Saturday, March 31, 2007

Getting Here

I am back from my (awesome, extraordinary, rejuvenating, much-needed, much-anticipated) personal retreat. But I am still sort of getting here. It is quite something to spend six days being totally taken care of (with the most nourishing and delicious meals which I neither had to plan nor prepare and certainly not clean up after!), and moving slow and in (mostly) silence, and simply soaking in everything I needed to soak in. To go from that to the noise, chaos, and disorder that is inherent in life with two two year-olds, as well as to suddenly have to switch into the mode of taking care of a family (plus, now, houseguests) - well, it's a bit of a jolt.

So another week without my Saturday Seven. But I did get my tickets and receipts from the big Parents of Multiples Clothing Sale. Total sold - 45 things! Total made - $150. Woohoo. I need to turn right around and invest that money back into things needed for the boys.

On my retreat, I was in a place that holds Simplicity as a core value, so there is always much for me to learn while I am there. I always get new perspectives on what is essential versus what is just excess. This time, I pared and pared down what I was packing and thought I wa bringing a really minimal amount. But then the weather was hotter than I'd anticipated (80s, 90s) and I ended up not wearing two of the tops, and one of the pairs of pants I had brought. So, clearly, I could've done without those, even though I thought I had packed so minimally.

I was also interested to contemplate the differences between simplicity and organization. The two people who run this retreat place (it's actually called a House of Prayer), live as simply as anyone I know and have actually taken a vow of poverty. But everything is not all neat and organized - books and papers sometimes get stacked here and there, pantry items get stored a bit willy-nilly in their somewhat small kitchen, photos pile up waiting to be placed in albums. Sometimes I over-equate simplicity and organization, buying into the notion that in order to simplify, I need to own a lot of great storage items (which are usually costly!). I do want to be organized, but I also think that drive can sometimes be at odds with my desire to live more simply....

Oh, and for anyone who has a Saturday Seven (or other musings to share), here again is Mr. Linky.

Friday, March 23, 2007

On Community and Simplicity

In the beginning, I conceived the Seven Things Project as a community effort, something I would do along with other people who were trying to make similar simplifying efforts. Toward that end, I created a ring, and also set up a link list on the right side of this page of people who were participating (some of whom did not join the ring). [One thing I've learned? I suck at updating my template.] I also invited people to leave comments on my Saturday Sevens to let the rest of us know if they had a Saturday Seven up.

I have to say that it has been enormously encouraging for me personally to have you readers out there, keeping up with my journey and struggles, and making helpful comments. It keeps me going, it keeps me honest. I really think this simplicity thing is so much harder to do alone. Without community, I think it is much easier to lapse into discouragement and despair (if the struggle feels too great) or smugness, pride, and looking down on others (if the effort feels "successful"). Alone, it is too easy to either give up or to feel elite and self-congratulatory. Community, if it is supportive, encouraging, nurturing, and honest, provides the corrective towards the tendencies in either direction.

I've noticed lately that I have a new influx of readers, and new people joining the ring. I think it's time to take new steps towards making this conversation more communal. I'm going to remove the link list on the right because: a) I can't seem to keep it current; and b) not everyone on the list does the Seven Things (those blogs will remain in the ring, though, unless they choose otherwise - though I have removed blogs from the ring that either don't have the code or have disappeared entirely). Instead, I'm going to start doing Mr. Linky every Saturday. That way, if you are doing a Saturday Seven, you can sign Mr. Linky and everyone else can see that your list is up, and can go check it out. I should've thought of this a long time ago, but I'm slow on things like this. It only recently occurred to me to try it, and it is far easier than I thought it would be.

As for me, I'm out of town right now and won't be doing my Saturday Seven tomorrow. I am going on retreat this afternoon through next Thursday, at Green Bough House of Prayer in central Georgia. Simplicity is a big focus there (it is a part of their Rule of Life, which I took vows to live in my own life seven years ago). So I hope to get renewed energy and focus for my journey towards simplicity.

Anyway, since I will be offline for the next several days (just in time for Global Shut Down Day, which is tomorrow!), I'm going to go ahead and put Mr. Linky up today. If and when you have your Saturday Seven posted (or really, any musings about simplicity, decluttering, letting go), please add your link. I'll check back in after I return next Thursday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tackle It Tuesday #2 - twin sons' room

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Once upon a time, I had a beautiful nursery for my twin boys. In addition to being cute and sweet, all bunnies and bears, it was clean and even organized. Then my boys became toddlers, and things quickly deteriorated. Late last summer, when we realized we had a climber, we converted their cribs to toddler beds. Only then the boys started climbing the sides of the beds, and also (because there were casters on the legs) wheeling them around the room. So we took the beds out entirely, and put their mattresses on the floor. It has given their room a very temporary feel, and because they will climb most anything, we've had trouble finding the right organizational tools as well (so far all the bins we've tried have ended up being used as footstools for all kinds of adventures).

So here is what their room usually looks like....


Now I am in the process of completely updating their room, transforming it from a "nursery" to a room for little boys. It's tricky, because the room is quite small, especially for two to share. I have been working with graph paper to determine what will fit in there, and in what layout. The first decision I've made has been about their bed. They are too young for bunk beds still, but two twin beds would take up almost all the available play space. The reasonable solution seemed to be a double bed. We just happened to have one in the basement - before the boys were born, their nursery was a guest room and the double bed was in there.

We weren't sure how they'd feel about their new bed....

But they definitely like it.

There is still a lot more to do in this room - a quilt or comforter for the bed (we have some, but none that seem right for little kids), take down the bunnies and bears border, get new curtains, move their old dresser out (which I've sold but hasn't yet been picked up), and move new furniture in (still trying to decide between using some stuff we already have in other rooms, or getting a couple of new things). Oh yeah, and we'll have to bolt the new furniture to the walls.

Their room is still a mess, because there is not much in the way of organizational resources set up yet. But for now, it's nice just to have a new bed, that's not on the floor, that cannot be moved all around by them or flipped over or stacked to serve as a stool, and that is comfortable enough for me to cuddle with them too.

Bonus: they look so sweet sleeping together.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #34

the really big sale edition

Yesterday was my Parents of Multiples club spring Clothing and Toy Sale. I sold one of these:

(high chair, not baby)

and one of these

and this
(dresser, not baby)

So you can imagine my tears. Since I sold the other crib and the changing table at our fall clothing sale, what this means is that the only piece of furniture left in my boys room that was part of their original nursery is their bookcase. Waaah.

I sold a good bit of other stuff, too, but won't know the tally until I receive my check and my tags (from the items I sold) in a week or two. I know it was more than seven. In fact, less of my stuff was left over than in any previous sale. I attribute this to two things: I didn't knock myself out this time trying to sell too many things - 1) I limited myself to one big tub of spring/summer stuff, plus a small box of toys, and then a few big things (the highchair, crib, crib mattress, dresser, baby gate - which didn't sell, and carseat - which didn't sell). 2) I priced to sell. This meant most every piece of clothing was marked for $1.50 or less. I got $40 for the highchair, $55 for the crib plus mattress, and $10 for the dresser.

I feel like I am making slow, steady progress - both with getting rid of stuff and with my emotional struggle with my stuff. I am feeling a new energy around the issues involved, and I am pleasantly surprised. It is still hard and sad to say goodbye to certain things, especially baby stuff, and especially baby furniture. But I am also enjoying a new sense of feeling a little bit of release and relief. I am feeling more capable of letting go - and even of not taking new stuff in. Even though I have only been taking the smallest baby steps, I suddenly feel like I am making big progress....

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #33

the "should we just call it the Monday Seven?" edition

Perhaps I should just quit making mention of my being late with these Saturday Sevens because I am so consistently late that it by now is probably unremarkable. This time, at least my excuse was partially due to an honest effort to simplify my life. Inspired by this project, I spontanteously shut my computer off midday on Friday (my day 0ff) and took a break from life as I usually live it. It was a fabulous afternoon and evening, filled with reading, resting, making stuff, and going out with my three guys. But then it meant I got behind on all my usual computer-related communications, including all blog-related activities. And I've stayed behind because yesterday was an unusually busy work day, and then today I was away from the computer most of the day.

So, without further ado, here's my blah little list of what I've gotten rid of:
- an alarm clock I haven't used in 4 years - church rummage sale
- an assortment of 6 different baby-related creams and potions - given away to two different mothers in my Parents of Multiples club

Even with such a mundane list, I still found reason to feel sentimental. One of the baby things was this wonderful little tub of locally-made, preciously packaged, organic "Whole Baby Salve," given to me by a dear friend when my babes were newborns. That friend died a year ago today. So she has been much in my thoughts, and I feel a little wistful giving away something she gave me. But it also feels good - like I'm passing a little piece of her on to someone else.

Total for this week: 7.
Total for this year: 265.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tackle It Tuesday #1 - my so-called linen closet

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

linen closet (after tackling)

So as I mentioned in my previous post, my "linen" closet (the one that had no linens in it) was bulging with a mess of medicines, herbs, vitamins, cleaning products, batteries, and other randomness. I freecycled 11 items this weekend, including several mostly unused bottles of supplements and some tubes of "beauty" products. I hadn't intended to completely overhaul the closet (or else I might've taken a "before" shot). But the next thing I knew, I was going at it. As is usually the case with this sort of thing, it took a lot less time than I expected.

top shelf - cleaning products - I only use a few but could probably cut even this in half and do just fine; we'll see
2nd shelf - medicines, bandaids, thermometers, etc.
3rd shelf - medicines, supplements, sunscreens, essential oils, etc.
4th shelf - linens! just a few, but the ones that are the biggest pain to go to the basement to get (the boys' towels and washcloths, the bathroom handtowels, the washcloths I use each night)
bottom level - empty in the picture, but I've now stacked the boys' favorite floor puzzles there. I'm not sure what will ultimately be stored there because I don't see this closet as being something the boys are going to have ready access to (don't need them getting into all those bottles, not to mention pulling all the linens down), and they really need to be able to get their puzzles out for themselves. But the space is so shallow, I really don't know what else should/could go there.

Doing this little shape-up made me feel so effective and efficient today. We'll see if I get any momentum from that....

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #32

the alternative health edition

Again I am late, I realize. I keep trying to do better, and life keeps interfering. I am excited, though, about my Saturday Seven this week. I've been trying to declutter and reorganize our "linen" closet. It doesn't have any linens in it, but I don't know what else to call it. I think that's what it was meant for, and maybe one day, if I declutter it enough, that's what it will contain. For now it is a hodgepodge of medicine, cleaning products and rnadom things that don't otherwise have a home. Ordinarily in tackling this kind of project, I'd just dump everything I could make myself part with. But ever since discovering freecycle last year, I've realized that you can almost always find someone who wants what otherwise might go in the trash. So I unloaded the following on freecycle this weekend:

- sample size Lancome Sensation Totale Continuous-C Perfecting Complex
- Neutrogena Clear Pore Treatment nighttime pore clarifying gel, 2 oz.
tube - slightly used (more than half the tube is left)
- Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion for sensitive skin (with
Alpha-Hydroxy), 2.5 oz., nearly full bottle
- 1000 mg. MSM capsules (LifeTime brand, 100% pure) - the bottle held
180 capsules and is nearly full
- Nature's Way Dandelion Root capsules, 540 mg. - the bottle held 100
capsules and I would guess it is 3/4 full
- Solaray BioCitrate Magnesium vegetarian capsules, 400 mg. - the
bottle held 90 capsules and is more than half full

I also found the following bottles of vitamins and herbal supplements,
all of which are technically expired. My first impulse was to dump them all in the trash, thinking no one would want them if they'd expired. Then I rethought it, dug them out of the trash, and offered them anyway. I had a taker for everything.

- glucosamine chondroitin complex (2 caps contains 1500 mg glucosamine
and 1200 mg chondroitin sulfate), the bottle held 80 caplets and is
nearly full, Target brand, exp. Apr. 2004
- GNC Biotin 600, 600 mcg, bottle held 120 tablets, and more than
half are there, exp. 07/05
- GNC Women's Ultra Nourishair (23 ingredients including biotin,
silica, MSM, and several vitamins), bottle held 60 tablets, more than
half are left, exp. 07/04
- Centrum Folic Acid, 400 mcg, bottle held 200 tablets and is at least
3/4 full, exp. Apr 03
- NovaNatural prenatal vitamins, sample size, never opened (holds 7
tablets), exp. 07/05

Pretty cool, eh? The closet is already looking a little more manageable, though I still need to organize it.

Total gone this week: 11.
Total so far this year: 258.

I am working on rehauling some things about this project, in terms of the blog and how to interact on a more communal level. Am hoping to have more to say about that later this week. Cryptic enough for ya?