Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Game Changer

In November I started the Minimalism Game - it was excellent.  With with all of the activities of the holidays, in December the game and posting lost momentum and I came to this conclusion this week:

If I continue to count every single thing that I'm getting rid of - I will go insane. 

So it's a new adventure now. I've been donating, trashing, recycling, shredding and cleaning and will continue to do so. This continues to create space in our home and in myself. I have found treasures and instead of keeping all of my collections, I am keeping only favorites and passing on the rest to someone new.

My observations? 

I recommend everyone do one 30 day round of it every year, because it really changes your focus about what is truly needed. I am planning on December in 2014.
The excess has been overwhelming. (storage, upkeep, clutter, etc.)
I don't need to purchase a single thing in the new year - other than consumables.
I have everything I need to create crafts, music, stories, memories, gifts, and adventures.
If I lost everything I possess and still had my friends and family - the previous statement would remain true. 

There are great tools that assist in life, but all that is fun and interesting - and every great adventure - must begin within us. It has nothing to do with what we own and everything to do with who we are.

This process has shown me the generosity of the people around me and brought generosity toward others to the forefront of my mind and heart.

Here's to less stuff and more adventure in 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Back to the Minimalism Game

Days 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15: The Minimalism Game

With the parties over and the holiday winding down, I begin vacation and am back to the cleaning out.

At this point, there really aren't a lot of stories to go along with the things I am getting rid of. At least, the story isn't different. Too much stuff kept for "someday" or "what if" or just stored and never used.
Some will be passed on, thrown away or donated.

Day 11:  Old games and software - and the worst movie ever made :)

Day 12: Miscellaneous brass, candles, mugs

Days 13-15: Empty containers  - kept "just in case" 
(we would need them for the garden, we would need them when we have quail/chickens for eggs, etc.)

As I go through the holiday decorations and begin emptying of storage bins, I look forward to beginning the new year in a house without clutter and only things that have function and meaning - less things to care for and more time to work on projects and goals.

Here's to 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Finding a Miracle in the Chaos

I admit it - I have been distracted, annoyed, distant, exhausted. My creativity has been zero. And yet out of this - one moment of concern brought about an amazing thing...

Every year I try to do something during the holidays for someone in need. This year I worked with the United Way Committee at the Telegram to help with fund raisers and pledges, and a couple of weeks ago we received an email with a wish list of local agencies hoping for help with making the holidays special for the people they care for. These people work hard all year round, in real situations, to make life work for so many people.  I saw one agency on the list that is a residential home for teen girls and decided that I would do something for them.

What happened after that is my own personal Christmas miracle. I mentioned to a couple of people at work, and out, that I was planning to do a small gift for each of the girls and one by one people started to help. A special thank you to Robin and Terri for helping with everything - to make this possible.

Gifts ranged from $1.00 for each of the girls, to a gift card and plush throw for each of them. And so it began.  Where it ended was so amazing that it brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it.

Cookies and hot chocolate, pancakes and syrup, fruit and juice for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

A gift bag with an amazing amount of gifts. Handmade scarves, gift cards, cash, blankets, gloves, nail polish, candy, etc. etc. Everything to make a teen feel warm and special. There were also bags and bags of donations other than the gifts...

each girl received a stocking full of candy and small gifts

gift cards, wallets, t-shirts


gloves, socks and more gloves

Pretty in a gift box

Stockings, cookies and more!

Each of the 10 girls received one of these bags 

Extra donations - other than gifts

The generosity of my coworkers and family and friends is overwhelming.

The lives of the ten girls that received these gifts, the workers that live with them, and I think, all of us that contributed - are changed.  It is amazing how everyone giving just a little, can change us all.

I am changed, my heart is larger, and I am seeing clearly in the chaos that surrounds the day to day.

I see clearly again what truly matters. Not just at Christmas, but every day...we desperately need each other, and in so many more ways than we can even think of or understand.

When my kids were little they would ask me if there was a Santa Claus, and I would repeat to them every year, and still repeat "there are gifts under our tree every year that we don't buy - there is absolutely a Santa Claus".

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - may we all find our miracles as we need them.

Our Holiday Party

Last Sunday night.

The snow was falling and nothing in the neighborhood was moving. The solar lights were lighting the tree and blinking away on the fence outside. The fire was crackling in the kitchen stove and wine flowed freely.

I was warm, well fed (thank you Rosalina's) and feeling grateful. I have amazing family and friends that are kind and generous and fun to be around. This year we decided to have a party to celebrate the holidays and invited family and friends to Rosalina's for dinner.

The food was amazing, as always and it was fun to hang out and visit with everyone that could make it out in the snow storm.  A little like every day lately. The storms are there, and we have to fight through them to reach each other and connect.

I am grateful for everyone who could make it and help us establish a new tradition! You all rock!

Much Love, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  <3 <3

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Long Winter's Nap

Most of my posts lately have been about the Minimalism Game. I am thoroughly enjoying this process of touching every item in this house and making a decision if it is useful or not. We have donated clothing and shoes, recycled many items, passed things on to people who will use them next. This simplifying, for me, started a couple of years ago with a few different blogs that I read and a great many books.

The driving force, however, is the desire to reverse the balance in my life - where people are most important and I spend my time with people, and where things are minimal and useful and don't consume my time and space.

For the holidays this year, beginning with Thanksgiving - we decided to simplify.

For us, it means not renting a car, not putting someone else in a position of being responsible for picking us up and getting us home. Most importantly, it meant relaxing and cooking a meal and sharing it with our kids and a couple of friends.

It's simple. I love my family and friends. I also enjoy the holidays a great deal. But the chaos that ensues had to change.

For Christmas - we are staying home. For the first time since I was a child, I will get up and make something delicious for breakfast, open gifts with the four of us and then slowly cook and enjoy our Christmas dinner. People will stop by, some of us may head out to visit others, but Rob & I will be home on Christmas.

I'm the oldest of seven and it seems right that it is my responsibility to make the change first. As my children head into their lives at lightening speed and add amazing relationships and new jobs and places of their own in the coming year, I realize that this could be our last holiday like this. I want to slow down and really treasure the time together. Of course, we are striving for this all the time, but life is so busy lately that it has been difficult to find a moment of peace.

So I'm taking back the moment. We will see most of our family and friends over the course of December and there have already been several fun events. The world is pulling us constantly through work demands, technology keeps us on call 24/7, all of it. I need a break to recharge.

Starting on December 20th, I am on vacation for a couple of weeks. Time to celebrate, visit with friends and family, volunteer for a local group to bring them Christmas, recharge and get back my creative energy.  I spend many moments in my day searching for complete sentences. I'm burnt out and tired and need a long winter's nap.

Imagine the fire crackling in the wood stove, hot coffee brewing, soft pajamas, a warm blanket, favorite game or book, people around you (in person or in spirit) that you love, other dog / cat / human companions, and napping at every opportunity.

Today and in the new year, treasure the smallest of details and really be present for your life. Make the mundane tasks into adventures!

Whatever it is that recharges your creative energy and warms your heart - I wish that for you.

Peace. Hope. Joy.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Days 9 & 10: The Minimalism Game

Days 9 & 10: The Minimalism Game:  Thinning out my morning routine: 

Day 9 - Extras around the bathroom

Day 10 - old and extra make-up

The only observation I have from this is that I am always surrounded by excess. 
Things I don't need or use. Things I wasted money on. Things I don't pay attention to.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1st - 8th: Minimalism Game

Round Two - Days 1 through 8

And so begins December and another month of The Minimalism Game...

 With December holiday decorating - I will be going through the many storage bins of decorations and cutting down on what we keep for next year.

Again, what is worth keeping will be donated or passed on to someone who will use it.

Day 1:  With all of the stuff I deleted from our house in November, there is an empty (old and falling apart) cart that was between the washer and dryer and often collected items that didn't belong there. Although many those items are also gone for good, less shelves completely removes the possibility of things piling up.

Day 2: A Couple of unused things (yes - ice bucket from a refrigerator we no longer have)

Day 3: Two Dead iPods and case to ebay

Days 4 & 5: Odd Extra Stockings to fill and give away

Day 6: Old Wreaths and Garlands

Day 7: Odds and ends out of a cupboard - empty, dusty, unused

Day 8: From when we used paper plates...

I am looking forward to December and the changes this game is creating in our home - and even more importantly in me!

Day 30: The Minimalism Game

The Minimalism Game: Day 30!  "Medicine" Cabinet

There's a little closet with shelves in our kitchen - one of the charming aspects of buying an older home, but one of the drawbacks of keeping things clean. Small house + shelves behind a door = cluttered shelves.  I took out the medicine, beauty/health products, etc. Sorted everything out and got rid of a pile of stuff. To cut back on the number of boxes with bandaids, gauze, etc., I made a first aid kit and threw all of the boxes out. Everything is individually wrapped and labeled and doesn't need to be stored in a box.

We need this supply of first aid, because of the type of lifestyle we are living. There are cuts and burns and things happen when you have a wood cooktop and work in a garden regularly. Again, the clutter is moved to reveal the real things we need to have and now it will be easy to access what we need.

 So I'm not even counting this pile - it's definitely 30.

With each of these days, the recycling, cleaning and donating creates physical space around me, but also creates mental space. Each item I can pass on for someone else to use or enjoy makes me happy!

I am starting again on December 1st for another round.

These are gifts to myself this holiday season:

Space - the volume of items gone has created space. Slowly, the things that are special to me are coming to the forefront and clutter around me is going away.

Time - I don't have to search for the things I use.

Creativity - I had originally thought I would do the 50K words in November, but decided this project, this game was more important to me. I envision a place of great writing when I am finished.

Observations: By default, what we are doing here on our little lot, the Permaculture projects, gardening, and wood stove, etc. create the need for tools and storage for many items. Because they all serve a purpose, I don't even consider them for this game. However, with less to maintain inside and keep track of, I hope to work on more projects and in the spring and introduce some animals to our little urban farm. I couldn't see how to do this before I started this game - my time was consumed by keeping up with a bunch of things and there wasn't any room to add to my day.

There is room now!

Day 29: The Minimalism Game

The Minimalism Game: Day 29!

I was continuing the game and found yet another pile of linens that completed sets I already got rid of, so that was several of the items. I also looked around the basement and found some old books (some are being returned to their owners) old candles, jars, etc. etc.

I cleaned up these two cast iron candle holders and a gave them to a friend who would use them!

The only observation I have at this point is that I am not even close to being done, so I will be going into December and longer if I need to!

Days 27 & 28: The Minimalism Game

The Minimalism Game:  Days 27 & 28 - Work Space

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and spent time with some of our family and friends, and I headed to work on Friday morning knowing that it would be slower than usual. So my plan was to see if I could do one of the days of the game cleaning up my desk.

It turned out that I was able to declutter 55 things off of my desk and out of drawers for days 27 & 28. I had been keeping copies of magazines and newpapers for accounts of mine that had advertised over the past couple of years, however, most everything we sell advertising into can be viewed in a digital format, so no need to keep paper copies.

I returned extra office supplies to the cabinet they came from. 
I securely disposed of account folders and information that is no longer relevant. 
I consolidated notes to one place, and information I use daily into a binder.
I brought home the holiday decorations I use at work - to store in the Autumn/Halloween decoration tote. 

I washed off my desk and this is no longer in my little space to distract me.

Goals: keep only what is needed - keep my space current at work

Observations: I have decided is that I am fine with getting rid broken and unused decorations, but I am keeping the things I use to decorate the house, etc. It's one of my favorite part of the holidays! I need some connection to home when I am at work, and small decorations keep me connected.

When I looked around my space after clearing it, I knew where everything is to do my job physically and digitally: information I need to answer calls and sell advertising. Basic quick answers are at my fingertips and I feel less stressed about going to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Days 25 & 26: The Minimalism Game

Days 25 & 26: The Minimalism Game -  Linens & More Clothes

I don't have a profound statement to make about these two days - it just took about 15 mins. to come up with 51 items - sheets, blankets, pillowcases, etc. and yet another stash of "clothes I'll wear someday" to fill four large trash bags.

Not attached, nothing has meaning, don't remember the reason I kept and stored these things...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 24: The Minimalism Game

Day 24:  The Minimalism Game :  Card games and more office supplies

I continued the sorting through office supplies, notebooks, journals and cards games, along with miscellaneous stuff.  More of the same gone.

It feels great to be getting rid of things that are incomplete, unused, unusable, and no longer relevant for me or for my family.  It is starting to make a difference. Shelves are emptying, drawers are cleaned out.

In the past, I would sort and organize - buy more containers to sort and organize and store things. At the end of this there will be a stack of storage bins to donate because I won't have anything to store in them!

And so the game continues - one week left until the 30th, and then I will decide about continuing into December and starting over again on the 1st. One more month would take me deeper into things that are difficult to let go of.

In addition to the number of items I was able to throw away and donate, I also shredded a large black trashbag of paperwork I thought at some point was necessary to keep.  Turns out, it really isn't that important.

Days 22 & 23: The Minimalism Game

Days 22 & 23: The Minimalism Game Office Supplies and Miscellaneous

For this day, I ditched old journals and magazines, office supplies, old toys, and some miscellaneous stuff from drawers. The magazines are the issues I never went back to read again.

Goals: I made a decision to start using one style/size journal for everything. I asked Santa for Moleskine journals and cleaned out and got rid of all the others I had.

I am using up as many of the crafting supplies I can to make gifts and cards for the holidays.
As I sort things out, I am keeping the crafting together for easy access.

Observations:  It is getting easier to throw things away and donate.
I am less attached to things than I thought.