11.29.2010

Beauty in Less - Arranging the Cubes

Before
My dad made me these wooden cubes.  The fit perfectly on this wall.  At first they were just a catch-all of stuff.  After an afternoon of work they are now a practical pretty. 

In my new found minimalism, I have examined the idea that only useful things are necessary.  However, the logical end of this statement is that beauty is unnecessary because it isn't useful.  I don't believe that.  I believe beauty serves a purpose. 

I'm a horticulturist, I specialize in pretty plants.  I believe that ornamental plants are only pretty if they bring joy to people.  I hope my gardens and outdoor areas are appreciated.  I feel the same way about my home.  If I own something that is beautiful but it isn't enjoyed than it isn't useful.  For example, if I own a beautiful bowl but it is stashed in a cupboard and never gets used than it isn't adding beauty, I shouldn't have it.

In our 550 square foot apartment there is limited display area.  I had to choose to make the most of it.  First I cleared the six cubes of all the junk.  Than I put back the things I need to store, such as large books and hanging files.  I took all the pretty things I own and spread them out of the floor. Then I put the things I enjoy most back onto the shelves.  I arranged them to show off their beauty. I chose things for their story, like the cayman skull we found hiking in Panama; for their color like a yellow glass vase Jeff made when he did glass blowing; and for their form like the set of circling fish Jeff made at an iron pour in South Carolina.  The things that couldn't fit nicely on to the shelves have been sorted through and many of them in a pile to be donated. 

After
A new rule has been put in place.  I will only keep beautiful items if they are functional or if they can be enjoyed for their beauty.

When I sit at our table in the bay window I can see right into these wooden cubes.  I enjoy them.  They make me smile.  They have value.

11.21.2010

The Kitchen Cull - One Third Less in the Kitchen


This is it - the one third of the kitchen stuff that has been eliminated.  It includes 19 bowls, 15 plates, 9 pots and pans, 4 glass storage containers, 9 plastic storage containers, 55 cookie cutters, 21 glasses and 22 kitchen gadgets.  Most of this will be donated to Good Will.  Some, which we inherited, will be offered to other family members before donation.  And a couple things like decent knives and microwavable plates are going to my work where they will be added to our lacking communal kitchenette.

Getting rid of one third of the kitchen stuff was a lot of work.  With Jeff's help it took about three hours yesterday.  Now some of the stuff that was up on our soffits fits in the cabinets.  Our kitchen looks much less cluttered.  I have the itch to keep eliminating so I can fit the last couple things inside the cabinets. 

It's been weird working in the kitchen today, although, I haven't missed anything yet.  The biggest change is our random drawer of kitchen implements which holds the carrot peeler, knives, bottle opener and such has a lot more space. 

I was surprised to find several things in the kitchen that just didn't belong there like a hammer and pinking shears.   Those items have been relocated.   We eliminated many plates and bowls that I had accumulated for food photography for my recipe blog.  I do have one set of china I inherited from my grandma that serves eight which we kept.  For everyday use we kept a set of four place settings. Including four wine glasses and goblets, if we ever have more than four people over they can drink out of regular glasses or ball jars or something.  (We don't do disposable.) It will be fine. 

These are all my cookie cutters before.  I pretty much kept all of them from any relatives.  The thing is I only make sugar cookies at Christmas.  I pared it down to just the cookie cutters I remembered from childhood.  I had 69 and now have just the 14 shown below. 


There were several items which Jeff really wanted to keep.  He has veto power and so they stayed.  It wasn't that big of deal, we just got rid of other stuff and still managed to get rid of 1/3 of the items in every category.  And in some categories like plates, and cookie cutters we got rid of significantly more. 

Interestingly we wound up with a list of things we wanted for the kitchen.  Things we either don't have or we have a damaged version.  This included a non-aluminum pie pan, large sauce pan or deep skillet, stock pot (with pasta insert) and better tongs. 

The overall goal is to reduce what we own, but a wonderful side effect of this evaluation is we are able to identify what we'd like to improve; allowing us to increase the over all quantity of what we have as well.  Now we aren't going to run out and buy all these new things.  We will look at our finances and decided when we are willing to invest.  We'll forgo buying other things to have the money for these items.  Plus one of my goals is to only buy five non-essentials until after the New Year.  So I need to consider very carefully what these things will be.  It is also possible that with some research I'll be able to find second hand items that will work. 

What things do you have in your house that you would like to upgrade?  How are you going to go about getting these upgrades?

Evidence of Too Much Stuff - Big Blue Yoga Ball


I like to think that I am better than average that I have am a more mindful consumer than most.  But in cleaning out the closet I have found evidence to the contrary. 

I have one of those yoga ball things.  Okay so maybe you have one of these big blue balls at your house.  Maybe you even use it.  Maybe you're even sitting on it right now.  I'm not.  My giganitic plastic ball has been deflated in my closet for years.  I bought it back in 2002 when I thought I might use it instead of a chair to make my posture better or magically make me look like the girl on the box it came in. 

I've moved this ball to four different states.  I put it in storage for two years while I did Peace Corps.  And now it is taking up valuable closet space.  Have I told you we only have one closet?  

The reason I kept it was because I believed it could get me in better shape and be thinner and prettier.  Yes, I bought into commercial idea of it hook line and sinker.  I have been dragging it around because I still wish I was thinner and prettier.  This ball will never make me thinner and prettier (stage wisper:  It is just a thing.).  So this big yoga ball is going, going, gone.

11.16.2010

Why I am Getting Rid of 1/3 of My Stuff



I realize many of you think I have jumped off the deep end.  Most of you know me as a food blogger.  You'd never know that lurking underneath is a minimalist.  Minimalist...  no, not like the art, like the lifestyle.  Over the last year I've spent a lot of time reading blogs about living lightly on the land, being debt free, learning to live with less.  It wasn't until I started reading RowdyKittens.com that I found a name for this emerging idea: minimalism.  What does minimalism mean?
It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.
 - Leo Babauta
I'm still working through how one goes about decluttering their life.  Value - that's the word I have latched on to.   I do understand that living a minimalist lifestyle means defining values and making them a priority.  It's something most folks, including me, aren't very good at.  It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind.  Eventually I'll have to work on evaluating how I spend my time and looking at the intangible parts of my life, but for now, I'm focusing on the physical stuff I own. 

Jeff asked me yesterday, "Why did you choose to get rid of one third of your stuff?"  Basically because I'm not hard core enough to go down to 100 items.  At least not yet.  Half seemed too extreme and a quarter didn't seem like enough so one third it was.  I'm only a week in and I've only gone through my shoes and the junk drawer, but as I look at what I own and start thinking about editing out one third, it's surprisingly easy.  Knowing that I have already decided to let one third go means that I look at what I really want.  In some cases I can actually let go of more than one third.  The best part is the overall quality of stuff I have is going up and I didn't have to buy a thing. 

What do you think?  Do you think you could go through your home this weekend and find 100 things to donate?  Are you willing to put in the time to get rid of the clutter?  Are you willing at least to consider it? 

11.15.2010

Less Shoes

Jessica Alba's Shoe Collection Via In Style
Shoes have been given a lot of power in modern society.  They signal success, prosperity, a sense of style and femininity.  Celebrities proudly show off their shoe "collections".   I like the idea of shoes.  But it's just emotional baggage.  I don't need shoes to be happy.  I don't need shoes to know I am successful. 

I knew shoes had to be one of the first things to be tackled in my quest to reduce what I own by one third. Plus I keep them all in a plastic bin in the closet; an overflowing plastic bin that I sift through regularly, leaving a mess of shoes on the floor of the closet. 

Now the old me would have wanted to create a better storage system  One that would make my shoes more accessible, visible and take up less space.  Not sure how this miracle would have been performed, but I would have tried.  That or I would have continued to have my dysfunctional shoe bin.  Instead I am going to reduce the shoes I own.  It's that simple.


These are my shoes.  I only have 23 pairs.  Nothing compared to the excess shown in the opening image, but way more than I need.  In fact I'm a little chagrined to say some don't even fit me and some I've had a long time and only worn once or twice.  It actually wasn't that hard.  Here's the seven pair that got cut. 


I took them to Goodwill.  Good-bye shoes. 

The best part, I rediscovered a pair of black boots I bought after visiting Bogota, Columbia where everyone had black boots.  I decided to wear them for the day to see if I wanted to keep them.  They pass muster and I have worn them multiple time this week.  It's an unexpected bonus of going through my stuff.  I'm finding things I forgot I had. 

Are you up for the challenge?

The shoe questions:
  • Have you worn them in the last year?
  • Do they fit?
  • Are they comfortable?
  • Are they significant (wedding shoes)?

11.14.2010

Less Stuff More Action

Hi my name is Foy. I write this blog. I’ve been writing this blog for five years. It’s been many things:
It’s time for another incarnation.

Thank you to all my readers who came for my recipe blog. You helped me reach the goal of cooking food from basic ingredients and buying local as much as possible.

My next mission is to come to terms with the stuff in my life.

I’ve lived the type of lifestyle that forced me to own little. Between the ages of 18-28 I was proud everything I owned could fit in my car. In those ten years I had 37 roommates and lived in 16 different locations. I was a nomad, I was free. Yet somehow I wasn’t free of my stuff. Sure I had to pare down and fit everything in my grandpa’s old Park Avenue Buick, but I kept as much as that car would allow. I couldn’t see out the back window and even the passenger seat was full when I drove to my next apartment.

This drawer is actually called the "junk drawer".
Today I’m 29 and my husband, Jeff, and I live in a 550 square foot apartment. It’s getting crowded. I’ve tried but I’ve never successfully made myself look at what I own from a utilitarian point of view. I always get wrapped up in the emotional story of my stuff. Well, it’s time. I’m going to break up with stuff.

Goal: To confront the belief that stuff makes me happy by identifying the purpose of the things I own; sorting through all my possessions and reducing what I own by one third by the New Year (46 days).

Want to come along and see how it goes? I hope you will. I hope you look at what you own in a different light. I hope you are inspired.