Archive for August, 2011

Day 16: It does start with a topic statement

August 30, 2011

Create a simplicity statement. What do you want your simple life to look
like? Write it out. ”

You can’t know where you are going until you create the plan . . . right? What does simple living look like for me?  I realize that everybody will have a different version of simple living.  For me … it has to involve down time.  What do I want my life to look like? In that magic wand sort of way? I need to have a place for everything in my life: most things are ok in moderation.  I’ve learned (painfully) over the past few months that some people just aren’t welcome in my life.  I’ll adjust. I’ll mourn what was and what won’t be.  Maybe there is something I can take from the fur creatures: they really don’t care if people like them or not.  There are things I have in my condo, I don’t need (VietnamVet pick up scheduled!).  Items like that are the foundation for my ‘living simply’.

What do I need to live simply? A place to live. A de-stressing hobby (right now … canning).  Happy monsters er fur children. Coke Zero. My smart phone.  Enough money to just unplug every 3 years or so for a few weeks in a flung out part of the planet. I need to walk away when it’s not in my best interest.  Drama free friends.  Let’s face it, family=drama.

My topic sentence? “What I need to live simply is to remember, most things in life aren’t needed, aren’t the big stuff and don’t really warrant the energy I put into the stress to make sure everything is running smoothly.  We make life more complex: and at the end of the day, very few things matter.”

Snah. Now to get there . . . . .

Re-organizing: A Hurricane of a Project

August 28, 2011

Edit your rooms. One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate
the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum,
and deleting everything else. Article

Edit closets and drawers. Once you’ve gone through the main parts of
your rooms, tackle the closets and drawers, one drawer or shelf at a time. More

Simplify your wardrobe. Is your closet bursting full? Are your
drawers so stuffed they can’t close (I’m talking about dresser drawers here, not
underwear). Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually
wear. Try creating a minimal wardrobe by focusing on simple styles and a few
solid colors that all match each other. Read

Fact: I really dislike high winds.  I needed to find something to do during Irene – yes, it’s not a huge storm (now) but really? I don’t like the rattling gusts of winds that will hit my area sometime today.  My plan? I’m tackling the wardrobe issue and my bed room: if it hasn’t been used/worn in 2 years, it’s gone.  Period.  No questions asked.  If it’s ripped/stained it’s gone no more of this “oh, i can use it as pj’s, layer with it, no more mismatched socks for “snow clearing”.

One place I really need an edit is in my how does this fit into my wardrobe?  The problem when I worked the job from hell was we were expected to wear current-esque merchandise so I wound up with a ton of things that either I didn’t need OR were a bit too trendy.  I did a bit of research regarding some of the less than stellar conditions of my clothing, it turns out that yes, you can donate stained clothing.  It is recycled into items in developing countries (with a study from Oxfam to show that it doesn’t impact local industry).

Given the insanity of my work-wardrobe: my plans: Edit to no more than 15 items for business, 15 for business casual, 15 for casual.  And yes they can be interchangeable.  At least I’ll have something to think about besides the howling winds!

Edit? Ok, that’s another 4 letter word!

August 25, 2011

Day 11: “Edit your rooms. One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum, and deleting everything else.”

Ok, part of the problem I have with my condo is that it’s a collection, reunification and the fact I’ve never sorted through my stuff.  When I moved into my condo, I had some of my stuff from grad school life, my parents brought a bunch of my stuff from storage and over the past few visits have decided it’s time to rid their house of my stuff (seriously? what are parents FOR?)  Since I’m probably going to be stuck in the condo this weekend (stupid hurricane), I’m thinking it’s the perfect weekend to re-do.

My problem? A guest room/junk room/lots of boxes room.I’m thinking tomorrow night, there might be a serious toss fest.  I shut the room off in the winter so how I re-do the room needs to limited to items I won’t need in the winter.  I am thinking I can create a storage area for my canning items for the winter (space hogs in the kitchen), culling my closets: I have two, I need one.  I can use the second closet for a storage area for bulky items (tent, sleeping bag).

Yup, it’s time to do some serious reorganization.  Good thing I didn’t have any plans for the weekend . . . .

72 Ideas … Getting rid of the ‘big’ things

August 24, 2011

It’s funny how sometimes a random internet project of 72 ways to live simply transcends a long time passion.  Yesterday, Pat Summitt, the long time coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols announced she had early onset dementia  – Alzheimer’s type.  I found out the news from most people I know who follow the support in pretty rapid succession (including a Facebook message from my advisor at Hollins).  I was at work and I thought, really? Pat Summitt?  I mean, she is one of the reasons Title IX worked.  Title IX became law in 1972.  Pat Summitt became the head coach of the Lady Vols in 1974: as a full-time graduate student at UT.  Yup.  You read that right: she was the head coach at a time when the NCAA didn’t recognize the sport, when players split scholarships among sports (odd tid bit, long time UT assistant Holly Warlick one of the best point guards to play the game, was on a track scholarship at UT), when the coaches did the laundry, drove the van and took classes.  Summit wrote about how she knew she could demand equality for what the men’s program had but she asked for what she needed and built her program.

The list of accolades and accomplishments fills books: every player who has stayed for 4 years has graduated.  100% graduation rate in a 37 year career.  She won an Olympic medal in Montreal (she rehabed an ACL tear while coaching AND preparing for the Olympics) and she coached the US team to its first gold in Los Angeles.  She has more wins in the NCAA tourney (109) – no other school has appeared IN 100 games.  Yes, UConn, Baylor, and a few other programs might have been a bit better over the past few years.  But as John Wooden was to men’s hoops, Pat Summitt is to women’s athletics.

The SEC schools embraced women’s athletics: Alabama, Georgia compete routinely for national gymnastics titles, Florida, Georgia compete for swimming/diving titles, Arkansas dominates the cross-country circuit.  And when you think that 8 NCAA titles in 28 NCAA tourneys?  Only UNC women’s soccer is better in domination of a sport year in year out.

Pat could have coached a few more years and called it a career.  She didn’t.  She spoke up.  She spoke out.  She will raise awareness.  Women, young women and girls who have reaped the benefits of Title IX (and that would be all of us under 50) owe her a debt of gratitude.  She was one of the pioneers of women’s sports. She taught us that we can fight on the court like guys and not lose our “feminine” identity.

More than all accomplishments on the court, yesterday she did one of the most courageous acts a public figure could do: she made it known that she will lose what has made her great.  She let go a lot of the big things that hold many of us back: fear and shame.  The road ahead for Pat and her family will be hard, but in many ways much simpler.  She openly addressed her diagnosis.  Maybe UT won’t land as many blue chip recruits, maybe they will.  But hopefully the road for Pat and her family will be a bit easier knowing that the Knoxville community, the women’s basketball community and a host of fans will support her in any way possible.

Millions of families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or who have lost a person to the disease can find a sliver of hope in the increase in awareness this will bring.  And true to her years of teaching, Pat Summitt is facing head on and not letting the fear, the anger, the embarrassment quiet her.  May we all be so courageous.

Day Eight: Purge Your Stuff

August 23, 2011

Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss.”

ARGH!  Ok, fact: I suck at this.  You’d think that since I move an average of every 3 years, I’d be an extreme minimalist. FALSE.  But what happens if I NEED a high altitude cookbook in the suburbs of Boston in case oh, a hill of 7000 feet pops up?  This is only compounded by the fact that my mother collects things . . . all sorts of things (Hi Zebrastravels, I thought you might just want to have a bamboo shower curtain from Peru.  I put it in the mail.) which compounds my inability to say no to weird things my mother has sent me.

I am single and live in a 2 bedroom condo (there is a story behind it but I’m not going to go there . . . ).  I realized that basically the second room is devoted to things I can’t part with. Ok, this has to end.  Since I’m busy this weekend, I am hereby declaring Labor Day Weekend the get your act together and get it out (of the house) event.  Simple ground rules:

1) If I haven’t worn it in a year, it goes to either a clothing closet or goodwill.

2) If it’s stained, ripped or damaged, it goes in the trash.  Except my Ohio State hoody which is good luck.

3) If the book hasn’t been read and it’s over 2 years old, it gets donated to More Than Words in Waltham (a used book store that works with youth in the Boston area).

4) If it doesn’t fit, it goes. Period.

How am I going to do this? Hmmm, good question.  First, I am going to sketch out the end results.  I want to move my big bookcase into the kitchen to store the canned goods.  To do so, I have to go through the books.  I am half tempted to toss some unopened boxes from my move here 3 years ago (yes, you read that right) but given the age of identity theft, I think I need to go through them before tossing.  I am going to make a list of friends who do various hobbies I started and stopped to see if they are interested in ‘care’ packages of items related to hobbies that I’m not doing anymore.

The end result? A simple living room.  A kitchen with actual shelf space.  A guest room that isn’t a barrel racing path and a bedroom with items that I wear.  I’d post before and after pics but I’d die of embarrassment.

Seriously. I’ve got to get a grip on the junk.  The clutter is driving me nuts and I’m 99% sure I can’t blame all of it on my mom.  But, please, if you don’t hear from me the Tuesday after Labor Day? Assume I’m buried in the clutter.

A week into one project, 3 weeks into another. . . .

August 21, 2011

So on the 72 ideas in 72 days front:

Limit your communications. Our lives these days are  filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail,  Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it.  Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of  the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what  works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone  calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule  and stick to it.”

I was enjoying my Sunday morning Law and Order re-runs (with Mike and Lenny!) and once again what caught my eye is the late 90’s Law and Order technology gap: pagers, payphones and typewriters (do any of those even exist anymore?).  Yes, there is something to be said *for* instant communication: it’s nice to know of a new job, a new baby, to hear a loved one is out of surgery but the era of instant on-going communication is frustrating.  I for one am all for cell phone free zones (like planes. . . ).  I don’t like people knowing how to find me all the time (and no, that doesn’t apply to just my mother).  I read a job ad today: “must be willing to be available 24×7 52 weeks a year via blackberry”.  The job? An administrative assistant to a CEO of an ART foundation.  Look, if somebody is an organ transplant coordinator in rural oh, Alberta, I could see this being a requirement.  I’m pretty sure nobody ever died of an art crisis at 3 am on a Monday night.  The pay? 30-32,000 a year. Um.  That sole job requirement is a bit excessive.

I see the over communication aspect where I work.  People are married to their blackberries.  I told somebody to put one down while we were at lunch at a restaurant.  Another person made a comment about how her husband nearly threw out her blackberry on Sunday night because she kept responding.  Yes.  Me?  I use twitter, Facebook, e-mail and have a blog. The reality? I use Facebook so much probably because I’ve lived in 7 states since I graduated from college.  It’s a way for me to keep in touch with my friends who I don’t see.  I use twitter to follow some sports teams and snark comments with a college friend.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by technology.  I think, in part, because I’ve used it and burned out on it so much that now it’s like diet coke.  I use it for what I need: some days a bit more than others.

And on the grocery store challenge? What’s a grocery store :blinks: don’t miss it a bit.

Day 6: Just say NO! (and not in the Nancy Reagan sense, although. . . )

August 20, 2011

Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying
to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much. Article
. ”

My first thought on Day Six was a horrific flashback to the pit band in high school when the actress playing Ado Annie couldn’t remember “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” and we had to keep playing it over and over.  I think that cemented my disdain for all things Roger and Hammerstein.  One of the best lessons I picked up somewhere along the line was the lack of justification needed in saying “No.”  For years I struggled with “I’d really like to (probably a lie) but . . . ” instead of “No.”

No isn’t one of those words most of us like to hear (there are cases it is the most beautiful word in the world, however, most times, it’s not. . . ).  While I’m ok-ish with the boundary of saying no in doing things (hey, at heart I’m a slug), I do struggle with saying no when it comes to standing up for myself.  Case and point, last weekend, I spent some time with old friends.  One of them said something about doing a joint birthday party again.  I said no.  Against conventional wisdom, against “proper protocol”.  I wasn’t interested.  The last birthday party I had, my mom had just started chemo again for the second time, was wearing her wig for the first time and I was miserable.  My friend said I was fine and wasn’t stressed.  At this point, I realized I could ‘shrug it off’ or simply stand my ground.  I corrected her: No, I was miserable.  I didn’t have a good time and I wasn’t going to re-create it.  Yes, I probably did hide it well, I’m good at that.  For me, the struggle of saying no isn’t around a task but in the letting others express their perceptions of my feelings, not accepting that for me, no means no and letting myself be ok with not being involved.

While my friend didn’t take it well (presence of a 3rd party ended the discussion . . . ).  It really didn’t bother me: it actually felt kind of liberating.  For me, anyway, part of saying no will be letting go of people in my life who while they are there, I’ve lost that point of connection, the sense of conversation/community.  Yes, I’ll still be polite and be at social gatherings but sometimes saying no is simply a way to take stock of who respects another individual’s decisions/reflections.

Now, if I can get myself to say no to some of my mother’s great ideas . . . well, I’d be the first in the family.  Some times a smile and nod is much simpler, healthier than “no”.  That is why God invented freecycle.


Task: Also a 4 letter word

August 19, 2011

Days 4 & 5:

  • Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of
    work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list,
    you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important
    stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest. Read
  • Simplify home tasks. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do
    at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And
    we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to
    find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire

So, this is one of those things where one I don’t have as much control as I’d like (ok, I’m a Type A control freak).  Since I am working as a temp, my work tasks are dependent on others.  I can’t be proactive using lull times to get ahead.  The sad thing is that I’ve become a the type of person who comes in, does her job and leaves.  Since I’m at the end of the totem pole, there I do what is assigned and moved on.  The sad reality of the not-in-a-recession-but-sure-looks-like-it economy.  Hey, I’m working, I have enough to pay my bills and put a bit aside, I’m not complaining.  I’ve just come to realize how much not being vested in an organization has made me disenfranchised with what I do day in and day out.

Simplify at home: oh the both sides of being single! To say I despise cleaning is a mild understatement.  Every fall, I do a massive purge.  This year, I have a hunch is going to be particularly ugly.  I have a few boxes that I haven’t unpacked: I moved to this condo in ’07. Um. I’ll make sure they aren’t things like old tax returns but something tells me they are going in the donation pile.

One of the challenges of tasks I need to simplify is my commitment to shopping locally owned as much as possible.  Yes, target is far more tempting given the fact it now has groceries.  However, I’ve found a different level of intention in shopping local (aside from the do I really need this):  chatting with the grocery store owner of the Brazilian market, having a random conversation about paint with a retired engineer at the hardware store.  Somehow, it has become less cumbersome being in the smaller places versus dodging shopping carts, reckless drivers and the general hassle of big box stores.

What are my big goals for my home this fall? Organize my guest room.  If I haven’t used it, touched it, thought about it in the past 2 years: it will be Ebayed, freecycled (maybe, that sorta creeps me out) or donated.  Then I’ll organize it into some sort of space, I haven’t decided yet (Jackson and Lafitte are angling for a kitty jungle).  The condo has been a giant to-do list for a myriad of reasons I’m not going to blog about: I’m finally ready to untangle the havoc.  Right now, I have the last 3 places I’ve lived sorta in a heap.  Ack.  It’s time to break out the calendar and map the next 8 weekends for the clean, purge, re-do plan!

Just exactly how do I spend my days? Day 3 of 72

August 17, 2011

So, for today:

Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do,
from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate
whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that
aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.


This one is a bit of  a struggle.  Like many people, I have one immovable block of time: commute/work/commute.  Now, given the nature of my job, I never know if it will be an eight hour day or a twelve hour day.  While I can’t do much about that aspect of my day (for the moment), I can take opportunities in my day to do what I value.  I found myself making notes of what I actually need to get done so I had a plan when I came home: goal for the day, deal with the kitchen.  DONE. :)  I was waiting for a meeting to start and scribbled a letter to my oldest niece because we haven’t talked in a bit then dashed off a quick email to a college friend about some information I thought she might be interested in.  Little things like taking the 5 minutes to reconnect, build community.

I realized during my morning drive time that one of the stories on NPR was about the ice industry: ok, I never KNEW there was an ice industry and that it was struggling as many of them used to be local businesses but are having issues with the centralized purchasing systems of box retailers.  Interesting.  I mean, I guess I can say I never thought about the ice industry before 6:20 am.

I found myself making a to-do list.  I’m a horrific about procrastination.  I need that task list. It gives me goals.  I knew I had to deal with my kitchen, today it was easy to take care of.  Dishes done, canning supplies stacked for this weekend’s project.  It didn’t seem like such a huge chore once I simply had it on a list of things for me to do.  Instead of sitting here at 8:00 pm thinking “I need to do something”, I’ve managed to do everything I needed to do tonight in a non-frantic pace.  I’m not one of those “work in 15 minute increment” type individuals.

Weekdays will always be tight for me: I never know how long I have to work in a given day based on a project I’m involved with.  I know I’m gone usually 10 hours a day.  Somedays, it can stretch to 14.  For me, the struggle is finding that balance of using “short” days to do some of the chores I despise so when I have a day off, I can do what I enjoy.  I do know tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the week: CSA pick up day.  That will mean an evening of plotting and planning.  I’m very glad I found the bottom of the kitchen table!

Evaluating commitments: Day 2 of 72

August 16, 2011

Mine are pretty simple: work and cats.  My family is pretty flung out so most of my time with them is crammed around various holidays.  I’m single which in and of itself can be a push/pull.  There are days it is exhausting (hi, if I don’t get it done, it’s not going to get done – the cats are lazy like that), there are days it’s lonely, there are days it’s fantastic.  Being single can make it harder to find community (you don’t have that instant introduction of kid-things, a partner who is probably more social that you are).  Being single takes time: nobody to share the household chores.

When I think of what gives me value in my life at the moment? I’m into canning.  There is something relaxing about chopping, processing, making various food items.  I am having a blast going to local farms and finding the produce that I want to preserve.  It’s my de-stressor (having tried knitting, reading and a host of other activities).  I’ve found a fun community on Facebook over canning.  I am able to reduce my carbon foot print by canning/freezing items that are grown in a nearby radius of my home.

My job is one of those things: it is what it is.  I have been working temp for a year or so.  My commute depends on traffic and my hours vary from 8 to oh 14 hours a day.  While yes, working is a necessity and yes it can be stressful and busy, with the economy as it is, I’m grateful for my job.  What I’ve learned in working in a stressful environment is that it is necessary to find slices of respite in the day.  Years ago, I’d never take breaks at work.  Now, I do.  I find that time for a walk around the campus to clear my mind before returning to work.  I jot e-mails to people.  There have been a few times at work where I’ve had to say “No.”  (and wow, is that uncomfortable as a temp!).

As I balance the commute, being single, trying to not live in an episode of hoarders, and watching a tight budget, I’ve learned that it’s ok to scale back.  I find myself only offering to do something when I actually want to (this is a perk of child-free, I don’t feel obligated to doing a host of things for my kids, the cats are GOOD that way!) participate in the activity.  My dirty little secret is that I probably do have a selfish life.  Yes, I donate my time, cash, efforts when I *have* the means.  I should do more.  A place for further reflections, I am sure!