Note to self: the next time I buy a house make sure it is not one of those spring loaded ones. You know, the ones where you tidy a room and within a few days the whole thing is higgledy piggledy.
For the last few days I have embarked on the great decluttering, sort of an “around the house in 80 days” thing. I do my best to have a clean home but it never seemed to stay that way. If you are a Dr. Who fan then it is like having a house full of weeping vampiric angel statues advancing on you every time you look away. If you are not a Dr. Who fan then that example makes no sense. Either way your house is in a permanent state of flux. Sock drawers are not the staid bastion of domestic standards you would imagine. Oh no my friends.
About 1 1/2 years ago I moved from a 3,400 ft. home to something roughly half that size. I thought I’d gotten rid of a lot of things. On moving day my task was to find out where everything belonged in my new house. The moving men would ask where I’d like random boxes. I wanted to say “Where ever it belongs. I don’t have a clue where that is. I’m new here.”
After living there for a while I decided where things needed to be for practical purposes. Now I’m at the phase where I need to decide what gets to stay and what just doesn’t belong. Again. Couple this with couponing, free samples, upcycling, art supplies, canning supplies and a purse fetish and I have issues.
Decluttering and organizing have to go hand in hand. Here is my process. In order to organize an area I have to take everything out as most of us become blind to what we own.
Ever seen the show “Hoarders”? You marvel at how they do not see their environment. On a micro scale we can all be the same.
We assume things belong where they are because they are already there. It is like someone claiming a seat because they put their coat on that seat.
We passively allow the volume of our possessions to determine our environment. We need to remove these items from their locations in order to have intentional design in our living space.
Once you empty out that cupboard you only add back into the space what needs to be there. We are then left with a motley pile of miscellaneous stuff that we scramble to relocate. This is where we have to be ruthless. Yes the multicoloured leg warmers were a gift but you have 7 pair of leg warmers. Your legs just cannot be that cold. You realize you have dedicated half your sock drawer to leg warmers. The sheer numbers become oppressive and out of balance with your needs. I am not even going to talk to you about your toe sock thing you have going on. That is for you and your therapist.
My problem with things like my purses is that I like all of them. This dilemma repeats itself in each drawer and cupboard until I am overwhelmed. Here is the formula. I have to factor in space and need as well as “like”. One of the accumulation traps is that people like all of their stuff but their stuff doesn’t suit their needs. Getting rid of stuff is counterintuitive when you live a penny pinched lifestyle. I have to weigh the “I like it and I might use it” against the peace and functionality of an organized and decluttered home.
Here is the plan.
Empty the space, decide the purpose of that area, select the number of items that will be appropriate for that area and then look at the items. Select from the “stuff” what will work within the new intentional framework. Expect yourself to cheat. Expect if you stay in my guest room that tucked into the corner of the closet there will be a box full of lovely little clutch purses that would be brilliant for an upscale restaurant opening or a star studded gala. Hey it could happen. Maybe.
My goal is to reduce the stress of spending most of my time managing stuff.
So far the purses have been low maintenance but soon they will get a talking to. Signing off, the stuff whisperer.
(Original artwork by Joshua Groom)
I love the beginning of the new year with all the challenges for health, fitness and financial savings. Why? Because I can do all of them, at least for the first week. Walk a block? Done. Plank for 20 seconds? If broken into 10 second increments then I’ll say done. Clean my home? http://www.flylady.net says we start with baby steps and the first task was to shine my sink. Done. 52 week savings challenge? One dollar in the jar. Done.
For one week out of the year I am at the top of my game. The week has passed.
Now it is real and I’ve got a problem. I’m a multimedia artist. That’s a nice way of saying I sometimes secretly want stuff that is being thrown out on “Hoarders”. My son has pretended not to know me when I bend down to pick up a rusty bottle cap. Yelling “It’s OK. I”m an artist” does not appear to repair the situation. There is potential everywhere and sometimes it find its way to my basement. All of my basement.
Being penny pinched I have learned to get discount groceries, free samples and learned how to recycle most everything that enters the house. Old t-shirts? Those can to used to make rag rugs, stuffed animals, cleaning cloths and little pillows. Little bits of metal can be used in sculptures, jewelry, baskets or mosaics. Glass jars are great for storing beads, spices, paper clips etc. You get the idea. Waste nothing! It great. The problem is that when I want that jar I can no longer see it. I don’t remember where it is. I don’t usually remember I have it.
I may have thirty samples of shampoo. Some date back to 2011. ( Hhm. “How to Tame Your Mullet” may be a bit older). Having it is great only if I use it. If I’m not using it, it is taking up valuable real estate. It is actually an obstacle to being able to create, to live less expensively. Eventually it amount of stuff becomes oppressive. It yells at you to do something with it but you can’t think for all of the other screechy little voices. It drains your energy.
Eventually you hit weeks 2, 3 and 4. It is time to organize. This month it is time to create a simplified environment. It is to stop over spending in terms of space, and energy and time vrs. reward. Penny pinched is still going to be about getting a deal and I’m going to start by reclaiming valuable property from my stuff. Time to clean all the things.
I don’t know how many of you are still out there but I promised myself I would try and reach as many of you as I can. Time is short. Some have already fallen to exhaustion and will be woken with shrill cries, demands for tribute submerged in a haze of carbohydrates and sugars. The frenzy of wrappings, colours, people and conversation may make it impossible to think clearly. You are being conditioned my friends.
How do I know? Because last year that was me and I vowed to share my story so others do not have to make the same mistakes.
You can call me Deb because that is my actual name. It seems like only a year ago I was celebrating, unwrapping yet another low fat cookbook, which was starting to make me a little sensitive, and hitting the hot cocoa pretty hard. I was feeling no pain, except for the damage to my self esteem, and was relaxed. I was too relaxed. As I sat at the table, under the pile of newspapers I saw the edge of something glossy. Why was there no music in a minor chord to warn me of the danger? I’m always the one at a movie to notice the music when someone heads for the basement door or walks into the woods in high heels. No. There was no warning for me. I pulled the sheet towards me and there written in thick black oozing blood, I mean ink, were the numbers. It said 70% off everything (with the illegible writing saying that it did not apply to anything that you wanted, that you had to ask a clerk to help you find, non-toxic, non GMO, in your size or in style).
I started to shake and quickly check the time. It is only 20 hours until the Boxing Day sales started and I knew I needed to be in that line. Where was the sale? It didn’t matter. Did you not hear that it was 70% off? I’d never been to Hank’s House of Hinges but they were giving out free organic ragweed blend knitted scarves with every $200 purchase. How is that not a deal? I don’t remember that day well but if you come to my home you may notice that everything moves well. Too well.
It is too late for me to unplate the damage but it doesn’t have to happen to you. It doesn’t matter the discount. Defend yourself by making a list before you look at the flyers and if you do not have anything on the list get rid of the flyers without looking at them. Yes I know they compel you to look. In history there has been the dreaded three, the basilisk, Medusa and the Boxing Day flyers. The peril is too great. I have purged the house of these papers. The inbox. No. I must empty the inbox. Why do I hear music? Nooooo.
“One of the most terrifying things that has ever happened to me was watching myself decide over and over again – thirty-five days in a row – to not return a movie I rented.”
“I like being a woman. I also like being friends with other women. I don’t, however like being thrown in with people you don’t know and don’t want to be with, but you are all going to share this intimate event with glee. If it kills you. And that’s how I feel at this bridal shower.”
“It was Miss Somer’s turn to make the tea. Miss Somers was the newest and most inefficient of the typists. She was no longer young and had a mild worried face like a sheep.”
I was challenged to list 100 things for which I am grateful.
One of them is the feeling of being captured by a book. There is nothing like finding something that first attracted you with its cover or title and then knowing, within the first paragraph, that you’d found your latest adventure.
You know when it happens. You are already up too late or need to leave for an appointment but you need to read just one more page (chapter). You know you’ve found a good book.
Growing up we moved a fair bit and reading was my passion. I loved the play of language and imagery. Books were friends that always moved with me.
When I got married I had approximately 800 books in my room and had to make a choice between the book shelves and him. It was a close race.
In watching the budget I am so grateful that with a free library card I have access to a world of entertainment. I can spend hours browsing the titles and discover authors I never knew and books to suit my need for laughter, distraction, fantasy or learning. If I want I can just go on line and order whatever book I’d like from within the system and have it delivered to my local library. I can borrow movies or music as well but it is always the books that call to me. I love to curl up with a book, carry it with me in the car, and have it as an always available dining companion.
I am so grateful for the connection and insight that comes from books.
When I’m feeling boxed in because of finances I can get myself to the library and travel vicariously, laugh until I snort, get inspired to learn a new language, or allow myself to be enchanted.
Wishing you all the richness of a good read, Deb
When you are penny pinched Christmas can be a time of high anxiety. Being broke doesn’t mean you are cheap. It also doesn’t mean you have to continue to make ash trays out of plasticine for your parents and hope they find them cute. Note to you: your parents don’t smoke and you are in your 40s so no it is not going to be cute. The temptation is to succumb to the dark side of gift giving, the regift.
Regifting has received a bad reputation because there is an underlying tone of deceit. You are hoping the gifter doesn’t realize that the home taxidermy kit with starter hamster was not a success. Did a gift tag from the giver get stuck in the pages of the book, or worse, the folds of the lingerie?
What if you took the secrecy out of the deal? What about a regifting theme for Christmas?
I am not talking about a white elephant swap. The very name means you are giving someone uncle Fred’s toupee glue, and by the way, Fred wants that back.
A real regifting Christmas means you still put the thought into the gift but you just go shopping at home. You know that sweater your sister is always stealing out of your closet? Why not wrap it up and give it to her? Does your best friend admire your earrings? Suprise her with something you know she will like. What about one of your favourite books or a book that you own that you know your mom would love?
In my kitchen I have two loaf tins, 4 cookie sheets and 3 muffin tins. Who needs three muffin tins? Why not bake a batch and tuck them into a basket with the muffin tin, the recipe and if you are running with the theme, the dry ingredients for the next batch. If everyone is regifting with the intent of sharing something they think the other person will love it is all good. Even if you give someone something you received from them, chances are that they bought it because they liked it too.
Just because you are penny pinched doesn’t mean you can’t give generously. Remember, if you really miss the item you gifted it could always come back to you next year.
Well I know that the “Eat Your Pantry” month challenge is over but I feel like I still have a long way to go before I get to where I need to be in terms of food and money.
One of my biggest indicator was that on October 1rst I went face down into ordering Chinese food delivery AFTER having already hit the drive thru at lunch. The next day I had a bad food hangover and my body was cursing me every which way. My wallet spit a flurry of receipts at me and the chicken legs I should have prepared were conspiring to give me food poisoning.
Clearly I have a way to go. Some of the things that I did learn were that even if I ‘m eating from my pantry I had strong urges to fill up any of the empty spaces immediately. I also started to slide into just eating from home rather than getting at the rest of the things in blocks of ice at the bottom of the freezer. One of the things I need to do to stay accountable is to write out my daily spending totals. Just for myself I need to see what I am spending as the sales are still a real lure for me. I’m thinking that eight bottles of toilet duck are probably enough.
Now if I can keep my fingers off the airmiles and Save On More Points specials I can make some progress. Well, time to make some cherry soup and plan my next few meals. I am in negotiations with the chicken. Wish me luck.