Sunday, December 29, 2013

This week's decluttering

Now that I'm over my green guilt, I've had a pretty busy week of decluttering. I think I'm back in my decluttering groove now that I'm back blogging again. Here's what disappeared this week.
2014 Air Force calendar. A free gift for volunteering at the Smithsonian. I put it on Freecycle and made someone pretty happy.
Cost: $0
Gaming headphones with microphone. The Chief Engineer got these for $40 and then his brother sent him a better set as a holiday gift. We sold this pair on ebay for $38, so we only lost $2.
This file folder I bought right out of college when I was just starting out learning about finances etc. I now use binders to keep my finances organized and this thing never helped me anyways. Cost: $10. It went in the trash, as my office already has many of these and no one uses them.
Baskets for the aerogarden I used to have. It was impossible to clean, used a lot of energy, and didn't really produce much to eat. These probably cost $5. Sold them on ebay for the amount of money it cost to ship them. Also, judging by the strange name of the "organization" that ordered them, I realize I may have sold them to a marijuana dealer. Can't be sure though.

Total money wasted: $17

Total money wasted on stuff I never should've bought: $2368

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hoarding money (and I don't mean saving it)

Can't bear to part with the milk jug but I part with the money in it too easily!
Hoarding money is supposed to be good, right? I mean, when you hoard money it's called saving. Supposedly.  For a long time I've had some odd habits with money. I have half a dozen bank accounts. I have three coin jars. I have two wallets. Talk about money clutter. Why?!

Saving is not something I'm good at. I've tried to get around it by putting my money in silos, or rather, bank accounts. One's to save for a trip to Spain, one's for a rainy day, one's to invest, one's for clothes, one's for music lessons, etc. Inevitably, though, something happens and I end up pilfering from one bank account to make some sort of vaguely impulsive purchase. 

Our first financial adviser said that I was doing myself a disservice by keeping my money in silos because it made it harder to see how much money I really had. I was doing it as a way to keep from spending money. 

Well, if it was supposed to work, then how is it that a girl who gets an allowance of $350/month finishes the year with exactly $190 in her bank account?! Fortunately our joint bank account is much healthier because the Chief Engineer is good with money management. 

Obviously what I am doing is not working. Having multiple containers (literally and figuratively) for money I think gives me a false sense of security. Probably the way piles of stuff give my parents security. Does an empty room seem lonely and frightening to them? Clean rooms have people put in them. Friends, family. Maybe it's easier to forget that you don't have friends or get along with family when you don't have space to host those people. 

Does a single bank statement with only $190 seem more scary than six bank accounts each with less than $50 in them? Actually, yes. One account is more scary because it proves that I have no fallback position. That means I have wake up to the fact that I must deny myself purchases in order to save. Therefore, I will do the scary thing. My goal for 2014 is to reduce my  money silos to the following: 

1. One wallet
2. No coin jars (use wallet instead)
3. One investment account
4. One liquid assets account

Today I closed two bank accounts and rearranged others. I have one checking account for myself now and no savings accounts. I have a single investment account for myself. I've consolidated my retirement accounts as much as humanly possible. Now I just have to get used to the idea that I can't hide from my inability to save anymore. 

Do you have money clutter? What has worked for you? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Decluttering my depression away

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had to go off my anti-depressants because they were causing me to gain weight, which is quite the problem when you're recovering from an eating disorder! It's been an emotionally rocky couple weeks and today was just a rough day. Body image-wise I was fine (yay!) but I just felt depressed. I couldn't get anything done at work. So I decided to start decluttering.

I had been concerned that going off my anti-depressants would make me less organized because the meds had given me the clarity of mind to get and stay more organized than I'd ever been in my life. That particular prophecy was fulfilled as my cube has become quite the mess in the last couple weeks.

This is a quiet week at work with so many people away for the holidays. That can make it even harder to get work done. But being disorganized is also making it hard to get work done. So decluttering is a good use of my time.

I spent a few minutes today figuring out a plan. One drawer at a time seems good to me. I dug around and stumbled on these little guys.
What is Oscar the Grouch doing in my cube? He's an attempt for me to be like other people at work. Everybody has trinkets at their desk. Of course, I had to as well. But these trinkets tie me to a childhood I'd rather not think about. What to do with them? Give them to the lady around the corner with the twin 1-year-olds. She approved of their child safe-ness and thought her kids would really like them. So I made two little kids happy, and in that, was able to shake a little bit of the blues today. 

How does decluttering affect your mood?

*The Reckoning*
Item 198, A set of Sesame Street figurines. 

$2350.99 wasted on junk

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Too many leftovers in the fridge? Problem solved!

When it's almost time -- but not quite -- for a grocery trip, who isn't faced with that awful question of, "what do I make with all this random stuff in the fridge?"

Now there's a website that will figure it out for you. Simply select the items that you have in your fridge and it will tell you what you can make and give you the recipe to go with. 

Not bad, huh?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Green guilt

Fellow declutterer Kerry at The Simple Year wrote a post last week about the debate between selling stuff and donating it. I've recently given up selling stuff out of sheer exhaustion. I must've gotten even more tired lately (thank you eating disorder meds). I've tried to be green when decluttering by donating, selling stuff, trading, sharing, freecycling, all of that. But today I just gave up and threw this door in the trash!
We went in with good intentions, really we did. We have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore nearby which accepts used and new items for home renovation. This door was a spare that came with our place when we moved in. We own a sedan and we almost managed to get the whole door into the car. It barely fit -- except that we had to pull the driver's seat so close to the steering wheel that I couldn't get into the seat to drive!

I debated putting it on freecycle. The door had some marks on it and I realized it was not going to be easy to get rid of on freecycle. We debated tying it down to the roof rack. We debated taking it down the highway with a foot of the door hanging out of our trunk and held in only with twine. Then we took a hammer to the door and tossed the pieces into our building's dumpster. We saved the mechanism and will take that to the ReStore on our next trip.

I don't feel great about the decision but I am finding it more and more tiring to make the effort of finding homes for all of the stuff we get rid of. I am happy to have the space back.

Have you ever gotten to the point where you just want to trash it all? Do you? How do you deal with "green guilt?"

 The Reckoning 
 Decluttered item #197 is an old door that came with the condo we bought.

$2350.99 wasted on junk so far

Monday, December 9, 2013

This holiday flash mob will make you smile

Occasionally on weekends you can find me volunteering at one of the Smithsonian Museums here in D.C. Some of you have even met me there! I find volunteering a great way to cheer myself up when I'm feeling down. This week we had a very special treat at the Air and Space Museum and I wanted to share it with you. Watch it all the way through to the end, I promise it's worth it!

Hint: Look for the folks with the white stripes on the sides of their pants. About 1/2 of the way through, start looking up at the balcony for the second part of the surprise!

Here's how they pulled it off.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Antidepressants helped me get organized...and sick

Of course, I'm not a doctor, your health decisions are always up to you, and everything I write here is just my opinion.

But I did notice that after I started on my first antidepressant back in 2010 that it was much, much easier to get organized and stay organized.

On that first, and my second, my third, and my fourth antidepressants, organization of home and time seemed almost natural to me. Sure, I was still messy. But I understood that everything had a place. When I would finish with something, I would remember to put it back. I had the energy to put it back. I had the desire to put it back. The meds slowed my thoughts down and allowed me to stay focused on a task. Tasks that were mildly unpleasant or just uninteresting I now had the attention span to actually finish! I could say no to the desire to buy 10 of something and just buy one or maybe three. The deep need to "protect" myself with stuff was slowly going away.

The antidepressants also helped tremendously with my eating disorder. I had the energy and the desire to fight through the negative thoughts to find soothing activities to do instead of bingeing.

Hoarding is finally considered by many to be a formal mental illness that medication can help treat. Hoarding is even gaining acceptance as an honest-to-gosh disorder among the psychological community, gaining a place in the much-debated "diagnostic bible" of psychology, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th revision).

All I can say is, thank heavens. It's easier to get help for something that's actually considered a real sickness.

Do meds help hoarders? I'm no psychiatrist, but maybe now there will be more investigation into testing meds to see if hoarders can be helped with these wonderful but complicated chemicals (did you notice I've been on four different antidepressants in three years?) For me, I'm about to do my own little experiment: can I live an organized, ED-free life without them?

As you know if you read my revived eating disorder blog, Body Image Hope, you'll know that I've spent the last week in full-out drug withdrawal. I went on a new antidepressant in early Summer because I was allergic to the one I had been previously given. This new drug seemed wonderful. I've never been so happy in my life or so happy about my body in my life. There was just one problem: I gained a lot of weight on this one. Like 20 pounds in four months. My weight had previously been stable within a half pound range for almost a year. Anti-depressants have a reputation for weight gain and this one apparently lived up to its reputation.

I quit the drug almost cold-turkey. I spent some time on a half dose and then dropped down to nothing on Black Friday. Full-out drug withdrawal followed. On Tuesday I had to keep from tossing my cookies in front of my whole company while getting an award at our annual ceremony (yay me?) I couldn't get out of bed on Wednesday. I tried to go into work on Thursday and was sweating so profusely while shivering in a meeting that I got sent home.

Now I'm better, and I'm back.

Why do I say that? Because I noticed some other really weird side effects of my meds: I stopped blogging and I stopped playing guitar. I love both of these things. I'm off the meds now and suddenly all I want to do is blog and play my guitar. Very strange. So expect more posts from me.

My psych doc has decided based on this that I might actually be okay without the anti-depressants for the first time in years. I originally went on them because I was suicidal after my grandmother's death and in the early stages of ED recovery. But now I'm much more recovered (minus the 20 pounds, grumble grumble, but I can live with them now). I've made peace with Gram being gone. Great things are happening for me at work, I finally can say that I love what I do and I look forward to going into work in the morning.

I wonder how I'll do? I suppose there are other meds. But I think I'm tired of side effects for a while.

If you've ever tried meds, if you're willing to share, did you find that they helped your original condition? Did they help your sense of organization?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Freecycle success!

I've had mixed success unloading things on eBay. Yes, I've made money, but in the end it often goes like this:

1. post
2. repost
3. repost
4. sale!
5. locate packing materials. which really means, dumpster dive for old boxes
6. wrap
7. walk to post office
8. fork over almost as much money as I'm making to ship the darn thing
9. FINALLY get paid!  wait. I made $2 for all that work. ugh. 

Our thrift shop is a very long drive away. Time to let people come to me. Hello, freecycle!

This week we got rid of three big things on freecycle:

This college flag from the Chief Engineer's school days

this trashcan

and this construction box.

Why do I have one of these? Because when I went to college my mother felt that I was very sick and needed a ton of medications to take with me. She filled it. Now I use a drawer for my meds and a medicine cabinet for my personal care items.

The Reckoning

The flag was apparently worth it for the Chief engineer. The trashcan was picked up from my MIL's stash when she cleaned out a while back. I have to stop picking up free stuff! At least there was no money wasted.

And my mom bought the construction box. So three items gone, but at least no money wasted.

*196 items decluttered*

$2350.99 wasted on junk

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Silly wedding gifts

I was *not* smart when I registered for gifts for our wedding. Apparently some wedding website thought it brilliant to suggest that you register for three times as many gifts as guests. We had 105 people at our wedding. Yes, I registered for 300 gifts.

We live in a 1200-square-foot condo. We lived in 900 square feet when we got married. It was also a high rise with no patio. And yet somehow I managed to register for a lawn mower and a charcoal grill. I was drunk on the American dream.

Fortunately the lawn mower didn't show up but the grill did! My MIL was kind enough to keep it for a while but we took it back last month.  Since then I've had one of these things sitting in our soon-to-be Matrix movie-watching room:

This grill can be yours for the low, low price of $79.99! Or almost $100 when you decide you need to also register for the charcoal starter chimney! Ugh. What was I thinking?!

I'd listed it on craigslist with no takers, not surprising given that it was 40 degrees this week. But Sunday we went out to lunch with my ex-boyfriend's college roomate and friends...though not the ex-boyfriend, haha. Two of the friends got married this summer and we've all attended each others' weddings. We were talking about awful/useless wedding gifts that we've received and the Chief Engineer brought up the silly charcoal grill that was taking up space in our back room. I was bemoaning the fact that no one was buying it when my friend chimed in, "Hey, I'll take it!"

He paid for our lunches and we drove him home to hand over the grill. I am so happy to see that thing gone from our back room!

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the cheeseboard that someone gave us as a wedding my dairy-allergic husband. Le sigh.

What were your silliest wedding gifts or registry items?

The Reckoning

We could've registered for something sensible that we would use, but instead we wasted that one gift on a grill.

Items 192 and 193: a weber kettle grill and charcoal starter.
Value: $100
Total money wasted on stuff we shouldn't have bought/registered for:


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Knock, knock, Neo.

It's been a while. I survived the DC furlough and three weeks off gave me an incredible amount of time to think. No, I'm not stopping the blog, but I do think I needed a break. It's amazing how much even things I do for fun become things that I keep telling myself I "should" do more often, and then they become burdensome. Posting was one of those things where I kept "should"-ing myself and I took a much-needed break.

I spent the time not doing nearly as much decluttering as I wanted to do. Which is fine. I did spend quite a bit of time on something called Amazon Mechanical Turk, which is a website run by where you can get paid a pittance to do small jobs, most of which are either transcription or psychology studies. It helped me contribute a bit financially and it gave me a chance to learn more about myself. Psychology studies are actually really cool! Yeah, I'm a geek.

I focused on taking studies about anxiety and eating disorders, since my eating disorder has gotten worse in the last couple months. Stress at work, medication changes, still not talking to my family, and it all adds up to .... a return to intensive outpatient treatment. I begin again in three nights a week of treatment on Wednesday this week.

On the plus side, I also spent a lot of time thinking about what makes me happy in life. One of those things is Spanish, so I decided to take two months next summer to study abroad and work at a medical library in Spain. I have the paid vacation time at work and it's considered a sabbatical, so it should be quite doable and very fulfilling. After that, we finally decided that it's time to settle down and have a baby.

Which brings us, oddly enough, back to decluttering! Our spare bedroom has never really been used for anything except storage. Over the furlough I decided that I wanted more out of the room before we turn it into a nursery. So for the next 2-3 years, or until the kid is old enough to realize what he/she is looking at, we're going to have a Matrix-themed room! We moved the TV into the back room and are trying to get more of the junk out of it.

This was the room before we started.

The plan for the room is as follows:

1. Move bed to opposite wall. get nice backrest pillows so that the bed can be a place to watch tv. Beds are my preferred place for tv-watching and the chief engineer won't let tvs enter our bedroom.
2. Put skis in closet
3. Get rid of desk in closet
4. Replace desk in closet with counter-height butcher block table to create a standing desk
5. Remove excess clutter
6. Paint walls
7. Put our three matrix posters up
8. Celebrate by watching the Matrix!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Furlough day 3: A saucy day

Today's decluttering was again food-allergy related. When I saw my allergist last week I got the final list of everything I'm allergic to. It took this long because I had some unusual tests done. Boy does it explain some things though. 

I already mentioned that I was allergic to my anti-depressant. I've known for decades about the cinnamon allergy. But what I didn't realize was that a common preservative, sodium benzoate, produces an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to cinnamon. But here was the big shocker: I'm genuinely allergic to aspartame. 

It explains a lot about the issues I've had with my eating disorder and artificial sweeteners. My stomach was always very irritated because the t-cell reaction I get can produce inflammatory symptoms for up to 96 hours after exposure. I don't think I've gone 96 hours without diet soda in the last decade. I wonder if it's part of why I inevitably binge within 48 hours of drinking diet soda. 

So anyways, I've gone a week without diet soda. I got rid of everything in the fridge with sodium benzoate. I also tossed the last few things that contained "natural flavors" or "spices,"  at my doctor's suggestion. Cinnamon and its derivatives don't have to be labeled explicitly in the US, they can just be lumped under one of those two term. I also gave the box of fig newtons I had to the homeless man by the grocery store. Apparently they have cinnamon in them. 

The rashes have been around for years. I usually walked around looking like the picture on the left. When I didn't look like that it was because I was wearing foundation. Once I made the dietary changes, voila, one week later, I look normal.


I celebrated by doing some re-cluttering, though. I found six cruets for a total of $14 and today I had enough time courtesy of my furlough days that made my own salad dressings. I am a salad addict and most dressings contain spices, natural flavors, or sodium benzoate. Ketchup apparently contains cinnamon. Recipes are linked below. 
From L-R: italian, ranch, ketchup, balsamic vinaigrette, Colonial Williamsburg's malt vinaigrette, honey mustard
making ketchup
I used to buy expensive salad dressings, like $3-4 per bottle and I go through a couple bottles a month. This should end up saving quite a bit of money over the long term. Not to mention, now I don't have to take all of these pills for my allergies and the stress caused by them!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

More reasons to spend money on security and not stuff

Guess what? I just got furloughed!

The "company" I work for gave me notice this morning, so here I am at home, waiting for Congress to figure things out. In the meantime, time to declutter my life a little bit!

I've disappeared from the interwebs in the last month courtesy of some little health problems. It turns out I was allergic to my antidepressant. We took me off that and I tried a new one. I turned into a zombie on that one, so we went back to the one I was on before, just a different formulation. Surprise, surprise, the rash and itching came back. I got a fourth antidepressant, which actually works! I feel like the last month has disappeared into a fog of itching, drowsiness, and unfortunately, a shocking amount of bingeing. Turns out those meds really did help keep my eating disorder under control.

Happily, things are calmer now.  I get the added bonus of a few vacation days! Time to catch up on all of your wonderful comments that I've ignored in the last month.

Unfortunately it does mean that until Congress gets its act together, I don't have a paycheck.  For that reason I am very, very glad that we have an emergency fund. I'm really not worried about being on unpaid leave for three weeks or three months if that's what it takes. The amount of money we've been spending each month on crap has been slowly declining. Not only has that meant more savings, but it's meant that we need less income to get by. Hopefully this month we can live entirely on the Chief Engineer's salary.

Now -- to learn to cope with the stress of a furlough without turning to any bad habits -- collecting free stuff, buying things, or eating myself into an oblivion. I'm planning on posting some more things on ebay and craigslist, maybe going and playing my guitar on the street, reading some more, making some gifts I owe people. How do you keep occupied when you suddenly have a ton of free time?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Creating extra space in the fridge

If you've lived in a condo, apartment, or dorm, you're used to small fridges. I'm okay with a small fridge because it means there's less space to hide food. My family's fridge and freezer are so large and so full that food can literally go for years before it's unearthed.

But a small fridge is a little tricky if you like melons, or make large round containers of soup or casserole. What to do? Use your vertical space.

The two plates didn't fit next to each other. But put the one plate on top of the applesauce jar and eureka! They fit!

This trick can also be used when trying to get two bowls or plates in a small microwave.

Got any space-saving fridge or freezer tricks up your sleeve?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How'd We Do That?! Fun With Spreadsheets, part deux

I've tracked our expenses since January of this year, even though I didn't implement any kind of money plan until this month. The red cells are the times when we went over the budget that I set for August. I can't complain about overpaying on my student loan, though. 
Impossible to read, I know. Click the spreadsheet to make it big enough to see.
The first block of categories is the "necessary" stuff. The second block is obviously the stuff we would instantly cut completely if one of us lost our job. I forgot the total for the second block -- it's a bit over $666. The green column is the average for the year so far. We had the best month we've had all year, spending a total of $2433.47 on expenses that aren't our mortgage or our condo fee. I'm still horrified, as I used to live on $1000 a month (including rent!) when I lived in Philadelphia. But this is DC, DC, DC and it's as bad as New York sometimes. 

But I'll hang onto the success. It left me wondering what went differently from other months and helped us to stay under budget?
  • I watched our purchases like a hawk this month. Unfortunately, this also kept me very stressed. So next month I will total up purchases at the end of each week, but not look at anything money-related in between.
  • We actively focused on staying home and entertaining ourselves there. We know that if we go out to do a single activity, say, go to a movie, it ends up turning into more than that. Dinner and a movie. Dinner, a movie, and ice cream for me. Dinner, a movie, and a swing by the grocery store for junk food on the way back. You get the picture.
  • We actively tried to cook more at home.
  • I focused on making money this month instead of spending it. I put a lot of energy into selling things on ebay. I earmarked all of those profits for my student loan so there was no temptation to spend the money. Ebaying stuff was an activity that took the place of some other spendy activities I might have done, like going to the bookstore.
  • I looked at each purchase in terms of how many items I would have to sell on ebay to pay for it. I haven't made much money on ebay and it's been a lot of work. Am I going to go toss the $8 I just made selling a beanie baby on lunch out? No, I'm going to keep it and put it towards my student loan.
  • We did not buy physical objects that couldn't be consumed, except for one item. I had some old, ugly jewelry Grandmom had given me melted down into a wedding band. My hands swell horribly in the summer heat and I can't wear the one the Chief Engineer gave me at our wedding for a good 2-3 months out of the year. When the ring disappears each year, people ask questions. I don't like it, so I wanted something I could wear in the summer. It was $75 for the labor -- but the jeweler asked me to do some artwork for his store, and I expect to make about $75 off the piece. It'll work out in the end!
Next month will be much more difficult as I know we have over $500 in medical expenses alone next month. I'll plan for that in the next post.

What would you change about my spending habits? Happily looking for suggestions. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fun with spreadsheets part I: Budgeting based on satisfaction

After reading the Financial Minimalist's post about tracking finances not so much based on categories, but instead on how much energy it took to make that particular purchase (eg. the number of hours you had to slave away at your job to pay for that one thing) I decided to take a look at my purchases in a similar way. For me, things divided into three categories: real honest-to-gosh needs, things that were worth the money, and things that weren't. In the end I had a pretty short list of things that didn't give me satisfaction. You'll notice a pattern pretty quickly.

Diet soda at work  $2.00  eating out
Diet soda  $1.50  eating out
Pizza and chips  $5.00  eating out
Diet tea  $2.00  eating out
Diet soda  $2.00  eating out
Diet tea  $2.00  eating out
Kindle book$12.99 entertainment
Twinkies  $4.00  groceries

Well, well, well. Not surprising from a girl who's struggled with food issues most of her life. And oddly enough, not a single object on that list. It's not the stuff that's cluttering up my life and draining me financially. This month it wasn't a super huge drain, around $33*.

In spite of my attempts to cut down on diet soda because it can make me binge, I spent $10 on this fantastically harmful stuff in a bottle. It always makes me crave sugar, which explains the twinkies. My goal next month is to buy a six-pack of cans of diet soda and keep a couple at home and a couple at work. This is far less expensive than the bottles I've been getting at work. It will also mean that I will be consuming less diet soda/tea than this month because at work all that is available is 20 oz bottles. Cutting this stuff out completely won't work yet.

The pizza happened when I got caught away from home and office with no packed lunch and suddenly found myself ravenous. If I'd been prepared and carried food with me as I'm always supposed to, that wouldn't have happened. I don't think I wanted pizza and chips, it just happened to be the closest thing around. Not satisfying. Must remember to carry food with me at all times. Even if it's just cheese crackers and prunes.

The Kindle book was, yet again, my eating disorder talking. It's a book on "staying slim," but it actually was one of the most sane 'diet' books I've ever read, as it focused on weight maintenance. Still probably wasn't a good idea to read, and even still, I should've gotten it from the library. It was a little triggering, but in spite of all of this I haven't binged in 20 days!

Lesson learned -- my wasted money all seems to have something to do with feeding my eating disorder and falls into the "eating out" category. I've justified all of it by thinking, "oh, it's just one soda," or "oh, it's just $2." It all adds up. This is what I'll have to pay attention to this month.

*That "little" $33 trickle? If I kept up this habit for 10 years, I'd spend over $4,000 on stuff that wasn't satisfying.

Thursday, August 29, 2013 18: Life Lessons Learned on EBay

Has it really been ten days since I've posted?! Time flies when you're having fun beating down your eating disorder and emptying out your home a bit. It's been a pretty good ten days. I haven't binged. I definitely have tried to restrict, which means there's something going on emotionally. I have definitely wanted to overeat. In fact, if I could type without my hands, I think I would need to sit on them right now so that I don't go devour the box of twinkies in the cabinet. I'm feeling particularly lazy and unsuccessful today even though I have no reason to feel that way.


I have definitely been successful in getting rid of stuff. I've been ebaying quite a bit lately, with mixed results.  But it's been heartbreaking in a way because I'm seeing how little money I'm making on things that were quite expensive. In fact, I'm actually glad it hurts so much. For some reason when I give things to the thrift shop I don't feel so bad about how much money I've wasted. I suppose it's the endorphins from being charitable. Here's what I sold.
Pair of Coach loafers. Didn't quite fit. Cost $75, made $15 off of them. Total loss: $60.

Victoria's Secret bra. Purchased on a whim the night of our first anniversary when I decided that I wanted to wear a strapless dress to dinner. I should've just picked a different dress and saved myself the $45. I sold this for $6 but it cost that much to ship -- a complete loss of $45.
Sorry he's pixelated -- but this little Bo Obama plush I bought the night I went to see the National Christmas Tree after Obama was elected. I'm allergic to dogs. Why did I spend $11 on this? I only made $1 after shipping and ebay took their cut.
This item was the worst heartbreaker. I spent $75 on it because I *had* to have a purple bag. I sold it for $45, but the customer thought that it was too stained, and claimed that it had a tear that I know it didn't have. I just wasn't willing to fight -- I gave her a partial refund, enough to cover my shipping costs and ebay's cut, and she went away happy. Of course she did. I ended up financially no worse off than I would have if I'd just taken it to the thrift shop. But this felt much, much worse, like I'd lost $45. The $77 I paid for it originally really stung.

These all really hurt. I spent a lot of time and energy in packing this stuff up to get rid of it, and I ended up making a mere $16. All of which went to pay off my student loan, but I'm just furious at myself. Perhaps I've finally learned my lesson though, about how much energy, time, and money really goes into our possessions. We'll see when I present this month's spending in my post this weekend.

All told, four more items are gone.

The Reckoning
Items 188-191
Worth $208, sold for $16.
Loss: $192
Total money wasted on junk I never should've bought: $2250.99

As for less...spending, stay tuned for this weekend's with my budget spreadsheet! Sounds so exciting, doesn't it? ;oD

Monday, August 19, 2013 8: why does success feel like failure?

Today's Less post is definitely a Less ED post.

You could alternately say that today was awful or a huge success. The Chief Engineer left for a business trip this morning, which leaves me at home alone. I saw this coming, I know that being alone with my own thoughts is a recipe for disaster. I haven't made made peace with the idea of separating from my family yet, and these are super-triggering thoughts right now. Being alone does NOT help this.

I've been building to some ED behavior for a few days now. I've been starting to compulsively do calisthenics, I've been inflexible about this four-meals-a-day thing. So what is the eating disorder covering for? First one's obvious: family s***. Every time I think about it I have the tiniest urge to binge or restrict. Today it wasn't so tiny. So I came home and I threw myself into cleaning. I washed the floor, I cleaned the gerbils' cage, I loaded the dishwasher, I packed up some items I sold on ebay. Meanwhile, when I would let myself eat, the only thing I was eating was chocolate. Hmm, something was still bothering me.

The second thing I was running from wasn't so obvious. I realized that I needed to send an email to a (former) friend who I haven't seen in a while but who I figured I should reconnect with. She works downtown and I'll be downtown next week for a doctor's appointment and then to volunteer at the Smithsonian. I'll have a huge chunk of time between the two of those and figured I should try to catch up with her.

I was dreading it. I feel awful because this friend and I used to be close, but honestly I started to get jealous of her when we lived right next to each other a couple years back. I know she has a history of an eating disorder and still works very hard to stay perfectly thin (read: she's not over her disorder and has no plans to be). She works for a prominent member of DC society and also has a higher salary than I do. She's a ladder-climber who just bought a very expensive condo and then gutted it and renovated the entire thing. Perfect kitchen, perfect bathrooms, all of which is very triggering for me because I want the perfect kitchen and the perfect bathrooms because the house I grew up in was the exact opposite. The bathroom that my sister and I shared didn't have a working shower--the shower tiles had gotten so mildewed that the grout cracked and water was leaking into the walls. We weren't allowed to use the shower because it would get more water into the walls. Instead of fixing it, my parents just never allowed us to take showers in that bathroom. For two. decades. I'm pretty obsessed with having a "perfect" kitchen and bathroom to make up for growing up like this. However, said friend with perfect bathrooms also likely has a perfectly jumbo mortgage.

The rational side of my brain says that I have no reason to be jealous of her. I hate my 15-year mortgage that we'll be done with in 10 years. I can't imagine a jumbo 30-year mortgage. She has worked insanely hard for years and I don't think she's had much life outside of the job. Meanwhile, I've gotten to learn guitar and put a lot of work into improving my own life with therapy and gotten to meet lots of awesome people through blogging. I've traveled loads in the last couple years. But I don't think I can sit at the same table with her at not be jealous. Particularly of how thin she is.

Danger, Wil Robinson! Trigger alert!

I realized that I just can't ask this girl to lunch. She's triggering. And sure, it's sad that a friend is triggering. Let's correct that -- former friend. There's no need for me to feel guilty, friends come and go. There's no need for me to try to starve myself now so that she won't think less of me at lunch next week if I don't have lunch with her! So I decided not to call her up, and to just let things go. So I didn't end up bingeing tonight. I did end up restricting a bit, which led to some overeating. I knew what was going on and I kept the irrational behaviors mostly in check. I did eat more than I needed and I ate some things that weren't good for me or what I really wanted. But it wasn't a binge. It wasn't a binge, it wasn't a binge. I still feel like a failure. My weight is still as high as it's been in a decade and this can't help. But it's just one day. This really is a success.

So yeah, I wanted a perfect evening where I wouldn't have ended up overeating. But I did end up realizing that maybe 4 meals a day isn't for me and that I want to go back to being flexible. I ended up realizing that I can avoid a triggering situation, and if it means losing a former friend, then that has to happen. I have to take care of me first.

How do you cope with jealousy? What do you do to make you feel better?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Letting yourself lose things

This post I suppose is also part of my personal Less...challenge. Days 6 and 7.


How many of us decided to start delcuttering because we were tired of losing stuff? I definitely did. But guess what? Today I lost something. I lost several things, several very expensive things. A necklace and earrings of mine I realized were gone and they've probably been gone for a while. I turned the condo upside down and couldn't find them.

Then suddenly an email showed up from a friend. A favorite jewelry store of ours called Fire and Ice is closing their Union Station store and selling everything for 50% off. Did I want to make an excursion and buy some jewelry on sale? Oooh, tough question, because the necklace that disappeared came from Fire and Ice. It would be so easy just to hop on Metro and go buy another one. Very tempting.

But as I was making this decision I was also working on some freelance artwork that a local store asked me to do. It was a quick project and I was probably only going to make $50 from it, but who cares, it's a fun project. But I suddenly realized that $50 was what I was going to end up spending on the necklace. I was going to end up cancelling out the hour I spent on the art project by buying something. No, I want more of my mortgage paid off. A few months ago I would've run straight downtown for the necklace to make myself feel better in the moment about being so disorganized that I lost it.

So I let myself lose the necklace. It's a lesson and I'm okay with it. I need to pay more attention to the things that I own and take better care of them. But losing things happens, even to the most organized people. In the end I spent less money and I have more respect for my possessions than I would've had even a couple months ago.

Besides, I already own another necklace with blue stones. Time for me to start wearing that one. I don't need two blue necklaces.

Has decluttering helped you lose stuff less? Are you okay with losing things occasionally or do you feel the need to replace what's gone?

Friday, August 16, 2013 5

Okay, okay, I do have a good excuse for disappearing. I unfortunately decluttered one of these in the last couple days:
I've had life-threatening nut allergies for most of my life and managed to trust a friend to read a label on something he fed me instead of doing what is my responsibility and reading it myself....point being I had to use the epi-pen and ended up in the hospital for the better part of a night and felt lousy for most of a day afterwards. Fine now though. Unfortunately I do need to get another epi to replace the used one, so I can't exactly add it to my declutter tally!

Otherwise, here's how the last few days have gone. 

Less spending
Well, so much for that. Not reading a label cost me over $100 (hospital and ambulance co-pay) and a lot of discomfort. But I'm fine with that because I'm alive. Totally worth $100. I also picked up on Wednesday flowers for my therapist ($5) and a kindle book ($13). No objects were added to my home. 

Less ED
For the last three days I've been trying to follow the 4x4 plan my dietician wants me to get on, that's four meals a day, four hours apart. I've been pretty uncomfortable at meals but it does seem to be the right amount of food since it lasts four hours. When I'm not seriously full it doesn't last that long. It's going to take a while to adjust to this. However, it has meant that I'm eating less junk food because I'm not thinking about food so much. Score there.

I did, however, give into the scale at work earlier this week. It was a different experience than it has been in the past because the last four times I've gotten on the scale in the last two months the number has been exactly the same. It's not a number I like, but it's making me fall out of the "oh, my weight's going up!" or "oh, look, I'm losing!" traps. I know that the way I'm eating now won't cause my weight to go up or down and it's easier to trust my stomach. Now, I just have to learn to be comfortable where I am. Argh. 

Less anxiety
The little anaphylaxis incident in some ways reduced my anxiety because it put things in perspective. When your dessert can put you a mere 10 minutes from being dead, suddenly it doesn't matter whether my stocks went up or down that day, or how big my hips are. 

Less stuff
Tomorrow we have plans to reupholster our dining room chairs. The Chief Engineer has decided to get rid of a very large box that he kept around for his DDR game but thinks we don't need it anymore. I'm glad it will get reused and recycled. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 2

Less ED
No binge, but still restricted this morning. I think I ate 8 times today so tomorrow I'm going to try for four solid meals. Hopefully I won't be thinking about food as much. I also tend to eat junk when I go for snacks, so maybe I can focus more on foods that will make me feel good physically.

Less anxiety
The restricting today again came from family issues. I have got to stop hearing the voice of my parents' other daughter in my head. I did talk to the Chief Engineer about how upset I am at the thought that I might never have a relationship with my mother. We talked for a while and ultimately redefined 'relationship' as, "whenever we go up to Philly I take her out to lunch and I simply refuse to talk about family stuff, as there should be plenty of other topics to fill up an hour." And I'm okay with that.

I started reading a book about emotional regulation. Apparently growing up in a hoarder's home, where the hoarder refuses to admit that there is a problem, or that the environment could be upsetting to the child, primed me to not be able to deal with my emotions. This book is a "skills training manual" which should help me learn to recognize and deal with the emotions I have related to growing up in a hoarded home.

Less spending
Today's expenses were $28 for lunch for myself and a good friend, and $10 for cold medicine. The lunch was expensive but he and I go out to exactly the same place and get exactly the same thing exactly twice each month. We're nothing if not predictable! One time each month he picks up the bill, the other time it's my turn. I really look forward to our bi-weekly lunches, so it's a worthwhile expense. And I got a cold this afternoon so the cold medicine had to happen!

Less stuff
I was well and truly sick by this afternoon so nothing got decluttered. But I did try to eye some potential items to get rid of. Next stop: my drawer of workout clothes.

I'm going to go bury my head in a box of tissues now.

Monday, August 12, 2013 1

Less ED
Yeah, yeah, every day's a battle. I didn't binge (woo hoo!) but I did start restricting practically from the first minute I was up. I ate six times before noon, each time a few nibbles of something, but I got sick of thinking about food all the time. By dinner I was eating a full meal but it was terrifying. The Chief Engineer plated my food because I asked for only one scoop of stroganoff and he thought that wasn't enough. I'm doing okay now, but the big question is, why was I so food-focused all day?

Some of it is that I'm still feeling the physical effects of the last binge four days ago. I ate a lot of fruit and fiber today so I was feeling incredibly bloated and super body image-conscious. But I think the bigger problem was that I kept hearing my sister's voice in my head, telling me that what I said on my bodyhater blog was incredibly offensive. Not insulting (that would imply that it wasn't true.) Offensive for saying that my father was abusive (still is) and that my parents are hoarders. 'Offensive' did mean that I hit the nail on the head. It's the insults that sting that have some truth, right? Guilt for telling the truth.

I was mulling over how to tell my father why I was angry at him and that I never planned to speak to him again. By lunch I'd gotten most of it out of my head, realizing that I never have to go back into that mess again. I will deal with my mother eventually. But for now I don't have to. Goal for tomorrow: every time I think about family stuff, I will think about my old girl scout leader, who took me under her wing after all this happened and told me that it's alright not to have a relationship with people who are so dangerous to my mental health. She also never hesitates to remind me that my husband still loves me even at a size 12, and she does this with a smile that really makes me believe it. I need to picture that smile. I need to stop feeling guilty.

Less anxiety
Most of my anxiety is financial. Not like we're in trouble, but we are rather house poor (darn 15 year mortgage.) I checked my stocks way too often today because I was bored at work. I need to pick stocks that I don't plan to sell for 10 years!

Less spending
Pretty good day today -- guitar lesson ($50), medication ($17), groceries that we couldn't get at costco ($25). Talked myself out of getting a new couch!

Less stuff
I did finally admit that coffee makes me sick to my stomach. I'd taken up drinking it because my anti-anxiety medication makes me very sleepy. But it's time to take sleepy over sick! I left this jar of coffee crystals in my office; it was gone a few minutes later!

I did my calisthenics and now it's off to bed. Score for day one!

How to avoid overbuying at warehouse club stores

Oh, Costco.
Your brilliant sodium lights beckon me into your depths…you entice me with your mountains of fruit, huge piles of discount clothes, impossibly sparkly jewelry, walls of big-screen TVs, discount Kitchen Aid mixers…
I fill my cart with my bounty. “I’ve saved so much!” is my siren song.
And then comes the $350 bill at the checkout stand.
But wait, the bitter realizations continue! How could I forget the epic battle to squeeze 100 pounds of flour into the back seat of our sedan along with all of the other extremely large groceries?
So yeah, yesterday we went to Costco, one of the huge warehouse club stores in the US. My mom would often get the name of the PetCo mixed up with Costco when she would talk about where we bought our gerbils. We always replied that if we’d gotten the gerbils at Costco, we would’ve gotten a 12-pack of 5-pound gerbils, because nothing at Costco is small or comes in a convenient number or size.
These club stores are a compulsive shopper’s dream and a frugal person’s confusion. As the daughter of someone who had no trouble buying a 15 year supply of aluminum foil, Costco is a place where I really have to work hard to replace my desire to “save money” with a desire not to overbuy or overspend. Yes, you can save money on the items you purchase compared with other stores, but it’s hard not to spend a ton of money at these places. It’s easy to end up with way more than you need. 

How do you avoid overbuying at these places? I’ve tried going in with a list and sticking to it. Inevitably a few extras sneak into our cart. We’ve tried going with a specific amount of cash, but it’s hard to tell exactly how much we’ll need.
This time, we used some other strategies. And for the first time in ages, our bi-annual trip to Costco came out under $300! Here were our weird strategies:
1.      Bring a friend. One of my neighbors joined us on our expedition since she doesn’t have a car. We knew we had a limit on space in the car. I also appreciated having someone else have a more objective view of what and how much we were purchasing. Every time we laughed about how full our carts were, it made us stop and consider whether we really needed everything in the cart. You may be able to do this with your spouse, but maybe not. It’s easier to help someone else pick the unnecessary items out of their cart than out of your own. You can also split some item with your friend.

2.      Bring a list of what you want to buy and write down prices of the items as you put them in the cart. This made me more cost-conscious. It wasn’t as painful to write down “$2.89 X 2” for two gallons of regular milk as to write “$10.59” for a 1.5 gallons of organic milk, so of course we got the regular! This will also make it easier to comparison shop at the grocery stores. It also makes it easier to focus on the amount of money that will be disappearing from your bank account, as opposed to the amount of money you’ll “save.” Remember, it’s not saving if ¾ of those super-cheap bananas rot on the counter!

3.      Bring a calculator. Periodically we’d stop and add up everything we’d put in the cart (another reason to write down prices!) As the number slowly crept up I got much more careful about what went into the cart. No surprises at the checkout stand.

4.      Have specific plans for what to do with excess perishable food. I wanted some strawberries but I knew that the box would inevitably be too large to finish. So, I talked to the Chief Engineer and planned to make strawberry jam one evening later this week. I get fresh berries for the first few days, he gets jam later in the week, and nothing gets wasted.
In all, we spent almost $267. I feel good not because of how much money I saved (though I can’t complain about 25 pounds of flour for under $8), but because we’re keeping almost $80 more in our checking account this time around and NOTHING is going to get wasted. Not to mention, EVERYTHING fit in our cabinets. That’s saving, Dad.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Can I do this?

I'm not good at challenges. I set goals for myself like, oh, I'm going to do a series on my blog about grief and clutter! Yeah, that didn't really happen. Or I say, I'm going to declutter one item every. single. day. 

But my therapist has encouraged me to journal more as a way of figuring out what emotions are driving me to eat when I shouldn't be, to binge, to restrict, to shop, to buy crap just because it makes me feel better. So I'm going to try something. Let's see what happens if I make myself take some time every day for the next month to write. I don't have any particular outcome, but I would like to work these things:
  • Less ED. My bulimic side has been very hard to control since I got out of treatment. My good days are incredibly better than they used to be but my bad days are just as bad as ever. I've had one bulimic day in the last month; I'd like to go the entire next 30 days without any bulimic episodes. Writing about my feelings each day should provide an outlet to minimize my urges to binge or restrict. 
  • Less anxiety. I have generalized anxiety disorder, which means I can and will stress over anything and everything. I'd like to spend the next month coming up with some strategies for managing my day-to-day anxiety. Writing should help!
  • Less spending. Spending has been a problem for me for a while. It's also a huge source of anxiety for me. It's not like we're in debt from anything other than our mortgage and a tiny student loan, but I seem to fritter away a lot of money on stupid stuff. I want to try to figure out why. 
  • Less stuff. Decluttering gives me a sense of purpose. It also helps keep me sane. Because I grew up in a hoarded home I get seriously upset and emotionally disturbed when I'm in a disorganized space. I've fallen out of the decluttering habit recently and I'd like to try to get back into it a bit more.  It should make me feel more emotionally stable when I know that I'm consistently getting rid of stuff. 

So each day I'll post something about my day, touching on one or more of these lessons in "less." Or at least I'll try. Not like it's a huge deal if I don't!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My, that hurts

I've never sold anything on eBay, but after reading a couple personal finance blogs about the amount of money you can make by selling stuff, I decided that it was time to try to sell a few "big ticket" items we had lying around the house. I posted some stuff on ebay and was completely shocked when things sold!

What was more shocking was how much money I spent on this stuff in the first place.

Item 1: A Wii. A gift for the Chief Engineer years ago, it never really got played. Bought for $180 and after shipping I made a $35 profit on it. That's $145 wasted. Ugh.

Item 2: A sound hole cover for my guitar. Taylor Swift has one of these so of course I had to have one! It made my old guitar sound better but it completely smothered Jolene's voice. I was horrified. It cost $75, and I sold it at a $30 profit. That's $45 wasted.
But she looks so pretty with the sound hole cover! Why can't she sound pretty, too?

Item 3: A Glacier Park guide book. Instead of being smart and getting the book way ahead of time from the library, I waited until the last minute and had to get a brand new copy with expedited shipping. Cost: $20. Sold for $7. $13 loss.

In college I would sell used books and I made a small fortune -- around $2,000 after four years of picking people's old textbooks out of trash piles on the day dorms closed and then reselling them online. And what did I do with that money? I wasted it on crap. Not this time.

All told I wasted $203 on these three items. I'm glad I made at least a little money off them, and I did put the money straight towards our mortgage. I've decided that the profits from anything I sell on ebay or amazon will go directly to pay off the principal on our mortgage.

~ The Reckoning ~
Items 188, 189, 190
$203 wasted

For a total of $2261.99

Have you sold anything on ebay?

Monday, August 5, 2013

The biggest item I've ever decluttered

When I was little my mother told me that I could choose an instrument to learn to play. There was one catch: it couldn't be bigger than I was and still have to be carried to lessons.

I wasn't allowed to play violin because my mother thought it was too squeaky, the bass obviously didn't pass the too-big-to-carry-it criteria, and for some reason viola never came up in conversation. Band instruments weren't an option at my school. The cello fit the bill. How, excatly, I'm not sure, as this is the size of my cello in its traveling case:

I've had a love-hate relationship with my cello for a long time. I never was good at it because my parents couldn't afford private lessons and I wasn't disciplined enough to benefit from them anyways. I also just never really connected with the instrument.
What I did do with the cello, was, when no one was looking, turn it on its side and strum it like a guitar. Which of the two instruments should I have actually been learning?
I wanted to sell it but my mother threw a fit as soon as I mentioned the idea. She said that it wasn't mine to sell. Yes, she'd paid for it when I was younger. I wasn't allowed to donate it to an underprivileged school, either. No, it had to go back to her. She doesn't play the cello AND she still has her other daughter's cello at home, even though the other daughter quit playing after high school. I had approached her about her donating both cellos one of the last times I was home. She only seems to have a problem with me making the donation, not her, as I was greeted by the typical hoarder "I'll get around to donating it" response, which really means that it will never happen.
So, a few months back I finally returned the cello to my parents. It was taking up space in my home and if my mother so badly wants another huge, usable object to sit wasted and clutter up more of her house, who am I to stop her at this point?
It was really hard to let go of playing in an orchestra, but the truth was I wasn't enjoying it. I felt like I was a failure because I was quitting. In reality, I was a success because I'd stopped wasting time on something I didn't love. Fortunately, I did find my true love (apart from the Chief Engineer, of course.)
My uncle said that because I have more than one guitar in the house right now I needed to name my guitar for the same reason one would name their children. Ha! So, her name is Jolene, she's a Takamine Grand Auditorium acoustic/electric, and is made out of Hawaiian koa wood. Like the actress she's named after, she's gorgeous, has great curves, and actually performs as good as she looks.

And she takes up so much less room than the cello!
The other guitar will be gifted to a friend this Fall. Sure, I could've sold the other guitar for probably about $100, but this friend read one of the Bible passages at our wedding and something makes me think I was crass enough not to give her a gift. She's said she wanted to learn to play for a while now and I think the other (nameless) guitar will be much enjoyed by its new owner.
Have you ever quit playing a musical instrument? Was it hard or easy? What did you do with the instrument when you were done? What's the biggest thing you've ever decluttered?