After 3+ years of writing on my tierneycreates blog, I thought it would be fun to reach out to other online publications. A new online publication, Minimalism.lifeinvited me to write a short essay summarizing my minimalism journey in 250 – 300 words.
My article, “Living as a demi-minimalist”, was published in their newsletter today (Letter No. 8). Below is the link:
In my previous post Farm Girl Vintage, Part III I mentioned my past challenges with nearly OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) level of desire for order and neatness in my life.
When we lived in Seattle, WA I used to entertain, a lot. Game nights, holiday get-togethers at my house, random dinner parties, birthday party hosting, baby shower hosting, work parties, etc., etc. I was very social – and if I was not throwing party, I was attending a party or going to some event. Notice, I mentioned that “I” was very social, as I learned years later, Terry the Quilting Husband was only playing along, he would have preferred more quiet time at home with me and the dogs. (There is the Thanksgiving he always teases me about – when we out of obligation, courtesy and my desire, attended 3 – 4 Thanksgiving celebrations at various friends’ homes all in one day!)
I enjoyed the gatherings, but when I hosted it was secretly very stressful as I always wanted to have everything absolutely perfect for my guests. I would spend hours before hosting a party making sure everything was perfect. I would read magazine articles about tips for being the perfect host (Martha Stewart in her heyday would have been proud…or perhaps have some concerns about my sanity).
One of the “perfect host” tips was to have a perfectly set table. I always kept a perfectly set dining room table, even when no one was coming over to dine. All the plates, flatware, and cloth napkins perfectly arranged (at least I refrained from keeping glassware set out to gather dust…) in anticipation for the next get together.
The cloth napkins, oh the cloth napkins. They were always freshly pressed, perfectly arranged in their napkin rings and never to be used. Yes, you read correctly, never to be used.
When people came over for dinner, I would pull out disposable napkins and place them next to the cloth napkins. I did not realize how much weirdness this was, but my friends quietly accepted my weirdness and would use the paper napkins while the cloth napkins remained untouched.
Then my sister visited…
My younger sister Rianna is awesome and has helped me evolve to a more “chilled-out” person. I had a dinner party in her honor when she visited with some of my closest Seattle friends.
Rianna did not know of my “napkin weirdness” and sat down at the dining table to eat and proceeded to remove the cloth napkin from its napkin ring and place it on her lap.
A hush fell over the dining room table…
My sister tells the story much better than I but it was like she had climbed on top of the table and started dancing through our plates of food – it was that shocking to me and my other guests (who unfortunately I had obviously trained to accept my weirdness). I am sure I behaved very tensely for a moment but I had no choice but to see the silliness of the situation – being upset that someone was actually using a cloth napkin I had set out on the table.
My sister was patient and understanding (though she thought it was hysterical once she realized what happened). When she returned home from her visit she sent me a HUGE collection of cloth napkins and kindly suggested I actually USE them.
Fast forward many years. Now having embraced minimalism, living with less, and a desire to be thoughtful to the environment, I have completely given up paper napkins and only use cloth napkins!
As you can see from the photo below, they are very well used. We even use napkins several times before throwing them into the washing machine (unless we have a really messy meal).
We do not entertain like we used to and we are very happy with that (notice I said “we” – Terry the Quilting Husband is over the moon that he gets to mainly spend time hanging out with just me and the dogs).
I still keep my house fairly neat and I like things in order. If you read my series of posts on My Minimalism Journey you will see that I have much less things (so they are even easier to keep in order – ha!). I accept that order makes me happy but I try not to be obsessed about it and continually try to let go of perfection (I no longer iron my cloth napkins and I donated all my napkin rings to a local charity thrift shop!)
I realized that in addition to using cloth napkins, we also switched to using old tea towels and old wash cloths to clean the house; and crocheted washcloths for dishes. We keep a supply of paper towels for anything super messy and for draining fat/oil when cooking (i.e. for bacon).
We used to go through a lot of paper towels and now a roll of paper towels seems to last us forever.
Signs of Spring
It feels like it has been an endless Winter, but yesterday in my neighbor’s garden, I witnessed signs of Spring! The crocus are popping up:
The Easter Schnauzer Bunny?
This probably belongs on Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer’s blog, Schnauzer Snips, but Terry and I were at the grocery store on Friday and came across this in the Easter display:
Yes, nestled among the stuffed animal rabbits, chickens (or is that a duck?) and sheep, was an “Easter Schnaubunny”. No we did not buy it, as tempting as it was!
Continuing the momentum from my Quilting Studio Archaeology, each evening last week I have continued to evaluate what I have in my quilting studio/sew room.
I decided to take an honest and objective look at all the crafting paraphrenelia and projects in queue that have gathered over the years in my quilting studio closet. As a result I was able to unload and remove two tall rolling organizing/storage drawer sets. I donated them to our local Humane Society Thrift Shop along with some of their contents from my purging.
Here they are in my backseat awaiting their next adventure (I hope they go to a good home). They served me well for at least 15 years:
In one of the drawers I kept my large collection of art brush markers, gel pens and Sharpies. Most of these markers and pens came from a coworker in the early 2000s. She loved cool pens and markers at her local speciality stationary store and would impulsively buy pens. In the early 2000s I was into card making and she decided to purge her huge pen collection and give most of it to me for card making.
I moved all these pens with me from Seattle to Central Oregon in 2005 and most of them have just sat in a drawer since 2005, unused.
On a mission not to keep stuff that is not functional/does not work and that I do not love, I checked every single pen/art marker on Thursday evening (I know you are very envious that we have such wild evenings as “pen checking” in Central Oregon). I was able to toss 30 pens that had dried up.
Here is what remained (still a lot but they all work and I like the colors):
Terry the Quilting Husband and I are planning on doing some remodeling in our living room this Spring/Summer. We want to put in built-in bookcases/entertainment unit/fireplace along the largest wall of the living room. I have spent (or wasted) a lot of time on Pinterest looking at “bookcase porn”.
The plan is to repurpose 1 – 2 of the existing free standing bookcases in the living room as studio closet storage. To make this work, I will need to have less stuff in my quilt studio closet and removing the two storage units gets me a lot closer to that goal.
Recently I am quite inspired by a newer blog I follow – DEVISE.CREATE.CONCOCT – Finding frugal ways to live more with less (devisecreateconcoct.com). This blogger’s tips on managing your spending on the necessities of life have inspired me to also take an honest and objective look on how we spend money each month, beginning with January 2017.
Today I created an expense tracking spreadsheet and recorded expenses for 2017 year to date. It was very enlightening – for example, I did not realize how much we are spending on groceries!
I am fortunate to have been nominated for two different blogging awards – recently the Black Cat Blue Sea Award by the blogger of Of Tales & Dreams; and earlier this summer for a One Lovely Blog Award by the blogger of Dewey Hop. I will share more about these awards in a future post. I am very honored and appreciative that my blog was recognized!
“Downsizing” vs. “Rightsizing”
You may be familiar with the euphemism “right-sizing” related to corporate lay-offs or the dreaded term – “downsizing”. As I continue on my discussion of my Minimalism Journey, I think of these two terms and I think what I have been working on over the past 15 years is not “downsizing” my life but “rightsizing” it.
So far in my posts on my Minimalism Journey (see posts My Minimalism Journey: Part Iand My Minimalism Journey: Part II) I have shared how 9/11 shook me up and led me to desiring a change in my life, leading to our move to Central Oregon; and discovering I did not need all the “stuff” I had in my life.
Our move to Central Oregon also involved a decision to move from a 2800 square foot house to a 1340 square foot house. It is amazing how full we had our 2800 square foot house (including every closet stuffed). Now I live in a home where I know where everything is (believe me this is a big accomplishment to me) and when something new comes into the house, something old gets donated (and our closets and garage are actually relatively empty).
Speaking of closets – we went from a home of 6+ huge closets and an entire storage room, to a couple small closets including a small walk in closet that our clothes share with some storage. Below is a photo of our closet today.
It seems like this smaller house was the “rightsizing” we needed in our lives. I can clean it in a couple of hours (or if I put on really good and loud music I can have the whole house sparkling clean in 60 minutes!)
After moving to Central Oregon, becoming a full-time telecommuter (which impacted my clothing and travel expenses), and donating likely thousands of dollars of stuff to charity , it was time to move onto more than just “rightsizing” the space I lived in and the amount of stuff I had. It was time to begin truly improving the quality of my life.
Quality over Quantity
I noticed the less clutter I had in my life the more room I had to live and to think. I eventually realized some brutal truths that I was using the accumulation stuff to avoid dealing with the life issues I needed to deal with. Some of these issues were overeating, not taking care of my health, not having good boundaries in my friendships, and being too much a “people pleaser” (which also tied into my work-a-holic-ism).
So I began working on improving my overall health and quality of life through listening to self-help audiobooks and podcasts. I wonder if I hold some sort of world record for listening to the most self-help/self-improvement audiobooks. If you check out my post Life is Nonfiction Revisitedyou will see a listing of many of the books I listened to.
Everyone has a different learning style, for me listening to the experience and wisdom of others helps me learn and grow.
And what did I learn? I learned to meditate, to slow down and appreciate life, to believe in myself, that I am enough, that I am stronger than I can imagine, to be in the present moment, not to be afraid to take risks and chances, and what I think is most important – to live life filled with gratitude to all the wonders I experience daily in life.
Speaking of gratitude, there is a wonderful short animated video – Be Grateful for What You Have(by Igor Kalashnikov) – that I watched a couple months ago that really reinforced this to me.
It seemed the more I focused on appreciating and being present in each moment of my life, the less I desired to go buy stuff to make me happy. I also decided to just “be happy” and not look outside myself for happiness. Not all this happened overnight, it was a process but I feel it was part of my journey.
A Real Minimalist?
A couple of years ago learned about the Minimalism movement. My friend Torben introduced me the website of The Minimalists and I started reading books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.
I also for a while became obsessed with Tiny Houses; and for a while the idea of selling everything and traveling around the country in a RV or even a van. I still occasionally on the weekend watch “Living in a Van” videos on YouTube and daydream. It seems so freeing to live with just what you need, have little responsibilities and to feel free just to go on adventures and experience the simple uncomplicated life.
But I write this as I sit in a cozy chair in my living room with a quilt on my lap and Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer curled up at my feet (and a nice cup of tea); and I having stayed in a tiny house (when we stayed at the Tiny House Caravan Hotel in Portland once) I can confirm that it does not compare in coziness to my huge (comparatively) 1300 sq. ft. home! (I refer to my house as “the mansion” after binge watching Tiny House and RV or Van Living videos).
Occasionally I have “incidents” (true confession time) – late night on Amazon.com purchases of MORE craft books (ok, they do bring me joy!) and impulse fabric purchases…and then more “stuff” sneaks into my life.
I watch videos of people living what I would consider true or even extreme Minimalism lifestyles. I am not truly a full textbook Minimalist. I am however, someone who has learned (through a many year journey and process) what is truly important in life and what makes me feel peace, happy, centered and joyful.
Now to close this series of post with a disclaimer. I’ve shared the story of MyMinimalism Journey. There is no judgement implied on anyone who is not on the same journey or who has with a lot of “stuff” in their lives (and no interest in living with less).
I wanted to share my journey and the path that worked for me. Everyone must find their own path to what brings them joy in life. For me, it it is living with less and appreciating each moment of life more.
The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past. – Marie Kondo
Sharing my story makes me think of my favorite quote of all time. It is a quote I have written on the white board on the door to the garage so that I always see it when existing my house this way (to go on a bike ride or a drive):
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu
I used to be hurry, hurry, hurry – got to get it all done. I realized many of the things I am trying to get done are either not that important or not as important as taking the time to take my dogs on walk.
Speaking of dog walking, writing about my transition from busy life in Seattle to quiet life in Central Oregon, reminds me of my transition from working in an office to becoming a telecommuter. While I was in an office, I was very focused but I had other people around who would like to talk and go to lunch, etc. and I wanted to be social so I played along.
When I first became a telecommuter I was in a more “production” type of job than I am now. Without the distractions of other people I had laser-focus on my work and doubled my production. The only problem was that I was sort of making my co-workers who were not telecommuters (and perhaps not as focused) look bad in their production numbers. My boss gently suggested that I might want to take it a little easier on my numbers/production.
The old Tierney would have ignored this and have kept cranking out the production. The new me asked myself: “what are you trying to prove?” I knew because of the way I work and think I could not just slow down so I came up with another solution: I continued to work at my normal pace BUT I took 2 – 2.5 hours in the middle of my workday, nearly each day, to take my dogs on very long walks around Central Oregon and explore my new beautiful surroundings. This was the beginning of my taste of a deeper happiness and new found sense of peace.
Recently I told my current boss this story – of how 11 years ago when I first began telecommuting and in order not to be too much an overachiever I would take these long walks each day for hours with my dogs. She laughed and said: “Those days are certainly gone!” She is partially right – for the past 8 years my job has been too busy for 2 hour walks, however I still find time in my day to go on a dog walk or even occasionally a bike ride during the workday.
So where did I leave off in my first post about my Minimalism Journey? Ah yes, we visited Central Oregon in October 2005 for the first time and a month later we had sold our house in Seattle, WA and had moved to temporary housing in Central Oregon.
It sounds like it all went very fast and smoothly. It did sort of, but then it was also a crazy whirlwind.
On the drive home back to Seattle, WA from visiting Central Oregon for the first time, it was amazing how we both had the same crazy thought: let’s just shake up our lives and do something different.
Perhaps it was the “Big Sky Country” we experienced when driving home through “Northern” Central Oregon. There is something magical about the high desert landscape: endless fields of dry grasses (sort of prairie-like) with the background of the Cascade Mountains and a huge, endless, cloudless blue sky.
It was as if those wide open spaces, mountains and sky were speaking to my soul, saying “Tierney, come be with us, come be here”. I just had to listen even if it meant adding a bit of complication to our lives.
Complications came in the way of Terry (the someday-to-be-quilting-husband) quitting his job (he worked as a Medical Technologist) and me convincing my employer to let me telecommute (telecommuting was very new in our organization, not widespread like it is now). We had to find Terry a new job in Central Oregon (luckily my employer said yes to telecommuting).
It also involved packing up and selling our house, saying goodbye to our friends and huge social network, and going to a place that we did not really know that much about.
I shared in My Minimalism Journey: Part Ithat our house sold in three (3) days. To clarify it did not sell in three days after returning to Seattle with our decision, but rather three days after putting on the market (it was a hot housing market in the Seattle area in 2005).
When we returned from our visit to Central Oregon, we started packing up our lives in preparation to put the house on the market.
The Packing, The Stuff, The Decisions (or lack of)
If I could go back in time, I would leave at least 50% of the stuff we packed up and brought with us from Seattle to Central Oregon. To our credit, we did do major packing up of our lives in a short period of time to keep the momentum going on our decision to change our life. We did not spend much time thinking about whether we needed all the stuff we packed.
We rented a medium size U-Haul truck and spent every weekend driving from Seattle to Central Oregon to drop off a load of our boxes up stuff into a storage unit we rented in Central Oregon. So many trips back and forth (6+ hours each way) just to haul our stuff its temporary location.
I cannot believe the stuff I packed. Even though I worked for an employer with a business casual dress code and I was becoming a telecommuter (so my business casual could become an old T-shirt and PJ bottoms if I wanted) I still packed up my huge collection of business suits/dresses (none of which I would ever wear again). Many of these suits were from the mid to late 1990s when I worked in an office in management, and some were outdated. A year or two later, while living in Central Oregon, I donated every single suit to a charity organization.
We packed up furniture that we would later give away. We packed up knick knacks, kitsch, and crap, etc. that we would never use after the move and later give away.
The funny thing is we could only fit so much furniture in the U-Haul during the final load after we sold the house. We ended up leaving behind some furniture that we should have kept (like a nice breakfast bar) because we did not have room for it because of all the “stuff” we had shoved into the truck that we thought we needed, and later gave away.
Of course as the saying goes “Hindsight is 20/20”.
Moving to Central Oregon was step one in our move towards a more Minimalistic lifestyle. Step two came a year or two later when we learned that we did not need 50% of the stuff in our lives. Over a 3 – 5 year process we purged our lives of the bulk of the stuff that did not bring us joy. Over the following 5 years we fine tuned what we want in our lives.
I will continue the story of our Minimalism Journey in a future post.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, I like to write reviews on Amazon.com (and now Goodreads.com) if I borrow a book from a library and enjoy it. It is my way to give a thank you to the author (since I did not purchase the book). As a result I have written a bit of reviews on Amazon.com; and over the past year publishers and authors have contacted me and asked me if I would provide an honest review of their book in exchange for a complimentary copy of the book.
I say no to many of these offers because either I have no interest in the book or because of time (I have other books I am wanting to read/listen to). Recently however I have read several great books through this process – Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall by Aaron Safronoff; and most recently Bonds of Love & Blood by Marylee MacDonald.
You can read my review in Goodreads on Bonds of Love & Blood – a collection of short stories focusing on poignant human experiences while traveling. I agreed to read and review this book because I have recently grown fond of reading short story collections/anthologies. Over the past year I read/listened on audiobook, two exceptional short story collections: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman and Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood. So I was open to trying another collection.
What impressed me about Bonds of Love & Blood was the author’s ability to immediately plop you into the story and get your engaged without having to develop the beginning or necessarily provide the ending to the story. I did not feel dissatisfied by not knowing the full ending of a story, I just appreciated being there in the moment, experiencing a travel experience from the perspective of the main character. Another thing that impressed me is that the author appears to be really into supporting Book Groups and provides book group questions at the end of the book. She will also make herself available to join a book group discussion on her book (she has her contact info with the book group discussion questions).
I do not currently belong to a book group, but I think that would be very cool to have the author call into your book group! The author, a world traveler, also sent me an e-mail with the background on what inspired each story and a pdf of photos related to each story. Very cool!
Well I was going to chat about another book I have just started, but I continue to try to keep my posts length reasonable, so more rambling next time!
For me, embracing Minimalism is more than decluttering my life and living with less stuff. It is a deep set of personal values that I started to internalize post 9/11, I just did not have a name for it at the time.
The Start of the Journey
I grew up in New York State and NYC has a special place in my heart. I traveled there as a child, as a teenager and as an adult.
Some of my fond pre 9/11 NYC memories include:
Going as a child going to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree and to see the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall.
A day trip in NYC via bus, sponsored by my nursing school in Upstate NY. The trip included going to the Museum of Natural History (as an adult this time) and realizing just how incredible and magical a museum it is. I was dating Terry (future “Quilting Husband”) at the time and I have a humorous memory of him walking around the Museum of Modern Art (the MOMA) and sharing his head at what he thought was “terrible art” (he did not appreciate “modern” art).
When 9/11 happened, my husband and I lived in Seattle, Washington. We had moved in Seattle in 1997 and it was a welcome change from our crazy life in Houston, Texas. We were extreme workaholics in Houston as young professionals trying to get established in our careers. We knew it was time for a change when we forgot to go to a special rock concert that we had waited years for this particular band to tour and come to Houston (and we had purchased very expensive tickets for!). Work consumed our life and distracted us from enjoying life.
Seattle was a wonderful place when we moved there in 1997 and I met many wonderful friends and had an incredible social network. We used to have a lot of dinner parties/game nights and attend endless social events. My husband still teases me about the time, in order to keep everyone happy, we attended 3-4 (he swears it was 5) Thanksgiving dinners/events in one day. We were always very busy on holidays going from friend’s house to friend’s house to “make an appearance”.
Post 9/11 in addition to a terrible sadness and hurt for my beloved NYC (I have a friend in NYC who had a friend who called in sick on 9/11 and is alive because she happened to be ill that day), I felt this tremendous uneasiness and anxiety. There was not anything I could put my finger on but I knew that I felt unsettled in my life.
I had been a manager for many years and I realized I did not want to “manage” people any longer. I wanted to only be responsible for myself.
One of the great pleasures in my life was time spent walking my dogs, however the neighborhood we lived in was starting to decline and became less safe. Seattle as it grew and expanded became more expensive. The neighborhood we lived in was more still an affordable area but attracted less desirable and questionable characters (we suspected there was a “Meth lab” near our house).
We lived in a large house in Seattle (2800 square feet) and we had a lot of stuff. We had a mother-in-law style apartment in the daylight basement that we rented for awhile and when our tenants moved out we filled it with more stuff. I realize now that a lot of the stuff I bought (as a friend of mine pointed out – I was a “collector”) was related to seeking happiness, comfort, or a temporary purchase “high”.
Around 2001 we adopted our rescued miniature schnauzers Fritz and Snickers from a place I never heard of before – Central, Oregon. They were found as strays in a place called Maupin, Oregon and then were first rescued by a couple who lived in Sisters, Oregon but could not keep them. We adopted them through Miniature Schnauzer Rescue out of Portland, Oregon.
A year or so before I had started quilting, a friend took me to the annual Sew Expo in Pullayup, WA for the first time and I visited the booth of this magical quilt shop called the Stitchin’ Post which was from Sisters, Oregon.
In 2005 close friends of ours moved to Central, Oregon. We went to visit them a couple months after they moved…
This was it, this was the place. Central Oregon was where I needed to be to feel safe and peaceful again and to continue on a journey I did not even realize I had begun.
We returned from our first visit to Central Oregon in October 2005, put our Seattle house on the market. It sold in 3 days and by November 2005 (yes one month later) we were living in temporary housing in Central Oregon.
This is the place I can walk my dogs at 10 pm at night, alone, and feel safe. Speaking of dogs, my husband would joke when we first moved to town that: “we had to bring the schnauzers back to their native land”.
I will continue the story of this journey in a future post. For now let me leave you with a quote I came across that embraces the idea of the start of a journey (which can begin right outside your front door):
Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy.
There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.
Check out Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer’s pageSchnauzerSnipsfor her latest musings.
MY HISTORY WITH THRIFTING
I titled this post “Shameless ‘Thrifting'” as I used to be ashamed to go into thrift stores. I would avoid them at all costs and despite hearing stories from friends about the cool items they discovered for a very low cost at thrift shops.
My shame did not come from fear that people would think I was poor and needed to shop in a thrift shop, it came from once being quite poor and a thrift shop being the only option for clothes, household items, etc.
I put myself through pre-med and then nursing school (when I decided to become a nurse instead of a physician as I had originally planned) when I was in my late teens to my early 20s and I had no disposable income. At one point I was working 40 hours a week (at night as a Home Health Aide) and going to school full-time. It is a long story (related to why my family did not have resources to help me with school) but I obviously made it through (and met Terry, the future “Quilting Husband” while I was in nursing school).
Although we have likely donated thousands of dollars’ worth of no longer used items to charity thrift stores, I refused to shop at thrift stores. To me they represented the poverty I once experienced (and never wanted to experience again), so I stayed away from them. I was all about being able to buy the new things I wanted to buy, when I wanted to buy them (before embracing the Minimalism movement).
A couple of years ago, my a friend introduced me to the fun of discovering cool cheap high quality fabric and antique fabric finds at thrift shops! My sister, who has an excellent sense of style and is a wonderful dresser, also encouraged me to explore thrift shops (She has discovered many incredible inexpensive clothing finds, including “designer” brands). Inspired by my friend and my sister, finally I realized that shopping at thrift stores not only makes good financial sense, but it is very “green”. Instead of items going into a landfill they can be reused by someone else (and the purchase benefits charity organizations – it is a “win-win”).
Concurrently with my sister’s and friend’s influence, over the years my consumerism fueled drive to purchase “new shiny things” has ended. I started to choose experiences over things and realizes new shiny things only bring temporary and fleeting joy. Real joy comes from say a quiet walk in nature or cup of tea with a friend. This is one of the reasons why we have donated likely 30 – 50% of our stuff now to charity organizations.
THRIFT STORE SATURDAY!
So this past Saturday I decided I wanted to go wander around our local thrift store and hunt for fun deals. I had a desire for “Retail Therapy” but in an inexpensive and “green” way. Here is what I found during my Saturday adventure visiting Goodwill, Humane Society Thrift Shop, and the Hospice Thrift Shop (benefiting Central Oregon Hospice).
I know there is some controversy about the Goodwill Industries organization but their mission seems on the surface to be pretty darn wonderful. I spent the first part of the my “Shameless Thrifting” Adventure, wandering around Goodwill.
Shoes! I could not believe how many nice pairs of shoes were at Goodwill at very cheap prices. I am not that into fashion, being a telecommuter and outdoorsy kind of person (I prefer a comfortable outfit and pair of shoes) but if I were I would know where to get lovely designer shoes very cheaply!
After I was done entertaining myself with looking at shoes, I went to visit the fabric section (especially after the find from my last visit – see the post Mysterious Thrift Store Fabric Find).
I did not find anything interesting in the linens and fabric section. However I did return again to the shoe section just browse it for fun; and to think about how much money women spend on new shoes that they only wear for a short period of time. I bet most of the shoes sitting on the shelves of the Women Shoe Section of Goodwill at one time gave some woman a fleeting sense of happiness and temporary “new purchase high”. And now they were sitting on the shelf for $6.99 a pair (note – this Goodwill store appeared to only sell used shoes which were in very good condition).
Humane Society Thrift Store
I left Goodwill empty handed and ventured onto the Humane Society Thrift Store where I entertained myself browsing their used vinyl record collection. While browsing, I stumbled upon this record which brought back some major memories from my childhood:
Yes when I was a pre-teen I was a HUGE Barry Manilow fan. I cannot believe I am admitting this (and putting it in writing), but while some pre-teens were crazy for Michael Jackson or Donny Osmond, I was all about Barry Manilow! I remember the joy of getting a new Barry Manilow record as a kid. (Are you so shocked you have to unfollow my blog now?!?! Can I ever regain your respect?!?!)
A young couple who was browsing in the same section, looked at me with curiosity as I was photographing this record. I can only imagine what they were thinking, ha!
Now, I did not buy the Barry Manilow record. However I did leave the Humane Society Thrift Store with 3 used SAQA Journal Magazines (from 2011 and 2012 before I was a SAQA member) and 5 buttons (for future miniature kimonos). A purchase that totaled $1.
Hospice Thrift Shop
I ended my thrifting adventure at the Hospice Thrift Shop. I did not purchase anything this thrift shop, but I was very entertained looking at their used craft supply section. My favorite item: not only did someone donate their yarn but they must have said “screw it, I am done with this knitting thing” and they donated the piece in progress still on the knitting needles!
Summarizing My Saturday Shameless Thrifting Adventure:
Time spent browsing = 2.5 hours
Money spent = $1
Fun (the thrill of the hunt), giggles, and insight = priceless!
I do not regret the time in my life when I had little financial resources. It was during this time that I learned to cook as I could make my own food from scratch (much cheaper than purchasing pre-made food). For example, I learned to bake my own bread from discounted flour I bought at wholesale from a food coop I volunteered at (to get wholesale prices on food).
Also I learned at an early age how to budget and manage resources; and also how to stay away from the pitfalls of credit card debt. My life could have been easier by taking out a large school loan but I worked my way through school instead (there was no partying or goofing off during my time in college) so I had a minimal student loan to pay when I graduated (yes and sigh, no wild college parties memories but that is okay).
But most important though, is I learned to appreciate everything I have, as everything I have was earned through my effort and hard work.
I am not sure where to begin – should I start with the crabapple harvest, the additional apple tree, the pears, or the peach tree? Okay, I know where I will start: with a little update from the previous posts on the fruit I have “liberated” from neglected trees in neighborhood I ride my bike and walk around.
In the post The Fruits of My Neighborhood, Part II, I share my discovery of a sour cherry tree in the neighborhood I walk and bike in. The lovely blogger from Zippy Quilts advised that I should confirm these are actually cherries and not ornamental berries from a similar looking tree.
We took at sample of one of the cherries to our local nursery which specializes in native plants and they verified that the fruit was indeed a sour cherry. As mentioned in the same post, I have them bagged and frozen for future use.
A friend gave me a great recipe for individual cherry pies; so that plan is to make up little pies in dough and freeze them, then bake a couple at a time. I am also thinking of making little hand pies: Mmmmm – cherry hand pies!
I used this link to determine when to pull the pears of the tree (I had pulled some tester pears off too soon; they never ripened off the tree and I had to compost them) and I am hoping the latest batch of pears will ripen soon on my dining room table!
In addition to pears in the photo above, you will see some apples (and some peaches which I will discuss a little later).
In my post The Fruits of My Neighborhood, I share my discovery of a green apple tree and the subsequent delicious apple pie I made from my haul (I picked enough neglected green apples for my neighbor, who loves to bake, to also make a pie).
Well I discovered another neglected apple tree (at a very neglected looking and perhaps vacant house). I am not sure what variety of apple but they taste quite delicious with my morning oatmeal! I was only able to liberate a couple apples as most were rotted on the ground or had worms. Too bad, there were some beautiful apples on the ground.
Here is the current fruit bowl on my dining table filled with “liberated” pears, apples and peaches (yes I took this photo with my new Instagram app now that I have embraced Instagram…”welcome to the 21st century Tierney”):
I was on a bike ride last week, and came upon this sign attached to a tree:
Oh my – Someone wants help liberating their fruit!!! How could I refuse?!?!
Luckily I had my “fruit liberating sack” (copyright pending, ha!) with me and I proceeded to fill up it up with delicious ripe crabapples. While I was filling up my bag, the homeowner came out and chatted with me for a while.
She was so happy I was taking the fruit and I shared with her my adventures of “liberating” other fruit in the neighborhood and pie making. She told me of the delicious crabapple butter she and her Mom made last year with the crabapples; but she could not keep up with them this year and was hoping they would not just go to waste.
I told her – “I am here for you!” which got quite the laugh from the homeowner.
Below is my bike filled with crabapples in my “fruit liberating sack”:
I got enough for myself and my neighbor who likes to bake/cook. I researched online how to freeze them (Crabapples: University of Alaska Extension); and froze two (2) large bags of crabapples for our Fall cooking adventures (you can freeze for up to 3 months).
And Finally, Peaches
Imagine going on a walk with your dogs in the morning and you can pluck a ripe peach from a tree and munch on it as you walk. Is this a scene from the State of Georgia? No this was my morning walk in Central Oregon!
I did not know we could even grow peaches in Central Oregon. Our high desert hot and dry climate does not remotely seem like the correct climate for peaches. But then what do I know of horticulture?
Here is the lovely peach tree, with peaches falling from the tree as they ripen:
And here is my haul of peaches – not sure if I want to make a peach cobbler or just enjoy them each day as they get riper and riper (and juicier and juicier). Funny thing as I was never really interested in store bought peaches. But peaches right off the tree – fruit heaven!
What’s next in my “Fruit Liberation” quests? Well I have spotted some plums and possibly some nectarine like fruit that will be coming into season in the upcoming weeks.
The interesting thing is that before embracing simpler living I would never have been interested in “liberating” fruit from neglected fruit trees. Truthfully, in the past I did not eat that much fruit in my daily diet. Terry the Quilting Husband and I live a much healthier existence since changing our lifestyle a couple years ago (though it was a process that began with moving to Central Oregon in 2005). But that is another future post on our “Minimalism Journey”…
Instead of a “Monday at the Butte” (see my previous posts on hiking Pilot Butte), yesterday I did a “Sunday at the Butte” with my friend Jenny. We hiked Pilot Butte and then went for coffee and pastries! We figured we had earned our pastries!
Here are a couple photos – the summit of Pilot Butte (I never tire of this view); the selection of pastries at the local bakery/coffee shop; and a beautiful color combination on the table we sat:
Enjoy your week and here is a sign I came across at a tea shop a couple of weeks ago as a closing “food for thought”:
This post is a follow up to my previous post Break Up Letter to My Warehouse Club, in which I shared that Costco (my local warehouse club) and I were taking some time off from our relationship.
Well I started seeing Costco again, but this time I have better boundaries in this relationship (ha!). I only bring cash (I stopped using the Costco American Express card) and my purchases are limited to my cash on hand. There is something magical about the pain of surrounding cash as opposed to using a credit card.
A credit card is like a mythical payment that you will have to deal with someday in the mythical future. Cash is like so real – the money is G–O–N–E from your wallet right there in the moment.
I have also incorporated lessons from studying minimalism concepts. I carefully evaluate any item I want to purchase from Costco for its value in my life. So the giant jar of 80 pickles will likely never come home with me (I am not sure if Costco actually carries a jar of 80 pickles but this example seems to represent the general scale of their bulk offerings!).
So far so good. It felt really good to make thoughtful (and not impulsive or spontaneous) purchasing decisions at Costco and to leave the warehouse club with only the items I truly need and will add value to my life. (Toilet paper for example, definitely adds value, ha!)
So Costco and I have rekindled our relationship. We are taking is slow, and seeing where it goes…
I really enjoy posts with photos, so here is a random unrelated to this post, photo. It is from a recent trip to a sushi restaurant to meet a friend for lunch:
Continuing my new ongoing series with a snapshot of what crafting, quilting, cooking, gardening, decorating, self-improvement, etc. books I currently have on loan from my local library.
Here is the stack (soon to be returned though, I have finished with them and it’s time to get a new stack!):
I took this photo a week ago and there is one book that was in the stack, but not in the photo, that I have just finished and I highly enjoyed: Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed (2015).
Cheryl Strayed is the author of the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2013), a wonderful book and a wonderful film (even Terry the Quilting Husband enjoyed the film and he dislikes films about “finding yourself”.)
Her latest book Brave Enough is a collection of quotes from her other writings.A couple quotes really stayed with me after reading them and I wanted to share:
“You can’t ride to the fair unless you get on the pony”
“Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing that I need to do.”
“Forgiveness doesn’t just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up the hill.”
I recently realized a major source of temptation related to craft book buying: The weekly Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store coupons that come in the mail.
How could I turn down 40% off, 50% off and occasionally 60% off – one regular priced item?!?! You can probably guess what I would buy with these coupons (hint: craft books).
Many times I would go to Jo-Ann’s with a plan to buy a crafting, quilting or sewing supply such as interfacing, rotary blades, etc. with the coupon. I would then discover that the item I had intended to use the coupon to purchase, was already on sale and thus not eligible for the coupon.
After finding what I needed already on sale, I could not just leave Jo-Ann’s without using my glorious coupon! I would usually end up getting a crafting related book for 40%- 60% off with the coupon that was burning a hole in my pocket.
The Solution: I have started recycling these coupons when they arrive in the mail.
It was unnerving at first but it is a huge step towards just enjoying the books I havealready.
I can continue use the public library to satisfy my need to have new craft books to look at (True Confession: I do get a little buzz with the anticipation of leafing through a new crafting or decorating book). I do not need to own them!
In my recent post The Library Stack I shared how I am enjoying the audiobook SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal and her discussion on “cognitive reframing”.
Well, another concept discussed in this wonderful book – “self distancing” – has also caught my attention. Paraphrasing the author, “self distancing” is the technique by which you step outside yourself and view a situation from an observer point of view, not from the point of view of the person experiencing the situation.
For example, when I was working through allowing myself to just recycle the latest weekly Jo-Ann’s coupon, I stepped outside myself for a moment and asked:
“Does Tierney really need anything right now (or in the near future) from Jo-Ann’s?”
The answer from an observer perspective is a clear “No”.
As part of my ongoing journey towards living with less and keeping only those things that are useful and bring me joy, I am working on dealing with mementos and keepsakes. I had three boxes of keepsakes – old postcards, cards from old friends and co-workers, newspaper clippings, holiday photo cards, etc. I now have one small box. I have let go of that which does not bring me a deep sense of joy.
During the process of working through my keepsakes, I re-discovered a quilt that my staff had made me when I was a manager at a health plan in Seattle in the late 1990s to early 2000s. I do not remember if I was a quilter yet, so it likely was not a “Quilt for the Quilter” but it is something very special that was just sitting around in a box put away.
My friend Judy, who originally got me into quilting and was a member of my work team in the late 1990s, organized a team quilt project as a holiday gift for me. Each team member made a block and Judy assembled the blocks into a wallhanging quilt. I was deeply touched and surprised with the gift, which I believe was given to me around 1998 or 1999.
This wonderful gift is no longer tucked away, I have placed it on the wall to remind me that I was that loved (because QUILT ARE LOVE, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise!) so much as a leader that a team took the time to make me a quilt!
Below is a photo of the quilt. The center of the quilt features a photo of the entire team, so I have taken a low resolution photo at a bad angle to respect the privacy of former team members who I have lost touch with and may not want their photo published on the web. (And you likely thought it was just another one of my bad photos!)
I have included a couple close ups of some of the blocks. The “Chocolate Chip Cookies” block, by one of my former team members, was made to honor the fact that I brought the team homemade chocolate chip cookies when I interviewed with them! After I was hired I continued to make the team homemade cookies.
It is wonderful to have such a special memory visible to enjoy everyday, rather tucked away, only to look at every couple of years (or longer, when you remember it is there).
As far as the other keepsakes, as I mentioned earlier I took them down from 3 boxes to 1 small box. I love what Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (2014), states in her wonderful book:
“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”
I realize many memories can be held inside my heart rather than my hand. I do not need to hold onto all those physical items to honor those memories (like all postcards I ever received – I have downsized them only a small stack of very special postcards).
And as far as the person I am becoming, I hope it is someone who is filled with gratitude for all the special moments in her life. This quilt reminds me to continue my feelings of gratitude each day.
As I continue on my journey to scale back my material possessions and focus on the important things in life, I realize I have donated a lot of stuff I no longer need to charity organizations but I have not given any of my handmade items.
It feels like I have not been really giving, as I have only given purchased items I no longer want in my life.
Giving seems more like truegiving, if you give something that is not as easy to part with – like a quilt (or two)!
So I decided to donate a couple small flannel quilts/baby quilts to Project Linus. I had them listed on my tierneycreates Etsy shop and I am taking down their listings and giving them away instead.
If you are not familiar with Project Linus is a non-profit organization that provides homemade “blankets” to children in need. I am getting together with a couple of friends at the end of this month that have worked with Project Linus in the past and they are going to help me donate my quilts.
It feels like this donation is more meaningful donation than a load of unused kitchen gadgets to Goodwill.
Last April when I counted, I had around 370 craft books (on quilting, sewing, beading, knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, card making, etc.).
Last weekend, I was ready to again take on thinning out my craft book collection.
Over the past couple of years, I have been able to let go of a lot of “stuff” as I move towards a life focused on experiences, not “stuff”. I even let go of a large amount of fabric that I was keeping “just in case” (see earlier post The Fabric Purge!). My craft books, however, all seemed so precious, and it has been difficult to part with them.
Suddenly I was ready. Following the principle’s in Marie Kondo’s wonderful book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and pulled ALL my craft books out and went through them one by one. This took nearly 4-6 hours to complete.
My primary criteria was: “Will I truly ever make something in this book?”. Using this criteria I was able to lighten my load by over 50 craft books.
The photo below shows the growing stack for DONATION in my laundry room.
The cool thing was even while I was re-shelving and organizing the books I had decided to keep, I was able to weed out even more that I realized I do not need.
Last Monday, with the help of Terry the Quilting Husband, I dropped off two huge bags of books to our local public library. They will either go into the library’s collection of craft books for circulation to library patrons; or they will go to the Friends of the Library which will sell the books to raise money for the library. One of the library staff gave me a huge “thank you” on donating the books – she was amazed how many of the books were brand new and in excellent condition.
I have no regret over the money I spent on these books I never used, because they are going to either circulate in my beloved public library or raise money to support library activities!
(Yes I still have a lot of books left and I love them all. Let’s see if next year I can do another craft book purge…)
(Be sure to check out Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer’s Schnauzer Snips page for her latest adventures and musing)
But First, More on “Trees of Winter”
Before I continue my series on sources of creative inspiration, let’s talk about winter trees a little more. I am still musing over the Winter Trees I discussed in yesterday’s blog post by the same name.
This morning, during our daily 2 mile am dog walk, I was struck again by the beauty of winter trees against an impossibly clear blue winter sky. Living in the “High Desert” of Central Oregon our winters have many days of clear blue skies. Compared, say to when we lived in Seattle, WA. (A fun town to live in, but blue skies were not that common; grey skies were considerably more popular there!)
So here is one more winter tree that captured my attention this morning, and then I will stop with the “Winter Trees” for a while (perhaps):
Creative Inspiration: Public Library Books
Since I was a child, I have been in love with the public library.
I remember a summer in my 10th or 11th year that I spent many days of my summer vacation at my small town’s public library. Books are magical. To have free access to all those magical books is even more magical.
For a time in my life I wanted to become a librarian, so I could spend a career among the books. I did not pursue a career in library science as an adult, but I kept my intense love of public libraries and of books.
I frequently patronize our local public library and I find their shelves filled with sources of creative inspiration. It would be very expense to buy all the books I would love to have in my personal library, and if you have read my post Craft Book Hoarder?!?!? it appears that I once tried to do that!
Embracing the minimalist, “scale back your life”, “living with less” movement, I borrow from the library, books that inspire me creatively. If the book turns out to be a “must, must, must have” then I will purchase it, but rarely.
Here is a recent stack of public library books filled with inspiration:
I have e-mailed our public library’s material purchasing department and thanked them for the wonderful selection of crafting, gardening, and home decorating books. I think it is important to let them know a patron really appreciates their well curated collection!
In future posts I will share an update on “craft book hoarding” (yes, I actually let go of a large amount of craft books); and discuss one of the recent crafting books I borrowed from the public library that I absolutely had to own (The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously by Sherri L. Wood).
There is nothing on the Design Wall and the sewing machine is cold…
We all have those stretches on “non-creatvity” and I am hopefully on the tail end of one of those stretches right now. I have however continued with my side project of decluttering and scaling back my life as discussed in previous posts. I decided to take on THE DARK CABINET OF MYSTERY…
Don’t be afraid to peek in (and then reach inside)…
I know I am not alone – many people have those drawers or cabinets “of mystery” in which you never peek unless you really, really, really need to find something (and you strongly suspect, unfortunately, it is in THERE).
Most of the time you just throw something in there and quickly close the door without looking too hard to see what has gathered inside.
I have started working on what I call my Dark Cabinet of Mystery in the corner of my kitchen. It is an oddly shaped cabinet and has angle that reaches into…another dimension? A break in the “space-time continuum”? A wormhole? I actually asked my husband to just reach into the cabinet and pull everything out.
(I figured if something grabbed him when he reached in, I could retrieve the dogs quickly and run out of the house)
Well everything got pulled out, and my husband survived emptying the cabinet. Below is what was inside and it is obvious that I kept thinking: “oh I need to save this glass jar”, “I probably really need to save this glass jar”, “not sure if I have enough glass jars”…
In addition to a large supply of empty glass jars I discovered I had a springform (aka cheesecake pan) which I have never used since buying it like 20 years ago; and I have an electric carving knife used once or twice in the 15+ years I have owned. I also have an entire extra set of flatware.
Now I have to decide what to keep and what to recycle (hint the numerous glass jars) or donate. I also need to decide the future of the Dark Cabinet of Mystery…
Maybe I should just have the Dark Cabinet of Mystery professionally sealed up…especially if creatures from other dimensions find a way to slip in through a portal likely in one of its dark corners..
I am currently listening to the audiobook of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing(Kondo, 2014).
The author, Marie Kondo makes a very powerful statement when she discusses letting go of mementos from our past:
The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.
This book is not your average “here is how you organize your stuff type of book”. It takes a very different and profound approach on dealing with clutter, permanently. Getting rid of physical clutter helps free your mental clutter. I have already experienced this through starting to work through this book.
Marie Kondo approaches dealing with “your stuff” in a very beautiful way. In a way that honors your stuff and the happiness or the function it may have brought you in the past.
Her process requires that you physically touch every single thing you own and decide honestly: “does this bring me joy?”
Her process also involves thanking those things that you give up for what role they played in your life and then letting them go. (This all may sound strange but it is not, it feels very right and very peaceful).
Completed “Phase One”
I have made it through the first phase – letting go of clothing I do not need (she has a specific method and order in which you deal with different categories of your stuff). Two big things happened yesterday: 1) I took a huge carload of clothing and other random stuff to the Humane Society Thrift Store; and 2) I got rid of MY DRESSER!
Our bedroom always felt kind of cluttered with two dressers (my dresser and my husband’s dresser). My 25 year-old dresser blocked part of the area I use to get out of bed. My husband was able to make space for my undies and socks in his dresser. Everything else (including old socks and undergarments not in the best condition) was either discarded, donated or folded/hung up in the closet.
I did touch each item, determine if it brought be joy, and thanked those that did not (bring me joy) for their service before discarding them. We placed my dresser outside on the curb and 5 minutes later it was gone (I believe the Universe gave it to the person who needed next)! Suddenly with the dresser gone, the bedroom appeared to have better flow and energy. I now have room next to the bed to put out my yoga mat in the morning!
Unbelievably freeing experience, so far
You must read or listen to this wonderful book for this all to make sense, and it will. I highly recommend this book and the “Eastern Philosophy” influenced perspective of letting go of the stuff that clutters our lives and our minds.
I continue to work on letting the space that I live be for the person I am becoming now, not for the person I was in the past.
One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning it to sit with a cup of tea and look through decorating books (and crafting books of course).
I usually have a large stack of decorating/interior design books from the public library right next to my chair where I sit by the window with my tea.
I recently finished an awesome interior design book called Bohemian Modern by Emily Henson.
Contained in its pages was a wonderful title to one of the book’s chapters: “Creativity Before Consumption”.
This quote has resonated with me and I want it incorporate it into my general philosophy of life.
I think I do already with how much I enjoy working with recycled materials and fabric scraps.
I did recently implement this concept in regards to my front door. I have disliked my plain white front door for a long, long time. I priced at the home improvement stores what it would cost to replace it and the cost has discouraged me from changing it out.
The white door was just not aesthetically pleasing and I have been looking at it everyday for the 10 years we have been in the house and it does not make me happy.
A radical (but simple idea) fell upon me – what about painting it another color?!?! (and why did I not think of this years ago?!!?). So I bought a can of black paint and painted it today! Below are the before and after photos. I hope you agree the black looks better. I am very pleased with my “new” front door!
A $8.95 can of paint was a much lower expense than a new front door (whose costs would have included the door plus professional installation!).
Yes, I think this is my new motto: Creativity Before Consumption!
(Be sure to check out Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer’s Schnauzer Snips page for her latest adventures and musing)
I have coworker (in my non-crafting, health care industry day job that keeps the electricity on so I can blog) who likes to say: “Sometimes all you need is a friend” (to resolve an issue). She says this tongue-in-cheek and is usually referring to a complex software challenge and “a friend” means someone who knows how to resolve your software issue, or a tool/reference to guide you towards resolution of your issue.
Although she says it tongue-in-cheek, her statement holds true. In my observations, in many situations in life, such as taking an overwhelming project to sort, declutter and organize your stuff – sometimes all you need is a friend.
Recently I helped two friends with their different organization projects:
A friend who wanted to gain control of a huge and unwieldy fabric stash; and
A friend who wanted to declutter and organize a desk where intense piles of paper had taken control
Both friends were overwhelmed with the tasks before them.
I can relate to being overwhelmed when it comes to a large decluttering/organization project of your own stuff. In my post The Fabric Purge! I share that during the sorting and reorganization of my fabric stash, I became so overwhelmed I sat on the floor and cried for a while, as there seemed to be no end in sight of my fabric purging and organization project. I could have definitely used a friend there, even if for just mere moral support.
SORTING (DON’T DO IT ALONE)
I think one of the biggest challenges to taking on a decluttering/organization project on your stuff, is SORTING YOUR STUFF. Why is sorting your stuff so difficult? Well, because it is your stuff. It is interesting to you, it has history, it brings back memories, it makes you think about things good and bad, it makes you realize what you forgot to do, it is meaningful to you. You can get stuck trying to sort through your stuff as you take that trip down memory lane or get anxious on what you have YET to accomplish.
This is where a having friend there can help. Your friend knows you but does not have the level of connection to your stuff that you have to your stuff. Your friend can more objectively sort your stuff to help you make quicker decisions. What does this mean? Below are some examples of when I worked with my two friends on their decluttering/organization projects:
Friend with the Unwieldy Fabric Stash – For this friend I sorted her fabrics into what I thought were piles of the same collection, and presented those collections to her to quickly sort through and decide – keep or not keep. I noticed when she was left to sort from scratch she had some memory lane bonding with fabric. I was not pushy, but I kept her moving forward by continually asking her to make decisions about piles of fabric. Once she made a decision I boxed up the fabrics and put them on the shelf. She could not spend anymore time visiting with that particular fabric collection until we finished getting through her whole stash. I did let my friend visit with her unsorted fabric as she liked while I was sorting as she knew when I started asking questions, it was time for rapid decisions.
Friend with the Desk-from-Heck – For this friend, first I sorted her papers (using my quick best guess from quick glance) into 4-6 general piles such as 1) important looking papers; 2) stuff she might want to keep; 3) business cards and small tags/cards; 4) photos; and 5) junk mail looking stuff. I made quick decisions and since I wanted to respect my friend’s privacy I did not read through any of the important looking papers (statements, business like correspondence, bills, etc.). If my friend had started sorting from scratch on her own, she might have gotten stuck on reviewing each important looking paper, etc. When I was done sorting materials from her desk into the various piles, I handed each pile to my friend and she made quick decision on each piece of paper of 1) keep; 2) recycle; or 3) save for immediate action. Before you know it her overwhelming pile of papers turned into a clean desk with a stack of important papers to go through on her own the next day. Plus by pulling out all the recycling (mailers, catalogs, obsolete papers) it made her pile that actually needed her attention look much smaller and less overwhelming.
In both cases, I think the key to success is having someone you trust (such as a friend) do the initial sorting (even if they get it wrong); and then having a friend with you to encourage you (not pressure you) to make as quick decisions as possible. You can get stuck if you are sorting through your stuff alone.
Even if your friend is not into organization and not interested in helping you sort, sometimes just having a friend there with you to hang out with while you work on your project, encourages you move forward.
In my post Craft Book Hoarder I mention my discovery that I now have 370+ craft books. If I have that many craft books, you might suspect I have a lot of crafting magazines.
I used to have a ridiculous amount of crafting magazines, especially quilting magazines. I had a subscription to 4-5 quilt magazine publications (plus the quarterly and annual special publications I would pick up at a quilt shop) and I would hold onto every issue in case there might be a pattern I might want to make someday or a helpful quilting tip. I had the same issue with Beading magazines and even for a while Scrapbooking magazines!
A couple of years ago, over a series of several weeks, I made myself go through every magazine and clip out only the patterns I would actually make and only the tips that I would refer to over and over again. Then I put them in a large binder in sheet protectors.
I was so proud. I thought I had conquered paper clutter.
Then this huge binder sat on the shelf, with all those nice patterns and tips inside, unloved, untouched, unused and gathering dust. I had started downloading free and purchased patterns from the internet and storing them on my laptop. I did cancel all my quilting magazine subscriptions (because seriously, how many new and unique patterns are there to find after a while?) but for any additional magazines that trickled in, I would just scan the pattern I wanted and then donate the magazine to the Humane Society Thrift Shop.
This past weekend I rediscovered the MEGA BINDER of patterns in sheet protectors. It was actually unwieldy to remove from the shelf. I realized I primarily use my laptop for storing patterns now and if I buy a new pattern I like to get it online. I also have a nice folder organization of patterns and quilting tips on my laptop…
IT WAS TIME TO GET RID OF THE PAPER!
So now a new huge project has commenced: I have removed all the paper patterns from the sheet protectors (donated the mega binder of sheet protectors to my favorite thrift shop for the next organization victim) and I am going to SCAN them all into my laptop and then recycle the paper! Then I can organize all the patterns for quick access..and…maybe actually USE them.
A favorite pastime is to browse the library shelves for crafting and home design/decorating books. During a browse the other day I found a book Living with Less: how to downsize to 100 personal possession by Mary Lambert (2013).
I am really into the “Tiny House” movement and I am known to blow a weekend afternoon looking at “Tiny House Porn” on YouTube. I love the idea of scaling back and scaling down your life and “living with less” in exchange for quality of life. Ms. Lambert’s book provides an excellent process on scaling back your life to 100 personal possessions. In exchange for this downsizing you can gain an “ordered life” and “liberate your mind, body, an spirit”. After reading 1/2 of the book and skimming the other half – I was sold on this wonderful concept.
Until a casual conversation with my husband…
My husband Terry has been very tolerant of my obsession with tiny houses and scaling back our lives. We already live in a 1300 square foot house (having scaled back 9 years ago from a 2800 sq. ft house) and we have a fairly simple and thrifty lifestyle. Still I fantasize about being able to “quit my day job” in health care and dedicate myself full-time to tierneycreates.
Terry, the Realist, quietly nods his head while I give him an enthusiast summary of the book Living with Less and idea of each of us pairing down to 100 possessions. Terry gets up from his chair and begins to start counting out loud the quilts hanging on the wall, hanging on the quit rack, on beds and chairs, and then in a cabinet. He states: “do these all count as one item or 25?” Then he begins to count the craft books I have on the shelf, and I tell him to stop (as I do have an issue with craft books).
He sighs and states: “So will you just be keeping a pair of underwear, a pair of socks, a pair of shoes, and 1 outfit in your scaling down? And, do all those fat quarters of fabric count as one piece of fabric?”
So, as much as I admire Ms. Lambert’s concept of scaling down I do not think it can happen anytime soon.
My pile of scraps for making scrap quilts: Do they each count as 1 item or can I group all the scraps together as one item?