A California Christmas

We’ll be home for Christmas. But in a different way – we’re going to spend Christmas at our home in California instead of our home in Indiana.

So this year I really want to design a Christmas around that idea – we are home. Our Christmas plans will look different from year to year, but a lot of what I said last year about the holidays still rings true. Especially the part about trying to focus on experiences over things for Christmas.

So let’s take a peek at five of the big pieces of our holiday this year.

Christmas California

Home

I love Christmas lights, but for some reason I’m not crazy about other seasonal decorations. My husband loves it though, so I picked up a few different festive items and did what I could to make the apartment cheerful (and not overwhelming).

Alternative Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

We even decorated the bunny cage with little ornaments and some garland. The most important decorations were actually candles, because we love the ambiance that the scent of winter pine brings to our space.

The best part? We can store these decorations in a space smaller than a shoe box.

Gifts

Again, we’re keeping it simple. For the nephews (six of them under the age of 12), we got walkie-talkies – a gift that is only fun if you’re spending time with others. I loved the idea of them running around the house, radioing to each other like secret agents.

[SPOILER ALERT] For the grownups, we did what we felt each family member would use or appreciate most. We gave practical things like gift cards, fun & useful coffee mugs and I even found some awesome glass straws for my smoothie-loving mother.

We also did something new this year for a few of our family members – we donated to charities in their honor. We picked a different charity for everyone we did this for, because we wanted it to be relevant and meaningful to each of them.

Family

We miss everyone terribly this season, but we’re so fortunate to have the communication we do with everyone. Calling, texting and skyping keep us all almost close enough to touch.

To reach out even a little further, we took Christmas photos of us and the bunnies and are sending out hand-written cards to let grandparents, friends and other family members know that we’re thinking about them.Christmas Cards

Even sitting down to write the cards has helped with those holiday blues I wrote about in my last post.

Charity

Since we don’t have a lot of holiday parties to go to this year, we’re going to spend a little bit of Christmas Eve volunteering and serving food for those in need.

We’ve both been feeling like it’s time to start sharing our time more with others who need it, so I think this is a start to something we can pick up in 2016!

I wanted to share this little tidbit since I think it might be a good option for people celebrating holidays far from home, and it might serve as a starting point for our future holidays in California.

Togetherness

This is the most important for us this year. Instead of gifts, we’re investing in strategic, sit-down-and-talk-to-me games.

King of Tokyo and Rivals for Catan are our most recent additions.

My husband has some holiday time off, so we’re going to spend our days exploring new places in LA, planning for 2016 and playing games to our hearts’ content.

Because being together is what it’s really about, right?

Happy Holidays!

 

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The Moving Strategy

So I officially started packing some things up a few days ago, and we gave our move-out notice to the leasing office yesterday. Hello, stomach butterflies.

But I’m excited! For as much as I’ve been getting rid of in the past year, we’re still not out of the woods when it comes to dropping everything and moving across the country. The bulk of our strategy revolves around our furniture, but there’s definitely still some random trinkets that have accumulated in this apartment that I’m not sure how to deal with.

Hence, The Moving Strategy. My husband and I sat down this week and decided how we were going to approach everything. It’s a lot like what I’ve been doing, only this time there’s a few more things to keep in mind once we decide whether to keep things or leave them behind.

There are six fates for each possession

I imagine that if our stuff was cognizant and could grasp what was going on, this might terrify and thrill them – one of six things could happen to them. Would it be the great honor of coming with us in our car? Or would it meet the terrible fate of heading out the door as trash?

Minimal MoveYou’ll notice something that hasn’t come up before (and in fact, seems a bit contradictory to the whole “minimal” thing), and that’s storing things. It sounds bad, but we’re most certainly not going the route of self-storage units, and absolutely only storing a few key things that we’ll use to furnish our home if we someday return to the midwest. 

Let me digress for a moment on the topic of self-storage. Did you know there’s enough covered storage space in the US for every man, woman and child in the country to stand? So, while we have issues with homelessness and poverty, some people have so much that they need extra space to keep it. There are legitimate reasons for self-storage, but can those legitimate reasons make sense of the 2.3 billion square feet of storage that’s now available to our country? (I’m finding this info here if your curious to see more numbers).

My apologies. Let’s dig in to each option (and I’ll explain the storage one). First, my husband and I will decide whether to keep something or leave it, then we’ll have one of three options.

If we’re keeping it

We can bring it

If it fits and is super necessary to our travels, it gets to come with us in our car. This could get dicey, since we drive a small Honda Civic and are also bringing our sweet rabbit. He takes up a nice chunk of space, but is a non-negotiable when it comes to what stays.

We can ship it

If there is such a thing as a master shipper, my dad is that thing. He is a wizard when it comes to packaging and shipping things to all corners of the country, and I’m incredibly lucky to have him on my team for this one – my husband and I will pack everything that we want to ship into boxes with labels, then my dad will ship them as we need them. Since we don’t want to deal with too many shipping costs, again this will be minimal. Hopefully we can do it in 6 boxes or under.

We can store it

Again, we’re fortunate to have some wonderful family support. My husband still has to figure out which of his four guitars will come with us (some will sell), but a couple of them are sentimental/family heirlooms so those will most certainly stay with us. But will they fit in the car? Maybe not. And we’re not shipping them, so storing with family it is! My parents also gifted us a lovely (and expensive) bedroom set that will be ours once again when we move back into the area to settle down. Since they have an unfurnished spare bedroom, everything, including our mattress, will stay with them.

If we’re leaving it

We can sell it

Here’s a big one that I can’t wait to do: we’re selling the TV. And the PS3 (don’t worry, hubs will be getting a PS4 sometime mid-2015 so he can play Batman). And the record player, the kitchen table, Rorschach’s giant dog cage (the rabbit lives in a cage meant for a German Shepherd). Bookshelves, random tables, you get the picture.

We can donate it

If selling doesn’t work, we’ll donate! I’m thinking of donating a couple of handmade blankets to a women’s care center. Books will be donated (not exactly sure where yet) and fragile glassware will be handed over to family who’d enjoy it more than we would. We’ll try to donate to good causes, but in the end if there’s a time crunch, we may rely on good ol’ Goodwill to take things off our hands.

We can trash it

This last category is mostly for random papers, unusable bits of craft supplies, random trinkets that don’t even make sense…recycling first, yes, but that dumpster is sure to see a lot of our old randomness soon.

What we’re feeling

Since I’ve gotten a lot of awesome comments from people sharing their personal anecdotes, I feel like I can let you in on how we’re both feeling about this move. We’re friends, right?

Well it’s nothing too dramatic – we’re just excited to get things rolling! My husband officially has a job lined up, and has a less-official but much cooler job opportunity in the works too. I’m getting more into the swing of working from home and am planning on how I can be social once we get out to Los Angeles. All good, positive, happy things before the storm of actually moving and sorting through things hits.

Any Los Angeles-based readers want to meet up for coffee sometime? I’ll be there in January!

Decluttering the Bathroom Cabinet

A couple of weekends ago I was going about my usual business, tossing clean towels haphazardly into the terrible cavern that is my bathroom cabinet. They didn’t even fit into the drawer I was trying to put them into, since there were so many old rags and random bathroom products in the way.

It had to stop.

So, I ripped every bit of “stuff” out of that cabinet. I made a trash stack, a keep stack, and a donate stack (it was quite small, being from the bathroom and all). My fiance came home to find our hallway littered with, well, litter, and me curled up in a corner of our tiny bathroom untangling decades-old necklaces. I was in my element.

The before and after may not be super impressive in the photos below, but I was able to get rid of a lot of old, expired, or otherwise non-essential items.

Before - Cluttered Bathroom

Before

After - Clean Bathroom

After – Niels even had room to play! I’m surprised at how much space I have now.

I uncovered a lot of space for full towels and toilet paper that I didn’t have before. In all, I hauled away one trash bag full of junk (most of which I’ve been carrying around for years) and a small bag of still-usable towels and hand towels to donate. Here’s my “toss it” criteria:

  • Expired or just old. Seriously, I had some facial lotion that was half a year expired. I had body spray that was a decade old. Some lotions were almost used up, but I hadn’t gotten around to using them…for 5+ years. Tossed.
  • Not my style. You know those scents and strange products you sometimes get from people you sort of know, or from random events like showers and stuff? If it was unopened, I donated it, but if it was opened, I referred to the previous point. Most of them were very old anyway. If not, I shared it with my mom or a friend who might find it more useful.
  • Never been used. Sometimes, I’ll get on kicks of purchasing new, fun products. Then a few months (or years – again, I tend to hold onto things) later I realize that I don’t want to put whatever it is on my skin. If it freaks me out, I toss it into the appropriate pile and make a note to never purchase it again.

My new bathroom essentials

With all of this came the intention of paring down and only using a few products for everything. Washing, cleaning, brushing, you name it – I want to do it all on my own terms with my own favorite items.

  • Castile soap. If you’re into minimalism, but not yet into castile soap you should rethink everything. Maybe not, but seriously this stuff has so many uses and I absolutely love it.
  • Baking soda and vinegar. Again, love these two things for almost everything. I use them to wash my hair, but I also use them to disinfect my bathroom (with castile soap, too). I use them to unclog drains, vinegar to keep dishes sparkling and clear, and sometimes baking soda to brush my teeth (I’m not the best at keeping up with homemade toothpaste).
  • More soap, less everything else. For Christmas, I asked for soaps. I ended up getting something like 5 different bars of soap. I suppose you could say I really cleaned up this year? It’s a consumable gift that I enjoy quite often and now I have room for my soap collection in my cabinet. I think I need to take more showers so I can start using it up a little more quickly.

My bathroom cabinet is still not quite where I’d like to see it, but it’s definitely an improvement. I don’t get stressed everytime I open it up…it’s funny, we don’t think about what small spaces of clutter like this can do to our minds. It’s something I never outwardly stressed about, but if I was already having a bad day it could often make it worse.

I dare you to go to your bathroom and open up all the cabinets. What percentage of the stuff do you actually use on a regular basis? Mine was somewhere at about 20%. Now it’s closer to 75-80% (like I said, still getting there!) Take an afternoon and trash/donate/rehome the stuff and let me know how it feels.

Crafting Clutter: Giving Up Supplies

Many of my Millennial friends have jumped wholeheartedly aboard the DIY train, and seem to pump out projects like it’s their full time job (which, hopefully for them, it will be someday). I like to think I’m that kind of person, too. But I’m not.

In reality, I have a queen-sized white afghan that still needs a lacy border (winter is coming), an incomplete weird pillowcase-thing (what was I thinking?), a chevron baby blanket that’s 1/4 of the way complete, and another blanket that I ran out of yarn while crocheting (only to find out that the color & style of yarn I was using has been discontinued). Not to mention the countless other small projects that I told myself I’d do or redo, and the Etsy shop that I had for a couple of months but then got rid of because I couldn’t find a niche.

What I’m trying to say is that many of us have so many “someday” projects, and that I’ve finally decided to let go. Without further ado, I give you a glimpse into my crafting supply madness:

craft clutter 2

Mostly linens, but seriously?

craft clutter

After taking a look at everything in one place, I decided enough was enough. Here’s just a small fraction of what I had.

My craft supplies took up two underbed storage units, one GIANT plastic tub, and the entirety of a wicker chest in my bedroom. For someone who’s all about simplifying her life, this was sobering. I told myself, when I first started on this journey, that I was going to disregard all crafting supplies – after all, they promote creativity, right? Wrong. They’re a pain, and I’ve had enough.

So what does a crafting hoarder do with yarn she’s had since she first started crocheting 13 years ago? She bundles it up and gives it away. Here are some tips:

  • If it’s completely useless, don’t bother donating it. That being said, if it’s also small enough and can be useful for scraps later on, tuck it away into a bag of scraps. If it’s entirely pointless? Toss it.
  • Know what you’ll use, and be honest about what you won’t. I have a sewing machine, so that means I’m a quilter and a seamstress right? Nope. The last dress I sewed for myself fell apart while I was wearing it. I said goodbye to most of my fabric (kept anything pink or green that would be useful for my wedding), and organized it into nice “scrap bags” before putting it in the Goodwill pile. I kept my sewing machine, but I have a feeling that might not make it through the next year or two.
  • ORGANIZE. Seriously. Have well-defined trash, keep, and donate piles and make sure that nothing goes back in to storage or gets donated without being grouped and bagged up – it will save you, and the people who have to sort through your donation.

After an afternoon of fighting myself for which supplies to keep, I organized 4 storage units into one:

wicker chest

All of my craft supplies (and some linens) are now in this ONE chest

What a relief! It’s been bothering me for months, and now I have 3 new storage units available for my most epic craft project yet: making all my wedding flowers. It’s going well! I have nine made already. Only like a thousand to go. But they look great!

For all my DIY-ers: keep it up. You inspire me to create every day, so don’t change. But you may consider making your life a bit easier by decluttering and donating some of your craft supplies. It will free up your mind and your home to do more of what you really love to do.

Reorganizing vs. Eliminating

After the chaos of the last few weeks, I finally had time this weekend to clean house. My “donate” bag was notably smaller than it’s been in the past, and I finally feel like I’m getting closer to only owning the essentials.

But there was still an overload of stuff. My fiancé recently moved in and doubled the amount of stuff we have in the apartment, so this weekend I took the time to cleverly reorganize. But how should you balance reorganizing and eliminating? What’s the point in setting aside time to do each separately?

Eliminating

This should be done first. Eliminate waste, old possessions, things that no longer bring you joy, or that the cost of owning far outweighs the benefit. Mentally block off spaces in your home and take them one at a time, removing anything that isn’t useful or beautiful.

This process requires you to identify your own why. Are you getting rid of things because of a move? Because you’re feeling overwhelmed? Because you have memories you no longer wish to carry with you? For me, I felt that my possessions were weighing me down unnecessarily and I decided to make a change. This process also comes with a need to identify next steps: are you going to continue purchasing new things, or are you going to move forward with only what you have?

Having a reason and outlining next steps will help make the process easier.

Reorganizing

This should be done after you’ve been through at least one round of elimination. Imagine eliminating possessions as a warm shower, and reorganizing is the process of drying your hair, picking out an outfit and getting all dolled up. Reorganizing possessions is an excellent way to catalog what you still own and give everything a home.

Reorganizing physical things actually helps my mind put everything in its place as well: I find it easier to schedule time to relax, cook dinner, pay bills, etc. It’s a way to reduce the distraction and train yourself to give everything, even thoughts and emotions, it’s proper space and time.

The Not-So-Vicious Circle

Once you do these things once, schedule out time in the following week to do it again. You may find yourself spending less time deciding which items to eliminate and which to just reorganize, and you’ll notice that it gets easier and easier to give your possessions away. Let the circle continue: someday, you may find yourself with nothing left but the essentials. Wouldn’t that be nice?

100 Less Challenge Wrap-Up

Last weekend, I challenged readers to get rid of 100 things. How did it go? I got rid of a boatload of junk (mostly clothes) and I haven’t missed one thing since. Unfortunately, I lost count. But I’m sure there’s at least 100 things in these bags…

Look how happy I am! I must have just had a ton of coffee.

Look how happy/insane I am! I must have just had a ton of coffee.

I still feel rather overloaded with clutter, but I’m seeing improvements. In fact, I’ve noticed an immense upswing in my enthusiasm for minimalism. I’ve realized there is not an end to this–the goal of this lifestyle change is to enjoy the process and the “small wins” that add up along the way.

Through the process of eliminating clutter a little bit at a time, I focus on what is essential to my life. Do I need this weird jacket? Do I need these shoes that are cute but hardly fit? (I bet you probably have a pair just like that).

I’ve found that I don’t miss the several hundred items I’ve eliminated in the past year. In fact, I feel more satisfied with my lifestyle than I did one year ago. Awareness is everything—are you truly grateful for every little thing you have? Or is there too much to even inventory?

Don’t drown in possessions. Keep just what you need to stay afloat, and you’ll feel lighter and lighter every day.

How did you do with this challenge?

100 Less Challenge

I recently spoke with a friend about my frequent “100 Less” weekends. I’ve come to the point where I’m struggling to decide what to get rid of, and eventually I’d like to be at the point where if I eliminated 1 more item from my home, my quality of life would diminish. That’s my goal–nothing unnecessary, nothing distracting. Only the essentials.

I am so proud of my 42-item closet nowadays.

I am so proud of my 42-item closet nowadays.

My friend suggested that I offer this challenge up to others as well. With Memorial Day coming up, I challenge you to get rid of (trash or donate) 100 items. It’s a lot easier than you think–you may notice that getting rid of 100 things will not even make a dent in your amount of possessions. Some more extreme (yet totally cool) people actually live on 100 things or less.

I know that many people my age complain about being broke. However, this challenge should give you a chance to reflect on how wealthy you truly are. Look at every material possession you’ve been blessed with, earned for yourself, or been given by people who love you. Appreciate it, then send it off to someone new if you no longer use it.

And don’t buy any more.

You’ll uncover “stuff” from childhood and from high school that has no function other than taking up space in your life. Snap a picture of it if you’re sentimental, then send it off to Goodwill. I’m still chipping away at the unnecessary things in my life in order to declutter and regain some control over my possessions.

The Challenge

It’s easy enough. While you’re struggling to organize your home or apartment or dorm room this weekend, set out 2 bags. One for trash, and one for donation. Once you’ve eliminated 100 items, take a look around. Can you swing another 50? Another 100? I find that taking it 100 at a time is less overwhelming, but I do often continue if I’m on a roll.

Take the 100 Less Challenge and report to me how it went in the comments below. I’ll follow up next week. Happy decluttering!