Don’t leave behind all that stuff!

I went to an estate sale yesterday. It was super interesting stuff! An old Remington typewriter desk, two sewing tables, a whole kitchen of vintage appliances in great condition, a beautiful piano and a couple extra instruments, old furniture – also in great condition, and a room full of art supplies and books.

I was so tempted to buy… Yet not at all interested! This was a huge mentality change for me as compared to a few years ago, or even a few months ago! Previously I would have thought of getting some art supplies, in case I wanted to try it out. Or some instruments in case I wanted to try them. I found an old journal with this old ladies notes from when she was starting a home – cut outs from magazines in the 50s, with notes like, “this is an ideal layout for a kitchen,” “some bedroom options,” and “happy children playing!” I think I have done the same thing myself, in various places, over the last 15-20 years, coming of age. I wanted to take it home as a symbol of connection to this perfect stranger. Plus, it was so quaint and old fashioned. But also in that room were boxes of old cards. Boxes of travel brochures and maps. Boxes of unused art supplies. Cases of books not opened in years. And that was what allowed me to walk out of there empty handed.

Growing up I always heard this Bible verse:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21

And of course I understood what it meant and what it was teaching. But only now have I really understood the implications. These people having an estate sale were leaving treasures on earth for moth and rust to destroy, and “thieves” to steal, for $1 here, and $10 there. All that trouble to box up those maps and travel brochures, but now they will likely be thrown away after being picked through by dirty hands.

I don’t want that! I want to only trouble myself with maintaining the items that I truly need to live day to day. If I no longer need it, away it will go! I won’t keep the family heirlooms if they are no use to me. A few of them are useful! But the rest, maybe someone else will get use out of them and I won’t need an expensive piece of furniture to keep them from breaking or getting dusty.

I came home from the estate sale and told Shaun. He said, “so basically you don’t want to leave behind all that stuff?” But that’s exactly it! I want to leave behind happy memories, touched hearts, and enriched souls. How will I do that if I’m always cleaning up the clutter? How will I do that when I’m always shopping for more, better things? I won’t, so let’s find a way to avoid those things, shall we?


What we got rid of in June

The minimalism continues!  In the month of June… We only took one trunk load of toys and household supplies to Goodwill: 2014-06-29 11.03.24 That included this nice, ivory Ikea rug that we bought when we lived in an apartment in San Francisco and needed a rug in our bedroom. (God, I loved all those hardwood floors!)  But it’s been 5 years since we’ve moved back down to San Jose and we still haven’t found a good place for it.  It lived in our Family Room for about 6 months until we purchased a rug more suitable for the size of the room.  The kids had fun rolling up like Bugs in a Rug before I loaded it in the trunk:   2014-06-07 08.18.54 2014-06-07 08.19.06 I also sold my first item on eBay!  I have a pile of items to try to sell, but I thought I’d try it out on this one first.  I purchased this postpartum corset from Amazon, but it was too small.  I purchased the next size, but then thought I would keep this in case I would fit into it someday!  Well, that never happened!  So I sold it for almost full price (to a man?) on eBay.  Nice doing business with you.

sold on ebay!

sold on ebay!

And most of the month I spent collecting papers from all over the house and dealing with them.  My hope is to go as paperless as possible!  Right now all our filing is in one 4-drawer filing cabinet, which includes our tax history, our manuals and warranties, craft paper and envelopes, and all the paperwork we deemed worth keeping over the last few years.  That’s pretty good already, if I do say so myself! The work I’ve done the last few weeks was to get the craft paper in there – which took some organization with file folders and tabs and the like – as well as the manuals and warranties.  We were holding onto some of those for products we haven’t had for years!  Having all these in the same place will really help to find them and to not go crazy when I find them in random places all over the house.  Previously I had tried organizing them in a fancy binder (Pinterest-inspired), but that was too much work and intimidated me everytime I had something new to add or old to remove.  Having them in a file folder is SUPER-easy.   These two tasks cleared out two shelves on our bookshelf, hiding the paperwork away from view. And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, our filing system.  The top two drawers include our important documents and in the back-right, the warranties and manuals. 2014-07-18 15.05.34 The bottom-left drawer contains craft paper and other paper supplies, like photo paper and envelopes.  The bottom-right drawer contains Tax Histories and Home Sales records.  Eventually those might go in a box in the attic if we need the space.  Basically we know we need to keep these records, but not necessarily out in the open with easy access. 2014-07-18 15.05.14 My dream is to get a Fujitsu Scan Snap and take all that paperwork in the top two drawers into our computer/online filing system.  But that will take some time and I want to move onto minimalism of bigger items in the house first! And part of the paper-minimalism has been to go through the kids’ artwork.  I wish I had a photo of the 10-inch high stack of artwork that I threw away!  They were beautiful compilations of torn stickers coming loose, three scribbles on a page, ripped jellyfish made out of paper plates, and other items I’m sure you have all over your kitchen counters any weeknight after school 🙂   I created two boxes that we will keep in the office closet – one for P and one for L – with a hanging folder for each year in school.  The art and any birthday cards and school photos will go into each folder.  And as it gets packed full, we’ll have to go through and remove some more. This way, each of them has a box of momentos from their childhood, BUT ONLY ONE BOX! 2014-07-18 15.06.00 “What about all those beautiful drawings your little Picasso’s are creating each and every day?” you ask… Well, there will be some gems that we will keep (in the ONE box).  There will be some that we will want to remember, but not necessarily keep – those will be scanned or photographed.  Maybe one day those will go in a book!  But I would say at least 50% go Bye-Bye, and that’s ok with me!  I won’t even remember in 20 years 🙂 Check out this beauty little P brought home last week.  He tells me it’s a soccer field full of soccer players (you know, World Cup fever), but for some reason it makes me thing of something else… 2014-07-18 15.08.09 And here is a baseball field: 2014-07-18 15.08.16 Some others saved so far… 2014-06-10 20.40.29 2014-06-10 20.39.51 2014-06-10 20.39.34 And next month… minimalism comes to the China Cabinet, Living Room, Kitchen, and more of the office.

Adventures in Minimalism

We recently took a family vacation to New Zealand. I had a lightbulb moment while we were there, of which there were three drivers for this epiphany:

We stayed at my sister and brother-in-law’s house, which is a 3-bedroom flat underneath another family’s home.  Maybe about 1000 sq ft of living space.  Not terribly small, but definitely smaller than any of the homes we have lived in recently.  They are able to do so because of their recent travels and not having accumulated a lot of possessions, but also it seems that they choose to live this way.  Their pantry has enough needs for the week.  Their freezer contains a few basic backups for unplanned meals.  Their baby has one basket of toys, not a full room of them.  It seemed amazingly simple, easy, and wonderful.

And a lot of New Zealand was this way.  Vacation homes we stayed in were basic and sufficient.  Hotels were non-descript inside and perfectly located outside. Shopping was straightforward and not overly done. Fashion was simple – what people comfortably needed for their activities that day.  There wasn’t a sense of judgement for what you were wearing or not wearing – it was almost as if it was of no concern to others.  As it should be, mind you, but this is not a familiar feeling to us capitalistic Americans.

Lastly, we traveled for 2 and a half weeks with two kids and just a few suitcases.  I would argue now we took WAY too much.  But we were able to make it work.  We took a few side trips and took even less – sometimes two small bags for the 4 of us. The kids were able to play with toys that fit into a small backpack – the rest of the time they made do with balls and sand toys that we purchased there, the baby toys, playgrounds, or things around us on our many adventures.  It really forced us to get out more and enjoy the world rather than stay in and get annoyed that they were getting into everything!

So as we have come back into our “real world” we are inspired to try to live with less ourselves.  We have been reading and become amazed at what “minimalists” are doing for their own lives and want a piece of that too!   In the future I’ll share a bit more about the resources we’ve encountered on this journey.

What have we done so far?

For Mother’s Day, S & P went through ALL the toys and gathered a pile to donate that allows us to only have two bookshelves and a toy box full of toys (rather than overflowing all over the house!)

I’ve pulled clothing from my closet on almost a daily basis!  My dresser of 10 drawers and 1 cupboard now has 3 empty drawers, and possibly one more on the way!  I wear what I love the most, rather than what I feel like I should wear because I haven’t worn it in awhile.  And I really feel this will continue to dwindle day by day as I find more unused or mediocre items.

Furniture – we have had a few pieces of furniture sitting around the house which we have not been able to find places for.  Although we love the pieces, if they are not getting used, they are just collecting dust and getting in the way. They are worth something, so we can sell them and use the money for activities that we would enjoy!   We are selling a kitchen table and a cabinet, and then eventually we will donate a leather chair and ottoman.

We are supposed to be receiving a piano from my parents soon, but we are taking another month to evaluate whether this is something we want to add to our home.   We like the idea of the items that inhabit our home reflecting our values and interests.  We definitely value reading and learning – so books take a prominent role.   We value health, working out, yoga, and sports, so that means we need to bring our workout equipment to a more prominent role in our home.  Family and friends are important – we feel we already emphasize space for socialization and quality time. So we will see if a piano is something that we want to add in order to emphasize the importance of Music in our day to day lives.  I believe it will.

But there is so much more that needs to be purged!  More clothes.  Cosmetics and cleaning supplies.  Dishes. Kitchen gear. Decorations.  Books. Paperwork. All the crap in the Garage.

This should be a fun journey over the next year!  It will be interesting to see how far we take it – whether it becomes simply a spring cleaning activity or a full lifestyle change.