Single Room Living

There is something very freeing about moving. Well, not the act of moving. That’s as rotten as a bucket of fish in day-old mayonnaise left in the sun. But leaving all the things behind is a breath of fresh air, even if it is a little like Sophie’s Choice when we’re in the moment.

Currently I am living in one bedroom of a four bedroom house with my mother. Most of my belongings are stacked in the garage. On the one hand I am without the things that make me feel like me – namely my art and crafts supplies. On the other hand I have a very tidy room with a lot of space and just a little beyond the bare essentials. I am currently unburdened by STUFF (as long as I avoid the garage!) and most times I find it appealing. The other bit of the time it’s frustrating – not knowing where things are, trying to make do with substitutes, missing the things that provide you with happy memories and comfort.

There’s also the time aspect. It takes a lot of time to get settled in. Two months later and I still have boxes to unpack. I hate living out of boxes or suitcases. Every time I travel, even if it is only for a weekend, I will unpack my luggage and fold all my clothes nicely in a drawer. So I’m trying to make do with what I have. For intents and purposes, it looks nice and let’s get serious for a minute – it’s not like I have to sleep on the street or anything. Still, a bed skirt and a bookshelf or two would go a long way.

Bedroom

It may not be home, but I’m trying to at least make it home-ish. Maybe a nice dry bar?

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Surviving vs Thriving

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 1.19.05 PM A while ago I went to a conference where the goal was to learn to work from a place of rest rather than merely resting from our work. As someone who tends to go, go, go until I literally cannot, I found this intriguing. In a more applicable aspect to my life, what this meant to me was instead of always striving to make more money, I could learn to find more fulfilling activities which would, in turn, make more room for joy, love and The Things That Really Matter (even though I’m not completely certain what those Things are.)

I didn’t really get that information at the conference but I have been sitting on it and determining what this means for me. The one takeaway I had that weekend was my craft business took more time and energy than I received. I’m a person who likes to make things – A LOT of things. But recently my hands have been hurting and I’ve been unable to do the things I do. Plus it got all caught up with obligation to make things I don’t necessarily like to make. I look at my yarn stash and think of all the things I wanted to make for me, but can’t because I’ve got about 2 dozen projects for others to get to first. And those things keep getting messed up. One knitting project has been frogged so many times I’m no longer sure I know how to knit anymore! Anyway, I decided to let the craft business falter for now. Maybe in the future I will pick it up again. Or, maybe not.

I was using my craft business as a way to survive. The first craft show I did as a new knitter (I just kept making hats and purses!) was out of the abundance of my play. I made about $300 (which was really good! I had only a 3′ square table to display on!) and people were excited about my product. Over the years I’ve made as little as $3 at the very same show. Once it became an obligation, give the people what they want rather than give the people what I love, the fervor died off.  Some people can do it – gather the trend information and create what is current and sell it by the bucket. That is not me. I need to infuse myself into a project because my best work appeals to only certain people.

But I’m not writing this post today because of my craft business. By letting go of the business I was able to make room for something else. Writing has become increasingly important to me. I used to think I was a failure because I wasn’t a 22 year old star writer like (insert name here). I used to wonder why I was still struggling with this notion, why I was not seeing myself move forward in this goal. But guess what? I was. I was still writing, sporadically, yes, but still writing. And living. I was definitely living. The whole good, bad and ugly of life was constantly at my doorstep.

So, about that working from a place of rest thing? I think we do a lot of right things for the wrong reasons. We sign up for the bake sale because we don’t want the other moms to think less of us. We take on extra projects at work so the boss can see how competent we are and give us a raise. We say yes to things we should say no to because we’re afraid that it won’t get done right otherwise.  We don’t ask for help because we don’t want to admit that we can’t do it all alone. We trudge forward cloaked in obligation and self-sacrifice waiting for someone to intuit that we are over-committed and not ask us to do more than we can bear, all the while building up a grudge because we haven’t claimed our own rest, simply for the fact we do not believe we are worthy of it. And that legacy of “do it all, despite yourself” gets passed on from generation to generation. We HAVE to MAKE room for rest.

To work from a place of rest starts from these personal acknowledgements:

  1. I am valuable – if I believe I have no value, how can produce valuable things (like children? Ouch!) What I’m saying here is if parents don’t claim their self-worth, how are their children going to claim theirs?
  2. I am allowed to say no – I have found when I say no to something, other women think I am joking. It is because women typically will say yes to things because they think they should, not because they want to. My saying no does not devalue me, in fact, it adds more value to my yes.
  3. Self-care is not selfish – nor is it merely maintenance. Self-care is taking care of all the aspects of you so that you can pour more of yourself into others. If I’m helping you put on a production but I am tired and hate the work, my assistance is tinged with bitterness and resentment that is unhealthy for all who are involved with me.
  4. Giving yourself permission to say no is not the same as bowing out of all the things you find unpleasant – you have to learn to say no to the things you can. If they need help cleaning the church kitchen and there are only 2 of you, you should probably say yes. If there are 30 people, you can safely say no and walk away. If you’re the only one who knows Power Point and your boss needs a presentation in an hour, say yes. And ask for help. Practicing your “no” will give you discernment and allow you to better direct your energy.
  5. Don’t be afraid of what people think – people are fickle. They will think badly of you for any host of reasons you cannot control. As long as you are kind-hearted and truthful you shouldn’t be worried about what they are thinking. And face it, according to what I see portrayed in media, a good part of the world thinks the Kardashians are valuable, contributing members of society, soooooo….do you really want to pander to that common denominator?
  6. Take a minute – not sure whether to volunteer for the school bake sale? Ask for a day or two to make your decision. If they press for an answer right then, say no. If they aren’t willing to give you the time to gather your thoughts before committing, it is safe to say working on that project will be more of a hassle than it’s worth. The kids will still get their band uniforms or whatever if you don’t make cupcakes.

If you embrace these acknowledgements you are on the way to making more room for rest in your life. You will be more enthused about the projects you take on and your energy will spread. In the end you will be more productive, more fulfilled and you will have made room in your life for any little surprises God wants to throw your way. (If you don’t believe in God, just ignore that last sentence – it’s still sound advice.)

Making Room for What You Love

It being Unitasker Wednesday, I popped over to the Unclutterer for my weekly eyeroll and the items for sale that will supposedly make my life simpler. Today’s pizza-shaped pizza plates certainly did not disappoint. Dishes being one of my particular weaknesses, I can pretty much talk myself into any kind of dishware that I find appealing. My rationale is usually that I don’t need a whole set – just one or two plates. I can quit any time I want to, honest.


I have a beautiful set of postmodern Mikasa that was my mom’s wedding china. I love the pattern on it. I use it regularly. I think there is a near complete setting for eight. The set I’ve bought for myself is Fiestaware. When I moved in to my latest apartment I thought it was finally time to get rid of the chipped stuff I’d been carting around since my first apartment. I think I got it at Cost Plus and paid an unheard of $19.99 for a set of four.  By this time I was down to one cup, about three plates, no bowls and three saucers.  I started buying a set of Fiestaware whenever it was on sale. I would buy whichever color I found the most interesting at that particular time. I now have a full of six and assorted bowls, dessert plates and varying styles of mugs.  Collections that grow organically like this interest me the most. Plus, Fiestaware usually puts out one or two limited edition colors that I may want to acquire.

I wish I could find a link to the Mikasa pattern, but I can’t remember the name and have already drooled over too much china today.

Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yes. Unitasker Wednesday. The Unclutterer highlights these one function pieces that are made to appeal, but really only have one single function. Sure, pizza-shaped, pizza-emblazoned pizza plates might be fun, but when you really look closely at it, aren’t there better things you could spend that money on? This has been a lesson that has taken a long time for me to understand. My compulsive tendencies convince me quite easily that I need something external to be satisfied.  If I’m not buying dishes (or paper),  I could be eating. Or cooking. Or watching TV. Or playing games.

As I’m working through this process of why I do the things I do, I find that I’m most fighting preconceived images that are not necessarily correct.  This brings me to the video.

I’m not saying that Anna Della Russo lives in my dream home – far from it – I find it overwhelming and oppressive. However, I was only seeing myself as getting rid of things because I had too much and not as a way to truly appreciate the items I want to keep.  Clearly Della Russo loves her accessories. And her animal prints – did you see that wall?! She has a very organized home but it’s filled with tchotchkes and color and pattern. She moves easily in her environment. Everywhere she looks is something she adores. Her closet appears to be of a similar size to mine, perhaps a wee bit larger, but it probably doesn’t have clothes she’ll never wear again like mine does. I guessed what I learned here, is having a lot of stuff isn’t necessarily the issue. The issue is enjoying what you have and not hanging on to things that have no meaning to you.  I don’t have to get rid of all my dishes. I should just say goodbye to the ones I don’t really like. That’s not too hard, is it?

Doing Laundry

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for over a year now. Begrudgingly at first. I have sensitive skin and was not able to locate the regular laundry soap I’d been using, and trying something new can be a bit of a challenge.  I found a good recipe on TipNut and have altered it a bit for San Diego’s hard water and my own tastes. I add about a cup of baking soda and a little essential oil in a girly scent. I’m just at the point of having to re-up my supplies. I’ve made approximately four batches and, like I stated, I’m over a year in. You only need to use about 2 tablespoons per load.

The benefits are far beyond cost and convenience.  I have no worries of dermatitis anymore. I can make my laundry smell like lavender, peach or whatever scent I prefer.  It’s easy to make and only takes about a half hour every four months (keep in mind, I’m single and do far less laundry than a family would, so your mileage may vary.) And do I need to mention how green it is? The ingredients come in cardboard which I recycle and I use my old Oxy Clean tub for my soap powder, so I’m not filling up my trash with plastic bottles nor am I tossing more phosphates out in the world. Plus I kinda like the idea of sticking it to the (detergent) man – $15 for a bottle of laundry soap?!  Let’s say that’s about 52 loads – .29/load doesn’t seem bad. However, with my soap it comes out to about .09/load which, extrapolated out over a year’s time is $45.24 vs $14.04.

I also make my own spot remover. Just pour hydrogen peroxide (I don’t measure) in a spray bottle and add water. I spritz away on any stain. The only thing it doesn’t really remove well are oil-based stains. These I just spritz and rub with Fels Naptha soap. Works like a charm 95% of the time. I find that I rarely need bleach – if I use it, I throw in about a tablespoon full.  I don’t even know how little this costs – the bottle of peroxide is usually less than a dollar at the big box stores and I use (guessing) about 1/2 to a 1 cup in each spray bottle.

I use plain ole white vinegar as my fabric softener. Clothes are soft and static free. The added bonus is the vinegar is a sort of neutralizer in my condo complex laundry room. Sometimes there is commercial softener residue left in the washer and I don’t want to take the chance of a breakout.

All in all, my laundry looks great. I don’t have problems with colors fading and everything comes out feeling soft and lovely. However, Pinterest, in its crazy “everything exists here” world has brought to mind a (now) glaring omission – I miss the fluffy, new baby scent of fabric softener!  Well, there’s a homemade version that I found and will try on the next load. Very easy to make and you can either spray it on a washcloth and toss in the dryer, or pour in the washer.  I made mine with coconut Suave shampoo from the dollar store and added a little pineapple essential oil. Hoping for a light, tropical scent.

If you or anyone you know has sensitive skin, I highly recommend my routine to you. Or scout around the interwebs for alternatives that better suit you.  And it may seem like a lot of fiddly work – measuring, storing, labeling – but once you’ve got it down, it’s quick work for superior products than what is typically used.

How Not to Be A Hoarder

  1. ELIMINATE PAPER: Get rid of junk mail right away. Cancel circulars (look in the fine print for information) and sign up for paperless billing. If you’ve used a service for this in the past, it might be useful to mention that both GreenDimes and ProQuo do not appear to be in business anymore. As far as services, you can consider 41Pounds and CatalogChoice. Or you may want to DIY it.
  2. Cut down on superfluous packaging. Carry your own shopping bags to the store. Consider if you really need a bag for that magazine you just bought. Don’t buy food or cleaning products that are a package in a package – ready-to-eat meals, mops and dusters with throwaway parts. Look for items that can be laundered or repurposed.
  3. Hoarding

    Photo by elgin.jessica via PhotoRee.com

  4. CRAFT STASH: Be ruthlessly reasonable. Really examine all your hobbies. Try to get rid of at least just one. Sell or donate the items the minute you decide. When you give up something, you are creating space to use the items you decide to keep.
  5. DONATE: Clothes, kitchen items, furnishings, electronics, children’s items. All are highly sought after. Find a donation center and give, give give! And remember to get a receipt for your taxes!
  6. Be honest with yourself. Are you really going to recycle that sweater into a purse? Are you really going to have that dinner party and use all 24 of those wine charms you bought in Napa two years ago? Are you really going to photograph everything in the back closet and sell it on eBay? Chances are, if you haven’t done it by now you aren’t going to. See #4.
  7. For every one item you bring into the house, you have to get rid of two. Or, be adventurous and make it five!
  8. Find new ways to streamline. If books are your thing, check them out of the libraries. Get yourself an electronic reader. Weed out your collections. If you have a display of 1950s rock & roll LPs, determine which are your favorites and sell the rest. It’s not worth having in your house if you aren’t enjoying it.
  9. Write a contract not to outgrow your space. Everyone who lives in the house needs to sign the contract. If the terms of the contract cannot be met, bring in a professional organizer, or post photos of your over-stuffed house on Facebook. Be creative with the consequences and choose someone to be accountable to. Make a list of people who are more important that the stuff you’re hoarding. Memorize it.
  10. Sell items on eBay. But they have to be items you currently own, NOT things you picked up at a garage sale because you thought you could make an extra buck.  You can do that only after you clear up your hoarding issues.
  11. Watch Hoarders. Regularly.

Those Who Pare

I came across this site last night. The Paper Flea Market is a great inspiration for those of us who have the goal of paring down and simplifying. The cool thing is that Trina is one of us. When you are a craftsperson or a mixed media artist, it is difficult to imagine paring down when so many supplies and trash-seeming bits are viable for our work.  Sure you can tell me to throw the Ziploc baggies of scrap papers away, but have you seen what I can do with a piece of scrap paper? So it’s nice to see someone who has what is commonly referred to as a buttload of paper and ephemera working to pare it all down.

The thing about simplifying is that it seems to have become a big business. Buy this to get rid of that.  What we need to take stock of is how we accumulate stuff and curtail the behavior. Otherwise we clear out all the goods but we haven’t stopped the problem.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to live in my small space for years now. I haven’t been able to make it work because while I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff, I haven’t really sat down and evaluated what I’m going to give up completely. And then I’m bringing new stuff into the house all the time.

I’ve been doing some research and here are some of the sites I’ve found helpful.

The Story of Stuff tells how our consumerism affects our environment.  It really drove the point home with me on how my choices help to change the world. Some may find it a bit heavy-handed, but about 15 minutes in, we find that national happiness has gone down since 1950. We buy more stuff to make our lives easier so we can, in turn, enjoy life more. But we aren’t. This is a way of life that has failed us.

Re-nest has 15 Fabulous Organized Spaces that use more ingenuity and creativity than cash.

Frugal Kiwi has great tips for cutting costs and living frugally.

The article “How to Buy Only What You Need” is helpful in determining your new shopping strategy. Also helpful is How to Pare Down as well as Declutter Your Way to a Happy Home.

The book, Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century is what started this journey for me. I remember when I was a kid the picture tube on our television went out. We went to the store and there was this big display of picture tubes. You took your old tube in, plugged it in to some apparatus and it would register if you needed a new tube. You’d pick out the proper tube, pay less than a buck if I remember correctly, take it home, install and watch Flipper.  Our consumer culture has now rendered this process obsolete. For the most part it is cheaper to buy new than to repair. Personally, I don’t know how many printers I have owned. I’ve gone in the store ink cartridges at $40 and left with a brand new printer for $36. That’s really not right, is it? We’ve lost our ability to tinker and fix. We want new and improved.

At the time when I first read Your Money or Your Life I thought these people were extreme. Buying clothes at thrift stores, getting books from the library – I mean who could live that way 24/7?  But now, many years later I find myself with thrift store fashions and no new books. I’m not yet at the point where I wash my aluminum foil and ziploc baggies, but who knows? Maybe that is just five years down the road.

If you have parents or grandparents who grew up during the war or the Depression, you may have heard the expression “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I think we probably need to look at that adage again and figure how to apply it practically to 21st century life. We have more conveniences and sources of entertainment, but we are on more antidepressants, in more debt and are less happy. Let’s re-focus on what is truly important and by doing so, we commit to find more joy and less stress. Who’s in?

Simplify

The theme for this month is “Simplify”. Perfect for the new year, eh? How many of us swear we are going to get rid of stuff and not buy more than we need. easier said than done. Especially for me. I find myself intrigued with the new Extreme Minimalism.

Check out the Cult of Less.

I’m not sure what I think of this sort of extreme lifestyle. To me it seem obvious that it is a way of life that can only be lived by the unattached, the young and the non-knitter.  Still, when I read this BBC article, I couldn’t help but be fascinated. However, on the other hand it seems the new minimalism is more an avoidance of responsibility. I mean, if you’re relying on friends to provide you a bed, it just seems as if you’re avoiding a great part of adulthood. And I would think your personal relationships will suffer.

What would it be like to have so few possessions? What would happen to our economy if more people lived this way? Is it possible to sustain a life in this manner? I mean, for an experiment is one thing, but can it be a lifestyle? Personally, I can accumulate stuff standing in a vacuum. It just seems as though getting rid of stuff becomes as much a time-suck as living around it. I don’t think it is coincidence that there are scads television shows and books all based on getting rid of crap.

Still, even though I am certain extreme minimalism is not the life for me, I can learn from them. I have a lot of magazines that I keep because they have instructions for things I would like to make. I am now in the process of transferring them all to electronic media. The added bonus is that I can categorize like items in files.  I’m planning on keeping these items on flash drives. They’re small and pretty reliable for storing media.

What ideas are you taking from the minimalist lifestyle?