Thursday, March 31, 2011

Making Connections.

I really love the blogs that invite comments with questions. They give me an opportunity to "dig deep" and make connections that I wouldn't necessarily make on my own. This was my answer to Miss Minimalist's question: "What’s your one-sentence definition of minimalism?"
...I love what you say about “It’s uncovering who you are when all of the logos, brand names, and clutter are stripped away.” Although I have been anti-brand-name-as-status-symbol for as long as I can remember, it was a sudden realization when I read that that there are many other ways that we “brand” ourselves, through subculture, lifestyle & such. I spent a few years hiding behind my passion for mid-century vintage, thinking that made me into a certain kind of desirable person. I unthinkingly collected dresses that didn’t fit, furniture that was in poor condition, and knick-knacks that meant nothing to me aside from being funny & old.

Now that I have cleared a ton of that “vintage” clutter, I feel like my true self is able to manifest, and I no longer depend on the fragile & never-enough identity of a vintage collector. I am sooooooo much happier!

Until I was writing this, I never made the connection between my former vintage-collecting tendencies and the discomfort I felt then. There was always an imaginary competition between myself and other collectors. And there was never enough. Recreation was shopping for "something cool." There is a lot of cool old stuff out there! I could never bring it all home.

The idea of minimalism has allowed me to accept myself exactly as I am, and as I am most comfortable. I've let myself off the hook for perfection in pretty much every situation. I accept what I have; I know that my needs are met. It's wonderful.

ps. The new banner is from a monotype print I did in 2004. I like to switch up the look of this place now & again.

Different Kinds of Clutter.

I am so inspired by the mini-missions on 365 Less Things! I participated in my first one last week: Different Kinds of Clutter. At first I was all pumped up to take photos of every item I decluttered, but almost immediately began to lose steam, repelled by the thought of giving these items any more of my time and energy. So, I made lists instead.

Many days I decluttered from more than one category.

Monday: Outgrown

Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. This is essentially the first clutter clearing book I purchased, shortly before or shortly after I moved out for the first time when I was barely 18. It's a funny, accessible, westernized feng-shui book. It really enabled me to be aware of my surroundings and analyze symbols around me (ex: Roommate is a junkie? Take down the front & center Kurt Cobain poster in the livingroom!). It has been almost 10 years since I first moved out, and my understanding of home and possessions has changed greatly. I don't believe this book has any more to offer me.

Also: string of fake red peppers, owl potholder, 70s mushroom potholder. All of these were "decorating" the alcove by my kitchen stove. Over it.

Tuesday: Guilt

Cowboy Boots and Western Shirt. So I had like the coolest, beat up, vintage Justin cowboy boots. But I never wear them because they are too big and uncomfortable to walk in. I walk all over town. There is really no point in keeping shoes I can't walk in; I'm working on it. I used to wear them to walk to the bars on weekend nights, but I don't know how. I guess drinking had something to do with it, ha ha. I also had a really great vintage LADIES CUT western shirt with pearl snaps. I held onto it because they are so hard to find. But it wasn't really my style; a little too formal. That was one of those items that I thought about and thought about getting rid of until I had complete distaste for it.

I also got rid of:

  • Unwanted gift: fuzzy socks
  • Purchase Regret: black skinny jeans (look great, feel great, not my style), New Balance running shoes (same model that I loved, feel different), IKEA hanging lamp that didn't fit in the space I envisioned it.
  • Lifestyle Change: Extra blankets and pillows (one is my childhood blanket. I remember exactly how it feels but I will never use it again), orange chucks, my favorite in high school, and a very special gift from my BFF before they made chucks in every color of the rainbow. But, too loud for me now.
  • Obligation: Paper shredder (everybody needs one!), toy record player without a needle (it's so cool!)
  • Outgrown: A panel of psychedelic orange fabric. This may be in the wrong category; I have another panel of it that I'm actually using in decorating right now!

Wednesday: Sentimental

2 macrame necklaces made by my aunt, for my mom, in the 60s & 70s, which I used to wear when I was in middle school. My mom was getting rid of these and I "rescued" them...only a month or so ago. But I got realistic: 14 years later, it's not my style. They were very cool though, and I sold them to a used clothing store.

Thursday: Unwanted Gift

Fancy soap that Kaden hates the smell of.

  • Purchase regret: cheap fleece coat which I got just because it was $3.49 at Target, shortly before I changed my consumer habits. I figured it would be good for camping. But I already have everything I need for camping.
  • Life Change: windchimes, Organizing from the Inside Out book. I never could get through that book, and I have since found clutter clearing & organizing resources that are more suited to my needs.
  • Outgrown: 8 DVDs
  • Obligation: Wedding cards with no special messages; Robert Frost poetry book that belonged to my late aunt.

Friday: Purchase Regret

Fancy Houndstooth coat. It was blue and gray houndstooth, which never matched anything, and I never wore it because it was too fancy. I gave it to my friend Brandy who loved it!

Saturday: Lifestyle Change

String Lights along the perimeter of the bedroom ceiling. I loved using these in my last bedroom, the tiny one in my BFF's house. But I've rarely even plugged them in at our current house, and having all those wires hanging from the ceiling is oppressive.

Sunday: Obligation

Admittedly, I did not *actually* get rid of these items (or, truthfully, MOST OF THE OTHERS MENTIONED - they're in my "get rid of" pile). We were going to truck them to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, but it was raining too much.

Vanity and nightstand. These are from a fairly beat up but fairly cool depression-era deco/waterfall set. We still use the dresser, but the vanity and nightstand are over in my folks' shed. I felt obligated to keep the set together, in case I ever wanted to sell it. Well, I'm still using the dresser, so I don't want to sell the whole set. But I'm definitely NOT using the other two pieces, and since I only intend to continue living in smaller & smaller homes, I don't think I will use them again. Habitat for Humanity is a charity I really support, so I am happy to donate them there (so much easier than selling!), and someone will SCORE!

Thanks Colleen for the motivation! See how much I got done? At least 38 items removed in a week - and I'm fairly certain there were more that I didn't record!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Being Quiet.

I have given a lot of thought to a blog post on Be More with Less, If Less is Good, More is Better.*

Lately, there has been a lot of stress in my husband's life. He is working full time with a 45 minute commute, working on his Master's Thesis, training for a half-marathon, committed to weightlifting workouts, and he wants to cook amazing healthful meals every night. Thus, he feels like he never has time. As one might imagine, this stress is hard on our relationship. I am working really hard on being responsible for my mood, on letting things go, on not having to be right - and it's tough stuff! I do not always succeed.

I've evaluated what I can do to help him. The commute isn't going to change at this time. He is committed to his training and exercise routines. He won't let me cook, because he has visions of perfect meals (and he can execute them!), and cooking is relaxing and satisfying to him.

But I can help by cleaning the kitchen after he cooks, and that has become something I really love and look forward to. I feel like that sounds absolutely insane, who loves to clean the kitchen!? It's a part of my night time routine, it is methodical and it is a task that can be followed through to completion in one session. Plus I get to take out the food waste and see what the evening weather is like. Being in the kitchen at night, listening to the radio, cleaning up, is my sacred time.

And I can help with his thesis by giving him quiet time and space. For several weeks at the beginning of the year, I spent one night a weekend at my folks' or my BFF's house, so he could really get into the work. The other day he mentioned that he can't work with my "annoying chatter" (he didn't mean it to be as rude as it sounds!). I brought that back to the concepts in the post mentioned above. Maybe I don't need to tell him every fleeting thought that interests me. Later, I was telling him a story about my mom comparing drastically different prices for the same item at different stores. It was really interesting to me! But he let me know that it didn't interest him in the least. I began to explore whether repeating that story is worthwhile. Am I just wasting my time making a negative judgment about a Big Box store?

Now, we are trying something new at our house. Quiet Time! For an hour every evening, on the nights I don't have a class, we are having quiet reading time, where we don't speak. When I was reading Foucault: A Short Introduction on the weekend, I realized just how hard it is to focus on serious reading when someone is targeting you with "annoying chatter." We tried out Quiet Time for the first time last night, and it was actually sort of intimate, being together without the weight of contemplating outside stories or information. We went all the way from work, through the evening and to bed, without an argument. SCORE! This might be a huge part of the solution to our stress problems. I'm really thrilled.

* Although it is a little off-topic from the rest of my post, I wanted to share my response to the If Less is Good... post:

The Gossip Less and Judge Less points are extremely valuable to me right now. I finally made the connection last night between the all the gossiping and judging that my husband and I do together towards others, and how we frequently inaccurately perceive judgments from one another. Does that make sense? I always feel like he is negatively judging me, though he tells me he isn’t – and I’m sure it’s a result of how often we are judging and gossiping about others together. It’s a bad habit that for a long time I assumed was just “a part of who I am.” Usually there isn’t any real anger or disgust there, and I often justify it by claiming I am only making observations. I want to cut it out of my thoughts and actions and replace it with love & compassion. I have used gossip and judgment to get positive feedback from others who I desire approval from – usually a laugh, or admiration/shock that *I’m* the one who’ll say what others won’t. Not the best way to get attention.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Making Space.

In a previous post, I described how through my work decluttering, I was making space for a surprise from the Universe.


Guess what I found!

I found myself able to read a serious book! I have never been able to read a serious book before!

I know that sounds kind of silly, but it's true. I read fiction, memoirs, true crime, and decluttering books, but nothing, like, academic. I have a BA, but I swear I never read any one assigned book in its entirety. I went to The Evergreen State College and took Women's Studies classes - all you have to do is say & know "The Personal is the Political" - which I do believe to be absolutely true - and write about how it feels to be a woman. And I think this is a worthy pursuit! But it didn't require reading a whole book. And I took drawing classes, which were awesome and changed my life but also did not require reading.

I have put in the decluttering work for REAL this time. I've done it before, several times before, but this time I feel like it is more real and more lasting. Thanks to all the fabulous minimalist/simple living blogs I've enjoyed, I now understand that decluttering has an essential second step - changing consumer habits. You can send out as much stuff as you like, but until you also stop bringing it in, the clutter situation can't fully transform.

I have found time and space like I never dreamed possible. It's not like I used to spend all my time dusting my gew-gaws or anything; I didn't find time that way. It just showed up!

How can it be that getting rid of stuff creates time? I don't know! It's like magic!

And so, I found myself able to begin reading Foucault: A Very Short Introduction. I had to go out and buy a dictionary - we didn't have one. But when I brought it in I tossed out the same-sized Reader's Digest Book of Home Remedies ha ha. I went to a used bookstore and the clerk helped me find a Merriam-Webster's. He told me that Webster's isn't a brand, it's a style, and that Merriam's is the best.

I sat down for portions of every day this weekend and I read that serious book, and I actually USED the dictionary when I came across an unfamiliar word, instead of glossing over it and trying to guess what was being said. Several times I was really surprised by the true meaning of the word, different than I assumed. So it was really valuable to use the dictionary!

Honestly, I have never had this kind of discipline. I'm blowing my own mind. And I know in my heart it is because I have done the decluttering work. I have so much less guilt and weight on my mind, there is space for learning for the first time.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Wardrobe: Before & After.

First I'd like to mention: whomever "Anonymous" is commenting, I want to say thanks for all the comments & compliments!

Now onto the content - the contents of the closets! I did a MAJOR overhaul of my wardrobe in the past couple months. I've written about it HERE & earlier HERE.

BEFORE: Hers & His

AFTER: Hers & His

And just for fun, here's all the stuff we've decluttered in about a 2 week time frame!
Now we've gotta get it out of the house...

Hahaha, Movie Monsters, Fly by Night, Romy & Michelle...

Oh and for even more fun, here are the home made English Muffins that Kaden hand-crafted!

ps. got tired of that green/yellow background. Trying something lighter!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This is Love!

I am participating in Gala Darling's Things I Love Thursday this week! I have a lot to love...

I love Unity's Daily Word. I read it every day, and it is wonderful inspiration. I also have a little Lent booklet that I've been reading every day, along with the daily studies in "Keeping a True Lent" by Charles Fillmore.

I love synchronicity, where things I read in "Keeping a True Lent", or in minimalist/simple living blogs, reflect the work I am doing in my life right now.

I love the 365 Less Things blog. It's run by a woman named Colleen who is getting rid of (at least) one material item every day. I love this concept! Every Monday she posts "mini missions" (what a great phrase!). This week she posted a list of daily motivators for clutter clearing - Monday get rid of something outgrown, Tuesday something you feel guilty about, etc. I am so excited by this idea. I've done it every day this week. It's a fantastic push to re-examine something you've over-looked, assuming it was going to stay put! I am going to do a post about my findings next Monday.

I love opening up. I love that just a loving focus can allow the opening up, in places and with ideas that I never even imagined possible for me. Through clutter clearing and Unity teaching, I am discovering that which always has been, and it is awesome. I am having realizations and making plans that only days ago I pushed aside as impractical, or not fitting me. I am learning that there are no limitations to Good.

Shifting gears, I also LOVE THE FROGS. Apparently All Tomorrow's Parties, curated by Animal Collective (I'm not a fan; Kaden is) features The Frogs playing the whole album "It's Only Right and Natural" - the weekend of my birthday! Now if I had known that several months ago, maybe maybe we really could have gone to Europe. But we don't have passports so it's an impossibility - but I STILL LOVE THAT IT'S HAPPENING.

I also love Sonic Youth's "most recent" album (though almost 2 years old), "The Eternal". It's devoid of the creepy melancholy of their previous several albums, which I love but are usually too dark for me to enjoy. "The Eternal" is joyful, and it's good, and it's almost like a younger band emulating Sonic Youth. I like it.

ps. oh and also, when Kaden came in from his jog this morning - it was still dark - he SMELLED like Spring! I also noticed this when I came out of my class at Unity last night - it SMELLS GOOD outside!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Something AWESOME!

I'm going to get straight to the exciting part: Last month, my credit card bill (which I pay off every month) was $1,400.00. This month, my credit card bill is $48. SERIOUSLY! To be completely fair, I didn't pay my bill until March 2, and the original bill was $1,095.00, and my current amount is $70. Furthermore, I had $99 in returns to paying part of my current bill. BUT STILL. Even going from $1000 to $170 is pretty fucking fantastic.

I want to thank everyone in the awesome, supportive, creative, talented, and honest minimalist/simple living community for this change! I have read a ton of blogs in the past month, uncovering fabulous stories of curbing consumerism and clearing clutter. And it has made a HUGE change in my spending! I wasn't even expecting this, at all. It's really kind of blowing my mind that my credit card bill was $48. This doesn't include rent or bills, or cash or check purchases, but STILL.

Since the beginning of March, I have been tracking my spending, for the first time. I had planned to do this since the beginning of January, but I wasn't sure how to do it, and saving 2 months of receipts then trying to sort and record them was too complicated.

On my first visit to ExConsumer, I found Jenny's awesome Free Budgeting Template for Excel (see her sidebar). It was exactly what I had been trying so sort out in a notebook, but for Excel! Which is so much easier to use than a spiral notebook. I then created a customized breakdown for the very specific areas I spend in. I also found an Excel template for personal finance on the Microsoft Office site. I have all 3 pages in an Excel document, and I input my receipts every morning at work.

It's the 22nd of the month, and, according to my Excel Budget, I've spent 75% of my first paycheck. I have a second one in I haven't entered yet; I also haven't put rent into the system. I still have a lot of stuff I'm tripping up on: rent, for instance - does it go in at the beginning of the month, since I'm paying ahead for the month of March, or does it go in when I actually write the check for next month's rent, at the end of the month? I'm also stuck on stuff like classes, and prescriptions: I pay ahead for 8 yoga classes; I buy 6 months of my (asthma) prescription at a time. Do I separate these into the weekly/monthly amounts, or record the whole amount at time of payment? I'd love advice or resources on these questions!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Compact Discs: Not so Compact.

I'm really intrigued by something I went through last night.

We are giving away our 50 disc CD player. I received it, used, as a high school graduation gift from my parents. It has been well-loved in the past 10 years, and it's still in great condition. However, there was no reason in the world that we needed a 50 disc CD player! If we want to listen to a CD, we can plug Kaden's laptop into the stereo.

I was replacing the 50 CDs from the player into their rightful cases. It is likely that some have not been played since we lived in Bellingham, as we didn't empty it out when we moved. We have two IKEA shelving units that supposedly hold a total of 360 CDs. We also have a single-layer and double-layer box of CDs in the bedroom closet. I would estimate this to total around 500 CDs. (and of course, that doesn't include burned CDs).

cd collection, spring 2008, Legion Way. Note that the record on the floor is not playable.
Even when we were beer drinkers/hell raisers, we never treated good records that way!

We only ever listen to Free Radio Olympia, KAOS, or Kaden's iTunes.

When I began putting CDs in their cases, then into the boxes, I loved them all. I loved them ALL. I even loved all of Kaden's CDs that he had before we moved in together (8 years ago), that I had never heard. Their spines, their names, their colors are familiar to me. I should listen to every one of these, all the way through, I thought.

cd collection, spring 2010, Bellingham

I purchased another IKEA shelf, same size and style, last month. But then we decided we didn't need it; it made more sense to go through the CDs we have, get rid of some, and store some, leaving out no more than the 360 on the existing shelves. Luckily our friend Brianna was interested in buying it off me, so I didn't have to drive an hour and a half to return it, or put it on Craigslist. Yet when I unearthed the boxes of CDs from the bedroom closet - I didn't want to get rid of any. It didn't feel to me like a paralysis of action because the amount was overwhelming (though it kind of is), but it did feel like identifying with my possessions.

cd collection (partial) on IKEA shelving, current

So I am interested in this feeling; I am curious. I am non-judgmental, and intrigued. I love those CDs.

I care about music more than just about anything, but that is different from loving CDs. I can enjoy music whether it is on the radio, a live concert, on a static-filled mix tape, or playing in the grocery store. There is so much music in the world that I haven't heard and it's so exciting and awful at the same time. What if I miss something? What if I forget the name of a band I meant to check out?

I told Kaden a bit about my affectionate feelings; he said I shouldn't force myself to get rid of anything I don't want to, and I certainly won't! We have only very recently begun using an (old, used) iPod, and it really does change one's relationship to music. If all these CDs were just digital, I don't think I'd give a shit about them. Digital music isn't tangible to me.
I wouldn't, couldn't, look at the titles on a computer screen and feel love. I haven't voluntarily listened to music in weeks - it is there, and I enjoy it - but I don't choose it.

I don't know where all the CDs will end up, but I am pretty excited to explore this big area of "stuff" and my feelings about it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My favorite table.

I love having a dining room table. Mine is chrome & formica, likely from the early 60s. It's pretty unique; I've only seen one photo of a similar formica.

I got it for $25 after my parents' long-time next door neighbor died. The man who bought the property was tearing down the house and getting rid of everything inside. I was die-hard into mid-century kitsch at the time, and $25 was a steal. It came with two white vinyl & chrome chairs, too, but they were in very poor shape. I didn't keep them (I had about 8 mid-century chrome and vinyl chairs at one point), but I sorta wish I had, now that I know I can clean up and recover chairs! C'est la vie.

The table is my favorite, most versatile area of our home. I am so surprised by how many people in the minimalist world choose not to have a table. I would choose a table over a couch, an easy chair, or a desk. We use our table for everything. It's where we eat. Where we read. Where Kaden works on his thesis. Where we pay bills. Where we congregate when we have folks over. Where we drink beers and talk some talk. And it has been in the last few homes we've lived in. Even when we were living with Cree and Kristina, we were hanging out at their kitchen table every night while they ate and did homework in the livingroom in front of the tv.

There is always room for the table.

When we were in high school, Cree's mom moved to a new house, and there was already a kitchen table in the kitchen. The first night, after helping move, we sat at the table, shooting the breeze. I remember feeling so firmly, and expressing, that a kitchen table is the best place to be. Later in high school, when we had parties and would be drinking and smoking at the same table, I still felt the same.

Cree and I moved to an apartment together shortly before high school graduation. I wanted a table so badly; I hated eating on my lap on the couch. Some other friends expressed that that was how they preferred to eat. Eating at a table felt formal and uncomfortable to them. My attachment to table eating may possibly have something to do with my being a messy eater, but I prefer to think it's because my family sat down to dinner together every night while I was growing up (they don't any more; the table is usually covered in crap, but that's a different story!). When we visit Kaden's folks, we always sit at the table for hours after dinner, chatting, Kaden's dad playing records.

A table is essential to my home life. No matter how tiny of a house we end up with or how minimalist we may become, the table will be the heart of the home.

(1. at my current house. 2. close up of formica. 3. at my Legion Way house, 2008. 4. Bellingham, 2010. 5. Legion Way, 2008.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Slow living.

The other night I was freaking for the 100x about how I don't understand how anyone has time to watch tv. I really don't! We haven't had cable tv in over 8 years, and haven't even had a tv off and on over that time, and we don't have one now. We use the netflix plan where you get 2 DVDs per month. We barely make it through that. We don't have internet at home, either.

Where do people find that kind of time? I asked Kaden.

I can't remember exactly what his words were. I could make something up for the sake of a good story, but I prefer not to put words in his mouth. He pointed out that our lifestyle is different from people who spend several hours a day watching tv. We walk most places (except to work, which is a 30-45 min drive away). We cook nearly all of our meals, only going out to eat once or twice a month. He is working on his Master's Thesis and I take a handful of classes - all are within a half-hour's walking distance (painting, yoga, and I'm starting a class on the book "Keeping a True Lent" at Unity next week). We spend the rest of our spare time reading.

For some time, I have admired the idea of slow living but always assumed it was something I couldn't do. Suddenly it has become something that I am doing, without even realizing it!

What a pleasant surprise!

This all being said, I am looking forward to the weekend. We have plans to go to my folks' house and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with my sister and her boyfriend. I did that with them a month or so ago, and it was one of the most fun & relaxing things I've done recently! It's comforting that those shows are a constant in our society.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Do what you say you're going to do.

Sometime over the past several months, I read something, somewhere, about how the quality the writer most admired in people was when they said they would do something AND DID IT.

I have tended towards the "wishy washy" for as long as I can remember, and it has seemed to worsen with age: the fear of not making the best decision, the most perfect plan for everyone involved, has caused me to agonize over choices, causing stress on myself and everyone I invite/implore to help me decide.

Last night, my BFF had invited me to a micro-brewery event, and I thought it was at the restaurant where she works. Last night was also the Ash Wednesday Service at Unity of Olympia, and I had planned to go to that for a few weeks. I didn't want to break my commitment to myself, but I wanted to see my homies - a lot of them work weekends and can't hang out, while I work weekdays. I came up with a brilliant solution: I would do both! It would keep me up past my bedtime, but I value being flexible, within reason. After a wonderful service (which I may write more about, if I feel like getting personal in the near future) I arrived at my BFF's restaurant and there were like no cars in the parking lot. So I discovered the event was actually at the restaurant where her wife works, which is another 15 minutes away, putting me at a half-hour drive home after hanging out.

For a few moments I thought I might give it up and go home, apologizing for wimping out on my plans to hang out once again. I had to make a decision.

But maybe it didn't have to be the best decision; maybe I didn't have to sit in the dark parking lot hemming & hawing over the pros and cons. Maybe I could just DO what I said I was going to DO in the first place.

I followed through on my commitment and went out to the brewery event. I hung out with my peeps, drank 1/3 of 1 beer, and had some good laughs. I got to bed more than an hour and a half "late", but I feel so good about doing what I said I was going to do!

It hadn't occurred to me before that part of simplifying life can (and likely SHOULD!) mean making fewer decisions. I am so excited about it! It makes life easier for everyone, especially myself. With this new plan, I will find the agony of making the "right" choice greatly diminishing in the near future!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I like to rent.

For years, I used to dream dream dream of owning my own home! The American dream! A place where I can paint and remodel and make nail holes in wherever and whenever I want! I looked through every home decorating book I could get my hands on, pored over home decorating websites, and even purchased a few of my favorite books.

I began to question this dream a couple of years ago, when my parents' property tax increased 200% in one year. I continued to question it when my BFF and her wife bought their first home and had to follow the rules of the Homeowner's Association. I questioned further when we were planning to build onto my parents' home, and there were so many absurd rules about what and where you can and can't build on your own property (note: generally I support such rules for safety and environmental reasons, but some of them seemed pretty unreasonable).

Kaden and I are happy renting. It's cheaper than paying a mortgage. If repairs need to be done, our landlord takes care of it. While I love the idea of being a self-sufficient in home repair, I feel blessed that there will be no surprises for my bank account if something breaks. And while I don't know for certain, I feel pretty confident that my $12/month renter's insurance is cheaper than homeowner's would be.

When we got married, Kaden and I opened a joint savings account (we don't combine our incomes). We're not saving to buy a home, as I once thought we would be, but to buy some LAND! Some land somewhere awesome (middle of nowhere, Pacific Northwest) so we can vacation there! Kaden's long-time dream has been to build a log cabin with his own hands - and I know he can do it because he is a dedicated, driven person. I still have a little fantasy of customizing an Airstream Trailer, or better yet, a school bus.

We've decided to take the maximum winter power bill and continue setting aside that much money per month, and when it gets warmer, anything not going to electricity will go into our joint savings.

We're really happy with this new plan. It also makes renting feel less temporary.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Link.

OK, this blog post I just read is fucking amazing. It brought a tear to my eye in self-recognition. It is EXACTLY what I need to read RIGHT NOW.

I hope whomever clicks on this will also be blown away.

Access Your Power by Danielle LaPorte.

I'm not clutter clearing because something was wrong before. I am clutter clearing to access my power. My dissatisfying wardrobe did not reflect a failure as a woman - but through its improvement, I have accessed power - the power to put my clothes away with ease, because there is room for all of them; the power to choose an outfit quickly and use more time on important stuff.

I am seeing this so clearly in so many areas of my life. What a thrill! To cite a very personal example...I am not accessing power when I ask Kaden if he has washed his hands and it drives a wedge between us. I can access power by letting it go.

Any way in particular.

Deb at Life Beyond Stuff replied to a comment I left on her blog with a pretty amazing question:

Is there any way in particular that you would like your life to change?

I don't think anyone has ever asked me that. I don't think I have asked myself.

The short answer is: No.

There is not any way in particular that I would like my life to change. But I am totally excited to do the work that makes space for something new, something I hadn't imagined or dreamed of. I'm clutter clearing, streamlining my home life, to make space for a surprise.

I'm happy, but I know that I'm not living up to my full potential.

I'm happy with my husband, my house, my town, my family, my friends, my spiritual community, even my job.

Yet I know I could do more, be more. I am making space for that. I am making space and doing work. I am currently enrolled in a Parks & Rec acrylic painting class (I've never painted before). I am becoming more and more involved with the Unity of Olympia community; I will be studying Keep a True Lent with a group during the Lent season, starting next week. I have some little dreams and some big ones (respectively: building a silkscreen kit & going back to school for Gender Studies).

Kaden and I are making exciting changes in our lifestyle. Many have evolved quite naturally - we are more physically active and have healthier diets than anyone ever would have predicted when we were beer drinkers/hell raisers/stoners. We just this morning decided that we will no longer give each other material gifts for birthdays and holidays; we'll DO STUFF, go places, have experiences. I've also, very recently, begun tracking my expenses and creating a budget, and balancing my checkbook. It allows me to feel in control of my funds, not just floating around vaguely knowing "I have enough money" and throwing a handful into my savings account when I think of it.

This summer, when we first moved home to Olympia from Bellingham, I felt absolutely out of control. We were staying with friends while "planning" to build a small addition onto my parents' house, like an apartment. I was back at the job I left to move to Bellingham, and Kaden wasn't working at all (he later came back to work there, too). We had to start new bank accounts. We weren't even married yet, and didn't have plans to be. Most of our stuff was stored in a shed, or in piles in our friends' garage. I was really unsettled and upset for a long time. Things evolved into the situation we are in now, and it is good. The change I didn't know I wanted to make then, but am working at now, is taking control of my life. I have started by decluttering. I feel like the past month of heavily overhauling my wardrobe and generally decluttering other areas of our home have completely shifted my attitude. I don't feel like I'm floating along, grabbing at things, hoping they're the right ones. I am choosing a path through rejection of extraneous stuff.

That said: I have never known what I want. I have always accepted what the Universe/God gives me. I like it this way; I believe this works well for me. I don't know what I want to change, in particular. I want to be ready for anything.

ps. We got our Enhanced Driver's Licenses this weekend! We got there right when the DOL opened, and with waiting, it took an hour and a half. Now we can go to Canada! One New Year's Goal CHECKED OFF.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Unstuff Your Life"

I have been reading Unstuff Your Life. It has pretty great customer reviews on; I sort of bought it on a whim when I re-ignited my interest in clutter clearing and began considering minimalism for the first time, about a month ago.

At first I felt like it was too rudimentary for me: I already have an effective "home" for my keys and purse, and I get too little mail to apply the author's sorting system.

The next section is about the kitchen. I pretty much had a "lightbulb" moment reading that chapter: We organized our kitchen backwards when we moved in! The food is on the same side as the stove, and the cookware opposite! DUH! All we do is go back & forth moving things from one side to the other! Plus our microwave took up the largest section of usable counter space, while no-mans-land areas underneath corner cabinets were empty. Last night I began the reversal. I switched the microwave and the espresso machine. It looks amazing! It looks so good! I can't even believe what a difference it makes!

Soooooo, if this book can allow me to look at all of my rooms in this's totally worth dragging through instructions on how to create a habit of putting your keys in a dish. I really like the dish we keep our keys in (by the front door), it's a pink vintage saucer with gold trim. Which totally doesn't sound like me; maybe that's why I like it so much.

I have also gotten rid of a TON more stuff, and I'm just all-around thrilled. More to get-rid-of this weekend! Hopefully the animal shelter will be open so we can donate old towels! We had like 12. For 2 people. Absurd! I'm also getting rid of a film-camera (got some old film out of it! Can't wait to see what it is!), some kitchen utensils, some more clothes (everything that requires ironing), a working vacuum cleaner that no one seems to want even for free...

Maybe I'll take pictures some day. I got a new haircut almost a month ago and haven't taken *any* pictures of it yet!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday = Luv

The things I love this week are almost all a part of, like, um, setting myself free through self-discipline? I mean, it totally makes sense! It's like removing a barrier of worry that prevents you from being your best! I feel so in control of my life just from balancing my checkbook.

I feel awesome about...
  • Having a balanced checkbook for the first time since July!
  • Making a budget and tracking expenses for the first time!!
  • Getting up at 5 a.m. to declutter my stationery!
  • Making the commitment to get up at 5 a.m. every morning til it's habit!

  • Looking forward to...
  • Baking for Unity on Saturday night.
  • Going to a lecture about the rights of psychiatric patients.
  • Getting rid of a ton of stuff through donation this weekend.

  • Pretty pumped about life in general.

    NOTE: My Free Will Horoscope says I should be partying this week! The exact opposite of what is satisfying to me right now, ha ha.