Wednesday, February 05, 2014

What Do You Do With "The Good Stuff?"

We are moving and downsizing again!  (Yes, we got the little bungalow mentioned in my previous post "Bordering on Miraculous.") This time the move is only across town, but still that means packing and moving...






The new house has only two bedrooms, not three.  There are less closets and they are MUCH smaller.  There is plenty of storage space in the basement, but I don't want to haul lots of things cross-town just to store them in a basement.

As a quick review for any new readers: After 5 of our kids graduated and moved out in a quick 5-year period of time, we realized we no longer needed our 2070 sq. ft. 5 bedroom, 8 closet, 2.5 bath house with a full attic full plus an outside storage building.  So in December, 2012 we sold it and downsized to a 3 bedroom 2 bath condo, no attic, no outside storage.  A LOT of stuff had to go!  6 months later, we moved from NC to Wyoming.  Even more stuff did not make it on the Penske truck we drove cross-country!

I am both thrilled and a bit uneasy over the opportunity to downsize even more. I have already done so much purging and releasing in the past two years.  Moving to this little house is definitely going to push me even further out of my comfort zone. I have culled until now I am pretty much down to "The Good Stuff."  All of it is neatly stored and organized, yet, it burdens me still.  Having things that are not getting used or appreciated makes me feel guilty.

Here are some examples.  Do you have similar items sitting around your house?

EXAMPLE #1:  My fine china (Noritake Etienne) and crystal stemware sitting packed in a box.

My china is a triple whammy as it falls into THREE categories that are stumbling blocks in the Great Clutter War:  the gift category, the sentimental category, and the valuable category. We never use it and don't have cabinet space for it. But golly, each plate cost over $20 in 1980's currency and each glass was $26!  You don't just Goodwill an entire set of fine Noritake china, do you?  My kids don't want it. I have looked into selling it, but I can't seem to find a good market for it. would only give me less than $200 for the whole lot of it, and safely shipping the china to them would be such a large expense and challenge in itself.  What's a gal to do?

EXAMPLE #1B:  As a corollary to the fine china, I feel compelled to mention that my everyday dishes are a lovely set of Arcoroc of France "Aspen" I recently inherited from my mother.  I always liked these dishes. My hubby, on the other hand, does not for two main reasons:  a) They are made of glass which means they are semi-transparent, a look he doesn't care for.  b)  They are shaped and molded like a leaf, which means the slightly compulsive one of us (you may guess who) wants them to be turned the "right" way when on the table (who wants to eat off an upside down leaf?) and turned the same direction when stacked in the cabinets so that they fit nicely together.  The less compulsive one of us (you may guess who) thinks this is a pain!  I would like to replace them with something simple that we BOTH like.  But I struggle with what to do with these dishes.  Not to mention it is hard to justify spending money on new dishes when already have a set that is perfectly functional.

EXAMPLE #2:  My fabric.  I purged boxes of fabric last year.  I gave large quantities to quilters I knew.  My fabric is now down to a few containers -- a carefully curated collection of "The Good Stuff" -- patterns and colors that I actually like.  But I'm not using it.  I no longer have a designated sewing spot which means that setting up the machine is an event.  In the last year I have sewn only a few times.  Once again, I perceive this fabric as valuable.  It was not cheap.  I acquired much of it when I was selling project bags on Etsy.  Also, the fabric falls into the I-may-need-it-someday category.  What if I get the sewing urge again? 

EXAMPLE #3:  My beading supplies.  Once upon a time I had a small jewelry and hair stick business.  I sold my handcrafted items in a local shop and online.  It fed my need to create.  It was great fun.  But when it became work, a drudge, and I stopped.  So, I now have a fabulous collection of quality beads and jewelry making supplies that I almost NEVER use except for when one of my daughters needs a nice gift to give a friend.  I don't wear much jewelry, and my hair is not even long enough to use hair sticks any more.  Like the other examples, this is "The Good Stuff."  While there are some less expensive components, my collection also includes a good bit of Swarovski crystals, Czech glass & sterling silver.   Heck, just the fancy-schmancy storage containers that organize them are worth a pretty penny!  Trying to divide it up into small lots and selling it online would be time-consuming and tedious.  I keep hoping to stumble across someone who makes beaded jewelry who might want to buy the whole collection for a steal.  Meanwhile, I hang onto it because what else am I going to do?

These examples are just some of "The Good Stuff" I am struggling with.  I have done some deep soul-searching trying to figure out what is holding me back from simply donating these, and other similar items to charity.  I believe it is because I perceive them to have significant value.  I have already given away hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars worth of stuff.  I want to be a good steward. If I could find a proper venue to sell them at a decent price that is proportional to the effort required, I would do so.  I would also gladly give some of these things away to someone I love, or someone who I know would value them.  But I can't bring myself to just haul them off to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.  Remember, this is "The Good Stuff." I feel the need to find a "proper" home for it...somewhere it's value will be appreciated.

I see my options as the following:

--Keep, store, and ignore the guilt.
--Keep and find a way to use.
--Give away to friends/family.

So, what do YOU do with "The Good Stuff?" If you have any ideas or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bordering on Miraculous...

Through a series of strange coincidences, we have just stumbled upon a lovely little historic bungalow (in a very desirable part of town & walking distance to my husband's work) that will be coming up for rent at HALF what we are currently paying!

This may be the answer to my prayers.  I am so stoked!

We have been budget crunching and house hunting for the last few months and have gotten rather discouraged at the high prices of the market where we live.

Seriously, folks.  This opportunity borders on miraculous. 

--Although it is old, it has had lots of updates (thermal windows, extra insulation, updated heating & plumbing.)

--The owner is the conscientious kind who takes wonderful care of her property and currently resides only a few blocks away.

--It is walking/biking distance to our public library...something that would thrill my 12 year-old voracious reader.

--It has all hardwood floors.

--It is a no-smoking, no-pets property (which is perfect since hubby has allergies.)

--I has adorable features like built-in craftman-style cabinets, a sunroom, and French doors.

--The lease is only 6 months, and then month-to-month.  That gives us wiggle room if our "dream home" should come on the market at an affordable price.

--Did I mention that the rent is HALF what we are currently paying?  :-)

I have only seen photos of the interior.  It is currently occupied, so we still have to walk through it; but today I met with the landlord and she sent me home with the rental paperwork, so I think it could be ours if we want it.

I am trying to not get too excited, only to have my hopes dashed into smithereens...but I may be keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Where Life Took Us...

In August of 2012, in a post titled "How to Let Go of Stuff" I wrote the following:
"Another mental image I use is imagining all my stuff on chains attached to my ankles.  If I am sitting in one spot these shackles may not be a big deal, but if I want to get up and move, all that dead weight is dragging behind.  The more I let go, the lighter my burden and the freer I will be to easily pick up and go wherever life takes us!"

When I wrote that blog post, sitting in warm, humid, eastern NC, I had no idea that life was going to take us somewhere far, far away in the following WYOMING! Dear Hubby was offered his dream job in February 2013, and we made plans to relocate.

When we found out we would be moving cross-country, words can not begin to describe how very thankful I was that I had spent the previous year decluttering and letting go of STUFF.  What a relief to have already sold our house and downsized to a much smaller rented condo just a few months before the job offer came.  Our only large financial commitment was the 6 month lease we had to complete.  The new employer said they could wait.

The amazing thing was after all that "letting go," when it came time to pack for "The Big Move," I found even more STUFF that could be jettisoned.  STUFF that we had moved to the condo and not used a single time during those 6 months.  We were able to fit all our worldly possessions into a single Penske truck for the long cross-country trek.  I can testify: packing up every single thing you own and loading it into a truck is not only physically demanding, it is seriously STRESSFUL.  But, as challenging as it was, if I had not already done the emotional and physical release of so many things, "The Big Move" would have probably caused an emotional breakdown for me!

And now, here I sit in the kitchen of my rental home in Wyoming.  Wanna' see the view from my deck during warmer months?

And here is what it looks like during this time of year.  (No morning coffee on the deck today!)

Now that we have settled and know we want to stay out here in the Wild West, we are searching for a home to buy...three moves in less-than 2 years?!  Oy vey!

And you know what?  I have a feeling when the time comes, I will be letting go of even more STUFF!

Friday, February 08, 2013

A Tale About Knitting With Handspun

Once upon a time there was a lovely 4 oz. bump of Frabjous Fibers that did not know what it should be when it grew up.  But a nice lady took it home with her and lovingly spun it into singles.

Because the lady was a novice spinner and had not yet learned to Navajo ply, she decided to spin a bump of some Ashland Bay in a pretty cranberry color to go with the Frabjous Fiber.

When they were all plied together, the lady had a wonderful yarn that she was so happy with. 

But this lady just didn't know what to make with her new handspun yarn.  So she set it aside to admire and wait for it to speak to her.  She waited.  And she waited.  And she waited.

Eventually this lady began to feel kind of silly.  She had spun this yarn (and a few others) to be knit, not sit on a shelf.  She had even spun yarn for friends to knit, but the lady had never actually knit with her own handspun!  So the lady decided that this must be rectified immediately!  She went on a quest through the vast forest of patterns found in the mystical land of Ravelry.  After much searching, the lady finally stumbled upon a beautiful shawl pattern put out by the good fairy Miriam L. Felton.  This Lune Shawl had a magical swirl to its shape making it easy to wear.  It also had a variation that was in simple stockinette stitch...perfect for her yarn with it's many color changes.

And so, the lady cast on and began to knit with her handspun.  This made the lady so very happy, that she vowed to knit up ALL her handspun and to never be so foolish again.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Recommended Reading

I thought I would share with you some of the blogs and books I have been reading that have helped me as I declutter my surroundings and work towards the goal of simplifying and minimizing my possessions and time-commitments down to the truly important.

The following are listed in no particular order. by Courtney Carver is a lovely site.  She has written two excellent e-books:  Simple Ways to Be More With Less and Living in the Land of Enough is the home of Francine Jay, the author of The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, a book I highly recommend as well. Is Tammy Strobel's very interesting blog where I first learned about tiny homes.  Her new book, You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too will be out sometime this month, and I can't wait to read it!

Leo Babauta is a name well-known in minimalist and simple living circles.  He is considered by many to be the Godfather of this movement.  You can find his writings at and  Two of his more popular books are The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Business and in Life and The Effortless Life:  A Manual for Contentment, Mindfulness, & Flow by Sandra never ceases to challenge me.  I always look forward to her posts. is co-written by two good friends,  Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who call themselves "The Minimalists."  They are one of my more recent "finds" and I have been gleaning a good deal from their writings.  They also have a collection of their essays put together in book format:  Minimalism:  Essential Essays

This is by no means a comprehensive list!  There are so many excellent authors out there who are embracing the concept of minimizing and simplifying to live a more full and satisfying life.  However, what I have listed above should definitely give a seeker plenty of food for thought.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting Rid of "The Gimmees"

You know all about "the gimmees" don't you?  Sure you do!  Usually we associate this phenomenon with a toddler who sees a toy or a treat and exclaims, "Gimme!"  Unfortunately, while social convention dictates that we outgrow our inclination to shout "Gimme!" whenever we see something we want, most of us continue to suffer from a severe case of the gimmees throughout our life.

Shopping is the national pass-time in America.  It starts in our youth where we are told that we must have the latest toy or fast-food kid's meal to be happy.  According to A.C. Nielson, the average child sees 20,000 30-second TV commercials in a year.  As we get older, we start to hang out at the mall with our friends. We buy magazines designed to convince us that the stuff we have is not good enough and tell us that we need the newest, latest fashions or gadgets to be complete.  We grow up and get a place of our own which we feel we must fill with stuff.  And then we get a bigger place so we can have even more stuff.  So it goes, always obtaining and never satisfied.  And that is the saddest part of all:  we are never satisfied, never content.  It's not ever enough.  The thing we bought last week to bring us happiness often ends up stuffed in a closet, a drawer, or the garage by next week as we move on to the thrill of pursuing and obtaining the next big thing.  We end up with kitchens full of gadgets we hardly ever use, closets full of clothes we never wear,  attics stuffed to capacity with things we don't use, and enough hobby supplies to open our own craft store! And even while we are being slowly suffocated by our stuff, we still have the gimmees.  We pore over catalogs that come in the mail.  We shop on line with gusto.  We wish for shinier cars and bigger houses.

So, how do we change this?  How do we change ourselves?  Well, the first step is seeing the problem for what it is.  A person can organize and declutter all they want, but until the reset button is hit and we truly get cured of the gimmees, decluttering will only be a temporary solution. It is necessary to realize that the practice of constantly seeking and wanting more things is toxic and does not really bring happiness.  It is relatively easy to acknowledge this truth intellectually, but changing our heart and our habits is much harder!

One way to overcome the gimmees is to assess what you already own.  I started with my wardrobe, culling all the clothes I never wore or didn't like.  Then I began going through the attic, drawers, cupboards and closets, pulling out things we didn't use or need and setting it free.  With each bag or box of stuff that went out of my house, I began to feel lighter and freer.  Somewhere, during all this process, my heart began to change.  I began to see things as just that -- THINGS, inanimate objects.  I'd ask myself, "Do I use this?  Do I love this?  Does it bring me joy?"  It was amazing how many things were not in any of those categories!  So why was I keeping it?  As it became easier to let go of so much stuff, the desire to obtain more stuff began to decrease.  Let me repeat that, because I think it's very important:  As it became easier to let go of so much stuff, the desire to obtain more stuff began to decrease.  I am beginning to enjoy the space I have created.  My home is starting to feel more peaceful.  I am getting closer and closer to owning what I love and loving what I own.  Now I laugh at advertisements and billboards. I avoid the mall like the plague. Catalogs go straight into the recycling.  I do not shop the internet for household items or crafting supplies.  I want to enjoy what I already have.  I am happy to say I believe my case of the gimmees is currently in remission and I hope to keep it that way!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to Let Go of Stuff

As I travel this journey of gradually reducing my possessions down to only the things I use and love, I have found that the physical act of sorting, packing up, and hauling away is the easy part.  The hard part is the Letting Go.  So I thought I would share what I have been learning as I let go of my stuff.
The first step is to realize that it is all just STUFF.  Stuff is not not people.  It does not have feelings.  I do not have any obligation to any of this Stuff.  Letting go hurts nobody.  In fact, selling it or giving it away to someone who can use it is a good thing.  Each item that goes out of our home is something we no longer have to maintain, clean around, and shuffle here or there; plus it is put in the hands of someone else who really wants or needs it.  It's a win-win situation!

The next emotional stumbling block is the sentimental attachments we put on things.  Try to look at that item objectively.  Do you actually like that lamp shaped like a shepherdess, or are you just keeping it because it belonged to Great Grandma' Esther?  Remember, the thing is NOT the person.  Getting rid of the thing does not negate your fond memories and the love you have for that person it represents. Don't keep something just because it was loved by someone else!  The question is:  Do YOU love it?

Which brings us to tough one--the family heirlooms.  I have several things in my home I consider beloved family heirlooms.  Some of these things will be very hard for me to part with, and I know would break my mother's heart if I sold or gave to Goodwill.  While I may be ready to let go, I can't change my mom's attachment to these items.  However, since she now lives in a retirement facility, returning them to her is not an option.  On the other hand, I can not allow myself to be emotionally blackmailed into keeping a larger home (or renting storage) just to hold on to furniture I no longer need because I don't want to hurt my mother's feelings.  Here is my solution:  when I find I need to let go of an item I consider an heirloom, I will offer it to anyone else in the family.  If no one in the family wants it, I will have to dispose of it in a proper manner, which may mean giving it to someone else who will treasure it or selling it to an antiques dealer.  And then I will hope and pray that Mom does not ask me about it.  But to be honest, if it gets down to that, I may consider telling her a "white lie" to spare her feelings.  I do not believe in lying and I am quite bad at it, but honestly, there is no need to make a sick old lady sad.

Another big psychological hurdle to be jumped is the I-might-need-this-someday justification for keeping stuff.  To help me over this obstacle, these are the questions I ask myself: 

--Have I used this recently?

--Will I need this in the near future?

--Is this a specialty item which only does one job, and do I own another multitasking item that can do the same job?

--If I were to get rid of this item, but then found I needed it in the future, could I purchase or borrow another to replace it?

--What am I afraid of?  Will something bad happen or will my life be less happy if I get rid of this thing?

If you are still reticent to toss something because you "might need it," then pack it away for a designated time.  If, after that predetermined period (week, month, quarter, or year,) you have not unpacked it, then obviously you don't need it!  So let it go!

If you need more motivation, play a few mind games or thought experiments with yourself.  Ask yourself, "What if we had to move next week into a home that is less than half the size of what we have now?  What would I take?"  Then walk around your house and truly pretend you have to move.  This helped clarify what is really important to me.

Another mental image I use is imagining all my stuff on chains attached to my ankles.  If I am sitting in one spot these shackles may not be a big deal, but if I want to get up and move, all that dead weight is dragging behind.  The more I let go, the lighter my burden and the freer I will be to easily pick up and go wherever life takes us!

Remember, the less you own, the less you have to care for and worry about.  Think of all the extra time and space you will have to breathe.  Think about how much easier it will be to keep your home clean.  Look forward to the freedom and joy that will be yours when your home contains only the things that you love and find useful. I know that's what I'm doing, and even though it is hard to let go, each step closer to that final goal feels great!


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