Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #4

The "They're Growing Up So Fast" Edition

I was pretty late in getting myself organized to get rid of 7 things this week. It wasn't until yesterday that I got myself in gear and started posting stuff to freecycle.

First to go was the Gentle Leader Headcollar for large dogs. This belonged to my Rottweiler Mocha, who died a little over 2 years ago. I haven't been able to part with her things till now. This is the kind of thing I would ordinarily hang onto since someday I hope to own a big dog again. But someday could be a long time from now, or it could be never, and I'm not organized enough to keep it in a place I'll know to look in five years. I freecycled it to someone who could use it now. And in the process I connected with someone who works with Boxer Rescue who will take any other doggy items I find.

The picture of the collar was pretty boring. So here's a picture of Mocha, since memories of her tug at my heart when I try to get rid of her stuff.

Not the greatest shot but it turns out I only have two digital pics of her on my Mac, all the others are on my old pc which needs professional help before I can get the rest of my files off of it.

I got rid of four things that were reminders that my boys are no longer babies.

Two #1 Birthday candles, which I didn't use for their 1st birthday, opting instead to go with just a basic small plain candle that fit better on their homemade cakes. Pics of candles are boring, so again I instead include pics of the memories that make me sentimental over little things like candles. Funny how even though I didn't use those #1 candles their presence made me sentimental about the boys' 1st birthday.

Little Buddha with his first birthday cake, after the candle was removed.

Tiny Dancer with his first birthday cake, after the candle was removed.

I also freecycled these two floats, from our very first beach vacation as a family, last summer.

The boring stuff to go was this:
Two metal Steel-Cut Oats containers and a tin heart container. I pass this kind of stuff on to our Director of Educational Ministries, who can use these things for projects. And an unopened box of Earth's Best Organic Oatmeal for babies. My boys used to love this stuff. But they've outgrown it. Totally forgot I had a brand new box in the basement.

Things gone this week: 9.
Total things gone so far: 34.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Things fall apart

It figures that just when I decide to finally get rid of stuff I don't need, the things that I do need start falling apart all around me. This always begs the question: repair or replace?

Being a naturally-acquisitive sort, my first impulse is to replace. But I'm trying to do better. Here is what has gone wrong in our house in the last six weeks:
  1. dishwasher. First the little thing that sprays the water and spins broke. We had a repairman come out and he fixed it. Then it started leaking. He came out and fixed it again. Then it started leaking again. A different guy came out and said we need a new dishwasher. But he also showed us how to put the gasket back in every time it falls out to try to keep using it until we absolutely can't make it work anymore. So that's what we're doing for now. We did at least get a partial refund of what we paid to have it repaired.
  2. living room window. One of my sons cracked his head against one of the window panes in our living room. He was fine, but the window shattered. We taped it with duct tape for about a month, but now that we are getting ready to leave town, we didn't want to leave an unsecure window. So I had it replaced today. Cost = $95.
  3. DVD player. Our DVD player holds 5 DVDs. The boys put 12 in and closed it. The really ridiculous thing is that we were both standing right there when it happened but didn't see it happening in time to stop it. So it's broken now. It's at the shop and we don't know a cost yet. We just bought this thing last fall after our other one broke (freecycled that one).
  4. Oven. The igniter blew. We just had it replaced about 18 months ago; the warranty is only 90 days unless you pay extra to have it covered for a year (which we didn't do and wouldn't have helped anyway). The repairman told us that once the igniter has been replaced once, the chances that it will need to replaced again are higher. Don't know if this is true or not, but it cost us $238 to get it fixed. Since we've now done that twice, I suppose we could've bought a whole new oven. Especially if there's a good possibility we're going to have to do this again in another year-and-a-half! But I couldn't stand the idea of throwing out a perfectly good stove/oven just because a small part was broken. Not to mention that though $238 is a tough pill to swallow, the amount for a whole new oven would've been even harder, even if it made more economic sense in the long run.
Do other people have major appliances blow and household repairs that need to happen all at once? I don't know how other people are able to keep their houses up because it is a real struggle for us. The amount of time and money it would cost to really keep our house in top shape just seems huge. My little decluttering project seems to pale in comparison, but I'm still plugging along....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #3

I mean to be making more entries than just my Saturday Seven. I managed one other post this week, but that was it. Things are a little hectic here lately, what with celebrating births and birthdays. Also, we are trying to get ready to go out of town, and that always means total chaos for us.

Still, I got rid of some stuff.

More books. Small potatoes, but trust me when I say I was doing really well just to get these gone. I dropped them off at the AAUW book sale again. These were part of a batch of books I tried to sell to a used books store last spring, to no avail.

If.... (Questions for the Game of Love). A fun little question book given to me by a friend 10 years ago. I haven't looked at it in many years.
Reclaiming Our Health by John Robbins. One of the many alternative healthcare books I have bought over the years. I haven't looked at in at least five years.
Total Wellness by Joseph Pizzorno. Ditto the above.
The Last Precinct by Patricia Cornwell. I can't help it. I love these kinds of thrillers. I really, really shouldn't buy this kind of stuff in hardcover, but I can't seem to make myself wait for it to come in paperback, and I can't bear to be on a super-long library waiting list. Am trying to learn patience.
Easy Prey by John Sandford. Ditto the above.
Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag. Ditto the above.

My Old Man remains astonished at my interest in this kind of fiction.

You will see in the picture another book, the Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy and Baby's First Year. I accidentally left it out of the bag after I took this picture, so unfortunately it is still here.

A gift bag from a spa party. It includes lotion, product samples, and tea samples. I don't need a single thing in this bag. I gave it to a friend who has a lotion addiction.

This is a pair of sandals from Earth Shoes, bought on my quest to find the perfect all-purpose shoe. I just bought these recently but returned them to the store when I realized I didn't like the way they looked with anything I own. I'm including these, even though it was a return rather than a giving away/selling/etc., because it's a big deal for me to actually get rid of something this way. I can't count the number of times I have ended up having to keep something I didn't need/want because I didn't return it in time or I lost the receipt.

Number of things out of my life this week: 8.
Total number so far: 25.

What about the rest of you?

Monday, July 17, 2006


So a couple of years ago I got really energized by my discovery of Flylady. Most of you are familiar with her, I'm sure, and some of you have probably really whipped your homes into shape using her approach.

Not me.

Some of her approach really did help me. I liked the whole idea of shining my sink every night, and I even did it for a few months. The idea of setting a timer and making myself do a certain task for a prescribed period of time was also good for me, and one that I still try to do from time to time (and should probably do more often). I did find the constant emails, the over-the-top testimonials, the shilling for dusters and flycrap, and the lecturing about wearing lace-up shoes all to be a tad annoying, but I was willing to put up with it all if it meant I could get a handle on my home. But that didn't happen. So I unsubscribed.

The one flything that really, really never connected with me was the 27 Fling Boogie. That's when FlyLady tells you to go through your house right now with a garbage bag and find 27 things to throw away. Supposedly, after that, you're to go through with another bag and find 27 things to give away. But the emphasis really seemed to be on finding stuff to throw away.

That irked me for a couple of reasons. First, part of my problem is impulsiveness. I buy stuff because I want it now. The cure for impulsiveness is not more impulsiveness (i.e., running through the house finding things to toss), but mindfulness. I need more intentionality in my life, not more blind and anxious dealings with my stuff.

But the other thing that really bothered me was all the throwing away. It's bad enough I've bought stuff I can't or don't use. How does throwing it away do anything but make the problem worse? I couldn't possibly feel good about finding 27 things in one fell swoop to send into our landfills. That disgusts me.

I know that Flylady would say that we fool ourselves into hanging onto clutter by telling ourselves that we will find a use for it, or we will sell it, or we will find someone else who can use it. Well, between freecycle, craigslist, eBay, the church rummage sale, and the thousands of charities which take donations, I'm pretty sure I'm not fooling myself when I tell myself I can find someone who will use my stuff. And if not, well, Ann Arbor has one of the easiest recycling programs in the country.

I still wish I could keep my sink clean and my "hot spots" cleared. I do wish I had more routines in my life, and that I kept a better house. In the meantime, I'm happy enough to be mindfully ridding myself of 7 things a week instead of impulsively grabbing 27 things at once and thinking that's somehow going to solve a problem that is a lot more than a housekeeping issue.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #2

So these are pretty small offerings. But it's the small stuff that is taking up space the most. I get overwhelmed by so many little things that don't have a home.

Here's my humble seven record of this week's purging:

Three videos from the Buns of Steel series. Have had these for several years and I can't remember the last time I used them. Not since we got a DVD player 5 years ago, at least.

Numei cotton chenille yarn, 3+ skeins.
Super-cheap but didn't like working with it. Was going to use it for more washcloths (the colors match my bathroom). Bought it in November and haven't used it since I made the first one.
Given to Becky.

My first circular needle. Susan Bates, size 7, 32".
Used it to start a baby blanket in October. Just finished the blanket and know I will never use these again if I can help it. Not after using Addis for all these months.
Given to Becky.

Knitting Pure & Simple Weekend Neck Down Pullover pattern.
Bought this one by mistake when I was trying to order the basic women's pullover a couple of weeks ago. The company doesn't do returns on patterns, and with as many things as there are already on my to-knit list, I knew I wouldn't knit it.
Given to Becky.

So that's my list. (Thanks, Becky, for accepting stuff when you're trying to get rid of stuff, too!) It feels good to be making even little dents in my load of accumulation. My total this week: 8. Total so far: 17.

What about the rest of you? If you have a Saturday Seven posted somewhere (blog or forum), please leave a link in the comments, along with a tally. I'd like to start a running community tally in the sidebar, along with my personal tally.

Thanks, and happy Saturday!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Take a button

Huge thanks to Becky for making this nifty button. (You may notice that the background is the fabric from the sling from yesterday.)

If you want it, take it. (the button, not the sling - I'm still on the fence about the sling, though my test-run with it and my little boy yesterday wasn't particularly promising....)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My perennial problem

Here is a close-up of what my problem is. Or one of 'em. I always think I'm going to someday use the thing I'm thinking of getting rid of.

Case in point: this blue baby sling (this is just a close-up of the great fabric). One of four baby carriers I owned (two were hand-me-downs, two I bought). I think I used this one a total of three times. I found it very difficult to do the sling thing with two babies. But I liked the idea so I kept the slings, thinking I would use them.

I finally got rid of the two that were hand-me-downs; I gave them away. I'm sure I could've sold them but I didn't since the people who gave them to me didn't. But now I have these two really nice ones that I bought myself - and they were not cheap. One of them I didn't even use a single time because I couldn't figure it out.

And then there's this one. Simple to use, and beautiful, it's the Ella Roo Sling. It's been hanging out in my study for months, waiting for me to take a picture of it to post to the MotheringDotCommune forums Trading Post. Now that The Seven Things Project is underway, I finally kicked into gear and took some pics. I even uploaded them to my computer. And then I made sure I still had the directions.

That's what sunk my plans. In looking at the instructions, I noticed that it could carry a toddler up to 35 pounds. One of my boys is already almost at that weight, but the other has a long way to go. I suddenly had visions of myself slinging my little boy while my other one walked alongside me holding my hand. I can't bear to get rid of it now, because I just might use it.

This time, I'm giving myself a week. If I don't use it by then, that's it, I'm posting it for sale.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Seven Things Project Community

I'm really pleased with the enthusiastic response to this idea! I've never done anything like this before, and I realize now that a more organized approach would've been to get the word out before July 7th and then get people all signed up, in the blog ring, linked, and so forth. But I didn't know until July 7th that I was actually going to go through with this, and I knew then if I tried to wait to get organized, well, it would go the way of all my previous decluttering attempts (i.e., nowhere). It's one of the things that stands in the way for me - waiting till I can get organized and ready.

At any rate, I am trying to get things organized now. For those people who have left comments saying they want to be part of the project community, I've added your blog links to the sidebar. I didn't have blog addys for everyone, so if you want to be a part and are not in the sidebar, please leave a comment on this post and I will make sure to add you. You do not have to have a blog to participate in the community project. You can always just leave comments here, letting the rest of us know of your progress. For MotheringDotCommune forum members, there is a thread in the Decluttering, Organizing, & Simplifying subforum of the Mindful Home Management forum. For Knitting Help forum members, there is an OT thread in the General Knitting forum. And if you are part of another forum somewhere, please feel free to start your own check-in thread there.

I have started a blog ring for anyone interested in that. You don't have to be a part of the ring in order to be a part of the project. It's just a fun way to surf around and see what other folks are doing. Click on the ring link to the right to get directions and the code. We'll have a button soon that you can add to your blog.

There are no rules. You can read my personal guidelines for ideas and suggestions, but it's not like I'm going to delink you if you don't get rid of 7 things a week. That's not the kinda gal I am. I do think it will be a lot of fun to see pics of each other's adventures in decluttering, as well as reading reflections about letting go. I think we can help each other by sharing our own experiments and journeys. On a practical level, we can offer each other suggestions of environmentally-friendly ways to get rid of stuff. On an emotional level, I think sharing our own struggles can really benefit all of us in our quest for a simpler kind of life. And on a fun level, won't it be a hoot to see that we're not the only ones who have moved the same box of old love letters to six homes in 12 years? (oh, wait, was that just me?)

Thanks for all the interest and enthusiasm!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #1

My debut Saturday Seven is pretty modest - not much emotional attachment here. The main thing was just making myself actually get rid of these. In the bag are nine books (I started with seven and then saw two more I didn't really need to be hanging onto). I donated these to the American Assocation of University Women (Ann Arbor Branch) for their book sale . The money the AAUW raises from the book sale goes to fund scholarships for undergraduate women and fellowships for female graduate students. Great cause, eh? Plus I got a little receipt to get a tax deduction.

I took a picture of each separate book but then decided that was a little boring, so here is a shot of just the bag of books. I'm a little embarrassed that I own(ed) some of these, but here goes.

The Detox Plan for Body, Mind, and Spirit (Jane Alexander)
owned since: 1997
last time I read it: I never really read the whole thing through. I think I glanced through it briefly in the last few months, out of mild curiosity.
did I ever follow the plan? no
why did I hold onto it for 9 years? Because I have these notions that some day I will try a detox diet and find myself miraculously with tons of energy and looking and feeling better than I ever have. The truth is, though, I'm actually skeptical of my own such notions. Not to mention too lazy to ever implement.

Stupid White Men (Michael Moore)
owned since: 2003?
last time I read it: 2003. I did read the whole thing and enjoyed it. Though MM is a tad over-the-top.

Prevention Women's Health Today 2002
owned since: 2002
Yet another diet/exercise book cluttering up my shelf. Says the same old stuff.

Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease (Dean Ornish)
owned since:
2001. Bought it after my husband had a heart attack. Read it from cover-to-cover. Digested some of it and haven't picked it up since. No need to keep it.

The Whole Soy Cookbook (Patricia Greenberg)
owned since:
1998, when I was still a vegetarian and not yet suspicious of soy.
Glanced through it some and never ever made a single thing from it.

Marilu Henner's Total Health Makeover (Marilu Henner)
owned since:
I'm totally embarrassed that I own this. I think I saw her on Oprah or Rosie touting her diet. And I was impressed by how she had completely changed her body. The diet, though, was not for me (I'm not really a diet person, despite the fact that I bought this book). I think I did make a couple of recipes from it several years ago.

The 30-Day Total Health Makeover (Marilu Henner)
owned since:
More of the same. Can you believe I owned two diet books by Marilu Henner - both in hardcover??

The Real Mother (Judith Michael)
owned since:
Got this through freecycle in a batch of books that had something else I wanted to read. This isn't usually my kind of novel, but I read it anyway. At least I'm not hanging on to it.

The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
owned since:
In my line of work, I had to read the book since everyone was asking me biblical, historical, and theological questions about it. I found it a quick, enjoyable read, but not the earthshattering book that others seemed to think. Not the kind of book I hang on to.

How I feel about getting rid of this batch of stuff: Pretty good. Though believe it or not, I'm sitting here wondering if I missed some good recipes in the Marilu Henner books....

Total number of things gone from my life so far: 9

I'm excited that some of you out there are planning to join me on this journey! If you've posted a Saturday Seven on your blog (or photo hosting account, or somewhere else), please leave a link in the comment section below. And look for a blogring announcement in the next few days!

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Project Begins

I want to own less. I want to buy less. I want to need less. And I want to want less.

There's more to say about my struggle with things and my journey towards letting go, but I'm giving myself a year to say it, here. So for now I'll just talk about this project as I am envisioning it.

The upshot: from 07/07/06 till 07/07/07 I intend to get rid of 7 things a week.

The guidelines: I will sell, donate, give away, or recycle these seven things (in very rare cases, I may decide to throw something away, but I intend to be very strict with myself about keeping waste to a minimum). Every Saturday, I will post the Saturday Seven, a picture list of the seven things I got rid of that week, along with an explanation of how long I've had these things, what made it hard to get rid of them, and what I chose to do with them. I will also record periodic musings about stuff and my attachment to it, along with anything I am learning from this experiment.

The rationale: I want to more fully embrace simplicity. I don't mean simplicity in terms of "convenience" (a notion which often leads to buying more stuff because the stuff seems to promise to save us time and make life easier). I mean simplicity in terms of becoming less attached to things, less driven by an acquisitional anxiety, more attuned to the needs of others, and more attentive to ecological sustainability. I believe that this kind of simplicity leads to contentment, spaciousness (physically, as my space becomes less cluttered, but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually), sensitivity, and generosity.

Because I have so much stuff cluttering my life, it is difficult to know where to begin. It overwhelms and paraylzes me. But I think I can get rid of seven things as a time. And after a year, 350+ things will be gone. I chose seven because it seemed like a just right kind of number - not too easy but not so difficult that I would be tempted to quit within a month. Seven made sense also since I'm doing this weekly - there may be weeks when the best thing for me to do is pick one thing a day to get out of my life. Plus, in my religious tradition, seven is a sacred number representing fullness and completion. [Since the number 7 seemed important to me for this project, I decided to start on 7/7 and end on 7/7/07. It just seemed fitting.]

One of the many issues arounds material things for me is my emotional attachment. I am very sentimental about my stuff. I think it may be easier to get rid of some of it if I have a record, with pictures, to tell the story of the mark these things made on my life, and the reasons I have held on to them.

The invitation: I imagine I'm not the only one holding on to so many things that need to be let go. So I invite anyone who is interested to join me weekly in getting rid of seven things. Every Saturday, when I post my Saturday Seven, I invite you to post your own seven on your blog and then come over here and let me know. I think it would be great to have a whole little online community of folks striving towards a simpler life. Maybe we can help each other to live more lightly. Please join me!