Friday, March 30, 2012

Dropping my drawers (decluttering tip #11)

I know, that's the same title we all give to our posts about cleaning out our desks. I'm lame.

Yesterday I started to take on the task of cleaning out the modular drawer cabinets from our old desk. We have three sets of drawers like this one:

And loads of junk in them. I was organized ...

until I got through the first cabinet. Then I gave up on the neat little piles. I'm already putting stuff on the floor. All hope of being 'neat' is lost. Time to follow decluttering rule #10: just dump it all out. ALL of it. Don't worry, you'll organize it later! Behold, the contents of cabinets #2 and #3.

It's a mess but sometimes that's what it takes. It can be hard to organize when you don't have a good concept of everything that you have in a space. Leaving items in a space and trying to declutter around them works, but only when you don't have an enormous amount of stuff in that space.

Then one item at a time, you can organize things into piles, or put them straight back into the closet/desk/garage/handbag/etc.

This kind of decluttering is also a really good excuse to have some good tea handy or a movie or audiobook ready. I typically get super exhausted on these mass clean-outs and have to stop for a while, sometimes even a couple days. Having something to keep me going or to refresh me during a break is a must. This makes it more likely that you'll get through the whole pile in one go. If you don't, that's okay -- but make a commitment to come back to it within a day or two. Otherwise you can end up making more of a mess for yourself.  

One small part of the pile is all that remains to tackle tonight. Why do my husband's dirty socks keep showing up there?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

i can has baf towelz

Our washing machine eats bath towels for breakfast. 
Yes, kitty cat can have a bath towel. No, we don't own a cat (actually, I'm deathly allergic to cats).

The organization I work for is having a charity drive to collect bath towels and bedsheets for the local humane society. Did you know that animal shelters need those extra bath towels and sheets you've been trying to get rid of? I sure didn't. Great timing too, because our washer decided to have a bath towel for a snack this week.

We own 9 bath towels.

2 for The Husband
2 for me
2 for guests
3 spares

We want 8. It may seem like a lot, but it ends up being just enough when The Husband's family or mine all come to visit. This happens 4-6 times a year so it makes sense for us to have eight towels when there are five people who all want showers and three of them have long hair and don't own hair dryers. Towel #9 is now keeping a cat or dog warm and dry.

Oh, and we threw in the dirty pillowcase in the picture too. The shelters aren't picky about stains or material. Make a homeless cat or dog a little more comfortable and clean out your linen closet at the same time. You can find a shelter near you by using the following websites:


The Reckoning

Item 66 and 67: A holey bath towel and a really dirty pillowcase. 
Cost: We own more towels and more pillowcases than we need, so we never should have bought these. The towel unfortunately was one of our better ones, so it was probably $10. The pillowcase was probably $5. 
Fate: The local humane society's animal shelter. 
Total money wasted on stuff we shouldn't have bought in the first place: $405

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I bought lip balm because I was afraid

What if I need it again?
What if it breaks?
What if this is discontinued?
What if I can't replace it?

Hoarding and anxiety go hand-in-hand. For many people, including hoarders and non-hoarders, fear keeps us from letting go of objects we don't need.

It also plays a role in how we acquire objects.

Have you ever looked at something on a store shelf and had a sudden urge to buy a few extra? I perpetually have this urge. If I see something and love it, I want to buy more than one. Just in case. Sometimes I can tell myself no, like the time when I bought a $200 ring for myself and loved it so much that I wanted to get another in case the first broke. Fortunately the $200 price tag kept me from going back to the jewelry store.

Unfortunately it's much easier for us to grab extras of smaller items and consumables. We justify these purchases with the idea that we'll use it, or it'll be a backup.

Today's object is a set of lip balms I bought back in early college. My lips used to chap quite painfully and this was the first balm that contained an anesthetic. Without even trying one out to see if it worked, I bought four. These things would solve my problem, I thought, and I wouldn't want to run out. No kidding.

Fighting the Fears

FDR said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Admitting that we're purchasing things out of fears is hard. I purchased lip balm because I was afraid. Afraid I'd run out, afraid I wouldn't have anything to stop the pain of chapped lips, afraid I might never find the lip balm again. Seriously!? These are the things I angst about in my life?

The fears that drive hoarding habits are often irrational fears like these. Those fears can do an incredible amount of damage when we don't counter them.

Those of us with hoarding tendencies can't be told to simply "think about whether you'll use the item" before you buy it. Totally ineffective. Of course I'll use it! It may only be for a while, but sure, I use Eucerin hand cream. I use blouses. I use dental floss (okay, not always.)

Am I using my head? Probably not. I'm using my fears.

Finding the Rational Thoughts

Lately I've been asking myself two questions to curb irrational thoughts when I shop:

1. Why do I feel the need to purchase more than one of these?
2. Is some kind of  fear or insecurity driving this purchase? If so, is it a rational fear?

Respond to the fears

What if I need it again? You can always buy or borrow another one. You are blessed to have the financial resources to purchase things you really need. And if you don't need it, you *can* live without it.

What if it breaks? You can always buy or borrow another one.

What if this is discontinued? You can most discontinued items on eBay. If not, you'll find something newer and better.

What if I can't replace it? You'll live. It's just stuff.

Find your freedom from these fears. 

What fears lead you to buy too much? Or to keep things you should throw out?

The Reckoning

Item 65: A collection of four lip balms from my college days.

Fate:The trash can!

Cost:  These were $1.50 each. I only used about half of each for a total of $3.

Total money wasted on stuff: $ 390.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

You'll have three kids and the twins were born disabled, your spouse will die in a car crash and you'll be too injured to go back to work...

...oh, and you'll still have the mortgage to pay off. How much money will you need to get by in this scenario without having to turn the kids over to the state? $700,000? $300,000? Less?

Sounds ridiculous, huh? Actually, it sounds like tonight's dinner conversation topic: life insurance.

There seems to be a lot of chat this week about the idea of 'professional minimalism,' which in some ways I prefer to think of as 'extreme minimalism.' While we're all defining our own brand of minimalism, I thought I'd dive in. Sorry folks, no reckoning today.

I've read a lot of books about minimalism to understand life beyond the hoard. There are stacks of books and websites written by minimalists who are true anti-hoarders. They've ditched it all in favor of a bedroll, a rucksack, a passport, and a modest bank account. Look, they say, here is the life you're not living because you're chained to your job!

"Ditch your job and pursue your passions" minimalism would probably also make me very happy. That is, until something went wrong.

In the long-term, how many of us can be extreme minimalists and can realistically afford to quit our day-jobs to pursue what we love? Maybe you can and that's fantastic. But I think you can still be a minimalist and spend 8 hours a day at a job that maybe isn't your calling or your mission in life.

Why? Because minimalists with plain vanilla jobs *are* pursing their passions. Our primary passions are our safety and security instead of travel or writing, or whatever. Once we're safe and secure, we can devote the rest of ourselves to writing, music, travel, etc.

How does a full-time job (pick a job, any job) give me that safety and security?

I need health insurance, which is pricey and hard to get (or pay for) in the US if you're not employed full-time. This insurance pays for the surgeries that have kept my vision intact for the last 15 years and will keep my eyes in good shape hopefully for the next 15. It also pays for the hospital in case I get hit by a car and need tens of thousands of dollars in treatment and rehab.

I need life insurance (courtesy of my paycheck), which will help me pay for the condo in case my husband is killed and I'm too disabled to work and I can't sell the condo quickly.

I need to keep up my job skills to support myself on my own if I have to. I watched a woman very close to me stay in an abusive marriage because she'd let her job skills lapse. Without those skills she couldn't get a job that would support her and all of her kids. Unfortunately, she was too emotionally beaten down to think she could get retrained for a job that would support three people. So she stayed. So did the scars on her kids' bodies and minds.

Do I enjoy my job? Absolutely. Is it my calling? Not exactly. But protecting myself and those I love is a calling for me.

Minimalism espouses the idea that money can't buy happiness. That's true.

But it sure buys you the kind of misery you can live with.

*rant over*
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Born with a shoe fetish

Let's face it. Many women are addicted to shoes.

We collect them as if they were trophies for our feet. Trophies we can purchase, that is.

When my mom and I would pack up my room at the end of each year of college, she would inevitably ponder my shoe collection. My 23 pairs earned me the title of the "Imelda Marcos" in the family. In case you're not familiar with Ms. Marcos, she was married to the leader of the Philippines in the 1980s and amassed a collection of 2,700 designer shoes while the people of her nation starved. Behold, a small portion of her collection:

Since college I've kept up the collection. Since then I've also snapped a bone in the ball of my right foot in half and the pieces don't look like they're ever going to come together. The result: heels that are 2" or higher suddenly are painfully useless to me.

Honestly, the broken bone was probably a gift. I have a standing desk at work now so I spend most of the day in dansko clogs. I rarely put any kind of dress shoe on anymore. My shoe addiction is cured. Do I need the dozens of shoes I own?

Do I even know how many shoes I own? No. Do I even know what compelled me to collect dozens of shoes? No...

I'm going to leave the question of why women are addicted to shoes for another post, in part because I'd really like to hear your thoughts. If you've ever collected shoes or coveted the Sex and the City shoe closet (TM), why did you do it?

For anyone who is a former shoe addict, pair-ing down the collection (sorry) is a bit traumatic. So start with one. One step at a time you can walk around the world. Or empty your closet.

 The Reckoning
 lunch hour consignment shop trip!

Items 64: One pair of 3.5" heels.

Cost: $99. Purchased in grad school after I landed my first professional job. I've worn them exactly four times since. Was I insane? That was 10% of my monthly income back then!

Fate: The local consignment shop.

Amount of money I wasted on junk I never should've bought: $387. *sobs*

Thursday, March 8, 2012

88 pieces of tupperware on the wall, 88 pieces of tupperware...take one down and toss it around...

Dream-wind left this comment on my earlier post about Tupperware which reminded me that I hadn't taken a look at my plastic food container collection in a while. In my earlier post I talked about repurposing tupperware. But I definitely didn't throw anything out.

True to my hoarder self, I have a lot of tupperware: 

My husband's18-piece "it-melts-when-you-microwave-it" Rubbermaid containers from his bachelor days (USD $15.00)

Two 16-piece sets of glass tupperware from our wedding registry 
(USD $119.80 total)
My 16-piece set of 'Premiere' Rubbermaid containers (love the marketing there) from my days as a single gal
(USD $19.97)
Two two-piece corningware lunch dishes
(total USD $17.98)

One four-piece "lunch on the go" container
(USD $9.99)

A ten-piece set of 'disposble' tupperwares 
(now holding my socks, hose, and such things, USD $7.99)

And two ancient pieces of Tupperware that I pilfered from my mom's cabinet. I do feel bad about this one since I think I stole the only pieces that have the proper bottom and lid. Yet my parents own dozens of plastic containers.

That's 88 pieces of food storage if I did my math right. 
44 food containers. 

Also, because we can food in the Summer and Fall, we have about two dozen canning jars.

Something had to go! A friend of mine at work happens to have the same Premier containers as I do. She wanted some replacements so I dug out the ones I could find and took them in to work. It's not much of a dent in my total collection, but it's something!

The Reckoning

Items 60, 61, 62, and 63: Four food storage containers. 

Cost: I got rid of half of the set I originally purchased. Some are lost, some are still in the freezer. The set was $19.97 which makes these $!0. 

Fate: They now have a new home in my friend's kitchen cabinets.

Amount of money I wasted on junk I never should've bought: $288.