Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thank You, 2014

As we count down the final hours of 2014, some will be happy to see the old year end. For me and for my family, however, 2014 was a very good year. So many positive things happened for us during the past year. We began tackling the repairs and renovations to our home. I started this blog. My husband went back to school to finish his degree. My daughter joined the track and field team, and started learning Spanish.

As for me, I won a coveted spot in the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile race in Washington, DC. We had a fabulous week-long trip to our nation's capitol at the height of the cherry blossom season! I trained all summer for the Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon in Savannah, GA. I look fondly back on all those long runs out in the hot summer sun, and in the warm summer evening air, hoping that their memory will sustain me through the dark and cold of the winter ahead. I ran the half marathon in November and set a PR, then spent several days recovering at on the Tybee Island beach.

I also began my journey down the path of minimalism. This path has not only help me begin rid myself of physical clutter, but I have began to evaluate the mental and emotional clutter in my life as well. I rediscovered the things that are important to me, and I let go of the things that were dragging me down. There is still so much more work to be down, but I am wholeheartedly looking forward to it.

Some of my favorite minimalist blogs from 2014 were:
Becoming Minimalistby Joshua Becker
Be More With Lessby Courtney Carver
Rowdy Kittensby Tammy Strobel
Slow Your Homeby Brooke McAlary

So with 2015 only a few hours away, I have been pondering my New Year's Resolutions. I am not sure what resolutions I am going to embrace yet, but for now, I want to say "thank you" to 2014, for all the wonderful memories and much-need enlightenment. Thank you, 2014!

And here of some of my favorite memories from 2014:

New lights in the bathroom!

Sunrise on the National Mall for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Race

Cherry blossoms

Japanese girls amongst the cherry blossoms

Way out in front in the 1600m

My Blue Heaven - now with added BLUE

No more leaking bathroom pipes above the living room!

New water heater

Simon and the summer roses

RC Cola Moon Pie 10-Miler, in and around Bell Buckle, TN

Beautiful Isabella

Friends on a summer run

A summer evening run in the village

Sunset in the village


An early autumn rainstorm brings parking lot canoeing!

Glorious fall!

Fifi, our year-round Halloween kitty

Autumn sunset


The Half Marathon


Bridget loves the Christmas tree

So Happy New Year, everyone! But as we rush forward to embrace the shiny new year, let's remember 2014 and cherish the memory of a wonderful year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sock It To Me!

For Christmas, I treated myself to the Kindle version of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo. This book has been getting a lot of buzz on the minimalist blogs, and it sounded like it might have some interesting ideas. The author is Japanese and works with clients in Japan, where homes are smaller, so I thought she might have some great "small-space" tips. I have not finished reading it yet, but there does seem to be lots of good advice and perspective so far, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was happily reading along Saturday afternoon when I reached a part of the book in which the author advises the best way to store socks. She described her horror at learning that one of her clients kept all her socks in rolled "potatoes", the cuff of one sock turned over the other to keep them together, then stuffed unceremoniously into the sock drawer. The author explained that this method of storage stretches the sock cuffs, and stresses the fabric of the socks. Also, with your socks in potatoes, it is difficult to find what you are looking for within your sock drawer. The socks on top tend to get worn over and over merely because they are conveniently placed, while other pairs remain hidden and buried in the back of the drawer.

This thought really struck me! This is how I have stored my socks for years! I will put the two socks together, then roll the cuff of one over the other so they stay together it the drawer. However, even though I recently went through and culled out many, many pairs of socks, I can still barely open and close my sock drawer. I enjoy knitting my own socks, so I have several pairs that are thick and bulky, taking up the lion's share of the room in the drawer. Another drawback with the "potato" method that has always frustrated me is that I can never find my running socks, which are shorter and thinner, so they get lost in the drawer, while my compression socks, which come to the knee, tend to be omnipresent strings throughout the drawer.

After reading the section of the book about sock folding, I immediately decided to try it out. I went upstairs and emptied my sock drawer onto the bed.

Notice the bright pink compression socks at the bottom, and the bulky knit socks on the right. Next, I took each pair of socks and folded them neatly. I started with the running socks, which are primarily ankle socks. I placed each pair together and folded them at the heel. Next, I folded my knit socks and trouser socks. For these, I folded the toe up to meet the heel, then folded to upper part over that (so, two folds). For my compression socks, I folded them in half, then in half again. Then, I placed all my nicely folded socks in my sock drawer, each folded pair standing vertically.

Look how pretty! All my running socks are right in front where I can get them quickly when I am trying to dash out for a run. Compression socks are in the back, since I use them less frequently. Knit socks on the right, and socks for work on the left. I can SEE all my socks at once, and can tell if I need to do a wash to have clean work socks or running socks. The whole thing only took about five minutes.

You have no idea how happy my new sock drawer has made me! Several times when I was in the bedroom, I just opened it and admired my happy socks. On Sunday night, I had several freshly laundered pairs of socks to put away, so I folded them nicely and "filed" them in the drawer. Even though the drawer looks full, there was still plenty of room as the socks are not jammed together. The drawer opens and closes easily as well, with no socks getting caught. When I got ready for work this morning, it was very easy to find my gray socks that I wanted to wear!

I was so inspired that I also organized my underwear drawer. (Even though I happily took pictures, I won't post them here - no one needs to be looking at my undies, no matter how prettily folded they are! If you have any questions about how I folded stuff though, I will be happy to answer them.) I found when I organized this drawer, that I had lots more room, as the underwear folds down quite small. I also discovered that I needed to do another load of laundry (only two pair of work underwear left?!)

My success with my socks has renewed my simplifying and organizing enthusiasm. (I offered to organize my husband's and daughter's sock drawer, but they both declined.) It made me realized that our house does indeed have plenty of space, if we only utilize it properly.

Friday, December 26, 2014


Though Christmas is upon us, we are just now getting started in earnest with the Christmas decorating! One of my plans is to go through all our decorations and ornaments as we take them out (and later pack them away), and determine what we want to keep. We have lights that we don't use anymore, ornaments that were gifts that we never cared for, Christmas dishes that I can never remember to unpack in time for Christmas, and things that are just too much trouble to put out for whatever reason (I am looking at you, unreasonably heavy tree ornament!). There is a wonderful charity called the Holiday Bureau that takes toys, stuffed animals, and all kinds of holiday decorations, and finds new homes for them. The closest branch to us is in Anderson County, TN, so we have planned a post-holiday dropoff of toys, stuffed animals, and decorations when we go visit my parents, who live in that area. For those of you who are interested, the Holiday Bureau is one of the few places that I know that will take lightly used stuffed animals. (You can call to get tips on how to prepare donations of stuffed toys for dropoff.)

We brought four boxes of Christmas decorations down from the attic, and went through them as we decorated the tree. We touched and sorted through each item. The ones that we loved went on the tree. The ones that we chose to let go were packed into two large boxes for the Holiday Bureau. In the end, the tree was beautiful, and every ornament a treasure to us. And as you can see, Bridget approves.

I have noticed something since we started going through the house and simplifying. It appears that in the year or so leading up to our change of lifestyle, we did a lot of shopping. It's almost as if we reached some kind of tipping point with our accumulation of possessions that made us decide to jump off the consumerism bandwagon. I am not sure why this is the case, but I do find it interesting. It has been most striking as we unpack the Christmas decorations. I have said at least once, "I totally forgot we had this!". And though we are planning on parting with many things this holiday season, we WILL be keeping our "menagerie" - a large giraffe, a dinosaur, two flamingoes, and inflatable bears, all with Santa hats - who live on our porch during the holidays and make us smile.

Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope your Christmas is beautiful and bright.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yuletide Reflections

This Sunday was Yule, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. To celebrate, we had a fire in our backyard chiminea. Even though Christmas is just a couple of days away, I am already thinking ahead to New Year's. New Year's Day is probably my favorite holiday (though I also love Valentine's Day). I love the idea of a clean slate. I enjoy looking back on the year and reflecting on my journey, and then looking forward and thinking about where I want to go. This year, I feel like I will be continuing along the path that I began a few months ago, simplifying my life, minimizing my possessions, and making room for the things that are important to me - my family, my music, my art, my health. The new year will bring new opportunities and challenges, and I feel equal to meeting them.

I also had the joy of closing my Macy's credit card account this week. I paid the card off long ago, but just got around to closing it, thereby further minimizing the possibility of future debt!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2005 Was A Good Year

Last Friday night, we decided to have spaghetti for dinner, so I volunteered to cook (yes - I define boiling water as cooking!). While I was in the kitchen waiting for the water to boil, I decided to clear out a corner of one of the countertops. Out kitchen is very small with limited counter space, and yet has still managed to become a catch-all area in our home. This particular corner held a recipe box, two outdated phone books, several cookbooks, and more appliance / toy / equipment user manuals than I wanted to count! In the time it took for the water to boil, and the pasta to cook, I had recycled the phone books, sorted through the user manuals and recycled those for things that we no longer own, culled the recipe box, and selected unused cookbooks to take to the used book store. Though there is still too much in that corner, there is a lot less than there was before. It just goes to show that with even a few minutes, a bit decluttering and simplifying can be accomplished.

In sorting through all the papers, recipes, and user manuals, I found several interesting items - an old address book from when my husband and I first got married, and a whole stack of coupons that expired in 2005. Think about that for a minute. Those coupons were cut out and collected in 2005, placed in that corner of counter with the cookbooks and manuals, and have remained there, mostly undisturbed, for ALMOST 10 YEARS!! How is that possible?! We use those cookbooks and occasionally those manuals, and we HAVE cleaned that area of countertop in the past 10 years. But apathy, disinterest, something, kept us from going through those papers and throwing out those coupons. I wonder what else we will come across on our journey that will cause us to just shake our heads and say, "Why did we keep this?"

Has anyone else out there had this experience - finding things in their home and wondering why the kept them all this time?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Things I have found new homes for this week

Considering that I have not had a lot of time to declutter lately, what with the mad end-of-semester push for both my husband and daughter, I feel like it has been a fairly successful week. I have found homes for the following items this week:

  • mechanical timer - previously used for an indoor greenhouse for starting seeds, I gave it to my supervisor at work for her in-office space heater that she worries about forgetting to turn off
  • alarm clock - this was on my nightstand, but I have decided to use my iPhone as an alarm clock (the alarm tones are not so jarring in the morning!). I gave this to a friend who has a friend that is setting up a new apartment
  • toothbrush holder shaped like duck - left over from when my daughter was little, this has been sitting by the kitchen sink for about 5 years (why?). It also went to my friend with a friend, who has kids
  • stand mixer - barely used, this went to the same friend for his parents that like to cook
  • blender - used but still in good condition, also went to my friend's parents

The mixer and the blender will free up almost a whole cabinet under the kitchen counter. Not sure what I will do with that space, but I am sure we will put it to good use!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Even a small victory is a victory!

This past Sunday, we enjoyed a particularly warm and balmy November day. It was overcast and slightly breezy, the perfect day to put the second coat of paint on the front of the house. Since we only had one day, and I am still recuperating from a nasty tumble down the stairs, we decided to just paint the lower half, in other words the porch. This required minimal ladder climbing and bending and stooping. It only took a couple of hours, and then we were done and I could rest. I am hoping that we will have a few more warm days before the chill of winter really takes hold to get the rest of the the front done. It feels good being able to get that off my to-do list!