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?

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The Best Baked Plans…

This is why I shouldn’t have any bright ideas in the kitchen:

I was racing around preparing for a showing on Tuesday morning when I realized I’d forgotten breakfast. Seeing Squirrel left one store bought chocolate chip cookie in the cupboard – the light bulb went on over my head. Why not warm it up, killing two birds with one stone – snack for me, warm fuzzy scent for the potential buyer?

But this is me we’re talking about. No sooner had I got the cookie in the oven than I heard someone fire up a serious sounding power washer outside.

No!!! The neighbours are not getting their roof power washed (spraying gutter gunk all over my deck and backyard) today – of all days! I hurtled out the door and launched into interrogation mode:

Me: Are you just doing the driveway?

Power Washer Guy: Yep…oh, and the roof…and the gutters…

Me: Oh, well, we’re trying to sell the house (pointing to very obvious sign) and I have someone coming to see it at 1:15. I know it’s hard, but can you PLEASE try not to spray stuff all over my yard?

Power Washer Guy: No problem. I’ll have it cleaned up by 1pm.

Me: What’s that smell?

!@#$  %^&* !@#$  %^&* !!!

I darted inside to find half my breakfast smoking blackly at me from the bottom of the oven.

Really?

I switched the fan to high and opened all the doors as Power Washer Guy revved his engine sending a mist of debris swirling past my recently washed kitchen windows.

I ate the unburnt half of the cookie anyway, standing over the kitchen sink, feeling sorry for myself.

Just then my realtor called. She told me not to worry about things I can’t control. “If they can’t look past the minor things,” she said, “they’re probably not serious anyway.”

Wise words.

Because on Wednesday the burnt cookie showing had turned into an offer!!! and by Thursday night (after a few rounds of negotiation), we accepted it.

Yippee!!!

I woke up the next morning and looked out the window to see that Power Washer Guy actually did an excellent job of cleaning up after himself, but that a bear had walked right through our back fence knocking out five planks.

Sometimes the things we can’t control end well, sometimes not. I know one thing for sure, that fence repair can wait until I’ve celebrated.

How should I celebrate this untethering from the cleaning cloth? Any suggestions?

Silk Purse From A Squirrel’s Ear

Our house went on the market Thursday. There’s no way I can possibly describe to you exactly how much work it was. I’m uncharacteristically speechless.

The biggest surprise? We still have stuff we don’t want or need.

You’re probably thinking – how is that possible Christine? You just got rid of 10,000+ things. You and me both.

We staged.

…right down to the closet shelves.

(These are the only pictures of mine that turned out – I’ll post the listing photos when I get them to prove to you that we do actually have bedrooms and a kitchen.)

It started out innocently enough, but halfway through I started to feel a little cheap about it especially when my son asked me why someone wouldn’t want to buy his room the way it was.

Our realtor had a designer do a walk through and his suggestions were labour intensive and 100% accurate.

The best advice he gave us was “nothing on the floor.” Why is it that the simplest suggestions are the most difficult to execute. It is shocking how much floor space (closet and otherwise), we were using for stuff other than the furniture.

Laundry hampers, duvets, stacks of books, stuffed animals, floor cushions! The list goes on, but the minute I removed it all, the space felt instantly cleaner and more spacious.

Squirrel’s five laundry hampers full of dirty clothes became a bone of contention.

I lie. It was more than a bone of contention. I almost lost the plot when I discovered his quintet of overflowing coffers.

Nothing on the floor? Then where do five laundry bins full of clothes go? I considered stuffing the whole mountain of it into the oven.

But it was obvious what actually needed to be done – ten loads of laundry.

If there was time to get angry about it, I would have. Turns out my only option was to wash, fold, repeat. But while my hands were busy, my mind was too.

How can I make sure this never happens again? Well, if Squirrel only had ten T-shirts (instead of 47), that would pretty much force his laundry hand, no?

I washed folded, labelled, and shelved close to forty T-shirts. The label says: “T-Shirts – Out of Rotation.” It means, I’m going to donate these in six months if you don’t miss them.

Are you wondering what the “silk purse” part of this story is? Well, when the work was done, I realized that I wasn’t mad at Squirrel anymore. That’s unprecedented.

Turns out he just has different priorities. He’s not really trying to ruin my life with a diabolical laundry plot. You aren’t, are you Squirrel?

Save Money, Save Time, Stay Sane

(Source: D. Sharon Pruitt)

I’ve come to realize that I blog for two reasons.

I blog because I like to rub the giant pink eraser of humour over the dark marks in my life. Really, why not?

And, I blog because I’m addicted to sharing information.

So here’s some truly random bits of information that I’ve been dying to share –  in no particular order.

1) Clean A Leather Sofa with Moisturizing Soap

Here’s a super easy one. I googled how to clean leather and found this tip on cleaning leather with moisturizing soap. I used a bar of unscented Dove on my light leather couch and was really happy with the results. The trick is to use very little water. Wring, wring, wring! My leather couch is so soft now. Plus, it’s cheap and easy to do touch ups. I wasn’t as happy with the results on my dark brown couch, but I might switch to liquid moisturizing soap like they use in the video. And when I do, I will share the results!

2) Save Time Clothes Shopping

I wish I was the type of minimalist that always looks great in a white shirt and jeans. But, I’m not. In fact, the closer I get to forty, the more fond I’ve become of black stretch. I gravitate to the same five flattering pieces in my closet and subconsciously shop for replacements because I’m afraid that the magic slimming shirt or pants will fall apart on me, or worse – shrink. No more. I just took my favourite top to my seamstress to copy and I’m thrilled with the results. At $15 for fabric and $40 for labour, minus gas and shopping time. The cost is a wash.

3) Rent Art

I just rented art for staging my home. How come I didn’t know about this before? One local gallery rents art for $10 – $40/month. The home staging company I went to rents large pieces for $49 – $89/month. Not cheap, but nowhere near as expensive as some of the art mistakes I’ve made. And, it’s fun – especially for the commitment-phobic.

4) Switch to White Towels

I switched to all white towels over a year ago. They always match. They’re easy to keep clean (with bleach, if necessary). And, white goes with everything – twenty million hotels can’t be wrong. Plus, I won huge points with the designer that my realtor brought for a pre-listing walk through. It turns out there are never enough white towels to stage a home.

5) Wear Crystal Deoderant

I made the decision to buy fewer, better quality clothes a while ago but when I saw that my good quality white T-shirts were getting yellow armpit stains, I threw a wobbly. I found out that the stains are caused by a reaction between sweat and the aluminum salts in some deodorants so I very reluctantly switched to a crystal deodorant. I asked the clerk in Whole Foods which one worked well because I sweat a lot. She grabbed me this and said that it is the only one that really works. She was right. So far, no smell, but it’s a little too early to tell how my white shirts are faring. Fingers crossed! I will let you know how it goes.

What amazing things have you discovered recently?

When I Move to Whistler, I Will…

(my oldest, in the air)

Here’s what I’m telling myself:

When I move to Whistler I will:

– cook more

– do yoga

– make the kids turn off their iPods

– ride my bike

– start my writing career (doesn’t that sound cheesy – I mean, who just decides to start a writing career)

– walk everywhere

– shop less

– worry less

– start back to work a few hours a week

– spend more time with Squirrel

– train the kids to sleep in their own beds all night

Here’s the truth:

None of that is going to happen if I don’t start now.

But, I’m getting ready to put our house on the market! I have to power wash, mow the lawn, organize my drawers, wash the walls, weed the garden and fluff the pillows. I have to worry, feel guilty, exhaust myself and get ill. I have to counsel the kids, apologize to the neighbours, scream at Squirrel, meet with the realtor, stage the house and sell on Craigslist.

I’m a busy girl, don’t you know.

Or, maybe I’m just anxious and that anxiety is causing me to micro focus on shit that doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately, that anxiety moves with me.

I guarantee there will be new dramas to micro manage in Whistler. Unpacking, settling in, getting used to a new school and new neighbours, making new friends, finding part-time work.

These things are all inherently stressful and require a great deal of energy, but it’s my anxiety about them that really exhausts me.

The truth is  there’s no reason I can’t:

– do a five minute meditation every morning

– throw down a sun salutation while I’m packing or playing with the kids

– go back to my simple rice, pasta, two veggie dinner plan

– start a simple, private blog for my children’s chapter book and type a sentence or two a day

– ease the kids back into a bedroom routine

None of this requires any more energy than my anxiety is sucking out of me. And, maybe if I lay the groundwork, I’ll take a little less fear and a little more focus with me when we make our move at the end of the summer.

What little thing are you telling yourself you can’t start right now?

In a Renting State of Mind

(image source)

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!

Day -3: I’m Afraid of My Stuff

I have to admit it – I’m afraid of my stuff.  Anyone who’s ever moved knows what I’m talking about.  It’s the stuff on the laundry room shelf that you swear you’ve never seen before.  It’s the stuff at the bottom of the kitchen drawer that may or may not have once been edible.  I find this kind of stuff so frightening that I avoid it at all costs.

Four years ago we moved and it ended a particularly long spell of avoidance.  As I purged the obvious (4 year old ramen) and less obvious (14 year old light bulbs), I became more and more nervous about the “bigger” house we were moving into.  Wouldn’t this mean more drawers (Is that a smartie?) and more top shelves (I haven’t seen these gouchos for years!) and a bigger garage (Really, what is this?).  And since we didn’t plan on moving ever again, what could possibly deliver me from the stuff that would lurk there?

Fortunately two months after we moved our stuff into the bigger house, our second son arrived wiping these questions (and more) from my mind indefinitely.  Well, that son turned four years old this month and although I’m certain I own enough birthday candles for a centenarian, I couldn’t find 4 for the top of his cake.  And that’s when I realized they were probably rolling around in the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

That scared me.  I had tried to keep it under control but here was my stuff hiding my other stuff hiding in a drawer!  I avoided these icky feelings by browsing minimalist blogs and admiring this man’s 288 things and that man’s 100 things. It all seemed so wonderful and so unattainable.

I realized I will never have only 100 things (or even 288 things for that matter) but I can get rid of 100 things pretty easily.  So, I tried it.  I didn’t set aside a whole day or even half a day.  I didn’t plan to clean out a certain room, drawer or closet.  I looked around and said:  “I think this can go.”  And it felt good.  It was even kind of fun.

I wondered how it would feel to keep going.  Would I run out of stuff?  (Not likely, considering I tossed 100 things from just one kitchen junk drawer the other day.)  Would I have to make some hard decisions?  Probably, depending how long I keep it up for.  Would I feel better and better the more stuff I liberated?

It’s day 4.  I’ve tossed, recycled and donated 400 things.  I’m already feeling more comfortable in my space and less intimidated by the things that scurry in when I’m not looking.  I’ve decided to challenge myself to getting rid of 100 things for 100 days.  There are only two rules: 1) the 100 things have to be things I wouldn’t normally throw out (ie. no gum wrappers or everyday recycling) and 2) The 100 days do not have to be consecutive (it’s supposed to be fun!)  but they should be continuous enough to keep the momentum going.

And while I’m at it I will try to keep track of my progress here – if only to prove (or disprove as the case may be) that there is a minimalism for the rest of us.