My Quarantine Life: Week 50

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Simon is sleeping all nice and warm.

Wow. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been in quarantine. I’m not allowed to be indoors with any other people. I am not allowed to go to the grocery store or pharmacy. I have had one in person doctor appointment where someone touched me for a blood draw. All my other appointments have been virtual.

The pandemic has been challenging on so many levels. We are still experiencing food and supply shortages. Right now, I am having difficulty getting cat litter. It has been a year since I have been able to get retail toilet bowl cleaner, so I have just been using baking soda to clean my bathroom. 

Prices on everything have increased significantly. This year, effective January 1, 2021, my municipality decided to raise my property taxes by 20%. Yup, you read that right, 20%. My mortgage increased to cover the escrow and I am now paying thousands of dollars a year more in taxes. 

I am now paying 3-4x more per month for food and supplies. I am doing everything I can to try to keep my expenses down. I am using a lot of cloth items and drastically reduced my use of disposable paper products such as paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues. 

I have also been concerned about my utility bills. My idea was to reduce my utility bills by turning my heat down. This was a great idea in theory, but did not work well in practice. Here’s why:

There is at least a 5 degree difference between the upstairs and the downstairs in this house. When I turned the heat down, the downstairs was tolerable, but the upstairs temperature dropped into the 50s. This made me concerned due to plumbing. I did not want pipes to freeze with indoor temps in the 50s. I get squeamish about pipes if the temp dips below 60. So I had to turn the heat up enough so that the upstairs would be at least 60 degrees.

Second, I am home all the time now. Last year, there was a huge difference in working all day in a 68 degree office and then coming home at night to a slightly cool house. It did not bother me one bit. But now that I am in the slightly cool house 24/7, it’s chilly. 

Being chilly also makes me feel guilty about the cats. I had the office to go to last year and only came home to a cool house at night. For the cats, this is their entire world. I feel so bad I left them a bit chilly. Now that I am home all the time, I understand more what life is like for an indoor cat.

I turned the heat back up to 68 degrees. That’s where it’s going to stay.

I have no idea how I’m going to afford the utility bills when my heat is on 68 degrees, but we have to be here all the time, so we need to be comfortable. I also have to keep the heat in the house at a reasonable temperature for maintenance reasons.

It helps a little that student loan payments have been suspended right now. Since my mortgage, food and utilities have all gone up, not having a student loan payment takes a little bit of pressure off. Not much, but a little. When student loan payments resume, then we will definitely have to take more drastic measures to reduce our utilities somehow.

So the lesson for this week is that our thermostat is staying on 68 degrees. We just couldn’t stand having it on 63, especially with the upstairs piping being much colder. 

With all of the power outages and everything else going on in the country right now, we are very thankful to have power and heat. 

My Quarantine Life: Week 46

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We were able to get blueberries again!

Porch running during winter was a great idea. It definitely helped me to get some runs in on days when the roads were too icy to be out. However, the past few days and in the days to come, the temperatures outside are well below zero. I don’t mind running in the cold, but I cannot risk frostbite, as I have had frostbite too many times already. 

I have not been able to run for about a week due to the sub-zero temperatures and it is driving me nuts. Even though I keep the porch cleaned off, it is still frozen right now due to how cold it is outside. While I would say that my front porch is a safer surface for running than the ice laden streets right now, it is not a great idea.

I have been toying with yoga on and off for about 10 years. Yoga is a great exercise for runners to cross train. I have my own yoga mat. I have taken classes at some high-end yoga studios in a city in which I used to work. Hundreds of dollars later, I finally admitted that yoga classes were a waste of money. I was not able to do even half of what they were doing. I would spend 70% of the class just lying there “peacefully” on my mat. I was not about to pay $40 an hour to lay peacefully on a mat.

I tried a chair yoga class at a local fitness center that was a more affordable option. The instructor, however, was horrendous. The woman was like a military drill sergeant. You can read about that experience in the “my yoga pants went to yoga” post.

Since then, I have tried various yoga DVDs. I have mostly gotten them out of the library so that they are free. No cost involved was a much better option. I was even able to get some yoga DVDs from other libraries through inter-library loan. This was, of course, prior to the pandemic.

Since I do not have treadmill access to run and I am unable to be outside in sub-zero temperatures, I’ve been grasping at straws. MY gaze fell on my yoga mat. Again, I keep thinking I want to do yoga. The problem has been finding yoga that I can actually physically DO.

I asked around a few friends I know who do yoga for their recommendations. I did some research into various yoga DVDs that they recommended. I chose one and decided to purchase it. I figured I would only purchase one yoga DVD. If it didn’t work, then I would forever give up on yoga. I do not have money to burn on yoga DVDs.

I have the yoga DVD in question and it is excellent! I finally found a yoga routine I can actually do. Well, I can’t do all of it. I can do MOST of it, and I am okay with that. When I was trying to take in-person yoga classes, I estimate I spent about 75% of my time laying there doing nothing because the class was way too hard for me and 25% of my time actually physically able to do the activity.

The yoga DVD I have now I am actually able to physically do 75% of the activity in the yoga routine. Instead of just laying there for the other 25%, I am able to do a slightly different modification of the activity. So while I struggle with 25% of it, at least I am not just laying there.

This yoga DVD is one of the best purchases I have made. 

The past few days have kept me indoors due to below zero temperatures. I have been doing the yoga DVD everyday. It helps to be able to do something. I am still going crazy not being able to run. But the yoga DVD is bringing the crazy down from about a 10 to an 8. At least I’m able to do something.

The long range forecast looks like next week will be warmer – above zero. Let’s hope so. I’m going nuts stuck inside. Running on my porch works for days when the roads are too icy to be out, but I can’t risk frostbite on these frigid days.

How are you surviving this winter so far?

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Return to Minimalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay warm.