Fall had come early

Unusually cool weather has meant that fall foliage is here and the whole river valley is quickly turning mustard yellow.

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“Slow” mid-year update

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This is a purple aster, which is one of my favourite flowers. It’s not really related to this post, but it makes me happy because I love the picture and the very relaxing hike I did on the day I took the picture.

I’m doing an OK job of being slow and intentional in many areas of my life, but I’ve also completely dropped the ball in many other areas. Such is life, I guess. Work has been sporadically high stress for several months and the summer heat has been exhausting, so I’ve been picking and choosing the things I do to take care of myself.

Over the past few months, I stopped doing daily yoga, I stopped using my sort-of bullet journal, I did less art, I’ve struggled with getting enough sleep, I shopped online more, I browsed booktube and book blogs instead of reading books, I ate more junk, I stopped going to the farmer’s market, and I stopped walking to and from work.

Some of the good things have come back: a new Sunday market in my neighbourhood has made it easier to do weekly market trips; a watercolour challenge has meant that I’ve been doing art most days, sometimes for hours; and, a few really great or short books have helped me get back into reading (also, I’ve been focusing on just 1 or 2 books at a time, instead of my usual 4 or so).

Despite these few improvements, I have to admit that things have gone a bit south during the last couple of months. A few weeks ago, I would have told you that I felt that I was doing a really good job of my slow year experiment, but when I started reflecting on how the year’s been, I realized that I’ve been slipping backwards.

But, that’s OK. Sometimes we can’t control or avoid stressors in our life and I know that I always struggle more with dealing with stress in the summer (I don’t like the heat, I don’t have A/C, I get a lot of traffic noise because I have to leave my windows open, etc. – so, I’m grumpy and tired all the time).

After I realized how poorly things have been going, I was a bit tempted to just throw my hands up in despair. But, I promised myself that I’d take things slowly this year, so I took a more thoughtful approach and looked for things that I could control and things that could be adjusted to make life a bit easier. For example, I’ve made a mental list of chores that can be done with less care than usual. A great example of this is cleaning my floors – right now, I’m erring on the side of “good enough” instead of my usual habit of moving every piece of furniture and getting every corner.

I’ve also been reviewing my social media habits and follows, making big changes where I can. For example, I weeded Instagram and YouTube, cutting the number of channels/people I had been following by at least half. I usually do this sort of review every new year, but I guess I just needed to cut back some more this year.

Oddly, the one thing that I’ve been consistent about and that I’ve been making steady progress in is my goal to be more eco-friendly. I’ve made some big changes that have not only helped me to be more eco-friendly, but also made me pretty happy (my new all-purpose cleaning spray smells amazing because I make it myself and add whatever essential oils will make me happy – currently, it’s citrus). I’m also going to be participating in Plastic Free July and trying at least one big change for me that I’m not yet sure I’m OK with (more on that in July). That might add a bit of stress to July, but I’m excited that I’m willing to try (go me!).

Over the next couple of weeks, I hope to add more of my good habits back into my life, but mostly I’m going to be focusing on finding the balance I need right now and accepting that life sometimes gets in the way of our plans to “better” ourselves. Also, I’m going to do an apartment review, because I think that a “spring clean” would be a good idea (it’s something that I find relaxing, because I’m one of those odd people who loves a decent spring clean at all times of the year).

And, I think that it’s important to recognize and celebrate what is probably the biggest win of the year, so far – I may be struggling with my goals, but I’ve clearly been making some mental shifts because I stopped to reflect before giving up. Taking this more thoughtful approach is huge for me. If it’s the only gain for the year and the only consistent change from this year, I’ll consider this whole experiment a giant success.

This past weekend …

This past weekend was an odd one, weather-wise. Saturday was gloriously sunny and warm, but Sunday was grey and colder by the hour.

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Not realizing that the weather was going to change so drastically, I decided to do a big spring clean on Saturday. I swept, I washed, I scrubbed, and I stayed inside all day. Then, I checked the weather and lamented about a beautiful day wasted inside.I don’t regret the spring cleaning – my place looks and feels better, plus I accidentally discovered a minor change in furniture placement that made a huge difference in the balance and flow of the whole space. But, I was still a bit sad about missing out on a beautiful day.

Instead of being grumpy about it, I decided to just add a bit of spring to my space. I was going to buy some flowers on Sunday, but when I woke up I decided that it would be more interesting, more economical, and more environmentally friendly to find some interesting branches. We’re not yet in bloom season here, but the wee little buds are starting to burst with leaves and I love greenery just as much as I love flowers. So, armed with a warm jacket and a pair of branch clippers, I went for a short walk to look for interesting branches.

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Before you accuse me of being a monster to damages my neighbours’ bushes, I should mention that I live next to a promenade with an adjacent wooded area. It’s a small wooded area (a couple meters of buffer between the promenade and a road), but it’s full of interesting trees and bushes, including many that flower. As I said, we’re not yet in flowering season, but I’ve been living here long enough to remember the approximate location of my favourite trees. Also, the area surrounding my building’s parking lot is full of neglected lilac bushes – given their neglect, I think they’re fair game, too.

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I was only going to pick a branch or two, but I couldn’t help myself and ended up with several (most of which are flowering). They may not be fancy flowers, they may just be sticks with a bit of green, but it’s still a nice treat. I’ve loved watching the leaves emerge and grow, and, if I’m lucky, they may last long enough for a few blooms. If not, I’ll head out with my clippers again.

As for the spring clean, I don’t regret “wasting” a sunny day on my apartment. To me, it’s like a bit of self-care because I love a clean, fresh home.

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This weekend

It’s gross and snowy right now. But, Saturday was gloriously sunny and spring-like. Even better than that, I spent a bit chunk of the day with one of my all time favourite people (she’s so smart, interesting and lovely, and I’m lucky to have her as a friend).

We started the day at The Duchess, where I had a coconut, orange and coriander danish, which was so good! I didn’t take any pictures because I’m trying to be more present when I’m with friends, which  means leaving my phone in my pocket. But, she gave me a bunch of recommendations for TV shows and such that I should check out. She always has great documentary recommendations, so I’ll be checking these out a.s.a.p.

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I also acquired some homemade goodies she made: relish, strawberry marmalade, pear and rose white tea jelly, and hot chocolate mix. As an added bonus, she said she’d teach me to make preserves this year. My family made preserves when I was growing up and I used to help, but its been a couple decades and I feel intimidated by the idea of doing it on my own, so I’m pleased as punch that she said I could be her assistant.

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We then went for a wander in the neighbourhood, where I did a bit of shopping. Those Smarties are British Smarties, which are a million times more delicious than Canadian Smarties. And, yes, I do use natural deodorants (90% of the time, anyway). I’m still looking for the perfect one, but these two Routine samplers have been great so far.

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When I got home, I did boring chores, spent some time with some art books, and eventually settled in with The Fifth Element, which continues to be one of my favourite movies – the costumes are awesome, there’s lots of action, and the characters all amuse the heck out of me.

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It was a nice weekend and I’m looking forward to when the weather goes back to being spring-like.

Rediscover yourself?

I’m (slowly) reading Michael Harris’ Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World. It’s about the benefits of embracing solitude and how difficult that can be in Western society. It’s quite interesting and I’ve highlighted enough quotes and ideas to fill my blog for weeks, but, right now, I just want to focus on one:

I don’t want to run away from the world – I want to rediscover myself in it.

I think that a lot of people (especially some of the more social people I know) assume that solitude and loneliness are the same thing. When I tell people that I like a bit (a lot) of solitude in my life, they immediately start worrying about me being lonely or telling me that I am lonely. But, solitude isn’t about being lonely and some people love having time to themselves, even if it’s just a few minutes. Solitude isn’t about not having friends or family, not feeling connected to your community, or not being able to spend time with people when you feel like being social. Solitude is about taking some time for yourself. It’s about ignoring your phone (calls, emails, text messages, social media, etc.) for a little  while. It’s about letting your mind be blank or letting it wander off into those dusty corners you rarely visit. It’s about letting the sound of the rain, wind, crickets, birds, river, orchestra, etc. be the only thing you focus on for a little while. It’s about taking time to reconnect with yourself.

I think that this line from the book resonated with me because I was (and still am) on that journey, but I haven’t yet found the path I need and I’m still worried that others will think that my willingness to disconnect, declutter, and simplify are an attempt to run away. All of the changes I’ve made in my life these past few years were just my attempts to find my path and get back to solid ground.

Taking time for myself – whether it was early morning walks, time to sketch, or my new digital free Sundays – is just a way for me to get to know me. And, instead of disconnecting me from my community, it’s actually been making me feel more inclined to participate with my community. Instead of feeling heavy with the stress of what I was trying to make my life into, I’m feeling relaxed with the not-normal-but-works-for-me life that I’m working towards.

I know that I sometimes make finding time for solitude sound grand and easy, but it’s not. Certainly, it’s easier for someone like me who likes to take time for myself and let my mind wander, but I’m sure this sounds like a nightmare for many of my extroverted friends. Nonetheless, I would encourage everyone to find a few minutes here or there to be alone with your thoughts. Maybe that’s just stopping for a few breaths in a park on your way to work, taking the dog for a walk without your phone, sitting quietly with a loved one for a cup of tea, or meditating. The key is to take some time without distractions – no phone, no radio, no TV, no chatter from your BFF who had the most ridiculously awesome gossip. Those things can come later.

Try it, and maybe you’ll rediscover something about yourself.

Hope brings things

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I made this note months ago:

Re. minimalism:

  • Hope brings things
  • you hope you’ll use things, you hope you’ll have friends over for games nights, you hope you’ll sew the pattern, etc. 
  • But those hopes may not be who you really are (ex: I don’t tend to invite people over, but I do sew on occasion). 

I can’t remember exactly where I heard this, but I’m fairly sure that it was in one of The Minimalists* podcasts. This idea of hope bringing things caught my attention because it’s true and it’s something that has had a huge impact on my life:

  • I hoped to be perceived as a successful adult, which I am, so I don’t know why I felt the need to prove it with a bigger-than-I-like apartment and “nice” things
  • I hoped to be a great quilter or stitcher, when, in fact, I liked the crafts but wasn’t passionate about them
  • I hoped to be more interested in cooking, which is silly because I eat very well with my simple and rare cooking endeavors
  • I hoped …
  • I hoped …
  • I hoped …

Instead of using my time and energy to become those things (or, more importantly, to consider if I really wanted to become those things), I used my time and money to acquire things that those people might have. It’s as if I was looking for that magic pill or a bit of instant gratification: “I have a quilt pattern, now I’m a quilter – yay! I feel gratified!”

Quilting might be a bad example, as I’ve made a few quilts (and have one in the works as I draft this), but you get the idea. Hope, or the wish to be something, can lead us to buying things that we don’t need yet and may never need. It’s what entices us to buy the latest fashions, the better lawnmower, or the full set of gear that we think we need for a new hobby that we’ve only just began (or haven’t even tried yet).

I’ve had  many chances to revisit my past hopes over the past few years. Each time I got rid of something, I had to admit that it had just been a hope. In some cases I was sorry that the hope hadn’t turned into reality and sometimes I was ashamed about not turning that hope into reality. But, we can’t be everything and I needed to focus on my priorities and the hobbies that I loved best.

Going forward, I’m trying to be more careful of hope. When I find myself itching to buy things, one of the things that I consider is if I’m buying it because I know I need it or because I hope I’ll need/use it. I struggle with this when I’m considering art supplies. For example, I recently decided to buy a Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal, but I agonized over it for days – Do I really needed it? Am I just hoping to keep a bullet journal? Am I just hoping that this book with be better than the notebooks I already own? Why do I need it?

I did purchase it in the end because I’ve been keeping a bullet journal of sorts for a few weeks and had already tried it in several different notebooks or different sized papers. In this case, the Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal has all the things I need: a medium sized page with something to act as a guide for my layout (grid dots). For me, it was based on a preexisting reality, not on hope, so it made sense to buy the journal. And, yes, I do use it – not everyday, but certainly several times a week.

The next time you declutter or consider buying something, do a little thought experiment and consider if you’re buying something you need, or something you hope that you’ll need.

*If you’re interested in minimalism or simply need something inspirational to listen to while decluttering/simplifying, The Minimalist are a good resource. While they have embraced a fairly stereotypical minimalist lifestyle for themselves, they’re adamant that we all need to find what works best for us, whether that be owning only 50 items or keeping that random key chain collection that you love even though your partner thinks it’s silly. The podcasts do get a bit repetitive if you listen to too many in one day, but they still have useful content. 

The process of decluttering

Oh, hey. I’m talking about simplifying or decluttering again. But, this time I’m not talking about decluttering that I’ve done, instead, I want to talk about the process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the different times I decluttered and thought “Aha, this is it – I’m finally finished!” Like a lot of things in life, we’re led to believe that this one magic things will change everything – this exercise routine will make us fit, this diet will make us thin, this decluttering book will fix our home, this minimalism book will make us minimalists, etc. But, it’s not true. Often, we need to try a couple times or even a couple options before we find something that works for us, that’s sustainable and that helps us see what and where the problem really was.

For me, my decluttering journey was a bit like the oft used image of peeling onion layers: The first couple of times I decluttered, I really only removed the surface junk and re-organized everything. Seeing that it hadn’t help in the long run, I decided to be more ruthless and (because I still thought I could solve problems with better storage) to buy “better” furniture options (shelves that I thought would be more useful, etc.). It wasn’t until a couple months after this that I started to think that the problem was deeper. Maybe I actually needed to do a proper purge and than simplify my life.

I started to think about moving to a smaller space, something that I had resisted for a long time because “real adults” don’t live in bachelor apartments! Wanting to move made me do a little experiment – I forced myself to live in my living room only. My bedroom became a sort of storage unit for all the things that didn’t fit in the livingroom. The experiment taught me two things: living in a smaller space is awesome (for me, anyway) and I didn’t actually want a lot of the stuff I had.

I think that it was at this point that I finally did my first real declutter. I tried to channel Marie Kondo, and I was pretty ruthless. But, even after several weekends, I still knew that more had to go – not because I had too much to fit in a space, but because I had too many “I dunnos” and “I’m not readys.” I worked on selling and donating what I had decided to get rid of and planned to revisit everything in a few months.

Then things got a bit derailed because my neighbour had bed bugs. I can tell you, you will be willing to throw away anything and everything to avoid or get rid of bed bugs. Also, living out of plastic bags and containers for several weeks makes you realize just how awful it can be to have a lot of stuff. It was nearly 2 months from the day I had to pack everything up to the day that I was finally able to put everything back on shelves and such without worrying about bed bugs. I’d gotten rid of a lot of things in those 2 months – mostly things that couldn’t be washed or dried in high heat and things that were ruined by being washed or dried in high heat.

Immediately after that, I was offered a bachelor unit that I loved. I was still tired and stressed from the bed bugs, but I really wanted to new space, so I found myself selling/donating furniture and things in a mad fury, trying to get down to a reasonable amount of stuff for the new apartment, which was half the size on my one bedroom (and, yes, I was bed bug free then, so I didn’t put other people at risk). It was exhausting and I knew that I would need to rethink pretty much everything I kept because my new space simply didn’t have enough room, despite getting rid of so much before I moved. It felt like I’d gone back to having that too full apartment I’d started with – there were piles of things that didn’t have a home, boxes with detailed inventories so I could find things, and all my closets were crammed full.

At the time, I decided to just leave things and allow myself to live in the space for a while. I wanted to get a feel for what I wanted the space to look like and for how I used the space. Also, I wanted a break from decluttering, selling, and donating.

I did do a couple purposeful reviews, but as pleased as I was with my work, weeks later I would realize that I’d only skimmed the surface. By then, I’d decluttered so often, I think I was starting to feel burnt out from the efforts. So, I put off any big work for several months. 

I don’t know what spurred it, but this past Christmas, I finally did a really big job that took several days. It was huge for me. It was when I finally realized that I had to do something about my unread book collection (175-ish at the time – way too many for a slow reader) and when I realized that I was going to have to go back to my craft and sewing supplies to be really ruthless when I had the energy. Even though I hadn’t tackled the craft supplies, things finally started to fall into place. Someone asked me if I was moving, and it occurred to me that for the first time since my mom died, the idea of moving didn’t terrify me: I could afford it and I didn’t have too much stuff.

That realization was so liberating. Suddenly, my space didn’t just look better and more organized, it actually felt better. I no longer felt shackled in place by my stuff. This gave me the energy to tackle those last few areas (my craft supplies) with renewed commitment to only keep what I would use and what I truly loved. I only kept about a quarter of everything, and I don’t regret a single decision. 

At long last, I think that I’ve finally hit that magic spot. After all these years of peeling back layers and layers, I finally feel like I’ve reached a point of equilibrium – I have what I need, I use what I have and nothing owns me. For the first time, I can list specific items that I still need to make a decision about (before, it was whole categories):

  • I have a duvet cover that I bought to use as a summer “blanket”. It was an impulse purchase, but I want to wait and see if I’ll use it this summer before making a decision about it.
  • I have a few items in a “maybe” box, but already know that I only want to keep 2 of  them (a couple books), so I’ll clear that out later today.
  • I’m still on the fence about my slow cooker. I used it weekly when I first bought it, but I prefer my stove top recipes.
  • I have a large Ikea tray that’s beautiful but fairly useless in my space. I used to use it when I was working on projects on my bed (as a flat surface to hold things), but I’m trying to avoid using my bed for anything but sleep, so the tray can go.
  • I have my unread shelf, but I’m working on that as part of a separate project.

The reason I’m writing about this is because I want you to know that it you’re trying to declutter, simplify, or minimize – do it, but don’t expect miracles. Most people probably won’t have the long journey I had, but some will. Be patient, both with yourself and with the process. Keep working and have the courage to be ruthless. Find inspiration (books, videos, podcasts, friends and family, etc.). Finally, be aware that you may need to repeat the process a couple times – getting rid of some things may result in the realization that you don’t need other things.

Things I got rid of recently

I’m starting to work on digging out my eco-friendly self. She’s been hidden under layers of guilt, stuff, and other things. But, I did a kitchen review last weekend and she came out to point to a few things I needed to get rid of in order to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

The kitchen review happened a bit unexpectedly. I got home from work after a long and stressful week/day, and just started. I hadn’t even unpacked my backpack, I just dumped out my junk box (a small box for random things that I keep in one of my kitchen drawers) and started to sort things. I knew of a couple things that I wanted to get rid of, but I ended up spending about 2 hours doing a fairly ruthless job in my tiny kitchen. I got rid of things I didn’t want, things that I’d been meaning to replace, food I didn’t like (to be donated, where possible), spices that were old, etc.

Of note, I got rid of the following:

  • Baggies: I’ve wanted to get out of the habit of using baggies for ages, but I keep finding an excuse to buy “just one more box.” I have more than enough containers (mostly glass, but a few old plastic ones, too), but I kept telling myself that baggies were so convenient. Worse, I’d tell myself that I’ll wash and re-use them even though I hate washing them and would rarely follow through. Like .. just … gahh! I can be so lazy sometimes. No more, my friends! They’re gone (left in the laundry room for someone else to use them – hopefully, they’ll re-use them). (update: in retrospect, it would probably have been better for me to keep responsibility for them as I know that I would have continued to reuse them)
  • Silicone spatulas: I’m mostly getting rid of these because they are old and falling apart. Silicone, while not as eco-friendly as natural products, isn’t as awful for the environment as plastic is: it’s non-toxic, it is more resistant to degradation in extreme conditions, and it has a longer lifespan. This post by EcoLunchbox is a good overview of how silicone is better than plastic. This doesn’t mean we should all run out and buy silicone items, but if you must have a rubber spatula, make sure it’s good quality silicone. Personally, I’m going to try living without a rubber spatula. Spoons, knives and such may not be quite as effective as a silicon spatula, but I’m willing to put in the effort needed to get as much out of the jar as I can. 
  • Large plates: I had 2 large plates and only used them once or twice a year (when I was desperate and had nothing else clean). Instead, I use my salad plates or bowls for every meal. It’s a little thing, but it felt liberating to finally admit that I had no reason to keep these space hoarders. And, I now have more room for my bowls and mugs, which I use daily.
  • A large water bottle: Most people I know keep tonnes of water bottles. I was one of those people. Before I moved to my smaller apartment, I had at least 6 in varying sizes and then another 4 or so travel mugs for hot beverages. Me! One person! It took me a long time to admit that I didn’t need them all. I use a large one at work daily, and I used a large one at home for reasons that I can’t quite figure out. I live in less than 350 square feet and my sink is easy to get to – I do not need a water bottle at home! Especially not a water bottle with a narrow mouth that made it hard to clean (rarely bothered, so it was always a little gross). Instead, I’m going to use my easier to wash mug that I love and, if I feel the need to be lazy, a pitcher of water. As for water bottles, I now have one large water bottle for work, one medium water bottle for travel/walks/etc (so I don’t have to remember to bring my work one to/from), one old insulated travel container that works like a charm even on long walks in Canadian winters, and one brand name travel mug that happens to be really pretty (admittedly, I don’t need this one, but it’s so pretty!). It’s still more than I need, but it’s manageable and I use them all.

Sometimes, it’s the little decisions that make a big difference. I’m really pleased with myself for letting go of these things.

All told, I got rid of a banker’s box full of stuff that I don’t use: mugs, a muffin pan, a few random utensils, etc. But, the best part was that I finally have room for all my kitchen stuff in my kitchen. Heck, I have some empty cupboard space and I can now keep like with like (for example, all of my containers are in the same cupboard – before, my extras were stored elsewhere).

It felt really good and it helped me to finally get around to reviewing the few other areas that I kept meaning to review (namely, my outdoor gear – I got rid of a lot of hats and scarves).

And, yes, I do still have my “junkbox”, but it now has a defined purpose (holder of tape, pens, etc.) and it’s no longer full of random things. 

Simplifying in layers

Based on the number of times I’ve talked about simplifying or decluttering, you must think that I was either a hoarder in the beginning or that I’ve been continually buying new things after each declutter. And, it’s true that, at one point, I used every bit of space I had, kept things like cardboard boxes “just in case,” hesitated to get rid of mystery cables, etc. And, to be honest, the first couple of times I decluttered, I did so as excuses to get new things. So, maybe you wouldn’t be completely wrong to make those assumptions about past me. 

Present day me is just working through the final layers and trying to figure out priorities. For me, each layer I removed (i.e., each time I got rid of stuff) meant loosening the grip that obligation and shame had/have on me and allowing myself to reconsider things that I previously refused to get rid of – that extra water bottle, those expensive craft supplies, etc. I’m starting to get down to what I truly need and want in my life and I’m starting to be reminded of who I am and who I always aspired to be. The whole process has had some great consequences, like my recommitment to sketching regularly, which is something that brings me a great deal of pride and joy (even though some of my daily sketches are rushed and/or very rough).

As I remove the excess, I become more engaged with what’s left and find more clarity about what I want out of life. I know that sounds all woowoo new age-y, but it’s true. Until recently, I’d been ignoring the eco-chick inside. All through high school and university (my undergrad, anyway) I was dedicated to being an environmentalist – not just recycling, but making conscious efforts each day to be eco-friendly and working on conservation.

“But, Anne,” I hear you say, “You’re working a desk job in information management, which has little to do with conservation.”

Yeah, I kind of got derailed there with trying to make other people happy (i.e., seeking other people’s approval for what I did with my life) and trying to navigate myself into what I thought would be a “next best thing” career. Sadly, I also let that derail the rest of me – my inner artist, my inner eco-friendly citizen, etc. But, that’s all starting to come back. This year, I’ve been sketching and playing with art every day. I’ve also been using my motto (slow) as an excuse to explore and recommit myself to eco-friendly living.

And it’s been great! My personal life feels so freaking much better since I started working towards these endeavours. I’m more excited about life, I’m more eager to embrace the day (even Mondays), I’m making time to learn (or re-learn) about the issues, and I’m even trying to find more low-waste options (for example, yesterday, I bought loose roma tomatoes instead of packaged grape tomatoes – the recipe still turned out freaking awesome and the only piece of waste was an elastic that came with the cilantro, which I will re-use!).

So, yeah.

I think I’ll talk more about those sorts of things here because they matter to me and they’re part of my daily life. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you some ideas about ways that you can be more eco-friendly, too.

Get rid of things with purpose, not frustration

Just over two years ago, I posted about doing a big declutter. It wasn’t the first time I’d decluttered, but it was the first time I’d been really serious about it without necessity looming over me (like when I moved across the country and couldn’t afford to move everything with me). It was hard work, but I kept at it until I thought I knew what I wanted to keep and what would have to go if I decided to move to a smaller space.

Then, my neighbour had bed bugs that weren’t taken care of quickly enough, so I got rid of more things out of the fear of the bed bugs persisting for another month. Then I moved, quite suddenly, to a space that was about half the size (my current apartment), so I got rid of even more things.

I remember sitting on my bed a couple of weeks after the move thinking, “wow, I hardly have anything left!” I knew that I would need to do a review of everything after living in the space for a few months, but I thought I’d done a pretty good job of reducing my belongings to a level that Marie Kondo would approve of – the necessities, plus the things that made me happy. I thought that I’d hit maintenance mode: a quick annual review; practicing the one in, one out rule; adjusting for changing habits; and continuing to work on that balance between minimalism (or, some variation thereof) and frugality.

But, this past December, I realized that I still had some work to do because I’d been too lenient with myself when it came to art and craft supplies.

I’d started working on an old quilting project and quickly realized that I didn’t want to finish the project. I was working on it because I felt like it needed to be completed, not because I wanted to complete it or had any interest in the finished quilt. So, I quit and pick up another project … which I wasn’t interested in either. Looking at my mass collection of art and craft supplies, I realized that I had so many projects that I’d lost interest in or that simply didn’t fit with my decor or my new space. As I started going through everything, I realized that I didn’t need or want half of what I had, that I didn’t have the time or the inclination to work on most of the projects and patterns I’d kept. Most importantly, I really hated feeling overwhelmed by the very things that were supposed to be feeding my creativity.

I got rid of half my sewing, stitching, painting, and general art supplies. I then:

  • got rid of a third of my linens (bedding, etc.) to make space so that I could make my art and craft supplies more accessible (easy to get to in drawers, instead of crammed into boxes in a hard to access part of my closet)
  • got rid of some more clothes to make room in my dresser and an embarrassing number of books to make room on my shelf.
  • (because I was on a roll) I tackled my bathroom, front hall closet, and most of my storage closet.

At that point, I ran out of steam and simply made a note of any areas that still needed to be reviewed.

I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff I got rid of or the number of things I was adding to a “review in two months” list (i.e., things that I wasn’t sure about and wanted to come back to when I wasn’t frazzled from a weekend of cleaning, sorting and decluttering).

It’s only been a month and a bit, and I’m already seeing a huge difference. It’s easier to relax when everything has a home (i.e., isn’t sitting around in little cluttered piles), it’s easier to access everything, I’m more likely to remember about and use supplies that I can now get to without much effort, and I now have a better idea of what projects I want to complete.

I’ve also started to see a pattern in what I get rid of and what I keep. Almost everything that I keep is stuff that I want to use right now and almost everything I get rid of is stuff that I thought I might need, that I bought just in case or (in the case of crafts, etc.) that I bought because I read too many articles about “sewing essentials” or “tools you need for cross stitching.” I did not need a stash of fat quarters, a dozen basic thread colours, the “essential” watercolour colours, extra cross stitch linen, a dozen instructional books, or a giant bag of polyfill (for stuffed toys, which I never make). Like with books, I did not need buy things while they were popular.

Even now, I think I can get rid of more. And, it amazes me how much stuff I acquired while being totally convinced that I was only buying what I needed. All the money and all the time I’m now taking to sort through it – wasted! What was I looking for when I bought all those things? Was I looking to fill figurative empty spaces in my life? Was I looking to find that craft/art that I would fall in love with? Did I think that I would be an expert if I just had the prettiest fabrics and the most complete collection of tools? What the hell was I thinking?!

I can see why some people take minimalism to the extreme because I’m half inclined to just toss everything and start again, accumulating things only as I need them. Recently, I decided that I could buy a new cookbook (one that I found at the library and know that I will use), if I was willing to get rid of another cookbook. So, I pulled two. Then I pulled 2 books from my unread books and a couple more books from my read books. Then I tossed half my paint brushes (finally getting rid of the crap ones), the quilt that I was holding on to just until I had a chance to finish one I’d started 2 years ago, some linens that I stopped using a couple weeks ago, and … I nearly pulled out my fabric stash with the intent of getting rid of all of it! But, I realized that I needed to stop, breath, step away and think about it.

Some of the many fabric collections I created this week. Most are options for a quilt along, but some are just happy accidents.

Getting rid of things I don’t need is a good thing. For me, it’s been really liberating and it’s helped me to see past who/what I’ve been trying to be for years and start focusing on who/what I want to be now. But, I want to be thoughtful about it. I want to be sure that I’m getting rid of things with purpose and not just out of frustration.

I did end up getting rid of some more fabric (not much, but enough to make sorting it in bins a bit easier), but I did so thoughtfully. I pulled it all out during the day and considered what I would make with the fabric and if the fabric worked for my intended project (ex: if it was the right fabric for a cushion cover and if I would actually use the cushion cover).

Taking the time to be thoughtful did mean that it took a bit longer, but I also don’t regret the decisions I made about what to keep and what to toss. And, I think that’s a big part of why my motto (slow) is a good one for me this year. I’ve reached a point of frustration where I’m at risk of making hasty decisions and I need to remind myself to slow down and breath before jumping into something.

Do you guys ever find that you get overwhelmed and want to get rid of everything out of frustration?