Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify

When I was younger I read an article about a girl who was a minimalist and everything she owned fit inside one large box.  I was excited and told my mother about it who promptly said it was stupid to want to live this way.  You see I come from a family of hoarders to varying degrees.  I in turn became a borderline hoarder and I see the same in my daughter.  When I first met my husband everything he owned could fit in his car with the exception of his bed.  Now he holds onto everything just in case – it’s like a disease.  I’ve come to see that the STUFF makes us sluggish and effects our mental health. As I started decluttering my daughter became calmer. It’s amazing. More space to think, to play and to be. I hit a decluttering wall until I found this book – well-written, easy to use and spurred me back to action. Loved it so much that I bought The Joy of Less too. Currently reading it between decluttering sessions. Thank you Francine Jay for two great books! (and in digital format too! no book clutter)

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The Great Purge Continues

So the yardsale is coming up real soon – in just 2 weeks (and 2 days).  I’m really pushing ahead slowly but surely.  I’m really going to have to work on it a bunch this weekend though to get it done on time.  I’ve been getting through a small tote load at a time and most nights sit down with my husband to purge more.  Last night we worked on some sentimental items and I purged some surprising items that I never thought that I would.

– my pledge books, tons of cards, playbills, ticket stubs, wedding invitations (with the exception of my siblings’ invitations).  Also purged was my honors sash and college hood.

My little Rainbow Brite doll is in the yard sale pile.  I am surprised at the relief of having it there.  So much grief surrounds that beautiful little doll.  The giant family picture on my grandmother’s mantel with my childish 4-year-old grin beaming away front and center hugging that adorable little doll.  My 5-year-old aunt was not allowed to have her dolly in the picture but I was.  Somewhere around there is where our relationship turned sour.

We started last night with 3 memory totes – one for husband, one for us and one for me.  By the time we were done it all fit into one tote.

Tonight I worked on my daughter’s memory tote.  in the garbage is the barely started baby book, the journals of an undiagnosed ADHD mother telling tales of forgotten diaper bags and lost travels.  many more cards filled the garbage bag as did odd items that hold no “real” value such as the Gerber baby spoon with her name and birthdate.  We never used it so it was just an item taking up space.

In my memory items  I kept a handmade doll from my grandmother.  I can’t tell whether I love it or hate it but husband thinks I’d regret it if I got rid of it.  Also kept was a small pillow my mother made me dated 1986.  She used to do crewel embroidery and this pillow has a lovely little image of a little girl walking home with a grocery bag with sausages hanging out.  Behind her trailed an assorted crew of adorable dogs.  I woke up that Christmas morning with this cute work of art on my bed with me and I’ve kept it ever since.  Also kept was my favorite maternity shirt – black with white polka dots with lovely pink ribbon and my girl scout vest full of badges.  maybe someday these items will leave but not today.

My husband stated that he thinks we may need more than one yard sale this summer.  He stated that he thinks we will sell quite a bit but that we may find that we want to get rid of more once we have some of it gone.  I had really hoped that we would donate all the items unsold but if it means we’ll continue to pare down I think I can live with that.

My Anniversary!

Today is my wedding anniversary!  It feels as though nothing can bring me down today:)  I couldn’t help but tell everyone I encountered today that it was my anniversary.  I feel really blessed to have my husband in my life.  He’s been through my ups and downs with me (and my ADHD/ OCD) and I with him (and his depression).  I have someone who appreciates me good days and bad and I know that I am fortunate.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!  My little girl is wonderful and I don’t always deserve her.  She was so excited about Mother’s Day that she couldn’t wait for me to wake up.  I, of course, am sick and grumbly.  5am she is waking me up.  “let me sleep”  7am my husband comes home and she has tried getting me out of bed at least 20 times already.  “let me sleep, let me sleep, let me sleep!”  I was so tired from waking up so many times last night to cough, blow my nose and use the bathroom that i was almost delirious from lack of sleep.  Next thing I know it’s 9:30am which is over sleeping by 3 hours for me.  I felt like such a bad mom and wife.  I came out and apologized for being so rude to her.

She pulls me out to the kitchen where I find flowers, a beautiful necklace, a card with singing and dancing cats and dogs, a picture frame and an automatic air freshener for the family room.  Also on the table was breakfast – a bowl of Life cereal (my favorite) with milk and a drink.  It had been sitting out since before 7am.  she tried to remake it for me but instead I hugged her and offered to make her breakfast.

 

Things that Help

Things I enjoy:

  1. Baking with my daughter
  2. Planning parties with my daughter
  3. Spending time with my husband.
  4. Reading – articles and books.
  5. Reading Fly Lady posts and emails.
  6. Daydreaming and listening to music.
  7. Playing Plants Vs. Zombies.
  8. Reading Miss Minimalist and Real Life Minimalists.
  9. Finding things to do that are free or mostly free.
  10. Petting my dog

My Fears

Again with the OCD – I know – it sucks.  but it’s getting better.  My therapist asked me what drives the obsessions/ compulsions and I simply stated, “I don’t know.”  BIG FAT LIE.  What I should have said was, “it’ll take more than the allotted hour to cover them all.”

Fear One:  Bugs

Bugs – especially bed bugs, head lice, and cock roaches.  Also afraid of spiders, ticks and flies. hell- all bugs.  Let’s just be honest here.  I used to work for a homeless shelter in a big city.  Dealing with the on-going bed bugs that we couldn’t seem to get rid of at work I would repeatedly check the furniture in my home for bugs.  Months after I left that job and moved several states away I would still check for those bugs.  I may even check tonight.  There was also scabbies problems at work.  When I see or think about bugs I start to itch really bad and feel the strong urge to scratch.  I’m itchy right now.  I was a prevention case worker next – working with?  dun dun dunnnnn.  seriously though, many many families I worked with in their homes had bugs – cockroaches, fleas, head lice, flies and yes bed bugs.  When there is a bug problem at work I get called because I know more about bugs than any person should know.

if you want some interesting reading I would recommend Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects by Amy Stewart.   You know, for some light reading.

so please – for my sanity and emotional well-being – if you have any questions what so ever about how to rid your home of any type of bug PLEASE ask someone else.  Do I know how to get rid of any and all bugs?  yes, yes i do but I might have to hurt ya if ya ask.  just saying.

 

Fear Two:  Hiccups to Order and Messed Up Patterns

Things need to be in order and patterned.  I’ve commented before on how much I HATE my walls at home.  I also hate abstract art unless the lines are straight and perfectly aligned.  I knew this guy once who would purposely rearrange my books and tilt my pictures because it bothered me so.  I know this is a problem because at work people always comment on how clean my desk is and how empty and devoid of personality it is.  I also know this is a problem because i LOVEPlants Vs. Zombiesand I often fail at it because i need to have the plants to be perfectly patterned and in the right order.  I get really really uneasy if things aren’t grouped appropriately so.

Fear Three:  Dirt

Dirt really gets me overwhelmed if I think about dust and dirt especially in my home.  Occasionally I would get so overwhelmed and frustrated because of my home being dirty and not perfect that I could sit paralized with anxiety for hours.  This is better now but hits me in odd moments.  At one point in my life I cleaned the carpet so much that it caused the carpet to get moldy from not being able to dry properly.  I used to scrub with bleach daily with a scrub brush.  I wasted so much time cleaning areas that no one else even notices.  I completely freak out if things are sticky or slimy.  I also get so worn out by cleaning “perfectly” that areas of my home fall into absolute CHAOS because I run out of time and energy.

This really has gotten better as I have learned (thanks to FlyLady) that my home doesn’t have to be perfect and housework done imperfectly still blesses my family.  I gotta love Fly Lady as she has helped earn me some peace and freedom.

Fear Four:  Pain Inflicted by Others

I fear being hurt by others– mugged, raped, abducted.  I worry about people breaking in and hurting my daughter or myself.  I do not watch scary movies because my overactive imagination does not need any new ideas.  I used to repeatedly check doors, windows, closets, behind doors, closets, under bed.  I’d always have to hit the shower curtain to make sure there is no one hiding in the shower.  I also get extremely nervous if I’m walking somewhere by myself.

Fear Five: Pain Inflicted by Accidental Causes

I constantly have visions of being hurt by accidental causes – tripping, getting dizzy, falling off a bridge, a building, etc.  I’m constantly envisioning getting hurt while walking.  I have a difficult time looking ahead while walking because I need to make sure I’m not going to trip.  I can see as clear as if it were a movie me tripping and falling, smashing my face into the sidewalk and busting my teeth with lacerations over my face.  I don’t go to the edge near anything high because I’m afraid that I’ll lose my balance and fall.

Fear Six:  Pain inflicted to Loved Ones

I constantly worry that my husband and daughter are going to get hurt.  If my husband and I go out without our daughter I’m always afraid that we’ll get into a car accident and die leaving her without her parents.  I then worry about the psychological damage it’ll do to her to lose both of her parents in such a horrible manner and then I dwell on the fears that she won’t be with the proper person/s if we die and she’ll wind up with my dad or other unnamed peoples or people will be fighting over her instead of taking care of her.

Whenever my husband is late I’m convinced that he’s been in a car accident.  This will start me counting and tapping and time feels like it stops and I can think of nothing else.  I used to really worry about my daughter not being safe when she was at daycare.  It was especially hard when she came home with (minor) injuries.  I really don’t like to be away from both my daughter and husband because the only time I ever truely feel safe is when the 3 of us are together.

Fear Seven:  Losing Teeth

Losing teeth – what can i say that would make any sense?  I read a Stephen King book (The TommyKnockers)  Oh man – sucked on so many levels for my overactive imagination.  They lose their teeth. just saying.

This fear is especially difficult now that my daughter is losing teeth.  I knew it was love when I stayed with my now-husband because when we were dating he was losing his teeth.  They would just crumble and fall out of his mouth.  it was so horrifying.  something about his enamel not forming properly.  his teeth are beautiful now – fake but beautiful.

I was always convinced that my teeth were bad and were going to fall out.  Many of my nightmares center around me losing my teeth.  they just fall out.  hundreds of times, hundreds of different ways.  at least 2 times a week I have these dreams.

One of the side effects of being on an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is bruxism or grinding teeth and clenching your jaw.  My teeth starting hurting all the time and then I developed TMJ.  My teeth started getting damaged, became oversensitive to cold, constant pain in my face and jaw, lacerations inside my cheek and constant earaches.  I finally realized that the only times I had these problems was when I was on an SSRI.  so take this medication for your anxiety.  The side effects causes greater anxiety.  Fun times all around.

Fear Eight:  Alien Abduction

Again – thank you Stephen King and the TommyKnockers.  I had to be between 10 and 14 when I read this.  Not smart of my part.  Aliens scare the shit right out of me.  I do not watch movies about aliens especially movies about abductions.  Even thinking about aliens for more than a few moments causes me to have several nights of insomnia.  I don’t know why I renting this movie but after watching “The Forth Kind” I woke up in terror every night with increasing anxiety until the time in the movie and I would repeatedly count to 100 until at least 15 minutes after the time to ensure the aliens weren’t coming for me.  terrified in bed – praying and counting for a good hour or more.

Fear Nine:  Germs and Blood

My fear of germs and blood started when I learned about HIV and other diseases in school.  I was blissfully ignorant until this point.  After that I became worthless.  Until that point I told everyone that I was going to be a surgeon when I grew up.  just like Doogie Howser.

oh how i loved Neil Patrick Harris.  He is the same age as my husband interestingly enough.  When I was a kid I dreamed that we were going to get married and be doctors together.   Of course I know now that this could never be.  He’s an actor – not a doctor.  I hate blood so medical school was out.  He is gay and I’m a female.  some things work out so much better when you’re a child.

My daughter hit her head several years ago and was bleeding.  So ashamed to admit this but I was paralyzed and couldn’t help her.  Her grandmother was present and took care of it.  A different incident occured where she fell and skinned her knee.  My husband saved the day.  Any time she has bleed, someone else had to take care of it with one exception.

I remember the one time she cut herself when I was home alone with her.  I started to hyperventilate.  I had to force myself to breathe deeply and self talk myself to calm so that I could help her.  I’m convinced that all blood is contaminated even when logic states that this isn’t true.  My daughter’s blood isn’t contaminated but the panic is still there.

I was always sick when I worked with the homeless population.  Even though I am a chronic hand washer my immune system is low.  Definately a result from too much anxiety.  I’m always afraid of bringing germs home when I interact with the public.  a client has a cold – i catch a cold.  a client has the flu – i catch the flu.  right now I’m typing instead of sleeping because I’m congested with a cold.

I use to bleach dishes because that was the only way they could be clean and germ free.

Fear Ten:  Food

I’m always surprised that I’m fat because of all my hang ups with food.  I’m a compulsive eater but I am picky beyond belief.  I pick apart meat so that I don’t eat the fat, don’t eat bone or anything icky.  I worry about leftovers and whether they are contaminated.  Won’t eat anything if I can’t remember when I made it or bought it.  This is hard with ADHD because nothing is planned or scheduled.  This is better with our menu board (when we use it).  If it’s not on the board it gets thrown out and we have a leftover meal placed on the menu to use it up or throw it out every Thursday.  Worry about milk and have to smell it.  Worry about bread and mold and have to smell it.   Will not eat leftovers at anyone’s home because I’m convinced it wasn’t put away fast enough or it was stored for too long.  Worry they are using old/ expired ingredients.

Fear Eleven:  Losing Things

Fear of losing things/ people – I’m afraid of losing things that are important but I often place too much importance on things.  I have all the makings of being a hoarder.  We lost everything when we left my dad.  The abusive ex-boyfriend lost everything in a house fire two days after I broke up with him.   I misplace things all the time because of the ADHD.  I get really anxious when I can’t find what I’m looking for.  Stamps, checkbook, keys, purse, specific item.

An  ex-boyfriend broke up with me because I was too obnoxious and immature.  That was a big loss.

I have to repeatedly count pieces to games, cards, puzzles for fear of losing pieces.   Our dog broke the external hard drive which caused us to lose all of our photos and documents for the past 6 years.  When my daughter was one we lost our computer which lost all of our pictures of her first year.

Fear Twelve:  Hoarding

Fear of becoming a hoarder.  So much time and thought goes into everything I try to get rid of.  I question and second guess everything.  I need my husband’s help to get rid of things.  Used to have tons of boxes, totes and bags full of things.  Used to own over 500 books.  Have a hard time getting rid of papers including/ especially anything my daughter brings home from school.  Have a hard time separating what is important and what needs to leave.

My aunt is a hoarder.  just a path.  she lost everything in a flood and she was so devastated by all of the things that she lost.  My mom has a very hard time getting rid of anything because we might need it someday.  Grandmom was a hoarder.  My dad’s parents filled a home to where it became unliveable so they bought another.  When my grandfather died and people came in to the second home it was condemned it was so bad.

I’m afraid of people going through my stuff after I die and not knowing who I really was because of having too many things that don’t fully represent me.

I’m afraid I’ll wind up like my aunt.

I hold onto things that I may need someday or that have a perceived use. -example – a large empty pretzel container that MIGHT be useful.

I hold onto things that have memories attached.

I used to check the garbage to make sure I didn’t accidently throw away something important.

Here the fuel that recently flared it up – we believe my husband accidently threw away his wedding ring.

 

Fear Thirteen:  Getting Fired

Fear of getting fired and I’m convinced that if I’m struggling that I’m going to get fired.  Feel alone and isolated.

Fear Fourteen:  Space

Space

  1. Always think I take up too much space.  Mostly it’s possessions.
  2. When people come into my home they would say that we had a lot of stuff.
  3. When my mental health is unwell I worry about how much space I am taking up because of my weight and have problems with how much space I need.
  4. Strong need for empty space at home.  Hate things under things.  Makes me anxious when things are under my bed, under my desk.  – things are under things right now.  things are behind things right now.
  5. Afraid that I’ll wind up like my aunt.

I need more space and less filling

Fear Fifteen:  Identity Crisis

Not knowing who I am.  Not being able to recognize my strengths or truly identify activities and hobbies that truly bring me pleasure.  Thought I loved scrapbooking – finally realized this causes me so much anxiety because I can’t make it perfect – no straight lines, can’t make it perfectly aligned.

 

Life as Me

Just finished writing a long blog about my OCD but not ready to share it so it’s saved and most likely to be forgotten.  Here is something I just found written months ago.

LIFE AS ME

I want to live.  As I’m writing this I’m focusing on breathing deep, finding the right rhythm on my mp3 player to compulse to and trying not to have a full blown panic attack.  My dog is quietly sleeping as is my daughter and husband.  All three are unaware of my strong urges to emotionally beat myself up and the twitching of my fingers that so desperately want to scratch my skin until welts are present.

It’s getting late and I’m already feeling like a zombie.  My body is physically tired and my mind is numbing but this uncontrollable urge to keep at it propels me forward.  I know if I don’t get to sleep then I’ll have another day of unbalanced emotions, compulsions and obsessions.  This is my life with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” – Anthony Robbins

The first time I was introduced to this quote was when I worked at a homeless shelter.  I was creating a quote board for the residents and I added my favorite quotes that were meant to empower or inspire.  I asked the parents what words of wisdom helped them get through difficult situations and this quote was handed to me by a very insightful resident.  Years later the words still are as clear as the day he shared this with me.  This quote goes hand in hand with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.

 “Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Some days I would really feel insane.  That was me in a nut shell.  I would tell myself, “If you only work harder than you wouldn’t be in this mess.”  I would buy planner after planner and make massive to-do lists only to have the same results each and every time.  I would then give myself a stern talking to and emotionally beat myself up over failing.  I would then take this process and repeat over the course of several years.

I went for some help for my chaotic and forgetful nature.  Focus, organization and structure eluded me and I am the queen of procrastination.  I got some help and learned something very interesting about myself.  I am an adult with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  A combination of medication, therapy, external structure and routines brought my life clarity and peace.

That is until the OCD reared up its ugly head and sent me spinning out of control.  You see it’s always been there but due to my forgetful nature the OCD usually played second fiddle to the drama of my unorganized life.   I had to ask myself if the therapy and medication were helping because I felt more dysfunctional than ever before.

Then I realized that I’m finally peeling back the layers.  I had to take care of and treat the top layers before I could treat the damage below.  Most pressing was the ADHD because it directly interfered with my ability to carry out my work.  Next was the anxiety and OCD.  I could only imagine that the trauma from my childhood would be next.  The hope would be that once all the layers would be peeled away that a functional, energetic, wonderful adult would remain to live a rewarding and full life.

 

“If you don’t change the way you do things, live your life, or make decisions, you will never grow or mature or feel better about life as a whole. You have to be the change you want to see in your life.”

 

Stuck on these books!

So I’ve read The Joy of Less about 3 times now.  I really need to start reading a new book but I keep repeating this one.  It’s so strange but this book is really helping me get through my hoarding compulsions.

Things I’ve been able to purge – the cards we received from our wedding 9 years ago, the positive pregnancy test from 8 years ago, tons of books, papers, research materials, picture frames, collections, furniture, and more.  It’s amazing how open my family ro0m is looking.  It’s quickly becoming a comfortable place instead of the room of doom.  I’ve promised pictures and I will be posting them soon.  The room though is looking good:)

My anxiety is tapering off again and the OCD compulsions are easier to manage so I feel as though I can get back to working on my goals for happiness.  I have been working on doing items off of my happiness list and I’m feeling more optimistic again which is fantastic.  I’ve been able to smile and laugh again which is great.  OCD is one of the most horrible things to have to live with.  I’d get rid of it in a heartbeat if I could.

 

books, decluttering and my happiness

So i’m finally starting to feel better again.  thankfully:)  I don’t know if I’ll ever fully part ways with my anxiety but maybe I can start feeling better about myself.  Stress at work brings out the worst in me.

I’ve been stuck on two books recently – both by Francine Jay.  The joy of less a minimalist living guide and Miss Minimalist Inspiration to downsize, declutter, and simplify.  I’ve really enjoyed reading these books as they have helped me look at my home in a different way.  The Joy of Less has four main sections; Philosophy, Streamline, Room By Room and Lifestyle.  I find the first section to be the most helpful as the intent is to help you look at your relationship with your stuff and helps you break that attachment.  The Miss Minimalist book has 60 different articles.  I especially loved her “Dear John” letter to her stuff and the Nothing to Steal.

Birthday Party!

My husband just celebrated his birthday this week.  He wanted to invite people over for a cook out and of course I said yes.  Typically this is a high stress thing for me but I noticed that I was not too worried about it.  Normally I would try to make too many different things to eat and drink and then go crazy preparing.  I kept it simple – meat for the grill.  I pre-cooked the chicken the night before and covered it with a marinade so all my husband needed to do was heat it up on the grill.  I kept the sides to 3 – a fruit salad, salt potatoes and cut up veggies (broccoli, celery and baby carrots).  I limited the drink choices to two – sun tea and a punch.

The house needed to be cleaned for the party.  Typically this would be a massive cleaning session which would involve stashing and dashing of all the clutter.  We’ve been decluttering daily to get ready for our upcoming yard sale.  I’ve been pricing and boxing up as I go and the husband has been taking the finished boxes out to the shed.  I realized that with much of the clutter gone cleaning is much easier.  The day of the party we just had to clean the bathrooms (which were already looking good from the zone cleaning), wash up the dishes, quickly mop the kitchen and relax.

The day before my husband clean up the family room quickly by putting items in the closet and out in the shed.  This wouldn’t have been possible had I not gotten things sorted.  While he slept though I focused on the kitchen.  I felt great about this process because I finally felt ready to let things go like the extra slow cooker, the cookie cutters that we never use, extra baking sheets and more.  I sorted through the spices and the baking items.  When he woke up he was impressed with how clean the kitchen was.