. Also, for summer, this drawer currently holds 4 pairs of shorts and some swim wear.

In the seasonal box, which currently holds winter, is 3 hoodies (those are bulky), a pair of corduroy pants, and 3 sweaters.

My clothes aren’t a problem and don’t bother me. I have no decision fatigue in the morning. I can get dressed immediately without having to put on multiple options or throw items around the room because “I don’t want to wear this today” or “this isn’t working.” Like I said, moving my clothes is going to be super easy. I don’t even really have to pack them or put them into luggage.

I typically have two loads of laundry per week – one of work clothes and one that consists of everyday clothes, pajamas, towels and sheets. Clothes are easy to move.

What has been stressing me out in trying to pack is not my clothes and not the items that are in my closets. It is my everyday items that are out and in use. Specifically, this would be my media of books, DVDs, and CDs. I have packed this stuff up and am now looking at it thinking, “I don’t want to have to (physically) move this stuff.”

Before I started packing, everything was in its place and I did not feel cluttered. I have one 2-shelf bookcase of books, and one 2-shelf bookcase of DVDs. The CDs are overflowing. The CDs I was just going to start curating, and decided to take them all with me to curate in the next location. When packed, the CDs, don’t seem like much. I’m not sure if it is just looking at a pile of boxes that is getting to me or what.

I left 5 DVDs and 5 CDs out to play with in this transition process. It has been challenging. For example, I find myself wanting to unpack the DVDs because “Oh, I want to watch this, and it’s packed.”

Right now, I am unsure if I “have too much stuff” or am simply overwhelmed at the idea of moving after being in the same place for 14 years. Whatever I’m doing, this is a super big change. I can also say that the kitchen is a room that I cannot pack right now because I am still literally using everything in my kitchen.

The only thing kitchen related I have been trying to do is to eat up and use up everything in my cupboards, frig and freezer, so that there is less food stuff to move. There really is not any cook ware or dishware I can pack that is not in use.

One of the problems of being a minimalist is having to wait to the last minute to pack because you are literally using everything you have. I guess this is a good problem to have. If I can pack something and have it sit there for months without needing it, then it is probably something to get rid of anyway. I only like to have items that I use or love.

I’m fortunate in that I have been minimizing myself for a few years now, so I am sure that I have less now than I would have, say 5 years ago. Still, it feels like so much. It could be because I packed two rooms and have all the boxes from two rooms in one room. Maybe it just seems like more than it is.

Downsizing, minimizing, and simplifying are all a process. Whenever and where-ever moving day happens, I will have to see how I actually feel about my stuff once I start physically moving it. I will be moving all the small items myself.

The large furniture items like my couch, bed, table, etc., I will be enlisting help to move. I have already figured that all of those large items I can shove into one room to make it easier for my helpers to move me.

It’s just all the little stuff that seems like a lot.

What I am learning is that my clothes and my closets are not a problem. So I’ve done a wicked good job with those. I have downsized my wardrobe to the point where I am actually able to live and enjoy life without worrying about what I’m wearing or wasting my time shopping.

The benefit to this exercise is that I am learning about the areas of my living space I need to focus on simplifying next – which seems to be my living room and media. Yet, when I find myself missing and wanting things that are packed … maybe they are not a problem after all if I am using and liking them. Collections are not bad if you enjoy them.

Minimalism is not some exercise in pain or how to live without. Minimalism is about having room in your life for what’s important. Apparently all the stuff I have now is coming with me – even if it does feel overwhelming to move it.

I’ll let you know how it goes when moving day comes (whenever that may be, but hopefully soon).

 

Redefining Freedom

My family – Jude, age 6 (right), Simon, age 2 (left)

Freedom means different things to different people depending on circumstances. For many, travel means freedom. It is even popularized in a commercial as being “free to roam the country.” I had this grand Freedom at Forty plan that I would finally be able to go someplace to have a stamp in my passport.

While I would love to travel, I have had some life circumstances lately that are not only making travel impossible, but literally threatening my day-to-day existence. When faced with a life-changing crisis, we quickly realize where our priorities are and fight to make sure they are met. For me, that means that this year I am redefining freedom.

Freedom now means the ability to live with my family someplace safe and in peace. As long as the three of us get to stay together, nothing else matters. This has always been my first priority, but it tends to become more pronounced when your family unit is threatened with ultimatums such as “separate or get out,” or “choose between your children because you have too many.” Sometimes even just keeping a family together feels like a losing battle.

That losing battle straddles a fine line between freedom and survival. There are ways to keep families together and survive. It could be living in a car, a RV, or migrating somewhere new where you will hopefully be able to stay together safely. Freedom is more than survival. Freedom is being able to keep your family together in a way that enables you all to be comfortable, safe and to build a life where you can transcend survival and be able to thrive.

Right now, I am in survival mode trying to keep my family together and find safe, affordable housing that will accept us as a family unit. I’m hoping that the Fourth of July will be some sort of good luck charm to finding freedom to live with my family intact.

It’s pretty sad in this land of alleged plenty that keeping a family together is seen as a privilege and not a right. If keeping a family together is a privilege, then we truly are not free at all. Everything can be taken from you with only a moment’s notice – including those you hold dear. The whole point of minimalism is not to have nothing. The point of minimalism is to have just what you need so you can focus on what’s important. Being able to be a minimalist is also a sense of privilege in a country where some people are struggling to obtain even just what they need and to hold onto what’s important.

Freedom should include the right to keep a family together. As people spend the Fourth of July having barbeques and watching fireworks with their family, they should think about whether that family is a right or a privilege. Currently, in this country and as I am seeing in my own life right now, family is a privilege. True freedom would include the right to keep a family together in a safe environment.

The Fourth of July is also an anniversary. It was Fourth of July weekend back in the late 90s that I moved from Massachusetts to New York. I have gone back and forth over the years whether or not that movement was something I regret.

I have come to the conclusion that I do not regret leaving Massachusetts because of the positive things that have happened since I arrived in New York. I was finally able to achieve my degrees and I would not trade a single minute with my family to go back and do it over differently. However, the moving that I did that long ago Fourth of July weekend has had significant impact on the course of my life over the past 20 years.

While I do miss Massachusetts and wish I could afford to move back, I realize that in New York, I achieved a level of freedom that I would not trade. I now have education to bring in income that buys freedom (unless you are looking for affordable housing). I have the freedom of being with my family and that is the greatest gift I have ever received.

This Fourth of July, I am redefining freedom. My Freedom at Forty plan no longer includes international travel. Given my current circumstances, that is not a realistic goal. This year, I am redefining freedom as the ability to keep my family together. If I can keep us together in safe, affordable, stable housing that will be even better. The outcome is yet to be seen.

How are you redefining freedom this Fourth of July? What does freedom mean to you?