Living Minimally

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Nine

Hurricanes. Fires. Floods. Tornadoes. We’ve had many natural disasters, and far too many people have been impacted. It’s a heartbreaking situation.

When you’re ordered to evacuate, usually you have very little time to pack and flee. If your local emergency management official told you you had thirty minutes to leave your residence, what would you take? What could you leave behind? 

This isn’t a post about disaster preparedness – you should familiarize yourself with it. This is about ridding yourself of the excess stuff around you. This week I’m tackling paper. Part one of I don’t know how many parts.

While cleaning out a closet last week, I found an accordion file from 1998. I’ve kept a file like that each year for the past 30 years – bills, receipts, cancelled checks. This one, from nearly 20 years ago, must have missed the shredder. I keep my records for seven years.

Look at my cable bill! That included my phone, too, but not internet. 

In light of the massive Equifax data breach, I wonder why I worry about shredding old documents. 

I also cleaned out the refrigerator. Even though we don’t live with the constant threat of hurricanes or tornadoes, we’ve lost power (more likely in a winter storm), and when you lose power for a prolonged period of time, you might lose what’s in the fridge and freezer. My husband is the Condiment King. I cleaned out near-empty jars of salsa, bottles of ketchup and soy sauce. 

I know I’ve been all over the place with this project. I could have stuck to cabinets and drawers until everything was cleaned out, but I’ve jumped around – closets, paper, furniture. Bit by bit, week by week, decision by decision.


The Year of Living Minimally – Week Eight

My husband and I bought our first house in 1995, a few months after we married. I’d lived in at least six apartments before I met him, and each time I moved, I hauled boxes and bags full of my stuff to the new place.

At one point during the unpacking, I pulled a pair of size 7 jeans from a box of clothes. I held them up, staring at the tiny waist, reluctant to put them in the bottom drawer of my dresser, where they’d resided for over ten years.

“Whose jeans are those, hon?” he asked. 

“They were mine. I used to wear them.”

He walked over to me, and in the kindest voice said, “Oh, honey, you’ll never wear them again.”

And he was right! For the one year that I could fit into those jeans, I had poor eating habits, was at times bulemic, and I was 25 years old. But I held onto them, as if keeping the jeans were magic and could make me skinny. 

We keep clothes for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you spent a lot of money on that dress, and even though you haven’t worn it in seven years, you can’t let it go. Or the jeans that would fit great if you lose just ten (or twenty) pounds. The shoes – oh, the shoes. We buy a shirt because it’s on sale, even though we have nothing to wear with it and don’t even really like it. But it was 75% off!

And sometimes, we keep clothes for the memory. Your wedding gown, preserved because you hope your daughter will want to wear it. Your baby’s christening gown. Your college sweatshirt. 

Still, we don’t have to let everything go. In 1994, a month before we married, my husband and I took a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard and he bought me a beautiful Irish-knit sweater. I don’t think I’ve worn it in twenty years. It still fits, but it’s bulky, and I prefer layers. There is emotion and the memory of a wonderful day tied to that sweater, and I want to keep it.

So, here’s what’s going in the donation bin this week:

After I ended my full-time job, I boxed up most of my professional attire and donated it, keeping a few pairs of slacks and two or three blazers. I haven’t worn a dress in over six years. I kept this one, thinking I’d need it for a funeral, but I’ve been to plenty of funerals in the past six years, and dressy slacks are perfectly acceptable.  

I bought this sparkly outfit when my friend Fr. Brian Shanley, who I’ve known since fifth grade, was named president of our alma mater, Providence College. I think it was 1995, and I’ve had no reason to wear the outfit or the shoes again.

A pile of scarves, never-worn t-shirts (Austin, Montreal), dressy tops, belts. Off they go, hopefully to folks who can use them.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Seven

After last week’s big furniture moves, I had to take it easy this week. My melanoma surgery was last week (the heavy lifting was done prior to the procedure, of course), and I’ve been mindful of the three-inch-long incision, with sutures, on the back of my thigh. So this week, I made small, light-duty changes. And I reminded myself that I have forty-five weeks to go πŸ˜‰

I tackled a few cupboards this week. Under the sink – ugh! A catch-all for vases and nearly-empty cleaning products and rolls of waxed paper. Yes, I discovered that I’ve got plenty of plastic wrap (three rolls). I rinsed out containers and tossed the empty jugs into the recycle bin. When I go back to my one-day-a-week job, I’ll bring a few vases. Our inpatient unit can use them.

This one wasn’t too bad, actually. A couple of bottles that had a half-inch left (balsamic vinegar, whiskey) that were tossed, but this cabinet needed rearranging, mostly.

It looks like a pharmacy in there! We don’t take all of these! Many of these were prescriptions that neither of us need anymore. Then there were all of the cough and cold remedies in the back – old, expired, useless. It’s usually not a good idea to flush pills down the toilet – they can contaminate the water supply. Check the label: It may tell you if you should not dispose of the medication by flushing it down the toilet.  Set them aside and check with your pharmacy or local police department – a few times a year, they have ‘take-back’ days when you can bring in your old meds. Remove any identifying information from the label.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Six

This week, it was time to go big.

Goodbye, bench. You were falling apart and, sorry, quite useless.

Our old neighbor made this bench about fifteen years ago, and we bought it. It looked sweet on our back deck, and when we sold the house and bought a condo, we picked up the bench and put it in the back of Jim’s truck, and carted it across town to the new place. But we didn’t use it – I never sat in the back – there was no shade. β˜€οΈ The wood might be recycled, but not if it’s been treated with chemicals. 

The dining room table and chairs! Yep, gone. Hey, I’m serious about this project. And no, we’re not going to eat the rest of our meals while sitting on the couch, nor are we going to eat out every day. I have a smaller table (Eastern Butcher Block, any locals remember?) and chairs upstairs. They’re going to be repurposed for our dining room. We’ll have more space. And we don’t host large eating events anymore. (And we took care of this ‘heavy lifting’ project on Wednesday, since I knew I’d be out of commission from Thursday).

I posted this photo on a community Facebook page and within hours, the table, chairs, extra leaf, and pads were carted away by a grateful stranger in my town.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Five

Not much this week, I’m afraid. I had plans, believe me – clothes, shoes, linens. I just didn’t get to it. Sometimes life gets in the way, as it did this week. And next week I have this melanoma excised, so I’ll likely be unproductive for days afterward.

I did pack up another box o’ books, and we’ll bring them to the library. And there’s more shredded paper, of course – there’s alwaysΒ that! I’ll get to it, I will. It’s only week five (she wrote, thinking about closets and more drawers and the kitchen cupboards and the garage and…)

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Four

Living minimally doesn’t always mean donating/recycling/tossing out things. I’m still purging (bags of shredded paper mostly), but this week I’ve been focused on health issues, and thinking about other ways to clear out the clutter.

I’ve pared down my email by unsubscribing to many newsletters and websites. It was all too much! I was receiving as many as 140 emails a day – recipes, health tips, political articles. I’ve deleted a lot of them. I still follow plenty of blogs, but I’ve changed the delivery of most of them to Saturday morning, when I don’t mind taking the extra time to catch up.

Late last year, I cut my Facebook friends list by about two-thirds. It was right after the election, and I had serious doubts about even continuing with Facebook. I decided to keep my author page active, but cut down on the number of connections on my personal page. There were some hurt feelings, which was never my intent, and I reclaimed as friends those who reached out to me. Social media has helped me find new readers. It’s enabled me, the introvert, to be social in a way that’s not anxiety-producing. But I try to limit myself to morning and evening – an hour or so at the beginning and the end of the day. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – it’s enough.

Think back to a time before social media. We kept in touch with friends by calling, writing, getting together. We certainly didn’t call our friends several times a day to

  • Tell them what we ate for breakfast
  • Describe what we were wearing that day
  • Let them know we were tired
  • Tell them what we ate for lunch
  • Moan about traffic
  • Tell them which restaurant we were in for dinner (and what we ordered)

I’m guilty, too. But I’m trying to be more mindful, trying not to clutter your feed with meaningless posts. In the end, each of us chooses what will bring us joy, inspiration, laughter. 

Next week, back to filling the recycle bin! 

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Three

I should have titled this series “The Year to Living Minimally.” (Can you tell I’m doing revisions on my seventh novel?!)

Last week I cleaned out some drawers. This week I cleaned out some more. Don’t worry, though, I have plenty more!

Utensil drawer and gadget drawer. What I tossed out from the top left photo is not really visible, but there were packets of salt, pepper, soy sauce, ketchup, etc. all in the back. Old. Ugh.

I used to love collecting kitchen gadgets. Some things I never even used – vegetable curlers and brown sugar softeners. A cheap little microplane and a spreader with a chipped handle. I’m keeping the Pampered Chef turkey lifters, even if I only cook one turkey a year. πŸ˜‰

I hate these drawers! Truly the junk drawers, filled with screws and tape and batteries and tools. They’re really my husband’s domain, but I fixed them up, and put a pile of operating manuals (for small appliances we no longer possess) into the recycle bin.

This next one was more emotional…

I donated my piano last year, and was happy to see it find a new home. It wasn’t the piano I’d grown up with, so I didn’t have an attachment to the instrument. And I hadn’t played in a very long time. But I still have an antique sheet music cabinet (my mom was so happy when she found it for me!), and it was filled with music. Look at the close-up at the bottom left of this collage – my sister and I took weekly piano lessons from Mrs. Bowser, and in April 1969 (I was 10), she rewarded us with the musical score to Oliver!

My sheet music collection includes pop favorites from my high school years, hardcover, spiral-bound books (Great Songs of the Sixties, Big Bands, Timeless Classics), as well as all the classical music I practiced so hard to get right. “Rhapsody in Blue” – I never mastered it. Now I’ll listen to it on CD or through my iPod or Pandora, and I’ll enjoy it.

My friend Lila is accepting the sheet music. She’s the Music Director at Providence College, so I’m glad it’s going somewhere good. There is one book of music I can’t part with, though.

I mean, I tattooed my name on his chest! πŸŽΆπŸ’™πŸŽΆ

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Two

There’s a good reason I gave myself a year! Fifty-two weeks, one week at a time. And I can’t attend to this project every day, but this week, I focused on drawers.

Ah, the drawer. Toss stuff in and push it shut. Out of sight. How much junk do we collect in drawers?

I counted thirteen drawers downstairs (and at least that many upstairs). This week I managed to tackle just six of them – two upstairs, four downstairs.

This is one of the drawers in our upstairs bathroom. I kept makeup in there, even though I wear makeup sparingly these days. Lots of old lipsticks and mascaras got tossed out. What I use daily is in plain sight. Other items worth keeping are in that cute little zip bag.

And here’s the other drawer. Toothbrush covers, contact lenses! I haven’t worn contacts in over five years.

Here’s an end table drawer in the living room. Old business cards, receipts from 2012 (my husband keeps things), and, of course, more pens.

I generally leave this one to my husband, but a purge is a purge, right? More old receipts, his watches (he can keep them), and his eyeglasses. Now, I don’t throw anything out without considering it carefully. Can it be recycled? Can it be donated? He made a point about the eyeglasses, saying the frames are expensive and he might decide to reuse a pair. Okayyyy. For now, I’m acquiescing. But no one needs five extra pairs of prescription glasses.

This drawer is in a piece of furniture we bought for the dining room, thinking it was necessary because it had a built-in wine rack. Those were the days…

Now I can see that those blue-and-white coasters belong in the same drawer. Actually, we don’t even use them. Into the donation box they go!

So, what’s inside your drawers, my friends??!! πŸ˜‰

The Year of Living Minimally – Week One

I need to focus. This first week, I was able to get rid of some stuff, but I could have done better. Sometimes, we not only have too many things, but too many things to do as well. For me, it’s a new novel, a couple of editing projects, laundry! Okay, okay. So, here’s what I managed to accomplish this week:

Tossed out a TON of pens that don’t work. Pens everywhere. It was ridiculous. 

And we still have too many
Filled a couple of paper bags with paper to be recycled. I still need to shred a lot of other paper, you know, bank statements, health records.

Emptied and rinsed out three bottles of nearly-empty salad dressing, tossed those bottles in the recycle bin. I know, it’s not much, but when a project seems overwhelming, it’s best to start small.

Boxed up a bunch of books. It’s hard to let go of books! And they’re not gone yet. They will be donated, of course, but I thought that I would first offer them to my local friends. If you’re interested in any of them, let me know and I’ll figure out a way to get them to you. They’re all good! I especially recommend any of the books in the bottom photo.

So, that’s week one. Once my days aren’t so crazy, I’d like to devote an entire week to the garage, the closet, the other closet, the other closet……no wonder I need a year!

Onward πŸ’™