Awkward Paws

I was trying to find a way to segue way back into blogging without drawing attention to the white elephant in the room – the fact that I haven’t posted a single word to my blog in two whole months.

Voila!

Min-E the minimalist mouse

This is Min-E. I caught her in the garage of our Whistler town home last night. And something told me she’d be an excellent distraction from that awkward sixty day pause.

See, I bet you’re wondering what kind of rodent infested ski shack I’ve got myself into and not the least bit concerned anymore about my prolonged absence. Good!

As for Min-E, after I got over the shock of finding ricey little poops near the leftover moving boxes, I decided she was a minimalist omen. A poster child for the mantra: Nothing on the floor but the furniture!

Plus, she reminded me why it’s important to shop daily when possible and organize the pantry lest a relative of Min-E take up in the Cheerios box.

I guess you could say that Min-E gave me my minimalism mojo back.

My first goal (after I relocate Min-E of course), will be to get rid of the miscellany that hasn’t made it off the garage floor since the move.

My anxiety got the better of me in the days leading up to the big day and I started making little piles of “just in case” items which I packed up, loaded into the moving truck, unloaded, and left in the garage because there was no “in case.” Is there ever?

I admit, I struggled at first with the fully decorated part of our fully furnished new place:

Clutter-doodle-doo!

Likewise, the fully stocked (stuffed) aspect:

more laundry anyone?

Oh well, the silver lining is that we are a five-minute walk from school, mountain, shopping, skateboard park, swimming pool, and:

Bliss!

And, I’m not about  to let rodent or rooster take away from that.

I’m so glad to be back. Have you encountered any minimalist omens lately?

In a Renting State of Mind

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We haven’t found our dream home in Whistler yet. Perhaps because our dreams are quite different. A suite at the Chateau Whistler has enough square footage for my needs. Squirrel still covets a slopeside mansion. Our nine-year old would be quite happy camping under a jump in the bike park, and our five-year old just wants everyone trapped in the same room so he can torture us all with his non-stop rapid fire questions.

Renting has come across our radar as a very good possibility. There is a 3 bedroom town home listed for rent walking distance from both the school and a grocery store. However, because it’s a resort town, most rentals in Whistler are rented furnished. And that changes everything.

It’s one thing to speculate about how much an object costs you to store, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually have to pay per square foot to store it.

The flood gates have opened.

Here’s what I donated or listed for sale this week:

Donated:

– lamp

– kids table and chairs

– kids plastic shopping cart

another garbage bag full of clothes and toys

Listed (on Craigslist or eBay):

– china

– entryway table

– nursing glider and ottoman

– chair and ottoman

– wardrobe storage cabinet

–  set of speakers

– coffee table

to go:

– fertilizer spreader

– broken lawn mower

– leather couch

– tv cabinet

And we still have way more stuff than we’d like to pay to store! Ideally, and I say ideally knowing it will likely end up much less than ideal, I would only like to pay to store the following:

– sectional couch

– love seat

– kitchen table and bench

– king bed, side tables, dresser (our bedroom set)

– coffee table set (4 pcs. glass)

…which means the china cabinet, the kid’s bunk beds which they’ve almost outgrown, 4 dining chairs, and 3 bar stools need to be reconsidered.

We hired a real estate agent this week and I’ve been able to channel some of my moving angst into sending her non-stop e-mails and calling twice daily. Poor unsuspecting woman.

We also talked my Dad into coming straight from helping my sister paint her kitchen to our house to help with touch-ups. The term elder abuse came up, but we conveniently assumed he was kidding.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to list the house by next weekend. If my agent is reading this she’ll be laughing hysterically, but I have high hopes and lofty expectations. A dream client, no?

If anyone has some advice for me on how to stay sane during a move, I need to hear it!

How I Cured My Doctor Dependency…and Cleaned Out My Medicine Cabinet

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This title is a little misleading. Cleaning out my medicine cabinet actually had nothing to do with curing my doctor dependency. It’s just that as I was cleaning out the drug cupboard today, it reminded me that a year ago I stopped trusting my doctor.

It was a big deal for me. For many (15) years I believed that there was no malady physical or emotional that couldn’t be sorted out on a paper covered exam table. I loved all of it – the long wait, the symptom confessional, the solution scrawled messily on a piece of paper.

Just the idea that there was a remedy for the various maladies that plagued me kept me on the appointment rounds. Symptoms came and symptoms went during those years, but hope was a constant.

Then one day about a year ago my doctor revealed herself as incurably human as the rest of us.

You see, I wanted my oldest son to see a pediatrician and, as an advocate and firm believer in the role of the family doctor, she wanted my son to remain in her care. She is an excellent doctor, but I was getting pressure from all sides to have my struggling son thoroughly tested for everything from attention deficit to autism to vitamin deficiency.

I insisted. Then watched in horror as my doctor shape shifted before our very eyes:

Do they (my son’s school) even know who I am? I’m not just any doctor you know. I have a reputation as the best doctor in West Vancouver.

The words God complex looped in my head protecting me from how horrified I really felt. She continued. I was accused of tarnishing her reputation by not taking my son to the psychiatrist she recommended the last time I asked for a referral to a pediatrician. She told my son that only really sick kids went to pediatricians, kids with things like heart disease and cancer.

I coddled:

“I’m sure we won’t find out anything new.”

I mollified:

“It’s just a formality.”

I lied:

“It’s just his teacher insisting on this.”

I stared at a spot on the ground, immedicably shamed, while she rounded out her lecture, finally handing me the referral. Then I grabbed my son and ran.

I haven’t been back. My medicine cabinet reflects that. My health reflects that. I haven’t had a symptom I’d stoop to share with her in over a year.

Cured by my own stubbornness! How do you like that?

Oh, Just Keep It!

6 days to moving day, $118 raised for your charities

I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been blocked.

(image source)

Between the power washing and the landscaping and the novel-writing, I’ve come up with some pretty convincing ways to avoid decluttering.

To the outside world, I’ve been a whirlwind of productivity – garden beds have been weeded, patio stones have been laid, rock walls have been restored to their original colour, moss has been killed, and chapters have been written and rewritten.

Give me ten extra minutes and I’m mowing the lawn, five and I’m planting a basket, two and I’m offing a stray weed with one hand and tapping out prose with the other.

I recognize this feeling. If I can’t control when and if our house will sell and when and if we’ll find a new one, I may as well blast moss off every stone on the property and write the next Harry Potter.

The trouble is that it never quite works out that way. My projects languish from the lack of focus and by the time I reach the original goal (selling the house) I need about six years of uninterrupted sleep.

Even my decluttering project seems to have taken a back seat to all the other very important things I must do – did I mention, I refinished two coffee tables?

That was until this morning. This morning – I got over myself.

I put the three bags back on my arm and instead of obsessing over whether I should or shouldn’t keep something, I (gasp!) gave myself permission to keep one or two things I couldn’t decide on.

Phew! That wasn’t so bad.

Well, the whole thing snowballed and before I knew it twenty-five items were on their way to the garbage, the recycling bin, or the thrift shop.

And the nice thing is that once freed from the perfectionism of making the right decision, I found myself more and more willing to give up stuff that just a few months ago I thought I wanted to keep. Decluttering was fun again.

I’m back, and not a moment too soon. It’s six days until I have to have this place in move ready condition, and six days until I donate some of my craigslist proceeds to one of your charities.

If you haven’t already, please let me know in the comments where you’d like to see the money go.

Artificial Motivation: Creating the Circumstances to Succeed

I’ve started ignoring stupid stuff again. There’s a pile of donations in the garage that have been there since my 100 things 100 days project ended. My four-year old has three acceptable pairs of socks that have all disappeared somewhere between his bedroom and the laundry room.  And I’m missing a pair of tinted glasses (that I need to drive) since January.

And I’m not just being too hard on myself. This is stupid stuff!

It’s stupid because every one of  these things irritates me daily and every one of them could be solved with minimal effort.  Where has my motivation gone?

How was it possible to get rid of a hundred things most days for a hundred days, when I couldn’t toss ten out the window today if the house was on fire.

Blogger Julien Smith writes about motivation (among other things) on his blog, In Over Your Head and, I’ve been pondering his posts since Christmas. With inspirational titles like: The Complete Guide to Snapping the @#$% Out of It – who wouldn’t?

Yes! I thought, I do need to snap the @#$% out of it, but what is he talking about get yourself a system? I’ve been learning systems since I was five years old and I haven’t learned to like one yet.

And just when I was about to say thanks, but no thanks Julien, a system won’t help me get me back on track with my decluttering, he posts this:

I’ve changed a lot in my life, but it’s not because I’m special. I just created special circumstances.

Creating special circumstances sounds like something I could wrap my right brain around. Isn’t that kind of what my 100 things 100 days project was, a set of special circumstances that made it possible for me to crawl out from under the clutter when it had not been possible before?

Looking back, four things stand out as making success possible for me:

1) a complete understanding of how I could benefit from decluttering (more time, less frustration)

2) tying a reward to the action, I love blogging, half the time I only got rid of stuff to have an excuse to write to you guys

3) tying social pressure to the action, because I break promises to myself  regularly, but I’d never break a promise to someone else

4) tying a deadline to the action, mostly because it gave me a reason to focus on my goal when my tendency in the past has been to get wrapped up in unproductive things like worrying

Could I do it again? Yep!

Not only do I think having less will be less work, I know it!

So I’ve decided that May 1 (deadline) is imaginary moving day, and for every new thing that gets decluttered in the packing process, my kids and I will put a loonie on the calendar (social pressure). On May 1st we’ll celebrate with a moving party including a draw for a donation in the amount we collect, in your name, to your favourite charity (reward). Here’s my low tech, Julien cover your eyes!, kitchen table system:

So how will sending a donation in your name a reward for me?

Maybe it’s for the same reason that people like to root for the underdog. I think we’re all motivated in some way by an essential sense of justice. Ask someone what one thing they would change about the world if they could, and get ready for their passionate response.

Donating the money to my favourite cause would be wonderful but finding out what you believe in, and giving you the chance to change the world in a very small way that’s important to you would be even better. Plus, it’s the giveaway that will never require decluttering.

Tell me about your favourite cause in the comments below anytime before April 30 and I’ll enter your name in the donation draw. And if you want to imaginary move with me, what’s stopping you?

Doing Less Of What I Suck At

I’m back! I just wanted to let you know I didn’t run off to raise my family in Hawaii. Although, at times,  it was awfully tempting:

The house exchange with my close friend, who did run off to raise her family in Hawaii, was a huge success.  She is herself a minimalist and an artist and her home is one of the most relaxing and inviting places I’ve ever visited. In fact, it took her .5 seconds to spot the McDonald’s toy I perched on her well-edited bookcase as a test. And here I thought I was being so stealth!

So I spent a lot of time, as I usually do on vacation, thinking about what is wrong with my real life. Apart from the fact that it is not set against the backdrop of paradise, here’s what I came up with.

Too much stuff! And I don’t mean the kind of stuff you get at the dollar store for an Easter project, or the kind of stuff the kids get in birthday party loot bags, or even the senseless kind of stuff you buy yourself but regret before the ink dries on the receipt. I mean, I’m doing way too much stuff.

For instance, it’s 11:10 pm and I just took a loaf of bread out of the oven. It’s not the first time I’ve baked bread, but with any luck, it will be the last. I’ve just never come to terms with the fact that I’m not good at everything. Or, I should say, that I actually suck at doing certain things. Funnily enough, it is those very things that I take a run at again and again, hoping for a different outcome. My bread is hard as a rock, but I’m thinking that a pat or five of butter might make it edible.

And yet, there is a bakery not far from here that gets it right every time.

I struggle, as we all do, with certain things, but my real problem is that I never can seem to grasp the obvious solution. So, my resolution this year is to focus on what I’m good at and enjoy, and tailor the rest of my life to minimize time spent on the things that trip me up again and again.

This roughly translates to more yoga, writing and nurturing friendships and less baking, decorating, crafting and chit-chatting. That last one’s a tough one! I’ll be posting the details as I work out strategies to prioritize my time and, of course, there’s still some physical stuff to get rid of, so I’ll keep you up to date on that as well.

In the meantime, I’ll direct you to this video of the comedian George Carlin talking about stuff. I saw this several months ago in a post by the minimalists and I still can’t stop thinking about it and giggling inappropriately. Enjoy the belly laugh, I’m going to go try that bread.

Guidelines for House Swapping With A Minimalist

I don’t mean to be inhospitable but there are a few things you should know about house swapping with a minimalist:

1) What’s mine is yours. And, since I have next to nothing, please feel free to use all of it.

2) Make sure you bring whatever you think you might want because if you don’t actually need it, I don’t have it.

3) They’re floor pillows!

4) 1 bowl, 1 spoon = better get takeout.

5) If you can’t find it, I don’t have one. Do you really need one?

6) White and black are colours!

7) What arrives with you, must leave with you – except, of course, for wine and chocolate in recyclable packaging.

7) Many happy meals were made in that blender.

9) You won’t break a thing if you dance in the living room (or the kitchen, bedroom, pantry, powder room and hall).

10) What do you mean you’re accustomed to conventional furniture?

11) I like you too much to burden you with unnecessary crap.

12) Yes, I threw it out on purpose.

13) No, I didn’t forget to stock up on toilet paper.

This is, of course, tongue in cheek. I haven’t moved far enough in the direction of minimalism to make all of the above true. I just started to wonder what my friends might think of my departure from the realm of excess and how it could become more and more confusing for house guests the further down that road I go.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Anything house guests should know about a visit to your place?