Friday, May 13, 2011

Minimalism: Step One

Inspired by blogs such as zen habits, Exile Lifestyle, The Minimalists, Marc and Angel Hack Life, and of course the desire to look at an immaculate house, I've decided to see how much I can "minimize" and truly embrace the minimal lifestyle. I mean, let's face it, if Lorelei and I are ever to become the truly counter-culture world travelers, we're not going to be able to drag along the large amount of crap- I mean belongings currently filling our 1,400 sq. ft. apartment. I knew it would be challenging, but I've been working on this list (some people have gotten their possessions down to less than 100 things) for a few days now and I've reached 400 and that's only off of the top of my head. Forget the things in drawers, in boxes and shelves I'm too short to see without a boost. I wasn't hoping to get down to 100 or even 200 but seriously, I cannot complain about money...ever! I keep a relatively clean apartment (some have called it sterile, but the OCD in me knows this to be a fallacy). Lorelei and I tidy up when needed and the dog knows better than to make more work for me so all in all, I've got it under control. So how did I end up with so much stuff?
Three years ago I became a divorcee. Neither my happiest time nor my most financially secure. With Grim determination, I found a job and a furnished apartment and packed up a sedan-worth of stuff to start my new life with my then one year old bundle of giggles. Towards the end of the lease and as Florida's snow bird season was kicking into high gear, I needed to find a new place and fast and the furnished places sky-rocketed in rent. I was in no position to turn up my nose at charity:
·         Church friends: kitchen setup and dining room table
·         Work colleagues: couch
·         Friends: queen size bed (shared with my daughter for the first several months)
·         Family: various tables, my TV from my first apartment out of high school that somehow made it back to my mother’s and a toddler bed from my sister
·         Myself: clothes and a few photos and albums
Making Something Out of Very Little
That was it: my little palace for me and the princess. Back then I didn’t call it minimalism; I called it poverty. But slowly I worked and saved and spent. Tax refunds, child support, over time; it all went to making our apartment a home. TJ Maxx, NY & Co., Target; I could afford to get another TV with my HSN discount. Lorelei got books and toys and I got sheets that weren’t hand-me-downs (I just tried not to think about it really). Present day – quite a comfortable little setup if I do say so myself. I still have some of the donations, some of which I donated myself to other people in need. My sister came through with a bigger bed for Lorelei when she outgrew the toddler bed and now we only sleep together when she wants to cuddle. I’ve managed to acquire more then I’ve dumped. And this bothers me.
I never want Lorelei to go without, but all of this stuff- we don’t need it. What we need is the cash that went into acquiring it. What we need is the peace of mind of knowing where everything is and that we are not living in a wasteful manner but a sustainable (not quite hemp crazy but) healthy way. Seriously! What do you say to a little girl who looks around a store and says, “Mommy, let’s get more stuff!” From the mouths of babes, right?
Step One: No More Stuff!
I love to shop. Especially for “useful” stuff like school supplies, kitchen gadgets and storage boxes. Anything promising organization – I want 10! But no more. Family and friends out there, “No more stuff please!” Unless it is going to replace something I already have that doesn’t work anymore, take that money and donate it in my name. Lorelei? Well, she’s a kid; and a darn cute one if I must say so I won’t deprive ya’ll of getting her fun stuff, just have mercy on the one who has to pick up after her.
Step Two: Purge, Baby, Purge!
I will not bore you nor embarrass myself by publishing my ever-growing list of stuff. I will however let you know of things I have deemed superfluous. Like sundresses I would never leave the house in or shoes with the heel worn off. Or five down comforters (not making that one up). Never fear, it will all go to a good place. No trash dumps. And the goal is not to replace it with more stuff. I may never get to 100 things or even 200 but let’s start investing and stop spending.
A few places to unload your stuff for a good cause
  • Freecycle - a network of local groups that post anything and everything from coupons to couches; all you have to do is call the poster (a normal yocal just like yourself) and come pick it up. The only requirement: it has to be free
  • National Furniture Bank - unwanted furniture for those in need
  • Salvation Army - heard of 'em?
  • Pick Up Please - they'll come to your house and take your unwanted clothes
  • any local church or charity - you don't want me to do all of the work for you, do you? Get Googling!
Or sell it
Happy Hunting from Bat Country

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

If by Rudyard Kipling

If I can live my life with these words in mind and teach my daughter to do the same, I'll know I've succeeded. For a truly wonderful interpretation click through.

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!


I forget what little mirrors these critters can be. Until I hear a sarcastic tone I didn't realize was in my voice echoed from my little monster. Or when Lorelei brings me a cool cloth for my head because she knows I'm not feeling well. Or when she sits at her desk studiously writing in her workbooks because she saw my working on countless spreadsheets. Of course I try not to cuss around her and I save the keggers for when she's sleeping over somewhere else (joking Nana), but I've come to realize that my good and bad habits are reflected through her in almost real time.

Routines are Flexible
Not too long ago we would come home and each plop in front of a TV; she watching cartoons and I HGTV. We ate somewhere in there and made our way to bed eventually. However, a couple of weeks ago, we came home and I forgot to turn the TV on. We had to walk the dog and get something out of the car and it just never came up. While taking trips outside, Lorelei made a dinner request, so we cooked together. When that was over it was bath time then bedtime and lo and behold we had completely missed Dora, Glee, Backyardigans, everything! And the Earth continued to turn. I didn't want to make a big thing of it so the next day I "forgot" to turn on the TV and plop and sure enough, we walked to the local beach and Lorelei splashed in the waves while I read my Kindle. A few more days of "forgetfullness" and we've completely changed our routine. We're eating better because I can focus on the task of preparing dinner while she takes care of the puppy and settles in (comfy clothes and all). The house is cleaner because I can do productive chores rather than my TV chores (I mean honestly, how many House Hunters must I watch?) Turns out, those ruts aren't so hard to break.

Gradulation (typo intentional)
I graduated from University of South Florida last Thursday with a BA in Psychology. I began courses in the Fall of 2003 and now, May of 2011 I finally made it to the cap and gown, traipse across the stage bit. I sat amidst kids who still thought it the ultimate rebellion to show up to graduation drunk or high. I posed for pictures with the college president whom I'd never met before but congratulated me as if she had been at my first grade pageant. And afterwards, my family and friends gathered to celebrate. The whole process was a bit surreal. As I walked across the stage, I looked up and could see Lorelei waving from a balcony. Truth be told, I spent most of the ceremony reading on my Kindle while the other 1,400 graduates each got their hands shaken. But when I saw her jumping up and down and waving, I lost it. My little girl. My baby who has her own duster so she can "clean like Mommy" and her own pots and pans so she can "cook like Mommy" and even had me cut her hair "short like Mommy" just saw Mommy graduate. Over the past 4 years Lorelei has watched Mommy do homework, study, take exams and go to classes. Now she wants to "gradulate just like Mommy".