Managing Clutter Magnet Spaces

Clutter magnet spaces. You know what I’m talking about – the table next to the door, that part of the kitchen counter, your nightstand. The places where clutter sets up camp.

For me and my husband, I’m a bit ashamed to admit, all of the flat surfaces in our apartment are magnet spaces.

It’s not for lack of storage or even an excess of stuff that really causes the clutter buildup. It’s mainly a bad habit that we’re constantly fighting against. Every. Day.

And when the table isn’t clear or there are clothes on the bed, I get distracted and stressed out. When my desk is most cluttered, I even question why I’m talking about minimalism (despite how far I’ve come these past three years). Managing clutter magnet spaces in your home

Why does stuff appear there?

Our routine includes a thorough apartment-cleaning each weekend so that we can have a fresh start to the week.

Everything goes back to its proper place and we breathe easier knowing that everything is where it should be. So why, by the end of the week, is it all out on the table again? A few reasons:

  • Bad habit (not putting stuff away after done using it)
  • Lack of organization (especially when it comes to mail – we don’t have a solid system for it yet)
  • The storage doesn’t make sense (this one is the easiest to say, since it removes some responsibility on my end)

How to avoid magnet spaces in your home

First, a disclaimer – I am not the model for a perfectly clean home. I just naturally put stuff where there’s space for it in plain sight, and I’ll admit that weakness. For proof, this is mostly from today: Magnet Spaces However, I am starting to recognize patterns and realize what I can do to get better about keeping surfaces clean. Because there’s nothing like having a clean table to play board games on or sip coffee at.

  • Remove unnecessary surfaces. If the surface is not necessary and it gathers dust and/or random trinkets, just let it go. This was important to me when we were furniture shopping. I wanted a small desk and even stackable coffee/side tables. I didn’t want a huge bookcase or end table. I chose our rabbit pen because it was open on the top – I didn’t want another surface for my clutter to gather on.
  • Make them less convenient. If you can’t get rid of the table/surface, play some mindgames with yourself by moving it to a less convenient location. Instead of by the opening side of the door, put it on the hinge side so you don’t see it first thing. Trick yourself into thinking it’s not there anymore.
  • Identify what collects there. Is it dishes? Is it keys and sunglasses? Is it work? Identify what collects there and think carefully about how to manage it. Maybe a 15-minute daily dishes-sweep of the house/apartment could take care of the buildup. Maybe it’s as simple as getting a key hook and small basket for your sunglasses.
  • Decorate intentionally. This sometimes works for me, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Make your table or coffee table beautiful with a vase of flowers or a candle. Draw attention to it’s emptiness when it’s clean and make it a beautiful part of your home – the more you feel like it’s a pleasure to look at, the less you’ll want to mess it up. Kind of like a well-made bed.
  • And of course, get rid of what you don’t need. If your stuff doesn’t have a home, there’s no need to go buy storage. Open up those drawers that you haven’t looked into for years and clear them out. Don’t just scoot stuff around either because that’s cheating. Get rid of things you don’t need so that the truly valuable stuff has a proper home.

Don’t be mad when it goes wrong

I know I’ve been preaching this a lot lately, but it’s essential to not get upset when you find shoes on the coffee table and cups on chairs.

If it’s funny, let yourself laugh about it.

Humans are strange beings, and if we let this stuff get under our skin instead of taking a calm moment to deal with it, the habit won’t get any better. Be gentle on yourself and start fresh with each cleaning.

Because sometimes life just gets a little messy.

Also, if anyone has a solution for all the cups that show up in random areas around the house (anyone else have that problem?), I’m all ears.

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6 Months After Starting Over

Here we are, a little over six months from when we officially said goodbye to our friends and families and most of our stuff.

If you’re new to the blog, my husband and I moved from Indianapolis to Los Angeles to seek better work and more sunshine. We got rid of most of our things and packed the rest into a little Honda Civic.

It feels like we’ve been here forever, but recently we got the chance to go back to Indiana and it was strange how much it felt like we never left.

Before I get into the personal updates, I want to give a little general advice.

If you want to move, move.

This phrase can be adjusted for anything you’re aspiring to do. If you want to X, X.

You don’t have to move. It’s not for everyone. But it was for us!

The most rewarding thing that has come out of this whole journey is the confidence. We wanted to do something, so we did it. We are giving ourselves the opportunity to decide what we want from life, rather than waiting for life to decide for us.

The initiative we took for this crazy move will help us in the future. The way we’ve learned to deal with naysayers and critics (although I’m still working through it) will also help us.

Be confident. Go for it.

allyourheart

Our first six months

We’ve been through some big changes, but there hasn’t been a challenge we were unable to overcome. Yet. So, here’s what’s up.

Home sweet home

We were able to dive into apartment searching immediately, and we were able to spend our fourth night in LA in our own new IKEA bed.

Since then, we’ve furnished the apartment very intentionally. I think we’ve done well getting furnishings that are really useful and beautiful – this is the loveliest apartment I’ve ever lived in.

My husband and I agree that we don’t really miss what we got rid of. In fact, it’s funny how little of it we actually remember. There’s not a single sweater or book that I want back.

We started fresh and uncluttered, and we’re still (mostly) fresh and uncluttered.

The daily grind 

This has been a good move career-wise for both of us. I’ve had more opportunities pop up with my work from home jobs, and my husband was able to quickly jump back into more meaningful employment.

When we arrived, he was able to transfer to a Trader Joe’s not far from our new home while he waited on a call from a company more relevant to his interest. He got the call earlier than expected and now he’s working closer to the heart of the television and film industry.

Going back to what I said earlier, we made this change to help get us both working more on what we love. We’re not 100% there yet, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.

States of mind

While I personally have some tough days (working from home can drive you crazy), I realize that I’d rather have tough days in California than in Indiana.

The difference between the two is that by moving, we actually seized an opportunity that was in front of us. We took the 2,000 mile risk instead of letting it pass us by.

Having a tough day is bad, but having a tough day and dwelling on missed opportunities is worse.

This city requires an active lifestyle and we find ourselves wandering new streets, beaches and mountains each week. We’re busy and tired like most Millennials, but it’s nice to have a little tan while doing it all.

Friend requests – 0

To make sure I don’t paint too rosy of a picture for you, I’ll let you in on a bit of a downside to the move. Since I work from home, I don’t know too many people out here.

The new friends I have made are all through my husband’s coworkers, so I don’t always get to see them. But when I do, I cherish that social time.

I tend to prioritize work over play, so meeting new people has been difficult (not that I’ve tried that hard).

The next step is to take some sort of class to get me interacting with other humans on a regular basis. Have you moved to a new city without a lot of avenues for meeting people? I’d love to hear what you did.

Because it can make a person crazy.

Moving forward

Since we’re already halfway through our lease, we’re starting to look into re-signing or moving somewhere nearby.

Some people doubted that we would make it past a year out here, so I’m excited to start into year two and show them what we’re made of.

We’ve been tossing around some big ideas for 3-5 years down the road that will impact this blog and I’m excited to share those plans when they become more concrete.

In the meantime, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, so expect more posts soon.

How was the first half of your 2015?

Pet Project: Living Simply with Animals

A year after my dear Niels passed away, we decided to open our hearts to another sweet rabbit. Meet Bonnie!

Bonnie

We adopted this girl from the Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation, where she had been “in the system” (foster care, shelters) for two years. We were shocked! Not only is she beautiful, but she’s calm and gentle. I think her main issue with getting adopted was just that she’s a bit shy.

I’m so proud to live in a city that doesn’t allow commercial breeding for pet store sales. I got my first rabbit, Niels, from a pet store in a mall. He had health issues from day one, and I always wonder if his breeding conditions had anything to do with it. 

So here’s my rant on adopting vs. buying pets: you should probably adopt. Here’s my rant on spaying and neutering: you should fix your pets, including rabbits. Especially rabbits.

But I didn’t know these things at first.

Rabbits are simple pets…right?

I got my first rabbit because I thought he’d be a simple, straightforward pet. I thought he needed a cage and pellets and water.

Fast forward to today:

Rabbit Setup

 

The rabbits have taken over our living/dining/office space. There’s hay and food and litterboxes everywhere. It’s not usually this bad, but right now they’re in the bonding phase so need to have separate cages until they can go without fighting.

Rabbits are not simple pets. I know many people who had them growing up, and they claim their rabbit was so happy in its outdoor cage. Truth? Rabbits thrive as indoor house pets. Like, practically cage-free indoor house pets. (I have to cage Rory at night because he likes to eat paint from the walls). Their diet includes veggies, pellets and tons of hay. They require exercise and vet care. Exotic animal vet care. Crazy, right? I’ll stop ranting again, but if you are interested in getting a rabbit, this video is a great introduction.

But bringing a new pet into our home got me thinking about the complexities of adding a non-human mouth to feed. Whether it’s a cat, dog, rabbit, bird, reptile or even one of those giant millipedes, you’ve got to be willing to expand your lifestyle to include them.

No pet is simple

Even an aloof cat needs “stuff” to keep it healthy and happy. They need time and money and a level of patience that isn’t always easy.

For example, Rorschach has destroyed 3 computer chargers and countless phone chargers/headphones with his chewing. Silly rabbit.

We’ve tried to keep it simple by using moving boxes as hiding places, secondhand dishes for food and water, and by making toys out of anything that could be interesting.  Some things, though, can’t be simplified – pet carriers for vet trips, litter boxes, cages, and all the consumables that come with pet ownership.

So why would anyone trying to simplify want to double their bunny trouble? Because the value I get from caring for these little furballs far outweighs the costs of supplies, time, vet care and storage needed to keep them around. And because rabbits are often happier in pairs.

But the lifestyle I write about on this blog isn’t about getting rid of everything you own. It’s about getting rid of things that are no longer necessary or valuable in your life. And if you have a pet that’s adding value to your life, then carry on. Because at the end of the day, I’d rather get rid of extra shoes and bathroom supplies than give up on this:

My question for you

So, to bring it all back to simple living. I’ve been struggling with all of the clutter these bunnies have brought into the house recently, despite my affection for them. I need storage solutions!

I usually tend to explore the “get rid of it” solution before the “store it” solution, but this is a special case. I need something that either looks great or serves multiple purposes. I’ve been thinking of small storage stools or discreet drawers.

Do you have pet supply storage recommendations? How do you handle the extra necessities that a pet brings to your life?

Furnishing the Apartment

Make your home as comfortable and attractive as possible and then get on with living. There’s more to life than decorating.

– Albert Hadley

Before we moved in, I had been scouring IKEA’s website, getting ideas of what furniture I liked. Since we moved in with no furniture whatsoever, knowing what we wanted beforehand made the trip faster and cheaper.

I know IKEA isn’t always top-of-the line stuff, but man. If you’re looking for a simple, sleek look that’s budget friendly and easy to move from one place to another? IKEA’s the place to be. After a couple hours of wandering and selecting our items, we were able to have it all delivered to us the next day for $59.

We were able to furnish the place for under $1500 at IKEA. We splurged on some curtains and a rug at Target, which changed the entire look of the apartment without adding cheap decorative items.

If I had time, patience and a truck, I could have done it cheaper by making curtains, picking up furniture at thrift stores and waiting on sales. But, I allowed myself to go big to make us all as comfortable as possible in this brand new city. We also wanted to set it all up and move forward with our lives!

Here’s what we got

So, without further ado, I’ll take you through what we got for our 650 square foot apartment. We were careful to distinguish between “necessary” and “unnecessary” pieces as we walked through IKEA. If we were stuck on an item, we’d think about how much it would increase our quality of life.

Living Room

For our “living room” area, we got a large couch and a stackable coffee/side table (from the VITTSJÖ series, one of my favorites). We added an on-sale rug from Target to make it more cozy. We have the couch facing a wall that will eventually have a TV mounted on it, but for now we’re doing just fine without.

My desk is ultra-simple. I tend to clutter my space, so I chose one of the smallest desks I could find. Even though it’s small, there’s still at least three different glasses/mugs on it by the end of the day, as well as random papers and receipts. Why do I do these things? At least I don’t have a huge space to fill up with my nonsense.

In another section of the room, we have our simple bookshelf ($25? Yes please) and painted a little nook with the teal paint from Target. I’ve never painted anything in an apartment before, so this was a big deal in making it feel more permanent.

In the pictures, you’ll also see Rorschach’s humongous cage. It’s gold, making it less of an eyesore than other cages he’s had before. We are going to be adopting another rabbit within the next month or so, and this cage is a perfect size for two to share.

Dining Area

This one was easy: table, two chairs and a cheap rug. I had some spare fabric that looks enough like a table runner to spice it up. Note our curtains – I never knew how much curtains could do for a place until I put these babies up. Everything is so bright and cheerful now!

Bedroom

First, I must tell you a secret. The photo of our bedroom above is carefully cropped. Someday I’ll get a small set of drawers for the random tidbits on the floor (like rabbit food, paperwork and our wireless router). But for now, the only furniture in this room is our bed and a small hamper. There is nothing stored under our bed, which feels nice. It’s so zen!

I may also get a tiny bedside table, but for now I’m using a box we moved our stuff in. Kind of reminds me of Miss Honey’s cottage in Matilda – one of my favorite scenes and illustrations.

Miss Honey’s cottage in Matilda, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Image source

Finishing touches

That’s what we have so far, and I’m happy to say there’s not much more that we need to add. We’re planning on taking our time with wall hangings, getting them secondhand from thrift stores or shopgoodwill.com (an awesome site, by the way).

We’re also on the hunt for a large rug that will fill up the empty space in between our kitchen, living area and dining area. It’s a priority at this point since our little rabbit is getting older and the wood floors are slippery for him.

So, what do you think? Anything that would be a must for you if you started over?

 

Our Journey West

Exactly three weeks ago today, my husband and I were crossing into California and making our way through insane mountains before pulling into Los Angeles. It took us three days (36 hours or so), but we finally made it.

We had a car full of our most precious belongings and a few hopeful apartment tours lined up for the next day. If you’ve never lived completely out of your car like this, I recommend it. It’s terrifying in all the best (and a few of the worst) ways.

Out of our element

Neither of us had ever driven west of the Mississippi River before. Ironically, I was too caught up in the St. Louis skyline to even take a moment to look at the great river. Missouri was like Indiana in many ways, but then we moved into Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and then California. Each state looked less and less like home, but we became more excited with each “Welcome to…” sign we passed.

We really did it.

The original plan and what really happened

The original plan was to stop by a grocery store each morning for some fresh veggies and healthy snacks so that we could avoid too much fast food and share our veggies with the very disgruntled rabbit travelling with us.

We ended up at more fast food restaurants than intended, but I’m happy to say we didn’t drink any energy drinks. Just kidding, we drank quite a few of those.

We ended up scrapping the health-consciousness (we basically gave all the carrots to the rabbit) and just fueled up on what we could, when we could. We’ve since been focusing on eating fresh, real food to make it all up to our bodies.

As far as packing up everything and only shipping a few things? It went totally according to plan.

We shipped three boxes, and thanks to my lovely parents’ shipping expertise, it cost $80. I’ll take that over a whole uHaul any day.

Apartment hunting adventures

Since we didn’t have an apartment ready for us, we hit the ground running immediately, trying to find a suitable place to live. The third apartment we visited on the first day of our search was it! We signed that day and moved in the next morning. What mattered to us?

  • Price (although this became less important when we saw the location)
  • Location (walking distance to necessities was a must)
  • Safety (too many odd people lingering and broken down windowless vans in my last apartment’s parking lot)
  • Size (we preferred small to spacious, since we didn’t want to furnish a giant place)
  • Condition (no run-down, potentially haunted places for me anymore)
  • Immediate availability (yeah, I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase anymore)

We’ve since dealt with roaches and multiple necessary adjustments to the apartment (including a phone jack installation so that we could get internet…two weeks in). But I can really, truly say that we’re here and finally settling in!

I’ll do a rundown of what all we bought as necessities to make the empty apartment into our home and maybe give you a brief tour with my next post.

Thanks for your patience after my long absence! What’s new with you?

The Bathroom Cabinet, Round 2

Last year, I wrote about how I went about decluttering my bathroom cabinet. I did a pretty solid job of organizing (and yes, getting rid of things), but I didn’t truly streamline or minimize my toiletries and bathroom sundries. Probably because I was working on getting married instead of moving across the country.

But this time, it’s for real. And not only is it real, it’s real bad. For someone who claims to be a minimalist, toting this amount of toiletries anywhere should be, quite frankly, embarrassing.

But for anyone aspiring to simplify or minimize, the most important thing is to remember that it’s a journey! I shouldn’t be ashamed of where I’m at, because I’ve come so far already. Frame every part of this journey with positivity, and your momentum will be far greater.

Anyways.

The starting point

Here is what has been lying in the cabinet, waiting in the shadows to torment me a week before a move.

The Bathroom CabinetLooks like it could have come straight from an I Spy, right?

I spy homemade toothpaste, a hook and Listerine 

A ton of tampons, a mug, and some old blue jeans

Yes. So I’m going to go through and toss/donate/rehome things again! This time with the mindset that I will only be taking a small bag of toiletries in the car with me. I’ll repurchase anything that is absolutely necessary, but next time around I’ll be able to be a lot more conscious about what comes in to and goes out of my home.

If you’re not moving but have a bathroom filled to the brim, it might even be a good idea to start completely over, too, so that you only ever have what you absolutely need and use regularly. Just my two cents.

Noting what I need

I started making a list of things I really need to have with me at all times, and it’s helping me narrow everything down so well. This list could look very different for you, but here’s what I have come up with so far:

  • 1 Lotion
  • 1 Perfume
  • 1 Facewash (which I’ve been actually loving Witch Hazel and Rosewater as an alternative to storebought stuff)
  • 1 Body spray (optional, really)
  • 1 Deodorant (preferably homemade, but I’m not there yet)
  • 1 Hairbrush
  • 1 Comb
  • 2 Toothbrushes (a backup is handy for traveling)
  • 2 Contact solution bottles (nothing worse than realizing you’re out of solution and it’s 11PM)
  • My minimal makeup collection – this time it has to all fit into one small container
  • Travel sized versions of many of these things (in fact, any consumables I’ll have travel sized version while we’re making the move, so the bigger versions will be out too)

Note the general rule of thumb: if it’s super necessary, I keep two for myself in case I need backup, but for the most part one of each thing is preferable.

I’m nixing the hair straightener and blow dryer, because I don’t use them often enough to keep them around. Especially now that I’ve cut my hair into a short pixie cut (in a future post, I’ll talk about how I cut my own hair). That means I need very few products and hair accessories, which is awesome.

The result

It’s so different, and I love it. I still have to use up a few products, and some of the larger things that we don’t use up will be handed off to family and friends (who wants the mouthwash?!)

Here’s what it looks like now:

Under the bathroom sink

Yikes, now that it’s nearly empty this cabinet is actually pretty gross looking.

The bathroom cabinet

And for comparison, here’s what it looked like a year ago:

Before - Cluttered Bathroom

What a day. What are your bathroom must-haves?

The Car Purchase Dilemma

It’s about that time of life when, you know, a man and a woman fall in love and get married and then suddenly….it’s time to get a car!

Or so they think.

My husband and I decided that in order to move west, we’re going to need something more than just a little old Honda Civic, and so I’ve been researching Toyota Highlanders and Honda CR-Vs like it’s my new job. I’ve fretted more than once about the cost vs. quality aspect and realized that if we wanted to get a suitable vehicle, we’d have to shell out a pretty penny.

But with a big move coming up (including deposits and superhigh rent) and our student loans stalking in the shadows, I got scared. Really scared. 

Can we afford a newer vehicle? Is it a good choice to get something so pricey at this pivotal moment in our lives? Why should I willingly sacrifice my freedom for another big chunk of debt?

The Verdict

Well, finally I realized that the bad feeling in my gut had to mean something. So we took this dilemma to a third party – my mother.

After talking it through, she cheerfully threw an idea on to the table: “What about shipping?”

We’re getting rid of all of our furniture and large belongings, so why couldn’t we just pack up the Civic with what fit and ship the rest as needed? It was a groundbreaking idea. Cheaper than a new car or a U-Haul.

So, the verdict: we’re getting rid of most of our things, packing up our necessities in the Civic (including Rorschach the bunny) and driving out west. My parents will ship things as needed and store the few things that we don’t end up needing.

I felt a giant weight lift off of my shoulders and am completely thrilled with this decision. Going against what may be considered “normal” (like having two cars or purchasing a newer one) isn’t always easy, but it can be rewarding.

I just wanted to share that story with you all because I think it speaks strongly to following your gut instincts – if a purchase doesn’t feel right, or screams UNNECCESSARY to you, then you should probably listen. Same goes for nearly everything else, the trick is just training your gut.

And that’s not always easy.

Happy Saturday!