Project 7: Clothing

As I continue with my own version of Project 7, I’m moving on to tackling clothing, in the spirit of acknowledging that I have far more than I need, have the bad habit of continually buying more because I somehow still think I “have nothing to wear,” and place too much value on my appearance.

I have a habit of regularly cleaning things out of my home and donating them (usually to Goodwill, although most recently to PRISM, a nonprofit that serves the needy population of people who live in the area). However, I find myself itching to get rid of more stuff again only a few months later. Clearly, something is wrong if I’m taking in so much stuff that I’m longing for some relief just a few short months after a clean-out.

In modifying this challenge from Jen Hatmaker’s in her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I took a long time to decide what parameters to set for myself.

I like concept of a capsule wardrobe, but I also love playing around with clothes and feeling like I have variety in what I wear, so I’m not sure that’s really the answer for me (even though that was part of Jen’s challenge for herself, too). However, the idea behind the capsule wardrobe system is a good one, and it has inspired me to make changes in how I structure my wardrobe, even though I don’t plan to embrace all the tenets of it.

As this challenge is coinciding with packing for a move, I am choosing to focus primarily on reducing the number of clothing items I own and mindfully investing in good-quality additions. As I pack, I will also pare down the number of pieces I have for a limited time, reminding myself that nobody but me cares if I wear the same things all the time.

My closet is full of items that I don’t love, and I want to work toward building a wardrobe of pieces that will make me feel good, not only because they fit well but also because I know I will get enough use out of them. In reducing my clothing to what I really like, I will be wearing the same things more often, which will certainly be a challenge.

I plan to follow the basic structure given here, taking everything out of my closet, cleaning it, sorting things into piles, trying things on again, and not rushing myself in the process.

I’m sure I will have to keep reminding myself why I’m going through my clothes yet again, and why I’m trying to exercise restraint in buying new pieces impulsively if they’re not quite what I’m looking for. I will set goals for myself: Reducing shopping. Keeping only what fits & is in good condition. Keeping what I love. Investing in quality over quantity. Saving for good, long-lasting pieces that won’t go out of fashion with the next trend.

 

Do you find yourself with clothing you don’t really love or get enough use out of? What do you do about it? How do you keep it from growing again after a cleanout?

 

For further reading:

Why Keeping Only the Clothes that “Spark Joy” Is Magical by Shifrah Combiths

How to Finally Clean out Your Closet for Good by Courtney Carver

Shopping Your House

Have you heard the concept of “shopping your house“? My sister Jackie and I keep using this phrase to explain how we’re beginning to think about how to decorate a new home. It’s so exciting to think of having a blank slate, a chance to start over in some ways.

We want to mix things up, rearrange furniture and decor, and generally just make things look nice. It’s really easy to quickly come up with a lengthy list of items we would want to buy to fill a new space. However, we are far from having an unlimited budget, especially in terms of decor, so we turn to a more creative approach.

I don’t remember when I first came across the idea of “shopping your house” because I’ve seen it so many places. I thought it seemed like common sense at first, looking at what you have before buying new things to fill a space. But in putting the concept into practice, I have been surprised by how many things were in our apartment that I wouldn’t have thought to use differently (or that I didn’t even know/remember we had!).

Just last night, my sister and I began moving things around in our apartment, trying to think of how we could rearrange things and move pieces from one room to another for after we move to a new place. It was kind of like a domino effect: if we moved one piece from its current home to another place, we felt the need to replace it with something else, which then also had to be replaced. That seemed to be the pattern for big things like furniture, anyway.

We started by filling the bookcase that had held books with DVDs to free up the storage cubes that Jackie wants to move to her room. A nice bonus was that the DVD tower we cleared off in the process didn’t have a home yet, and we realized its compact size makes it a great fit for some extra bathroom storage! It was really encouraging to see such tangible evidence of the fact that we do have more than we think, if only we will take the time to give our things a second look and consider what hidden potential might be right under our noses.

Once we started, it was hard to stop. We combined our craft and office supplies, as well as our medications, to save space and create a single centralized location for shared items. We ended up freeing up several storage containers and throwing away unwanted items in the process, which was an unexpected perk to our organizing. We were able to organize most of our shared supplies using containers we already had simply by reorganizing them in more efficient ways and getting rid of excess items.

To try to manage the chaos that was ensuing, we created a list of things we currently have, organized by room, and things we might want to get for each room. We added items to the list as we found them, assigning each piece a home, and sometimes changing our minds.

Simply repainting a bookcase, moving a chair, or pairing things together in a different arrangement can completely change the way a room looks and feels, bringing new life into it. There are so many tutorials for updating old fixtures or furniture, and even more ideas for inspiration on websites like Pinterest. Together, they provided us with a great deal of motivation to get our creative minds working to transform our space using what we already had before going on a crazy shopping spree.

You never know what you might find lurking in the back of your closet! Maybe you’ll see something with fresh eyes, repurpose a somewhat forgotten piece into something that is once again useful, or find a better home for something you already love. We certainly did! No matter what your goal is (decluttering, decorating a new home, redecorating your current one), I suggest starting first with what you have. I hope you find some great things that can make your house feel like a home!

Home Improvements

This month, I’ve been trying to focus on my physical possessions (although I’ll admit it seems like early summer business has distracted me quite a bit).

In trying to make my house (apartment) a home, I’ve done more decluttering and purging (shout out to my cousin for having a well-timed garage sale!) to create cleaner, more simplified spaces, which has felt like a bit of a cop-out since the effect is pretty minimal. After getting rid of unnecessary clutter and reorganizing what was left, however, I do find myself spending less time staring at my stuff and feeling dissatisfied with how much I have and how it’s organized/arranged. I’m getting closer to feeling like I have kept only the things that are useful or beautiful and gotten rid of the excessive clutter that just takes up valuable space.

I’m also working on some projects to spruce up what I already have and make it more beautiful so that I can feel more at home in my space. After all, we all want to feel more comfortable, restful, and peaceful in our homes, right? I find that comes more easily when our heads aren’t full of a list of improvements we need to make in order to appreciate our surroundings. Sure, there are always going to be things that need repairs or upkeep, but I’m talking more about doing the things necessary to transform a space full of drab, uncoordinated things that appear thrown together by chance into a cohesive space that doesn’t make us feel discombobulated or anxious to fix it.

I commissioned my sister and her friend to create a headboard for my new bed, both after seeing the great job the two of them did on her headboard and after realizing that a store-bought one would cost quite a bit more (and I didn’t see any I loved). They did a great job!

Eventually, I hope to work with them to frame my full-length mirror, too. My sister added a large wooden frame to hers a while back, and it looks so much cleaner, crisper, and polished (no pun intended) than mine that’s screwed directly into the wall with the manufacturer’s brackets.

I tried taking on the big challenge of re-fitting the slip-covers that have been on our couches since we moved in. The couches and covers were generously given to us, and while we are incredibly grateful to not have had to shell out a large sum of money for furniture, the covers don’t fit well and look rather disheveled. However, I discovered the work was far more difficult than it was worth, since it’s a bit above my skill level as an amateur seamstress. But I tried!

I also rearranged some of the kitchen cupboards’ contents to try and make our storage more efficient. I ended up moving some things around in our linen closet, too, and finding enough room to store some bulk items in there to create more space in the kitchen. I’m not sure how long it will last, since I feel like I’m continually coming up with ideas that seem more logical or efficient, but we’ll see!

What sorts of projects have you done around your house to make it feel more like a home? Do you have any tips for working with what you already have to create a more personalized and relaxing space? I’d love to hear them!

Paring Down the Paper

I’ve gotten a bit better over the years about not keeping so much paper around, but it’s still definitely a problem. And with the advent of “going paperless,” I find fewer things coming to me in hardcopy, but they have been replaced with a surplus of emails, PDFs, and other files on my computer that are still wasting valuable space and creating unneeded stress.

Going paperless doesn’t solve our problem if we’re still receiving just as much communication and holding onto all of it far longer than we need to, letting it clutter up our lives, and causing the truly important messages to get lost in the chaos.

I’ve come across multiple sites with tips for eliminating paper and electronic clutter, but one that seems more comprehensive is from Living Well Spending Less, and I thought I would share some of the tips with you and how I have already or am in the process of implementing some of them.

Stopping the clutter before it comes in is key. Having a screening system and organizational system in place can help keep things under control and prevent important messages from slipping through the cracks. This means that you carefully decide what makes it into your home in the first place, and determine where each message should go, according to categories of priority and how you intend to respond.

One thing that has helped me curb my electronic clutter is unsubscribing to emails that I don’t find helpful or interesting anymore. I have subscribed to blogs, store newsletters, and other sites to get updates or get deals before, but I don’t necessarily want to continue receiving emails from all of them. It saves me time and energy if I just unsubscribe from the lists instead of having to deal with an overflowing email inbox.

It’s so easy to keep all of our photos. In order to get the best pictures, I tend to snap several shots in quick succession, but I rarely go back to delete the duplicates. I have spent hours going back through old photos to eliminate the ones that aren’t my favorites, paring down the collection to the photos that truly are the best. I did a big overhaul of my photo library when I bought a new computer in November. I knew I didn’t want to transfer duplicates or poor-quality photos, so I transferred only the ones that I really wanted to keep. It was good motivation for me to purge, knowing unnecessary photos would take up valuable memory on my computer, and starting over from scratch was a good opportunity to do bite the bullet and get rid of extra photos.

When things come in that I do need to keep, I file them in an organizer that’s separated by category. I currently need to go back through my file folder and weed out things that are outdated, as I’ve been using the same file folder system for a while, but it makes finding things like banking summaries, loan information, or receipts easy to find. Having all of my important papers in one place makes it less stressful and less cluttered.

My sister and I have a small mail organizer inside the door of our apartment that allows us to place letters for each other in a defined place. I know that without it, we would end up with mail piling up all over the place. We also sort through the mail as we bring it in, immediately recycling things we don’t want, putting sensitive information in a “to be shred” bin, and opening anything urgent.

Although my email inbox isn’t as full as it used to be since I have begun unsubscribing from email lists, I need to get better about how I sort through my emails. I use Gmail, and I have the Sortd extension, so I can drag and drop emails into various categorical lists. Alternately, I can file them in folders in my regular email settings. I’m still working out the kinks to determine what works best for me, but I’m making progress in creating my own process for handling emails quickly and efficiently.

 

What things help you tame paper and electronic clutter?

 

Making a House into a Home

Hand-drawn-quote-by-The-Inspired-Room-blogOkay, okay, so I live in an apartment, not a house, but bear with me, all right? “Making an apartment into a home” just doesn’t doesn’t have the same ring to it.

What would it take for you to transform your house into a home? Do you think there’s a difference, or are they one in the same?

I hadn’t really thought about it until just recently, when looking further into ways to declutter, reevaluate, reorganize, and make the most of my spaces as I continue through the possessions focus of my Project 7 adventure.

Have you ever walked into someone else’s house and instantly felt comfortable, safe, relaxed, or at ease? Did you feel, in other words, at home?

While a house can merely be a dumping ground for all of life’s stuff, a home is so much more. Home is a place we come to at the end of a long day to unwind, relax, and find comfort. It holds part of our heart, is filled with memories, and occupies a special place in our hearts.

I want my home (currently this apartment, but at every stage of my life going forward) to welcome others in and to welcome me in at the end of my day. I don’t want to be stressed about maintaining it, frustrated trying to find things, unsettled when it seems like things just aren’t arranged optimally, or just dissatisfied with the general impression of a place that is lived in but not especially loved.

In thinking of what I wanted my home to look like, I asked myself what I wanted the dominant feelings conveyed by each room to be— the mood or atmosphere, if you will. I want the purpose of each room and the desired atmosphere to guide how I fill the space. Instead of haphazardly placing things around the apartment, creating a mis-matched, aimless grouping of my belongings, I want to be more intentional in creating a calming space that welcomes people in.

What makes each room special? What do I love about a particular space? What don’t I like the look or feel of? What would I change? What kind of story would I want my space to tell a stranger about me?

I’m going to keep these questions in mind as I survey my apartment one room at a time and try to slowly transform it into a place that feels more like home. Will you join me in doing the same with your space?

What do you want your home to feel like or look like?

 

Image source: http://theinspiredroom.net/2015/06/17/home-2/

Why We Keep So Much Stuff

imagesDo you ever wonder why we keep so much stuff in our homes? We know we have more than we need, often more than we even want, but we have a hard time letting go just the same. Why is that?

I think many of us feel guilty wanting to get rid of things that have some sentimental value. We feel connected to things that remind us of the past or connect us with a loved one, and we think it somehow would be disrespectful to get rid of said thing. But the memories we have of time spent with those closest to us don’t reside in possessions; we can get rid of things we don’t use or love and still hold dear to our memories.

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
You can take pictures of items you want to remember.
Old photographs can be scanned.
An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

I don’t think sentimental items are bad, or evil, or that holding on to them is wrong; I think the danger of sentimental items (and sentimentality in general) is far more subtle. If you want to get rid of an item, but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons—and if it is weighing on you—then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it, perhaps it’s time to free yourself of the weight. That doesn’t mean you must get rid of everything, though. – Joshua Fields Millburn

That’s not to say we can’t keep anything that is sentimental; it just means we don’t need to keep every birthday card or every piece of our grandma’s jewelry if they’ll just sit in a box in our closets. We need to evaluate items outside of the sense of nostalgia they carry and choose to keep just the ones that really mean the very most to us.

We may keep gifts from friends and family members because we feel bad about donating or selling them, even though they’re not things we particularly like or use. We hang onto them because we’ve created a sense of shame surrounding the idea of getting rid of gifts from loved ones. We think they’ll notice if we don’t have their gifts around our house, but the truth is they really won’t. And they’d likely feel bad for making you think you had to keep something just to appease them.

Maybe we hold on to things with the intention of maybe using it someday in the future. But if we dug a little deeper and asked ourselves how often we’ve really ended up using things we’ve stashed away for that “just in case” situation, we’d maybe be more willing to let things go. The truth is that we rarely need the things we keep by this kind of justification. We make ourselves feel better for holding onto things we don’t need by saying we may one day need them, but we often never do. And, frankly, many of such things could be easy to replace if we find out we do surprisingly need them ten years down the road, and we would have saved ourselves the storage space for those ten years in the meantime.

We might even delude ourselves into thinking we’ll use miscellaneous items for a rainy day craft or fix our collection of broken things, but most of us likely don’t follow through with those ambitions. We store up boxes and boxes of craft supplies, scraps and tidbits of various things we can’t justify throwing away, hoping we’ll get to make something beautiful out of them eventually. We ought to be more realistic, keeping what we’ll actually use, but realizing we’re probably not going to take the time to fix most things (unless you’re especially gifted with upcycling, then more power to you!).

We keep things out of fear of not having enough down the road. We think that if we let go of something, life’s circumstances will take us by surprise, throwing us a curveball we don’t know how to react to. But we need to realize that holding on to more and more stuff isn’t the answer. Facing the underlying fear is a much better solution. And it will free us up to get rid of the unnecessary things that are cluttering up our homes and our lives.

What other excuses do you find yourself making for keeping things around? Will you join me in letting go of the guilt and fear?

 

Resources:

Fear Is Why We Have Too Much Stuff by Leo Babauta, zenhabits.net

How to Let Go of Stuff Guilt by Ruth Soukup, livingwellspendingless.com

10 Ways to Let Go of Your Stuff by Erin Rooney Doland, realsimple.com

Letting Go of Sentimental Items by Joshua Fields Millburn, theminimalists.com

How to Simplify Your Stuff and Honor Your Memories by Courtney Carver, becomingminimalist.com

Image source: https://hotcutegirlygeek.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/too-much-stuff/

Project 7: Possessions

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Oh, how easy it is to accumulate stuff. We keep childhood toys, clothes, concert tickets, birthday cards, all the artwork we’ve ever done, every book we’ve read, all the gifts we’ve received, and enough other stuff to crowd all of that out. In fact, it is pretty difficult to not find yourself holding on to at least some of those things as time goes by.

But I want to live differently, despite the pull to just go with the flow. I have no real need for many of the things that try to claim space in my life and my home. I have limited space, as I’m sure you do as well, and I want to fill it with things that I actually like and use. If something is just going to sit in a box on a shelf, it’s wasting valuable space and needs to go to someone who will get better use out of it.

My cousin is holding a garage sale later this month, so I thought it was the perfect time to turn my attention to my possessions. Living in a small apartment for the last several months has been a good motivator for getting rid of unwanted possessions, but I know I’ve still been running on autopilot in sorting through things (read: actually not sorting through them very thoroughly).

In pursuit of ridding my life of excess, I’m striving to be more intentional in how I pare down my possessions. I want to be happy when I look around my apartment, not stressed about having to clean around everything or figure out where to put everything.

I bought a new bed this weekend, and it ignited a little fire in me to try to transform my living spaces into a more polished home. Fitting that goal in with a limited budget is definitely challenging (and a big reason why I haven’t pursued it before), but as I get older, I feel the pull to have a more put-together, “adult” home of well-made things instead of just a random collection of hand-me-downs and sale items that I don’t really love.

This doesn’t mean going on a ridiculous shopping spree or completely overhauling the apartment my sister and I share.It means looking for creative solutions and ways to repurpose things and likely realizing I don’t need some of the things that I think I do after all.

I plan to carefully survey what I have, keeping everything that is beautiful or useful, getting rid of excess, and beginning to carefully curate a more pulled-together, lovely space, a little bit at a time, as the need arises and the budget allows. Yes, it means being willing to invest in quality pieces, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

Along with decluttering, it also means organizing what’s left. Especially with such a small space, putting thought into how and where things are stored is crucial. Once I take the time to decide what to get rid of and what to keep, I plan to rethink my storage plans to maximize the space I have.

I plan to focus on different areas each week, putting greater time and thought into choosing what things really deserve a place in my home and which things will be given the chance for a new start with someone else.

Will you join me this month in my spring cleaning fever and take a good look at the things that fill your space?