Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Well, the cases anyway.
This was harder than I thought it would be.
But I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.
We’ve already been gradually whittling down our books and DVDs. Eventually, we’ll probably be close to 100% digital/cloud/whatever, but until time and money permit, we’ll just work with what we have and continue gradually purging anything we wouldn’t want to watch/read over and over again, or loan out to friends. We don't currently have Netflix or HuluPlus or anything like that.
Just to be clear, I love old-fashioned, regular old books and will probably always have a few favorites around to treasure. But I don’t need tons. We are avid patrons of the public library. One shelf-worth of grown-up books and one shelf of kid books to own at any given time will suffice for me. Except for a handful of odds and ends in storage, we’re pretty much down to that after my latest purge.
But back to the DVDs. Today I ditched the cases and liner notes. It was hard – some of them really are kind of special. The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition has lovely artwork all over the box. West Side Story Collector’s Edition comes with a script. But like many of you, I did this with my CDs a long time ago. I had to ask myself now, do I ever think longly about all those liner notes and cases? The answer is no. So I was ready.
I had an old CD binder laying around with a few random CDs in it, so once I sorted through those and consolidated, I used that binder for all the DVDs. Now I can get rid of an entire bookcase in my bedroom (also used to contain a few books, but was able to consolidate those to the one-kid-one-adult-shelves) and a crap-load of worthless plastic. And our movie collection is now so portable, compact, and easily accessed, at least considering it's non-digital.
And it was hard--but only while I was actually doing it. Now, I'm completely fine. And that reminded me of an important downsizing lesson. A lot of people tell me they just can't do it. They may be referring to a certain item or a group of items. They really would like to do it, but just can't. Today, I was reminded that, yes, it is kind of a bummer and it does actually hurt! I realized that I need to do a better job of acknowledging that this is true.
It hurts, but the end result is worth it, and it feels great.
Like so many things in life, eh?
Note: We're still holding on to our actual CDs in a binder because we like to listen to them in our older-model car on road trips, but I once I have time to make sure they're all burned into iTunes and I'll probably ditch 99% of them. It's a process!
Friday, November 4, 2011
(Okay, why this minimalist would host a jewelry party. Not speaking for all of them.)
- The Jeweler. Nikki is a super cool person and I want an excuse to hang out with her and introduce others to her awesomeness. She is funny, smart, genuine, brave, extremely generous, and also one-of-a-kind – just like her jewelry!
- The story of Nikki’s jewelry business is inspiring. A couple of years ago her husband was out of work and they needed to put food on the table. She tapped into her creativity to help take care of her family. I love that!
- Nikki reuses and recycles many materials in her jewelry. Reducing waste and being resourceful – what could be more minimalist than that?
- Accessories are a minimalist’s plucky sidekick. They allow you to own fewer clothes and make outfits “different” by varying the accessories. Jewelry, in particular, takes up so much less space than clothes.
- Girl time. Adult conversation. ‘Nuff said.
- Hospitality is one of my core values. But I’m not a natural at this – it tends to stress me out, balancing getting food ready (ooo, not a natural at this either, even under normal circumstances) and the house clean while simultaneously managing the kids. But I think it is important, and I like the end result, so it’s good practice for me.
- I will be extra lonely. Pete will be in France for much of November and December and I won’t be able to go out, so why not have people in? (Yep, I just played the pity card.)
- People have been asking me to host another one. I don’t like to disappoint.
- It’s more like an art show than a typical hostess party. I want people to come admire art, celebrate creativity, and be inspired.
- An excuse to eat yummy snacks. And yes, I will provide wine.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
- I’m not a CL expert. I just like it.
- The simplest way to get rid of something is to donate it without a tax receipt.
- These are not safety tips. I find safety tips to be quite dull. I’ll let you figure out if you want to invite your buyer into your living room for a cup of tea, or meet in a public location with body guards. Everyone has a different comfort level.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Sometimes I just wonder..
It’s fall. New routines, new activities, and new schedules.
Of course, we’ve got to have our kids involved in “extracurriculars.” It’s just what we M/UMCs do. They’ve got to have an opportunity to make friends, to learn “socialization.” They’ve got to develop a skill, a passion, a talent. They’ve got to develop their strengths. And shore up their weaknesses. Be well-rounded individuals. They’ve got to get exercise, learn teamwork, leadership, or to just plain follow directions. They must have fun – structured, organized fun. They’ve got to keep up academically. And whatever they do, they’ve got to start early/right away/ASAP/yikes, we should have started last year!
It’s fall. We run from activity to activity.
It’s fall. Our schedules are full.
It’s fall. We are already stressed, over-extended, overwhelmed. We are BUSY.
But it’s okay. We’re all in the same busy-busy-boat. Our culture acknowledges this. So now, we are taught it’s okay to say NO. We must learn to say NO, even to the good opportunities. It’s healthy and right and good and sanity-preserving to say NO.
So now we go around being busy and saying NO all the time.
Does this seem backwards to anyone else?
Sure, you’ve got to learn to say NO. But what is not emphasized enough, I believe, is saying NO a little earlier in the process. Saying NO at the beginning, before we’re even close to full.
Big, fat, awkward-feeling blanks.
Just leave them there.
We are needed. By someone else. By another family.
Until we can say YES when it counts.
Blanks are opportunities to give ourselves to others when the unexpected need strikes. What percentage of needs are unplanned and unexpected?
(That was a rhetorical question. But I’m betting it’s most.)
Blanks are opportunities to teach our kids that life isn’t about us and our own activities and interests. Sure, we can do special service projects around the holidays or sprinkled throughout the year and involve our children. We can repeatedly admonish them, “Life isn’t about you all the time!” But, in reality, life IS about ourselves and our personal enrichment activities 95% of the time.
What if instead, we taught and practiced service together as a day-to-day lifestyle?
To do this, ya gotta have blanks. Lots of gigantic ones.
I have a new kindergartener this year. Maybe that’s why I’m thinking about and picking on “extracurricular activities” right now – but this could apply to all our involvements and commitments at any age. As I begin to make decisions about all those “extracurriculars,” sometimes I just wonder….
What if our kids’ extracurricular activity was being available to help and be a friend to others? Just whenever. What if we developed this as a special talent, as a way to have fun, in our kids and in our family unit? “Who can we help today, kids?”
What if we said NO. And left it all blank. Or at least mostly blank.
Sometimes I just wonder...
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
— Melody Beattie
As a budding minimalist, I still like to randomly spend money once in awhile, particularly on my kids - a quality-non-plasticy-toy, fun art supplies, good books, clothes. It's just fun. Retail therapy. Something to do. Or just a case of "the wanties." And, really, sometimes the stuff is cute and good and useful and edifying and, and, and....I'm convinced I can justify any purchase one way or another if the funds are there.
One thing that has really helped me lately, when I'm about to buy something, is to stop and think about what I have. By that, I don't mean just make a mental list. It's deeper and more thorough than that.
Let's say I want to buy a new set of markers or other drawing/coloring implement for my kids - because it's kind of cool or different than what we already have. I'm sure my kids would love it and get good use out of it and it doesn't take up too much space and it's a good price and it's totally in my kid stuff budget and I get 20% off because it's from where I work and it's good quality and it's for doing art for goodness sake there are worse things.
But I stop for a moment. I go through a checklist of the art supplies we have at home. But then I picture actually getting them out, handling them, looking at them. I picture them in detail. I picture setting them up for the kids. I picture the kids sitting at the table working on their creations. I picture the art they create. I picture their proud smiles as they show me what they've made. I picture putting it all away. I take a moment to be grateful.
This process goes a long way to curb shopping, particularly impulse shopping. The sense of gratitude begins to overwhelm that "wanty" feeling. I am now trying to teach my kids to do this at the store as well. My daughter is nearly six and it works pretty well with her.
And, if you have too much stuff at home in any category, you will have a hard time picturing each individual item you already own (hello, item-in-closet-with-tags-still-on), and by definition you probably don't need more, even if it's a slightly different item.
Could your kids give you a relatively accurate inventory of their toys? Just curious.
Anyway, it helps me. Maybe it will help you.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Previously on A Cup of Rosie Leigh, I described how I’ve always pictured our family eventually upgrading to a larger home and settling there “forever,” but how that ideal has shifted over the past year or so. I also explained that while I’m completely on board with whittling away our possessions and quelling the acquisition of more, somehow “house” found itself in a separate category for me. That dream has stubbornly refused to fade like I feel it should in light of my new outlook on life.
A primary reason I’ve dreamed of bigger home is that one of our core values (ideals, maybe at this point) is hospitality, despite the fact that it doesn’t come very naturally to me. I wanted that permanent guest room, so friends and family could enjoy comfort and privacy when they visit. I wanted that large (not necessarily formal) dining room and proportionally sized dining table that accommodates my immediate family plus a gaggle of guests. It just doesn’t feel as warm, hospitable, and embodying the “togetherness” of my mental picture with everyone spread over couches, bar stools, and the floor, engaged in their own isolated conversations.
Yeah, poor me. None of these things are actual “needs” and I am fortunate to have what I have. Still, I am always amazed how when you choose to look at life from a simple or minimal or even just low cost point of view, your creativity blossoms. You discover solutions to problems that now seem so obvious, but that you were blinded to in the past. You take the status quo and simply make it work somehow, instead of wasting mental energy wishing for something else. And the solutions you find subsequently open up more doors to even more possibilities. It’s not always that you’re thinking outside of the box, but that the box itself disappears. You begin to realize that the so-called box often involves the perceived expectations of others, or how your situation compares to theirs or to “most people’s” – what is common, typical, expected based on who and where you are. The new and absolutely liberating response is: “Who cares? We play by our own rules.”
Enter the folding table. Or should I say tables. Not as a temporary solution until we get a bigger/different house ASAP: a long-term solution. Once I accepted the fact that we are “stuck with” this house until we pay it off (aggressively) or relocate based on an exciting new opportunity, I started seeing it with fresh eyes. I looked at our house (think detached townhome) with its 1690 square feet (only 660ish of which are downstairs and not the greatest use of that space to begin with) and began to think, what can we do with it to meet our desires? It is most certainly “enough,” even more than enough, so what can we do with it to maximize its potential to actually be enough so that we are content? (Okay, Pete’s always been content. It’s all me.) How can our dining room (okay it’s really just a nook, not even a room) best fulfill our desire to “entertain,” such as it were? (Sorry, I REALLY like parentheses and quotation marks!)
Our current dining table seats 6 rather snuggly (we bring out 2 folding chairs implement the table leaf for this).
Adding one long (20” x 48”) folding table right alongside our current table for $26.99, plus 2 more folding chairs means seating for 8 at what is functionally one table. Adding 2 tables and 2 more folding chairs equals seating for 10. This “new table” extends into our kitchen a bit, but there is still room to get around. Any more than 10 people at one table and it becomes difficult to have one big conversation anyway*. But this would be perfect for, say, my book club, or a gathering of Pete’s relatives or mine who live nearby.
However, what if we DID want to have more at the table? We could actually put our main dining table at an angle, and begin to line up folding tables next to it pointing out into the living room. We could add way more than we’d ever need! Each new table would provide 2 more seats. By golly, I think we could fit 20 people at “one table!” When we’re done eating, we’d just fold everything up and we have our living room back again. Hooray for multifunction, a staple of simple, minimalist living.
The “old me” probably wouldn’t have come up with this solution to begin with. It’s not that I’m a stranger to card tables or inexpensive, make-do solutions. Yet, I would never have seen it as a long term fix or reasonable alternative to a bigger dining room – just a somewhat tacky stop-
Besides, then you’d just have thousands of tables. See what I mean?
But back to the tackiness issue for a moment. Will my “dining table” be tacky? Ah, but the response: “Who cares? We play by our own rules.” The great thing about friends is that by definition, they don’t (or at least shouldn’t!) care. The point is togetherness! Will we be knocking each other’s knees? Oh yeah. But that’s just cozy. :)
In a related story, I came across this article recently, just as I was going through a particularly low period of lamenting my smallish house and how I’d never REALLY be able to entertain like I envisioned (boo hoo!). I recommend reading it if you are in a similar situation – some great “disappearing box” entertaining ideas that I can’t wait to try!
Oh, yeah, and the guest room thing. I do have a few ideas up my sleeve…but that’s for another post!
Meanwhile, I’m excited to make a pretty table cloth for my gigantic table.
*I have also found that unless it is completely expected that you’re having a sit-down dinner situation, you might as well not bother putting up the extra tables – they just get in the way. People ignore them and gather at couches, on the floor, at the kitchen counter, etc – which is totally fine by me. I had 11 adults, 2 teens, 5 kids, and 2 infants here the other day for dinner and this is exactly what happened.