The Final Essay

Good morning, Dear Reader! I’m taking a break from Flash Fiction Friday and posting a bit early. My peeps and I are headed off to see Ashley McBryde in concert, and I wanted to ensure I did two things. But before I do that…I want to give you two bonus songs which are my favorite Ashley McBryde songs: One and Two. You’re welcome.

So, back to today’s post. First, I’m fulfilling an assignment. Secondly, I’m informing you of the changes the last few months as has brought to fruition.

So, the assignment. I’ve been working with a Life Coach now for about a year. I completed the lessons, and I was given an assignment at the end of the series. Since I share with you, dear Reader, most of the crap that swirls in my head anyway, I thought, “Might as well share this with the entire world.” So here we are today, summing up the last ten months of my life. The final question?

“What changes do I notice in how I see and experience myself and the world”?

Grab a drink. Settle in. In fact, make it a double.

This biggest take-a-way from this entire process was a lesson that focused on accepting myself and all the decisions I’ve made along the way in this beautiful life. The summation, for me, at the end of this process is this one sentence:

“I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time.”

This one mantra (that’s what I’m calling it) led to so much self-growth, internal power, abundance, and freedom. When I think back to the amount of self-destructive blame I induced on my person this time last year…I don’t even recognize that woman.

This one mantra alone permitted me to say, “Yes. That didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but look at all the things I learned in the process…” It helped me to stop looking at situations as mistakes and instead think of them as growth opportunities.

This one mantra alone gave me the courage to release myself from Karmic relationships, find love again, say ‘no’ to so many things, and forgive myself for putting up with the same old bullshit day after day from people who – and I quote – “…just have your best interest in mind.”

This one mantra alone restored a relationship with my ex-husband (Note: We are friendly. We are not friends. Big difference.). It gave me enough courage to say no to volunteer positions. It reduced the amount of stress I had when changing jobs. And the most significant thing of all…

It allows me to stand up for myself when others try to bully me or remind me of what didn’t quite work out in the past. I was able to tell someone just this week, “I’m only going to say this one time to you: I made the best decision I could then with the information I had at the time. Do not throw this shit in my face again.”

Anyway.

Today’s post is my final essay – in the form of my Creepy Online Diary. I hope that you release yourself from self-judgment and coulda, shoulda, wouldas. Stop getting in the ring with your own thoughts about the past. You made the best decision you could at the time…with the information you had then. You can’t judge that situation based on the information you have now. You’re not Claire from Outlander. You didn’t have the luxury of knowledge from the future.

So.

Get up. Dust off. Move on.

You can now make a better-informed decision the next time a similar situation arises without beating yourself up over the past. I can tell you this for sure…there’s a shit-ton of stuff I won’t volunteer to do and a hell of a lot of people I won’t spend as much time with, so that’s a win, right?

I wish this for you, too. I wish for your empowerment to take hold. I wish for you to forgive yourself for past mistakes and decisions. I wish you to grow in peace and prosperity based on new information and the ability to circumvent the bullshit. I wish for you…love. For love is the greatest of all.

Song? Of course! I’m headed south to see this ‘local gal,’ and this is one of hers. I feel it fits for today. I had a journalism teacher in high school who told me I was a terrible writer. You know who you are and well…Bitch, where’s your blog? Enjoy!

Don’t Go Big Or Go Home

Good morning, dear Reader. You know that saying, “Spring has sprung?” Well, not here. I’m rebelling. Last week I sent my kid to school in shorts and by 10 a.m. it was snowing. I felt terrible when I picked him up and he was shivering uncontrollably. Alas, my “mom of the year” card is already in jeopardy over so much I can’t even bother with worrying about it anymore.

We enter April still focused on the ‘letting go’ theme I mentioned here, and as I’ve said, I’m really, really letting go of stuff as I pack up to relocate. But, I think I will pause on that thought for a moment and go a bit deeper. Do you want to venture into the back of my mind with me a bit? You sure? It’s kinda cray-cray there sometimes. Okay, then!

Grab a drink. Settle in. Here’s what is swirling in my thoughts today. Can we talk about this…

Go big or go home.”

You’ve heard this phrase, too, I’m sure. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. Some self-help guru probably wrote a book about it, and it’s sitting next to the book that coined the hashtag Boss Babe. I get the sentiment. Do your best. Work hard. If you can’t/won’t give it 1000% then don’t even bother…blah, blah, blah. But…

Go big or go home is broken.

It’s old. It’s insulting. It implies that ‘home’ is a punishment.

It should be…

Go big AND go home.

Home is family – whatever that looks like in your world. Home is where your children or pets, or children AND pets live. You may live alone and that’s awesome, too. My point? Home is where your heart can find some peace. It’s where your soul can finally settle down after you’ve kicked ass and taken names all day. It’s where the #bossbabe can put on a ratty old t-shirt, go braless, and have a sip of Tullamore Dew without judgment. It’s where the bathwater contains Epsom salt and lavender, and the time you spend in that bath is limited only by your intolerance for lukewarm water.

I lived in chaos for years. I recently chose to stop that pattern and get rid of the external factors causing that (and truthfully, the internal ones, too). Last year, I literally spent thousands to find places to ‘relax’ that were not where I typically receive my mail. I practically begged people for the opportunity to housesit just to get a little privacy. I bought a new car for the sole purpose of car-camping just to get away from the ever-present barrage of questions. I lived here but I didn’t live here. You know?

Home is where our priority should be – to find the quiet spots and recharge. If you are constantly finding ways to ‘get away from home’ then something’s not working. Your home should be a place of refuge, a source of peace from the outside world.

So, let’s work hard AND THEN…go home. Shall we?

Today’s message is short but powerful. As always, here’s your song. It definitely is an oldie. Kenny Chesney still had hair, and everyone was still trying to figure out the real reason he and Renee broke up. But it fits, right? And it’s nice. So, pour that drink. Take off that bra (Dudes, go commando). Settle in and rest.

Until next time, bottom’s up! Cheers.

PS…If you loved this, then feel free to share it on all the socials. Hugs!

Seven Tips To Declutter

Good morning, dear Reader! The weather this week is particularly fantastic here in the Ozarks. I wanted to get out with my super-awesome electric mower to make the front yard look spiffy but I got lazy. Again, I’m living amongst boxes, which can be overwhelming for a person who likes organization. The outdoors proves to be a safe haven from the chaos, so I took advantage of the weather and retreated outside as much as possible – but not by doing yard work.

I sit here with no plan today; I think I should go back to my roots and write about living a simpler life. I’m being extremely selective on what I’m packing this time around, and I’m not taking everything. I mean, I rarely take ‘everything’ when I move, but I’m really not taking everything this time. I’m wiping the slate clean and only taking those items I find useful and beautiful…which means my Instapot is not coming. I get it; some of you may have consumed the Instapot Kool-Aid. I, however, have not. So, yeah. Does anyone want an Instapot? And, while we are at it…out goes the bread maker, the extra sleeping bag, and the twelve-piece drinkware set. Jeez. I don’t even like twelve people, so why would I have twelve glasses? That just invites trouble.

Nevertheless, if you are so inclined, I thought I’d share how I’m deciding whether or not something goes to my next home. I do my best to declutter regularly and try to limit the items that come home with me in the first place. But, I’ll admit, amidst the pandemic, I’ve spent more time at home with my trigger-happy ‘add to cart’ fingers and 5% cash-back Amazon Store card, so I’ve seen an influx of unnecessary items (and debt). But, now that things are settling down a bit, maybe I can get back on track.

So, grab a drink. Settle in. I’m going to share with you my seven tips to decide whether something goes to Goodwill or not. It is Spring, after all. This is an excellent time to donate items or hold a rubbish sale – or garage sale, tag sale, yard sale…whatever you call it in your state/country. (What do you call it anyway? Comment below.)

Let’s go, shall we?

1) Am I saving this ‘just in case’? I don’t know why I hoard glass jars, but I do. I always think I’ll need them ‘just in case’. I prefer glass to plastic and they do come in handy because I buy a lot of food in bulk. I also like to give food away to friends – which absolves them from feeling like they need to return the empty container. So, besides my glass jar fetish, this ‘just in case’ business is for the birds. Just in case of what exactly? Do some research on what you actually need, just in case, and I promise you…it isn’t that remote from the VCR you no longer own or that weird egg slicer thingy.

2) Do I have duplicates of this item? Somehow I ended up with two huge glass mixing bowls. Also, I have a gazillion screwdrivers and three rakes. Not sure how or when that happened. Sigh. Anyway, duplicates usually show up when you have that ‘just in case’ mentality because you see something you like, buy it, and don’t get rid of the one it replaced. So, pull the trigger. I’m not kidding when I tell you I only have one skillet. It’s true. I only have one skillet.

3) Is this something I have worn in the last year? Piece by piece, I’m building a capsule wardrobe because research shows that we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. If you don’t believe me, walk into your closet, employ the reverse hanger trick. When you wear something over the next six months, hang it back up correctly. In September (six months from now), go back in and look. Donate everything on a ‘backward’ hanger to charity. You didn’t wear it. You don’t need it. The only exception is that one outfit that is your “funeral outfit”, but for me, my funeral outfit is also my hot date outfit because it’s my little black dress. Not sure what that says about my personality, but there you have it.

4) Can I borrow this item if I really need to? Newsflash: Every person on the planet has a beverage cooler. So, I don’t need three of them. I’ve always been able to borrow a cooler and folding chairs and crockpots. (And probably an Instapot if I ever got the itch again, which I doubt will ever happen). If you are local, check out this Tool Library. I have an annual membership, and I’ve borrowed things like table saws, sawhorses, and leaf blowers. And, they are about to get a few donations of screwdrivers and rakes, so, lucky you.

5) Do I have space to store this? I don’t like stuff piling up in my garage so I recently rented a small storage facility to the tune of $50 a month. But, in going through it this week, I found myself with many camping cooking utensils – that I no longer need or want. The most ‘high maintenance’ thing I do while camping is making coffee in my french press. I’m more of the cheese and sausage and granola bar camper. I don’t like to cook while I’m home so imagine me out in the wild. I plan to cancel that storage facility once I get settled, store only what I need in my shed, and park in my garage without all the camping crap around me. Yay!

6) Am I keeping this out of obligation or guilt? Frankly, I don’t struggle with this too much, but you might. Over the last few years, I’ve made it clear to so many that experiences mean more to me than stuff. (I now get a lot of wine and whiskey on special occasions. Yay, me!) Additionally, I have zero child ‘art projects’. Yeah. Zero. When he brings home something cool he made in school, I snap a photo of it, and then…(gasp)…I chuck it. I may not win mother of the year, but I think that ship sailed long before I started throwing away his art projects. Amiright?

7) Do I love it? I have one pair of earrings I rarely wear, but they take up zero space and they are special to me. I have some gloves that belonged to my friend, Bill, who has passed away last year. My friend, Machell, has given me four beautifully crafted quilts she made with her own talented hands. Of course, I will keep all of those things. If you love something, you should keep it, no matter what. Just because I try to live simply doesn’t mean I’m not sentimental. I am just selective.

Hopefully, this gets you started on your garage, closet, or backyard shed. As always, I’m going to leave you with a song that fits a bit with today’s post. I’m feeling restless and I tend to declutter a lot when that happens. I find that the less I own, the less that owns me – which frees up a lot of time and energy to travel and do what I love. I just got back from New England, but I’ve been looking at camping equipment – and feeling the itch to get away again. It’s not a good combination – lol. Plus, the song is catchy. If you plan to clean this weekend, check out this ‘Good Vibrations 2022‘ playlist on my Spotify.

Until next time…bottoms up!

Another Matter of the Heart

There’s a story I don’t share much. I allude to its content from time to time, but I don’t really go into detail. I don’t go into detail for several reasons such as:

1) Its content is not something by which I want to be defined.

2) After all this time, I try to tell a new story.

3) If I don’t discuss it, it won’t hurt as much.

However, I realize after eight years the subject does define me, to a point. It allows me to not only tell a new story, but to change my entire value system. And, while time does heal pain, the void is never really filled so it doesn’t really matter if I talk about it or not.

Tomorrow marks the eighth year I have lived without my only sibling. A young man with a seven-month old son left the world at the age of 27, suddenly without much warning. The one person I was to tease throughout my entire life. The one with whom I was to discuss matters regarding our parents’ health. The one I would leave my child to if something terrible happened to me first. In just one day I went from being someone’s sister to being an only child. It crippled me emotionally for nearly half a decade.

The details of the ‘old’ story and how this happened are not really necessary here. What does matter, however, is how life’s events are meant to teach us valuable life-altering lessons.

Lessons like…

1) Relationships and family are more important than work.

2) Saving for a rainy day is important.

3) When someone is in need, time is of the essence.

You see, I didn’t get on a plane from Connecticut to Missouri fast enough. I didn’t do it because I was really busy with work…I didn’t have a dime in my savings account…I thought it was a simple stomach ache and that was not important enough for me to fly clear across the country. Between the time I got the “You need to come home” call and the time I actually arrived, my brother had slipped into a place from where he would never come back. I never got to say goodbye. And that haunted me for many, many years.

It also changed me. It changed me in so many ways that I wish I could go back to those people who angered me with their “There is a gift in this tragedy” statement. I would say to them “You were right”. Because, folks, why else must we endure such pain if not for growth?

So, how did this change me? How did I grow?

Nobody’s work is more important than family. I live by this in my job now and promote this value to those I supervise and with whom I work. I also remind my superiors from time to time that family is a priority for me. I’ve quit ‘dream jobs’ to be with my family. It isn’t hard to make decisions when you live your values.

Buying useless crap takes valuable resources away from you. When I lived in New England, I lived in a house I really could not afford and bought items for this house I really, really, really could not afford. So, when I got the call my first thought was “Where the hell am I going to get $900 to fly to Missouri?“. Eight years later, I can tell you with all truth and honesty: I think of that moment whenever I am about to buy something major that would deplete my savings account. It has stopped me many times from buying something I do not need.

Don’t ignore your intuition. When a friend is in need, today is the day to pick up the phone. Today is the day to stop what you are doing and write that note. Not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not ‘not ever’. I knew something was wrong on that Friday. I should have called home that day. Instead, I waited nearly 36 hours for my father to call me…and another 12 hours to arrive at the hospital. I think Facebook is a wonderful place to get information. It is not a wonderful place to show someone how much you care.

What does this have to do with simplicity?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Except that this event, along with a few others, led me to my decision to stop working so much, quit buying so much, and take the time to sit on a blanket in the yard watching a storm roll in last night with my son instead of washing dishes.

Every one of my ‘simplicity’ heroes has a similar story. An ‘Ah-Ha’ moment, if you will. What’s your old story and how did it help create a new story? Are you a ‘simplicity-minded’ soul and if so, how did you arrive here? Are you in the midst of your own painful life event that has given you pause? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy weekend!

PS…I’m giving my dear friend and editor time off to deal with her own set of priorities and family issues. If the blog is a complete grammatical mess – I take full responsibility.

Spice Up Your Kitchen by Simplifying

Last week I wrote about waste and my decisions to make my life a bit simpler here in our Sho-Me state home. So far things have been a tad bit interesting, and even a bit emotional, to say the least.

As promised, I met with Grace to come up with a few little lists which I will share with you today and throughout the month. But first, let’s get to the heart of it.

My decision to stop cooking has resulted in the following:

1) I gained five hours of my life back each week. I feel less stress and find I have time to keep up with other things. This is good.

2) I feel an enormous amount of guilt. Each night I watch the Hubster forage through the kitchen at 6 pm only to watch him pop a frozen Country Fried Steak in the microwave. Said Country Fried Steak is then smothered under a blanket of mustard. Is this emotional and social programming? I mean, what kind of wife am I to let my best friend starve to death? Or…do I really believe he will die from the overconsumption of processed foods? Probably a little of both.

3) I’ve lost weight. Salads and whole foods will do that to a person. In fact, rumor has it that if you eat ‘real food’ you don’t really need to count calories anymore. The body is an amazing vehicle that seems to understand exactly what you need, if only it is provided with the proper fuel in the first place.

So far my decision to stop cooking has been both good and bad. I mean, I still cook. I made brown rice and I baked a sweet potato. I’m not a full-on hippie, for Pete’s sake. Even made myself a bowl of cookie dough…of course…I tried to consume the entire bowl before I baked the cookies, but frankly, that’s beside the point.

Anyway. On to Grace’s list to help me clear the clutter from my kitchen!  I asked The Nude Foodie herself if she could only have TEN SPICES in her cupboard, which would she choose? Here are her answers:

(There are other opinions, like this one, but ultimately it’s your kitchen.)

We argued about nutmeg. I love nutmeg. She says “Eh, it’s not really necessary.”  Meh. Silly, Grace. Whateverrr. As you can see, I have lots of work to do in the clutter-clearing arena this week, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by my results. Stay tuned.

Some are a bit dusty on top. Proof I don't cook.

Some are a bit dusty on top. Proof I don’t cook.

Wrapping Up March With Weekend Reads

I finish a few blogs for April and I’m ready to get started on the room of the house that is one colossal cave of clutter. (Okay, maybe I exaggerate…but definitely a room that bugs me.) As we launch the weekend and prepare for some new awesome advice from the Sho-Me State Girl herself…here are some fantastic reads:

All the weekend reads are inspired by my boss who announced that she’s quitting and moving to Hawaii.  (Hang on there…let’s not throw a party just yet. I actually like her). But here’s the kicker…it’s kinda my fault she’s moving. Yep. She read my blog and decided to take the plunge. I could not be more proud. (Of her..and of myself!)

So…get that cup of tea/coffee/glass of wine because these are some cool and brave souls:

Read about the Jordan’s who live in Siloam Springs, AR. I am thrilled I ran across this story because Siloam Springs is just a hop, skip and a jump from me. I want to load up the kiddo and go meet them. Maybe I will – I have all this free time since I don’t have to cook anymore. (That, my friends, is called foreshadowing. You will just have to wait!)

Could you live in a house the size of your garage? Well, Jon and Ryah Dietzen are doing it. And it seems to be working out just fine. This is the coolest garage I’ve ever seen. (I actually lived in a 250 square foot cottage when I separated from husband number one and it was really, really cool. I had everything I needed – including some peace.)

So garage living isn’t your style? Okay. How about a bus? Yep. You read that right. A bus. In fact, my grandparents sold their home when I was a little girl and bought a fifth wheel trailer. They lived in Missouri 1/2 the year and Texas the other half. I don’t really even remember their old house. I just remember cool trips to the lake to visit.

Starting to think that ‘minimalism’ and ‘downsizing’ is just for those of us who bought into the American-Dream Myth and are up to our eyeballs in debt? Not so much. Here are some people you just might be surprised by:

The creator of Tumblr. Yep. The Billionaire extraordinaire: David Karp

Joe Greenstein, co-founder of Fixster is cashing in his billionaires to help the poor. Okay, maybe not all of his billions, but he certainly isn’t spending it on fancy cars and lavish homes.

Aaron Patzer, the founder of Mint.com, who sold his company in 2009 for $170 million. He lives in a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment, and recently replaced his 1996 Ford Contour (with 150,000 miles) with a $29K Subaru Outback.

And the two founders of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz and that other guy embrace minimalism, too. Moskovitz could afford any home he wanted but lives in condo. He bikes to work and leaves his Volkswagen hatchback in the garage. The other guy’s Facebook profile says his interests include “minimalism” and “eliminating desire.”

So with all that, I have to admit…one thing that perturbs me about the ‘simplicity culture’ is that it is centered around reducing a carbon footprint, canceling out debt, or counting items so one can brag about the fact that one only owns 99 things versus ‘the other minimalist’ who owns 100. I haven’t decided if it is a ‘fad or a movement’. I own over 1000 items. I do not recycle. I do not grow my food. I do not have anything that is ‘solar panelled’. I am not interested in going off grid (Okay…I’m a tiny bit interested in going off grid but that’s because I have a tab bit of rebellion and anti-socialism in me and certainly not for environmental reasons….). I don’t want a house that is 120 square feet and moveable. (My SECOND home in Monterey Bay – maybe.) I love those people. They inspire me. But, alas, I am not one of them.

Who am I? I am a 41 year old woman who wants to spend my time pushing my son on a swing in the park instead of vacuuming my house and neatly storing my hobby supplies. I want to giggle on the sofa with my husband instead of worrying about the three rooms we never use that still need organization. I want to spend time with my family when they visit instead of worrying about the fact that I only have eight plates that match and the matching coffee mugs were gone A LONG TIME AGO. I want simplicity. I want peace. I want freedom and joy. And…I want that for you, too. If that means you realize you need to quit your job and move to Hawaii…then sweet! Just let me know I was responsible for that decision! (wink, wink). Then I will know I did what I set out to do. And that makes my heart sing.

Looking forward to April. Tell me all about those closets and the March challenge. Get ready to clean that kitchen.

Announcing the April Challenge:

Find two small appliances you think you can live without. like your microwave or (GASP!) a coffee maker. Take them to your storage closet. Don’t use them for ONE MONTH. Use only one favorite knife this month. And lastly…vow to not cook for at least ONE NIGHT each week. Outsource it or eat something simple and easy. Can’t wait to hear!

Wrapping up the March Challenge:

I actually found several items with which I could still part and not feel bad. I’m headed to the consignment store…and then to the thrift store. So thrilled! What about you? How did it go?

Do You Need More Storage or Less Stuff?

Denise’s Notes: This week’s post is reblogged from Unclutterer. Deb Lee originally posted this on Tuesday and I know it will certainly resonate with some of you in light of what I’ve been writing about for the last few weeks. It definitely goes along with my tongue-in-cheek comments about all the organization tips on Pinterest. You don’t have to organize what you don’t own. 

Raise your hand if you think you need more storage space in your home. Anyone think that if they just had more storage areas, their home would be easier to maintain? Sometimes I wish my home had more closets, especially a dedicated linen closet. But, I’ve found a way around that and, honestly, I don’t need a separate space to keep towels and sheets, which means it’s probably more of a want and not a need.

Of course, if you live in a small home, your storage options may be limited. You’ll likely have to use tried-and-true techniques (maximize vertical space, use under bed storage, hooks, armoires, etc.) and take advantage of creative solutions, like using multi-purpose furniture or hiding things in plain sight. You might even come up with some unconventional ways to keep your stuff, like using a car or minivan (that isn’t needed for transportation) as storage space.

In a recent blog post over at Extraordinary Observations, Storing Private Stuff in Public Space, the author started giving this some thought. He reasoned that it would be very convenient (the vehicle would be parked close to his home) and when he crunched the numbers, he found that it would be a cost effective option, too.

… street parking (public space) is used to store automobiles (privately owned things) for little to no cost (it would cost me $35 per year for a residential permit in my neighborhood). Using a van for storage would cost significantly less money than renting a space at one of those self storage warehouses, and it would be a lot more convenient.

It’s an interesting notion and it seems to make sense from a monetary standpoint. For anyone seriously considering this as a solution, another question comes to mind. Why not reduce your stash so that the car isn’t needed for storage? You wouldn’t have to worry about the types of things you could store in your vehicle (since it’s not temperature controlled) nor would you have to be concerned about someone stealing it. With one less spot to maintain, you’d also have less work to do, fewer decisions to make, and more time to focus on other things. And, you’d have the option of selling or donating your car, both of which come with financial benefits.

Though the benefits of living with less are clear, going through the process is not always straightforward or easy, especially when you have to let go of things that you’re emotionally attached to. When faced with the task of uncluttering and downsizing, it’s important to remain focused on the positive outcomes of reducing the number of things you own (particularly if you don’t use or want them). Keep in mind that you can also handpick who receives certain items which can help put your mind at ease. Of course, simplifying doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of everything. You’re simply prioritizing and carefully selecting which items you will bring the most value to your life.

Ultimately, anyone going through this process will need to answer this question: Will a storage unit (of any type) be a regular and permanent part of your life, or would you prefer to find a way to live well with less?

Do You Have the Guts to Simplify?

Stephanie Stevens

Denise’s notes: This week’s post is by guest blogger, Stephanie Lynn Stevens. I stumbled across Stephanie’s blog via Living Simple Free’s weekend reads a few months ago. I knew instantly that if she and I lived closer, we’d be buds! Enjoy!HoHo
I have written before about how overwhelmed I was at our old house with so much stuff.

I was way too sick to declutter or even to wrap my mind around what this should look like.

That is one of the main reasons things got worse in the housekeeping department, not better.

But the other half is that I just didn’t have the guts to let stuff go.

I would look at the stack of lovely but rarely-used puzzles and feel so much mommy guilt for wanting to get rid of them.

That missing piece would probably turn up, puzzles are educational, and when the kids did want to work a puzzle they really enjoyed it.  Besides, it was a special gift from ____________.

So I’d hang onto it.

There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding stuff. The packrat’s famous excuse is “I might need it someday.”

For others of us, we just like our stuff.

Have you ever watched the show Clean House?  Remember the people who don’t want to get rid of their 1980’s shoes because they might come back in style or they wore them on their first date?

It’s ridiculous when we see it in someone else, but a lot of us do the same thing.

My sister, who has a great ability to let things go, says we should treat clutter like a poisonous snake.

But for some of us, it’s a snake we can’t bring ourselves to kill.

I wish I had been not only able, but willing to pitch my stuff.  I know now that I wouldn’t have missed most of it.

Do you have the guts to get rid of your stuff?

A challenge: What are you going to get rid of TODAY?

Embrace freedom!

***********

Denise’s notes: I’m starting two new projects (I know *rolls eyes*…THAT certainly helps with living a simple lifestyle! Whatever.) Anyway…if you are a subscriber, check out my new (low maintenance) blog. If you live close to me, soon you will see a cool addition to the neighborhood in my yard. I need books for all ages, so if you are decluttering your bookshelf soon…I’ll take those old books! So excited!

Six Steps to Cleaning Closets: Doing the March Challenge!

We are a week into the March Challenge and I just want to say a few things about over-consumption of clothing. The truth is, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. When I first read this, I tested it. I brought out my seasonal clothes, hung everything on white hangers (the infancy stages, mind you, of my infamous ‘white hanger theory’). When I wore an item, I hung it on a colored hanger. Then, at the end of the season, I took note of everything still left on white hangers. I realized I didn’t wear these clothes all season (and there was A LOT!)…so out they went. Now, I do a version of the white hanger theory twice a year. Here is an idea if you don’t have white hangers.

If you haven’t started the March challenge yet (and you know who you are!) here’s how you get started:

Determine what you have.  The first step in your process is to remove everything from your closet. Do this when you have more than just an hour of spare time. Make it the project for the day. It is time-consuming and emotional. I find that a nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with this activity. I also suggest bringing in your closest confident who will tell you, in all honesty, if you should keep an item. (My husband once said, “I hate that shirt. It makes you look like a hippie.” Well, even though I like to embrace my inner bohemian at times, the ‘hippie’ look isn’t quite what I was going for, so out went that shirt).

Decide what you really need. Like I’ve said, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time, so use frequency of use as a benchmark for deciding what to keep. You know you love it. You know it’s your go-to sweatshirt on the weekend. You know you look hot in those jeans. Keep them. But some things are only worn on special occasions, and truthfully those items can be paired down. Some would even argue one simple black dress is really all one needs for ‘special occasions.’ (Guys, I don’t expect you to wear a little black dress. But, seriously, all you need is one really good suit.)

Admit the relationship is getting old. If you are still hanging on to an item you used to love, acknowledge that…and be prepared to chuck it. My mother has a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt with a thousand holes in it. I’m pretty sure she still has it because it represents a family vacation. I’m also pretty sure she has photos of that vacation and therefore, Mickey could be thrown out (Mother, I know you read this blog…yes…I’m talking to you). There’s nothing wrong with hanging on to things because it holds sentimental value, but if you’ve still got your prom dress from 1989, its time for your friend to intervene. Pour another glass of wine, remember dancing with that special person to some Richard Marx song…and get rid of it.

Be honest about how you look in it. Does this flatter you now that you’ve lost (um…gained…) 40 pounds? Try it on, get the friend to give it thumbs up or down…and move on. Here’s the only time I would recommend that you set some time to go pick up some classic and flattering pieces of clothing – but only if you really need them.

Consider your life now. Last weekend I realized that all my old work clothes were stuffy business suits from back in my ‘high paid consultant’ days. Now, I work from home and usually in my yoga pants. I kept the black dress, a pair of black slacks, a jacket that matches both, and out with the rest. While you are in your decision-making mode, consider what you do on a regular basis now. “Well, when my child goes to school, I might reenter the workforce.” Okay, great. That’s five years from now. If you wear THAT you’ll look like a dork because it’s 7 years old. Toss it.

Grab those things you love and put them back. Grab those white hangers (or do this instead….). I’ve done this for two weeks. It’s not looking too good for that old Eddie Bauer sweater with holes in it…poor baby. No matter what ‘organizational system’ you choose (white hanger, reverse hanger, Project 333, etc.) make it easy. Avoid a system that is too complicated. Simple is better.

What to do with what is left.

Donate it to charity. Honestly DONATE IT TO CHARITY. I think people who talk themselves into selling stuff on the internet (like on Craigslist or eBay) are just looking for a reason to hang on to something a bit longer. Ugh. Just get rid of it already.

Throw it out. If your item has stains, rips, or ‘just needs a little mending’ do not donate it. Thrift store shoppers do not want your crappy stuff any more than you do. Be considerate. (I made cleaning rags out of my hubby’s old stained t-shirts – thus reducing my need to waste so many paper towels – so you can even repurpose it if you can’t bring yourself to throw it away. Here’s another great idea I’m gonna try!)

Give it away to a friend. Sometimes donating to charity isn’t as fun as giving it to someone who would really like it. I recently had a month-long Give A Way project that was a blast! My silver cocktail dress is going to my step-daughter this week. I’ve worn it one time. It will make a nice graduation dress or ‘fancy dinner’ outfit for her. My son was in the NICU for 8 days when he was born, so when he outgrew his NB clothes I gave them to the NICU in honor of those awesome nurses. Snow suits were recently shipped to my girlfriend in Massachusetts – (hahaha…you are up to your eyeballs in SNOW!!!). Same with several wool hats and scarves.

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself. You can do this. I know you can. It is not easy. It can be hard. Keep going.

Let me know how you are doing…I’d love to hear about it. Comments are awesome!

This Week’s Challenge:

Set a time to do this project now! Write it in your calendar. Call your ‘buddy’ and ask them to meet you for the day to start this project. Gather your supplies (boxes, trash bags, white hangers, um…wine…etc.). Get excited – you are about to take the first step in your life of ‘freedom’.

Announcement:

For the rest of the month, I will be taking time to get some posts ready so that my poor editor isn’t subjected to my lack of planning. Do not fret, dear readers…I will still post but will highlight some great guest bloggers. That way you will still get some really awesome info and be introduced to some wonderful like-minded people in the process. So excited!!

Simplicity Is An Inside Job

Hmmm. Simplicity. What does that even mean? One of the most interesting epiphanies I’ve had over the last two years was the realization that each time I chose to add an activity to my calendar or an item to my closet, I was mostly seeking fulfillment. Looking back it seems like ‘crazy talk’ when I say that out loud, but you see, I always felt there was something missing from my life. What never occurred to me was that somethingwas me. I was missing from my life. The more activities I added, the more responsibilities I accepted, the more possessions I bought only created more of a void. Those things separated me from the stillness I needed to really get to know myself . Finally I started to realize what really mattered to me was spending time with my friends and family, reading a book, writing or putting another spin on my already-fantastic banana bread recipe. Listening to a really great songwriter and getting a super-restful night of sleep were also things I realized I needed in my life to be happy.

Those things, the ones that give me the greatest joy, are the simplest. They don’t require a season pass or a new outfit. They don’t ask me to spend hundreds of dollars or even to clean my house. This may seem simple to some, maybe even a bit boring, but to me they are the lifeline to keeping my sanity.

Simplicity means making room for the things that really matter amongst the noise of life. Some of us are so busy and so caught up with impressing other people that we don’t even know what that means. Linda Breen Pierce’s book, Choosing Simplicity, reminds us that many of the challenges we create – and even some of the health issues we have – are consequences of our belief that we have to have everything. Finding value in what you NEED versus having everything you WANT gives you freedom to say “I choose to relax.” I spent a lot of my life seeking the impressive career, amassing material possessions, and purchasing letters to plug in after my name by way of huge student loan debt. In the end, I realized what I really love to do wasn’t enhanced by any of those things. In fact, it took me 28 years to realize what my 8th grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Childers, learned about me the first week of school. I love to read and I love to write. Neither of those require an MBA nor do they require a 4,000 square foot house.

At some point, hopefully, everyone who feels lost can come to the realization they are missing out on the things they truly value and enjoy in order to live a life someone, at some point, told them they should live. There are a lot of reasons why we believe that line of nonsense,and it takes some longer than others to realize it is just that: nonsense. But, of course, the turning point for many is one simple question: Why are you living your life?

You don’t have to live in the country to enjoy a simpler life. You can own more than 100 things. You can paint your walls any color you desire. You can buy your vegetables at the grocery store. The change to living a more free and balanced – more simple – life comes from within you – not outside of you. Living outside of yourself is what got you into this mess in the first place. Pick a handful of things you really value – and that should be enough to start you on your journey.

If you’ve read through past posts, you know my story. I won’t bore you with it again for awhile. But in the coming months you will hear from some of my favorite people who left an old life behind to pursue the life they truly value. Ken, who left a high stress broadcasting position to open a thrift store; Kathryn, an author who left her full-time job to finally finish her novel; and Liz, a world traveler who bought an $8 wedding dress at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and buys the majority of her possessions from Craigslist so she and her husband can have the resources needed travel to far away lands. My plan for this year’s blog schedule has lead me to some very interesting people and I hope you will be as inspired by them a I am.

Weekly Challenge:

Is there something on your calendar that you just dread? Can you get rid of it? For me I host a monthly database management group (I know, right. Sounds so exciting…!) but lately it hasn’t done anything to light my fire. So, this week I have decided to send out the notice that the meeting is cancelled. Forever. What can you get rid of this week?

And, March is almost upon us. Let’s prepare mentally for the challenge:

March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.