Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Becoming a Minimalist

WEEK TWO of 40 Bags in 40 Days

Let me first say this about that. Many who begin the task of de-crapifying, or de-cluttering their homes, ask questions regarding the rules. There are no rules. Once you MAKE A GAME PLAN of the parts of your home to be purged and organized, you determine how to manage it.

Some set a timer. I play THE TIMER GAME on days I am not feeling particularly motivated or slightly lethargic. Whether you set the timer for an hour, fifteen minutes, or five, it's OKAY. Some simply have a goal of one bag a day. Guess what? Even that has plenty of wiggle room. 

You determine the size of the bag. On a day you feel great, and have the energy, load up a lawn and leaf bag. Or two. Or three. When you want to accomplish SOMETHING, but perhaps don't have as much time, fill up a kitchen bag or grocery sack. And on those days you just can't face the music, but still want to stay on track, pick a small area, like a drawer, and fill a sandwich bag or snack-size Ziplock. It's really up to you. You can't fail at this; as long as you do something; anything, really, you are making progress.

The beauty of this plan is its simplicity. In 40 days, you are going to make a difference. Whether you fill bags or boxes, whether you work for 15 minutes or an hour a day, whether you have help or not, you can accomplish so much. Simply start where you are, and begin. You will probably find, as many of us have who are doing the challenge that once you get going, you will inspire and motivate yourself to keep going. One clean and tidy area, whether it's a drawer, a closet, or a room, gives us such a feeling of accomplishment and pride, we desire to do more.

This blog post journals my second week of purging. I organized it by headings so you don't have to read the whole thing; it's a longer post than usual, but you can skim through the pictures, and find the topics of interest to you.

Take heart; be of good cheer. Do a little, or do a lot. It's all up to you. Some days you'll do more than others. Just do SOMETHING; you won't regret it. 


Day 8
When I woke up with a sore throat on my eighth day of 40 Bags in 40 Days, I wasn't sure what I could expect from myself today. When a surge of energy hit me mid-morning, I took advantage of it. I tore through the house like a mad woman, running on adrenaline and anxiety. I had planned to let myself off easy today, but I had too much pent-up energy. I had dressed for my walk, and kept getting side-tracked by one project after another. A couple of hours after I had told a friend I was headed out the door, I realized I was working up a sweat indoors, still wearing my hiking windbreaker. By 1:30, I took a much-deserved break by hiking up the canyon for a half hour. Here is what I did in my three hour marathon.


This just takes a little time. I'd recommend doing one cabinet at a time, but I was on a roll today, and just plowed through two of them. Overachiever? Hardly. I'm running on fumes, and need an activity to release my emotions. Keep in mind, I'm retired and single. If you're juggling work, illness, little ones, or all three of the above, your pace will be different. This is not a competition.

Remove all of the cans and boxes. Check the dates. Throw away the outdated stuff. Wipe down the interior of the cabinets, and then sort foods according to types. Whenever I do this, I think about the husband in the Julia Roberts movie, Sleeping with the Enemy. I would love my house to be organized, but not if I have to be like HIM.


Here you can see my Selective OCD Tendencies on my display. Notice my hanging shirts go from black to white, with my idea of the color spectrum between the two. Most hangers are white. I'll go all "Mommie Dearest" on those two strays, believe me! I tend to organize better what's in front of my eyes, down below? Not so much, as is evidenced by the jumble of shoes on the floor.


Imelda Marcos, I'm not, but shoes are kind of my thing. Apparently, Bjørn shoes are REALLY my thing. I had three identical pairs. Hey, when you find something that works...but alas, being retired, I no longer work, myself. It was time for some purging, and although it was hard, I got rid of two pairs, along with a box full of other shoes to make it easier to organize.


I threw away all of those that were, sadly, too small, and all of the ones that showed severe signs of wear. Now I'm left with several decent ones that actually fit; no more trying on and discarding until finding one that's suitable.


According the info I found on H&R Block, and the IRS website, the basic rule of thumb is to keep tax records for three years, UNLESS, and this is where my brain was getting boggled, there are statutes of limitations that apply. There are several exceptions, and then you're required to keep your records seven years. I'll post the link here for the IRS website, and you can decide for yourself. Just to be safe, and since my paperwork is pretty minimal, and will fit in the same box either way, I'm keeping the last seven years. Bleah.

Worth it? I'd say so. I'm breathing easier already.

Day 9   


It's a quiet, grey day here in Utah, so I figured I'd make an attempt at washing a down-filled throw that has been stuffed in the back of a closet waiting for a proper cleaning so I can use it again. I found this link on How to Wash a Down Comforter. I had some Woolite on hand, and tossed it in the washer on the gentle cycle. The trick is going to be drying it thoroughly, on low, for several hours in the dryer. I will add tennis balls to aid in fluffing the down. If you have a full-sized comforter, you'll need a large-capacity washer found in a laundromat.


Playing dress-up is no fun when you've been stress-eating for two months, but it had to be done. I tried on my slacks and capris today. I toyed with the idea of packing one box of "goal clothes," and decided, NO. I kept a pair of capris, and a pair of jeans that were slightly snug. I don't need a BOX. I had THREE pairs of white capris. WHITE? I know; crazy, but they were name brands I love that fit well, and were high quality for a good price. I got rid of one. I'm trying. 

Today I started a small pile of things to sell. I'm only selling a few of my big ticket items, like my Harley gear, and a recently refurbished Kitchenaid mixer. Pretty sure I can recoup some of my money there, and the Harley helmet and chaps probably wouldn't sell well in our local thrift shop.
I sold the t-shirts within moments of posting this in a personal message to two friends who own their own Harleys, and had to modify my poster before putting it on our local Facebook yard sale page.


Day 10 Today I met with a contractor to have him help me determine a plan of attack on fixing up my little house before I move back. I spent the morning polishing my kitchen appliances and countertops, and moving my filled boxes to the garage. Some days I fill bags and boxes, and some days I don't. And that's okay.


Day 11 Would you believe me if I told you I went to a yard sale? I needed kitchen chairs for my little house, and I scored a set of four for $20! I also found the exact two kitchen decor items I was asked to leave at our other house...for $8! I've been busy painting them to match my orange accents. Today was a fun day of getting ready for my new life in my cottage.


Day 12 Today I'm taking a hard look at what clothes I kept after my initial purge. I went through my closet again, and found a whole box to give to a friend who still teaches, and who will be able to make use of some of the items I would rarely use like skirts, a suit, a couple of jackets, a wool coat, and some tops. Glad to share, glad to purge. Trying to live by the minimalist approach.


Day 13

I am trying to limit myself to two boxes of books that will fit on my small bookshelf. The bookshelf was cleared, I have another small stack of books to donate, and the books are boxed, and ready to move. How did I choose? How could I dispose of books?

So much reading material is available online. I'm moving into a very small home with limited space. While I agree that books on display is like art, I just don't have enough room. I will be turning to eBooks more and more, I believe. I only kept the books I haven't read, a few favorites I have re-read like Dandelion Wine and To Kill a Mockingbird, and my writing notebooks. I even donated my reference books to the elementary school. When I need a dictionary or thesaurus, I'm usually on my computer anyway, and simply GOOGLE. I gave my children the books I remember they loved as children, but only a few. They don't need the clutter either. I kept a leather-bound edition of Harry Potter and my scriptures. I'm set for reading material for awhile.


Mine are simple; I'm a retired teacher with rental income for the last year. I set the timer for 30 minutes, and filled out my tax worksheet for my accountant with three minutes to spare, and everything filed to go to his office. Woo-hoo!


I'm pretty proud of myself. My three closets and two dressers and three totes have been whittled down to one closet, one dresser, and one tote for seasonal items. I've donated or shared two closets'  and one dresser's, and two totes' worth of clothes! Perhaps I still have too many clothes, but I figure I've made huge progress. Now my dresser drawers are organized and tidy. I have two empty dresser drawers at the top that I'm reserving for jewelry and makeup because the bathroom in my cottage is TINY.

Day 14

I'd been dreading this portion of my list. Last night I dumped all of my jewelry on top of my dryer. There are gifts...from my parents, the first husband, the second husband, my children, and a myriad of students who have come through my classroom. I LOVE costume jewelry, and so I stocked up at Paparazzi sales and discount stores when I found jewelry in colors I love. And now I have buyers' remorse, years later, as I'm faced with what to do with my collection of jewelry. I no longer want to have this grand collection. I'm trying to let go of possessions so I have fewer attachments to stuff.

I'm considering the advice of Suze Orman, who is reportedly worth over $30 million, and wears the same pair of gold earrings every day. They cost her $300, but she could afford many more pairs, and much more extravagant ones. Why the same pair? She says this:
"If I can be on TV wearing the same thing all the time, so can you. You don't need a drawerful of jewelry to impress people you don't know or like. You are not the car you drive or the home you live in or the clothes you wear."

So today I'm doing the hard thing. I'm selecting a handful of pieces I love, and getting rid of the rest. I have a small jewelry box that will hold my favorites, and I plan to sell my gold jewelry that I no longer wear. Anyone collecting costume jewelry? ;-)


My second week is over, and I'm ahead of "schedule." Not YOUR schedule, MY schedule. I decided what needed to be done in this house, and it is getting done, day by day. As you could see, not every day was a stellar day. It doesn't matter. It's okay. I am getting rid of the things I don't use, don't love, and don't need. When I move, my small cottage will house the things that bring me joy, and help me live the life I've chosen for myself.

Credit: Happysolez on Tumblr

This graphic inspired me to select my four essentials so I have a focus each day. My priorities are FAMILY, WRITING, EXERCISE, and PRAYER. I know that if I focus on these four things, everything else will fall into place. Think about that. What will you choose for yourself so that you can let go, and actually have more? I wish you blessings as you pursue a life of simplicity. 

The next step in my 40 Bags challenge was a lot harder...when you have trouble LETTING GO OF THE THINGS YOU LOVE.


  1. Thank you so much for your encouragement and great suggestions. I have surgery in 38 days and would love to return to a minimalist home with 4 things to focus on, so I will make that my goal. But I still want you to come and hold my hand!

    What did you do with unfinished projects you intend to work on in retirement (while convalescing) such as photos, etc.? I totally get the one bag thing. How do you stage your work? Do you set up piles in one room for family to view, thrift, give away, sell or do you immediately go to task and load up the car and deliver to the respectful new owners? I guess you can see my OCD kicking in....

    I love you, your friendship and your amazing blog. I am so proud of you and KNOW for a fact you will feel so much lighter in your new place and you'll be able to focus on you and your "four things." Thanks for being there for all of us!

    1. It was scary, but I DUMPED things out in the room I was in to force myself to put things away. I grouped LIKE things together to eliminate duplicates. I would use boxes, bags, or small containers, depending on the size of the contents to sort for "trash," "donate," or "sell." I just boxed things up to give away...books to school, clothes for family, odds & ends for thrift store. About those "projects..." I have found ways to do scrapbooking and photography online to eliminate one room full of clutter from a move six years ago! Hope this helps. How I wish I were closer to you. I will have to VIRTUALLY hold your hand through your surgery and convalescence.

  2. Denise, I admire this so much! I have the hardest time with clothes and sentimental items. I have dresses I LOVE that barring a major personality change with regard to food and exercise (which we both know is possible but right now isn't really likely for me) I will never wear again. My closet is tiny, because we had the large closet in the plan divided so that I could have a downstairs laundry room. I've got boatloads of art supplies, and a whole shelf of random items in my kitchen that almost never get used (and the only ones worth keeping are the vases--one in each of three sizes, for the flowers Brett sometimes brings home).

    I think I will part with a few things this week.

    1. Janna, that's how it starts! Best of luck to you. You can do this!

  3. This is inspiring. I remember being pregnant and only having four shirts and two pairs of pants and finding it strangely freeing, And now I sit with a closet full of clothes that are too big and too small and still having only a few things that fit right. And yet I hold onto it. It makes no sense to me, but this has given me cause to think about it. Thanks!

    1. Sydney, I remember those maternity clothes days. Come join in the fun! You won't regret getting rid of the things you no longer need or use.

  4. Direct your books my way! And thank you for that big book you sent... I have one to give back that I finally read!

    1. Braxton, I don't know WHEN I will get to Perks of Being a Wallflower. Reading is not something I do much lately...too busy PURGING!

  5. This post is super motivating. I love how descriptive you are with your writing. I struggle with holding onto things myself and sometimes need that push. I admire you and appreciate our friendship. I hope things are well!

    1. Deborah! I've missed your positive posts on Facebook. Thank you so much for your warm words of support. Life has gotten crazy, but will settle out this next month; it has to! Love hearing from you.

  6. It's very freeing, isn't it? Although I have to admit, even though I got rid of a TON of stuff, I still brought way too much "crap" with me to Belize!

  7. Dawn, I cannot imagine the determination it would take to stick to taking only the essentials out of the country. It's always a pleasure to hear from you! I hope Belize is being kinder to you these days...


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