Cutting back

When I was a child, the weekend before Christmas we were highly encouraged to clean our rooms, tidy our toys and get rid of things. It was a way for my parents to make the post Christmas gift rush a little less chaotic on the family.

I didn’t realize how deeply the tradition is ingrained until I felt the urge to clean up this past weekend. I began the process of emptying the kitchen of things we won’t be needing in the near future. To my surprise most of it fit quite tidily in the room I’m currently using as a craft room. Next I tackled the back basement, which the crew will need to access. Once again things got out of the way easily.

While great, this also means that the basement and the craft room feel much fuller than they did before. This led to the urge to go back to my KonMari days. In a few short hours we had done the living room, spare bedroom and family room.

I’m hopeful that over the break I’ll be able to go through our basement to sort out what items have been kept simply because we have the space.

The thought of tackling ‘stuff’ always makes me a bit tired but it feels so exhilarating once it’s done and though most of it is in cupboards and drawers the house always feels lighter once I’m done.

Do you or your family have any cleaning traditions around this time of year?

Spring Cleaning

Spring is here and I know it because that urge to tidy and clean up is strong right now. It may be more pronounced since an acquaintance recently put her home up for sale. Of course, being a slightly nosy person I went to the real estate website to check out how her home looked.

It looks fantastic!

It of course got me on a kick of checking out other homes that are for sale in the area. One of the things I noticed is that a lot of the homes seemed staged. I could be wrong maybe they live with perfect light, fresh flowers, and perfectly accented furniture all the time. If they do that’s fantastic and frankly how I want to live. There are loads of tips on how to but the most consistent tip was: make it look like you have lots of space by packing up as many of your belongings as possible.

The aim is to pack up your excess things so it looks like you have more space. Like this:

Image result for before and after staging photos closet

 

Since embracing the life-changing magic of tidying up and minimalism I’ve found my outlook on my space has changed. While I do wish we had more built in storage, this desire to have my home feel like a fantastic oasis has resulted in me attempting to make the staging goal of having 30% of cupboard space clear my reality.

This resulted in two boxes of household goods and clothing being delivered to a charity shop, a large garbage bag of items dumped, and a few things being gifted to friends and family members who were interested in them.

It’s amazing how much a good a decent scrub and tidy can do for our home. My hosting schedule has taken a hit as I don’t have the energy to have people over. Since the house is feeling more welcoming I’m wanting to invite people over even if it’s just for some snacks and conversation.

Has the spring cleaning bug gotten you yet for the year?

Moving around

When taking photos there were two rooms I avoided: Bunny’s and the rec room.

Bunny has the second largest room in the house. It contains her hutch, her ‘pantry’, and a small filing cabinet. The built in cupboard is tiny and has random office supplies and excess toiletries. Her room is often messy and looks quite sparse.

The rec room, on the other hand, is overflowing. Four years ago ML completely renovated it. As Bunny was living there she was relocated to her new room since she and ML have different tastes. She really goes for the distressed floor boards look which was a major point of contention between them.

At that time the plan was that the room would be ML’s area. I have taken over most of the house so this would be his place to relax and unwind. I recognize that this sounds exclusive but it really isn’t. I think it’s necessary for each person in a home  to have a place they can really express themselves. For me it’s our living room. Everything there is geared towards my desire for a restful room.

While its ML’s space it’s also shared space as all our books, games and movies, workout items as well as my crafts are there. Full disclosure: when I get into a project I’m a mess. Well that’s not a relaxing place for anyone. When I went to take photos I realized that the reason the room looked shabby was because my things were everywhere.

The other piece I realized was that the rec room has too many jobs and some if them are conflicting. Most of our rooms have a maximum  of three jobs. The rec room had 6:

  • Work out
  • Craft
  • Watch movies and relax
  • Entertain
  • Budget and do basic home office functions
  • Have serious family conversations

Knowing that these two rooms weren’t being treasured we decided to make a change. It took three days of moving and KonMarie exercises but we feel much better!

Bunny’s room now has all her things and is functioning as my craft room. We moved one of the bookcases there and everything fits in it with space! I also put a folding table and an office chair.

The table meant that some of the office supplies in the cupboard got to be moved and are now in use. We opted for the folding table as we don’t enjoy cluttering our basement with outdoor furniture in the winter. Come winter one of the outdoor dining tables will live in Bunny’s room. Not only does the room look more inviting but we’re hoping it leads to all three of us being tidier.

With one bookshelf out of the basement as well as a bunch of craft bins off the floor it already looked better. However, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit KonMarie. We got rid of loads of DVDs ($50!!) and have a large stash of books to find new homes for as well.

These changes meant I got to rearrange the bookcases so we now have 3 cases of books and 1 of games. The entertainment unit is also much lighter.

I knew it looked good because I felt so much better walking into the room but it was nice when we had people over to hear them remark on the difference.

It was amazing that with $0 we managed to transform 2 rooms and make more welcoming spaces.

 

Touring Homes

In spite of not wanting to move, ML and I often get curious about homes that go up for sale so we hop online and take a virtual tour. It’s always interesting as I love seeing how other people decorate their homes as well as checking out architectural features in light of the changes we’d like to make to our kitchen.

A few years ago I watched in awe as a friend sold her home. The staging that went into creating stunning photos was amazing.  One of the things she mentioned was how great it was to live in a home that was geared toward function and looking good. After one of my visits with her in that time period, I  returned home and started taking photos of the rooms.

It turned out that by taking photos of the rooms I was able to pick up on little details that allowed me to focus and fix items that were out of place. In the kitchen, this meant realizing that some of the items on the counter needed to find a new home.

After doing some virtual touring this weekend I got curious about how our home was looking. I took my phone and started snapping. It was fantastic to learn that our home didn’t require a lot of changes to photograph well.

As the shots focus my attention I’m able to see the things that are holding our space back. While some rooms would benefit from an overhaul (Kitchen!), for the most part it was tidying that was needed.

It’s amazing the low level mess that creeps in! Through taking those photos I was able to adjust our room, the spare room and our hall closet. Suddenly things I didn’t realize were bothering me have been fixed.

The other benefit was by treating our home a bit like a showpiece I was able to admire it for all the things it does.

KonMari Revisited

In April, Grace over at the CFO MOM Blog began blogging about her experience implementing ideas from Marie Kondo’s book Spark Joy.  You may remember that I gave my home an overhaul after reading one of Kondo’s books. Reading Grace’s journey had me reflecting on if my experience had been either life changing or magical. It’s been 8 months since I’ve completed my fanatical mission of banishing items that didn’t spark joy.

So far the benefits have been:

  • I really altered my way of thinking so I’m less likely to bring things that don’t feel joyful into my space
  • I continued finding ways to improve
    • Arranging my kitchen cupboards so almost all the food can now be in the kitchen rather than in basement storage
    • Reorganizing our sock bin using cardboard dividers to make it  much tidier
  • I’m more willing to let things go that no longer are suited to our life.
    • I don’t fix broken items. I want to but I don’t. I now acknowledge this and send them to homes where they can be fixed or throw them away
    • I no longer keep books because I have them. I pass them along.
  • My clothes! I haven’t purchased new clothing in ages
    • I have 2 bins: worn since October and not worn since October. When I get bored with my current selection I put them in the worn bin and pull out things from the not worn bin.
  • Our home feels ginormous!

We’re not perfect but our home was at a sweet spot last September and we got used to it. Slowly things started to creep in. Even ML has mentioned that it’s feeling cluttered even though it doesn’t look it. So it’s back to the drawing board, sort of.

Last week I began using the KonMari method again in key areas. It was easier this time because I  had stored like items together when I packed things away last year. I also have a better idea of what needs to ‘tidied.’

I’ve adjusted the method to suit my needs. Instead of KonMari-ing the entire house again I’m just doing the categories that I feel have gotten a bit crazy. I began with cookbooks and  was able to get rid of items that don’t do it for us anymore. Some of them were items I kept when was on the fence about them last year. Then I tackled clothing. Once more I was able to get rid of a host of pieces I kept last time because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them.

Revisiting KonMari has allowed me to cherish the items in my home and ensure that we’re surrounding ourselves with things that make us happy. It’s also been great way to check in with myself as I get to see what items still spark joy in me.

bunny
A lot of the sorting happens in Bunny’s room so we can spend time together. She enjoys giving her opinion but clearly finds tidying exhausting!

Challenge Accepted! But…

I love those time challenges that make their way around the world. Spending challenges, saving challenges, push up challenges. You name it I want to try it. So when I came across a list of pre-existing challenges that I could explore I was in seventh heaven. I may have lost a few hours delving into the nuances of each of them.

Here’s the downside of challenges: I try them as stated and feel awful if I don’t do them exactly.

The fix is simple: I need to adjust the challenge to better suit my lifestyle while achieving the purpose of the challenge. I did this when I used the KonMari method and I got the benefits of the system without feeling awful about myself.

One of the things I had loved when I originally did the KonMari method on my clothing was the fact that I adored every piece in I owned. When I brought out my winter wear I did a mini version of the exercise but thought I’d do it after I had a chance to wear the pieces and see what suited me.

After reading all the challenges I opted to attempt Project333. I emptied my closets and drawers and started counting pieces. I was miserable. I was stressing because I couldn’t get my clothing down to 33 pieces forget having the total number of clothing, accessories, jewelry and outerwear.

“This was so much easier when I was basing it on joy!” I told the very patient ML who was forced to bear witness to this insanity. After griping a bit more about the stress of this I decided to base it on joy. I emptied all the clothing on the floor and started picking things up that I would wear in the next three months that filled me with joy.

No stress! Even better I filled 2 bags with clothing to be donated. I filled a tub with clothing that I couldn’t reasonably see myself wearing in the next three months. These items still made me happy but I couldn’t see myself have an opportunity to wear them in the next 3 months.

With this technique I came down to 35 pieces of clothing for the next three months. I continued the paring down exercise with my shoes and outwear bringing my total to 46 items. The nice thing about the project 33 challenge is that every person who has blogged about it has mentioned that it’s about paring down, you can figure out what number actually works for you.

Here’s how it currently breaks down:

  • 35 pieces of clothing
    • 7 sweaters
    • 9 tops
    • 4 dress pants
    • 4 pairs of jeans
    • 7 camisoles
    • 5  dresses
      • 9 of these pieces can’t be worn at work as they’re too casual
  • 7 pairs of shoes
    • black pumps, silver flats, gold flats, brown heels, 2 winter boots, red heels (for charity event)
  • 3 jackets
    • long winter coat, short winter jacket, Polar Vortex winter coat
  • 1 pair of mitts and a hat
  • I haven’t counted my shawls (which I use almost daily) or my jewelry. Though I’m trying to be more mindful of using a select few.

I’m feeling really good about this and I’m now tracking to see the variety of work outfits I can arrange.

Fast 15

timer.jpg

A few years ago my home was too cluttered for my liking. I had branded myself a messy soul since even as a child I couldn’t seem to keep a surface clear. I was in a state of constant mess and hated it. Once I had my home organized it became clear that the root cause of the mess was plain old laziness. After yet another Saturday afternoon spent organizing, clearing and sorting I instituted Fast Fifteen. Here’s how it works: I set a timer for 15 minutes and clean whatever I can in that time period.

That’s it. It turns out the secret to being prepared for unexpected guests was 15 minutes. Clearly deep cleaning is not happening on weekdays but in that 15 minutes I’m able to do dishes, wipe messes or pack away laundry.

Recently I came across this interview with Neen James where she speaks of how manageable our lives can be when we break them into 15 minute increments.

Would this advice work for you?

Photo courtesy of Carlos Porto via freedigitalphotos.net

Is this Considered Home Improvement?

I was looking over my list of what matters to me to see how all of it was stacking up this month. I was a bit surprised to realize that the point I’ve been working most diligently on is:

I want to improve my home. Not for re-sale but for me.

When I wrote that I had images of a new kitchen, new floors and a deck addition. In short, things that cost oodles of money. In the meantime I’ve been clearing out my home like crazy.

I’ve said goodbye to:

  • 7 bags of clothing & accessories
  • 5 boxes of books
  • 3 bags of kitchen accessories
  • 2 bags of board games
  • 1 box of CDs
  • 1 bag of shoes
  • 1 bin of towels
  • 1 bag of office supplies
  • 1 bag of toiletries & makeup
  • reams of paper (still need to drop to a shredder)

The above list makes me sound like a hoarder which I’m not, I swear! What I am is someone who can’t bear to get rid of things that are still useful. Maybe not useful to me but still have life left in them. Notice I said goodbye – well this is because some of those items have been sold, others donated or swapped and yet others are being set aside to be sold at a garage sale. Very few things have actually been thrown away as I can’t abide being wasteful.

Getting those items off my shelves and floors as well as out of the cupboards and drawers has meant that my home feels different. Suddenly rooms that have always felt a bit too small seem spacious.

Once You learn to choos your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfeclty in teh space you currently own. This is the true magic of tidying. - Marie Kondo

When I envision my perfect home it is filled with space, it’s homey and lived in, with lots of airflow. By the end of this month I think I’ll be living in my perfect home.

KonMari Disclaimer: I’m absolutely certain if Marie Kondo saw what I’ve done she wouldn’t be impressed. When I speak about my journey I’ve had multiple people tell me, “You’re breaking the rules!”

I am using the KonMari method as a guideline. I’ve arranged it to suit my needs and my lifestyle. The rules I’m following are really just 4 questions. I also do the following:

  • Dump all items on the floor and then pick them up individually
    • Seeing the amount of things I have spread across a large space helps me not feel like I will be deprived by sending items to a new home.
  • Sort by category

Remember your life is your own. People can guide you but you make the rules.

Cleaning Your Space and Your Life

new life

As I’m cleaning out my physical space I’m finding the KonMari questions helpful but sometimes painful.

The life I thought I would have is not to be.  There are days that I mourn that fact and find it hard to embrace my new future. I am surrounded by little reminders of that lost potential future, they sneak up and cause me to start to doubt my choices. In this cleaning spree I touched more than a few items that caused me a sharp pang of sadness. Why in the world am I keeping these things? As a bizarre form of punishment?

It’s hard changing your life. When I made a decision a few years ago that took me off my planned path I was terrified. I had lost my map, forget that the map I was following wasn’t working it at least gave me the illusion of control. Even with great support it was, and continues to be, tough.

Putting those items in the bin, donation box or gift closet was so very hard and I still have more to do. I’m leaving one area until the very last because I know how painful it will be. On the plus side I know that by putting these items out of my home I will be saying goodbye to the person I was going to be and welcoming my future whatever it may bring.

Image courtesy of mrpuen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dangers of Reading

It’s a small volume. It doesn’t look like it’s going to shake up your whole world. The serene cover that looks like a water colour is soothing. You’re lured in. The writing is soothing, light, spiritual almost. You fall deeper into the trap. Then some sharper tones emerge, orders really, but they are so quickly followed by a self-deprecating laugh that you don’t really register it. The next thing you know it’s 10 p.m., your eyes are tired, your back aches and you want to crawl into the mountain of clothing on your floor and fall asleep.

It escalated quickly.

It began with a friend lending me this book.

Marie Kondo

It began gently enough and I finished about half of it during my lunch hour. I came back from lunch feeling fairly certain that I wasn’t willing to do the hard work that the author demanded. Take all my perfectly wonderful, clean, recently packed away laundry and dump it all in the middle of a room on the floor…Are you out of your mind? Apparently I’m out of my mind.

The book stayed with me through the rest of the afternoon and I found myself thinking about some of the key pieces of advice:

  1.  Do you have a clear picture of the sort of life you want?
    1. Define your goal, if you can visualize the sort of life you’d like you can work with it in mind.
  2. Does it spark joy?
    1. This is her requirement. Touch everything, don’t just look you must feel. If it makes you feel joy you may keep it.
  3. Does it work for you now?
    1. Not the person you used to be or the person you wanted to be but the person you are now. If it does, you may keep it.
  4. Do you need it?
    1. Do you have another item that does the same job or even multiple items that do the same job? If not, you may keep it.

Do these questions feel familiar? It’s quite similar to the way that I’ve been building my financial life.

Do you have questions that you find helpful in planning your financial life?  Would those four be of any use to you?