Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Month: October 2014 (page 1 of 4)

Happy Minimalist Halloween!

Minimalist Halloween

My kids may be a blur in this photo, but it’s holiday traditions like this that make me happy I slowed down to enjoy them.  Minimalism ensures my memories are completely in focus.

Happy Minimalist Halloween!

Throwing Away 10 Things A Day: October Challenge Wrap-up

That’s a funny title for this post since the whole point is to tell you [spoiler alert!] that I won’t be wrapping up my habit of throwing away 10 things a day.

Over the month of October, I have thrown away a grand (conservative) total of 493 things. 115 of those will be donated or given away and the vast majority of the rest have been recycled.

 

That’s a pretty big number, but I still feel like if my house were an iceberg, we’re still chipping away at the ice above the water. I’ve successfully cleaned out only three major areas:

  1. Linen closet
  2. Upstairs bathroom
  3. Kitchen

We have a 1700 square-foot home with four bedrooms and two stories. That leaves a lot of rooms and spaces to minimize.

As I move into November, I will adopt a new theme, which will be unveiled on November 1st, but I will continue to go through each drawer, storage bin, and room until we have created space everywhere.

Throwing Away 10 Things a Day Continues

My goal is to be done by January 1st. I will purge items from one space a day for the next 60 days. It’s an aggressive goal and a massive undertaking, but I want it done yesterday. Let’s do this!

So much for “wrapping up”.

Declutter The Bathroom (Weekend Project)

Why is there so much stuff in the bathroom? I don’t spend a lot of time there and there aren’t a lot of places to store things (at least that’s true of our 1960s-era bathrooms).  When you declutter the bathroom, you not only find extra space in the room, you get extra time in the mornings – time usually spent searching around for the items you need.

Declutter The Bathroom

The bathroom is where a lot of samples, partially used beauty products, and bath toys lurk. We use a lot of disposable items (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant) in the bathroom, but we don’t always use them up and dispose of them. That’s why my drawer looks like this…

Drawer with Clutter

…and the cabinet and tub look like this.

Under the Sink
Uncleaned Tub

I’m tackling my bathroom in two steps:

  1. Get rid of as much stuff as possible and organize it now.
  2. Future Project: Examine my morning and evening routines to see what else I can cut out of my life to give me even more time and space.

What to Throw Out

I like to go into a space with a plan and these questions helped me decide what to keep and what to pitch.

  1. Do I use this every day?
    If this isn’t part of my daily routine, it doesn’t belong in the bathroom.  Consider throwing it out or moving it to a closet.
  2. Do I need this?
    Is this really enhancing my life?  Would my life be better without it?
  3. Is this too big for the space?
    If you still need and use the item every day, but it’s too big for your bathroom space, find a smaller container and use the larger container to refill it.

Results

I cleaned out and organized everything in the bathroom except my husband’s drawer. Now I can actually find my hair dryer in the mornings and the kids’ toys are in one specific bucket – out of sight.

Clean & Organized Cabinet

Clean & Organized Cabinet!

Clean & Organized Drawer

Clean & Organized Drawer!

The most surprising thing I was storing was a very large and completely empty bottle of bubble bath.

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

I’d love to put our toothbrushes out of sight too, but am afraid they’ll just touch each other or get dirty. Luckily, a few people have solved this problem by creating a nice toothbrush holder for inside the cabinets. That will be another fun future project.

All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with my newly-de-owned and organized bathroom. It’s been over three weeks and everything is still organized!

One-Year Rule (Quick Tip)

I like rules or guidelines because good ones enhance your life, make you more creative and push you to achieve more than you would have without them.  There’s a great rule for minimalists that Janet Luhrs describes in her book The Simple Living Guide.  She dubs it the one-year rule.

One-Year Rule: If you haven’t used something for a year, throw it out.  

It seems obvious at first, but in practice it’s harder to do.  Take the one suit I own.  I got it in college and have worn it only to job interviews my entire adult career.  It looks good on me, but I don’t wear it to other formal events, it’s not high quality, and I haven’t worn it in four years.  I didn’t even wear it to my last job interview.  Each time I clean out my closet, I naturally leave it in place because I think, “I’ll probably need this for my next interview”.

The other day I asked myself: what am I waiting for?  I wear jeans every single day of the week (I do love working at Opower)!  I hope this doesn’t happen, but if I ever end up in an industry that requires nice clothing, that suit needs to be updated anyway.  Plus, there are plenty of new women’s start-ups for renting nice clothing.

One-Year Rule with a Box

One way to get around your natural inclination to think, “but I might need that someday!” is to place your ill-used items in a box, tape it shut, and label it with the date.  After one year, if the box remains taped shut, donate it (without looking)!  Chances are you’ve forgotten what’s in there and the date proves it’s not worth the space it’s taking up in your life.

One-Year Rule w/ the Taped & Dated Box Trick

Kids’ Art (Weekend Project)

I officially have a problem. I can’t bring myself to get rid of my kids’ art. When my oldest daughter first learned to hold a crayon, I saved page after page of her art, mostly consisting of a few lines, possibly in two different colors jutting haphazardly across a page. I put everything in a folder and kept it. A year later, I looked back and realized how ridiculous this was. By then, she was drawing small figures and the hundreds (literally) of pages of her early drawings just didn’t seem that special anymore. I wonder if I would feel differently if I’d saved one special drawing instead.

Post-photos art pile

My Mound of Kid Art

My daughter finished her first year of preschool last year and, again, I saved every art project that was sent home. Maybe it was because she’d had an incredibly talented teacher who did amazing, creative projects, but the real reason was probably that I was a bit sentimental and indecisive. I couldn’t bring myself to make any choices on which masterpieces I should keep or pitch.

How to Declutter Kids’ Art

In came some amazing advice from an audio book I read quite a while ago called It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh. He points out sentimental objects are hard to throw away because of the memories they evoke. It’s the memory you want to keep, not the object, so take a picture.

Years later I read about a mom who used ArtKive to take pictures of all of her kids’ art projects and created a photo book. Then she threw away the projects. It’s brilliant, saves space, and keeps the memories.

Have a Goal

So, this weekend I took pictures of everything and set aside a small pile of art to keep. My goal was to save just five pieces of art. It was surprisingly easy to recognize my favorites. They were cute and represented an important stage in my daughter’s development or, in the case of the bear drawing, the good laugh we had when we realized we might be sharing a little too much information about how nature works (she’s the daughter of a Park Ranger, so there’s a little pride behind that).

 

I set out to create a book, but realized that was unnecessary. I’ll save the photos on a thumb drive instead. Knowing they’re preserved allowed me to pitch, without regret, the physical copies and create a new empty spot on my craft table.

When & How to Purge

Waiting until the end of the year gave me a chance to review everything at once. If you have space out of sight to keep a growing pile of art, I’d recommend this method again. However, a better way to approach the problem throughout the year is to keep your five favorite pieces at all times. Each time a new piece shows up, compare it to your favorite five and if it’s not better, throw it out (perhaps after temporarily displaying it for a specific period of time). If it surpasses the existing five, replace one of them with the new piece.

Other Ideas

There are a lot of other ideas for using and getting rid of your kids’ art. Check out this article by Sherri Reed or read about it in Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids.

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