Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snail Mail Junk Mail

Just like with email, before you know it, your snail mailbox can become overwhelmingly overloaded with junk mail. I remember turning 18 and immediately getting bombarded with credit card offers. It's like they had some sort of countdown clock from the second I was born to when I was legally allowed to get myself into financial trouble. Add in a few of those weird Value Pack coupon bundles, a bunch of bizarre catalogs you never knew existed, and the weekly grocery store circulars, and your kitchen table ends up looking more like a mail room than a place to relax and enjoy a meal.

Like with email, you just have to unsubscribe if you don’t want to receive these things. It’s not as easy as clicking a link at the bottom of an email, but with a little work you can reduce the amount of junk mail that gets delivered to your house. Here are a few resources that I’ve used with success:

Tired of getting every catalog known to man?
Don’t need another credit card?
Think the phone book is a waste of trees?
All set with direct mail?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Auf Wiedersehen!

A photo of my donation pile for the vets this morning. See ya!

Note: Before your jaw drops, know that only 300 things from this massive donation pile are mine, the rest are from the ghost of 14 Thurston's past

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some of My Favorite Things

In my effort to minimize, I've been scrutinizing my possessions, deciding what's worthy of making the final "I'll keep it" cut. I thought it would be fun to show some of these "things", the ones that hold enough sentimental value that make them worth holding on to.

So, here they are, a few of Danne's favorite things:

This is an old matchbook holder from Grammy's house that I've loved since I was a little kid

Also from Grammy, her little bible from 1930 and the rosary beads that she gave me that are blessed by the Pope

My collection of old cameras

The illustration of Fanne that Dan drew for me for my birthday a few years ago

My mini cowboy boot keychain from a road trip that Tim and I took and a souvenir change purse from my friend Cristiam

This awesome illustration of a traditional Polish woman that I got from a bookshop in Portland, ME

and last but certainly not least, these light-up praying hands that I found at an antique store in Punxsutawney when I went down for Groundhog Day a few years ago (yes, I really went to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day haha)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Email Clutter

In preparation for my anticipated technology detox last December, I had started furiously unsubscribing from email newsletters and mailing lists to reduce my digital clutter. When I found myself suddenly unemployed again though, I decided to put the detox on hold, but I kept up with the unsubscribing since I was already on a roll.

I’m pretty good about keeping my inbox minimal, but that’s only because I have Gmail open all day so I can read, sort or delete emails immediately. I hate signing in and seeing dozens of unread emails, so my method has been to check it so frequently that it never has the chance to pile up. While this is fine because my line of work requires me to be in front of the computer all day, it’s probably one of those habits that causes little knots in my shoulders without me even realizing it.

With email (and especially Facebook, but I’m not even going there), there’s just always the feeling that you’re missing out on something or falling behind if you aren’t checking it all the time. When Grammy (that one’s for you Joe) was my age, the mailman came twice a day and that was it. Unimportant things weren’t given a false sense of urgency.Things waited until tomorrow. In our digital age though, everything and everyone is accessible all the time, and while this is amazing, it can be really stressful if you don’t manage it.

While my posts about tiny houses and incessant yoga practice might lead you to believe that I’m gearing up to join a commune of light workers in New Mexico and abandon all my worldly possessions, that’s not where this is going. As with everything in life, there’s a balance that needs to be kept and I’m just trying to find it. Clicking unsubscribe 15 times a day might seem like a nuisance at first but seeing the “Woohoo! You've read all the important messages in your inbox.” message from Gmail is definitely a better way to start the day than a long list of newsletters that you probably didn’t even sign up for in the first place.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week 2: 202 Things and Catholic Guilt

While most people in New England were watching the Pats game last night (which I was surprisingly a teeny bit sad about missing), I was going through my things, looking for another 100 items that I could purge. When I started this challenge, I felt pretty confident that I’d be able to find 400 things to get rid of by the end of the month—I just didn’t realize how easy it would be. I haven’t even ventured down from the 3rd floor of my house and I’ve still managed to throw away/donate/recycle 202 things since January 1st.

Like I wrote before, by no definition of the word am I a packrat, but in going through all of my stuff, it’s apparent that I’ve been holding on to a lot of things that are of no use to me anymore. When you’re trying to minimize, there are the obvious things that go first: the gifts you didn’t like in the first place, the outdated college textbooks, the ugly yarn you learned to knit with. But then there are the less obvious things; the things that you once loved but that aren’t relevant to who you are right now. In my downsizing, I made the decision to only hold on to things that reflect who I am today, not who I used to be or who I wish I were. While part of me feels a little sad letting all of my old “I Love Lucy” VHS tapes go, the other part of me knows that I don’t need them anymore and that (hopefully) they’ll end up in the hands of someone who’ll give them a greater purpose than they would have had sitting in a Rubbermaid container in my basement.

By completing the exercise from my last post where you write down what you’re getting rid of and the deeper emotion behind it, I can see that in addition to parting with some books I couldn’t get into, my high school CD collection (yes, I decided to get rid of it), and various other “things”, I’m also throwing out: uncertainties about the future, guilt (it’s shocking how many things I wrote guilt next to, thanks Catholicism) and reminders of unmet goals and failures.

Hallelujah, on to the next 100.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mental Clutter

Whether we realize it or not, the things we choose to surround ourselves with undoubtedly have an impact on our mental state. The goal is to keep things in our possession that elicit positive emotions, not negative memories or difficult times. Sometimes, even if something holds sentimental value, it might not be worth holding on to because of the memories that it evokes. In short: if it doesn't make you feel good, get rid of it.

A few days ago, a friend passed along a link to life coach (I love life coaches!) Gail Blanke’s book, “Throw Out Fifty Things”. One of the exercises that she suggests is to write down everything that you're throwing away, but also attach a descriptor to each thing like, “high-school identity crisis outfit” (obviously this one is from my personal collection), or “relic from an old relationship”, that allows you to see the emotional aspect of what you’re throwing away as well. I think this is a great idea and going forward I’m going to incorporate this exercise into my challenge. It’ll be really revealing to look back at the end of the month and see all of the negative emotions and outdated memories that I’m putting behind me in addition to their physical counterparts.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Compact Discs

They're pretty much antiquated now, aren't they? So, here's my question: Do I keep them or do I toss them? I have all of my music imported into my computer and I only buy mp3s now so is there any use in keeping the physical copies? Has anyone else run into this dilemma?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Where I Send My Stuff

When I say that I’m getting rid of 400 things this month, that doesn’t mean that I’m giving the garbage men on Thurston Road a workout. While a few things will inevitably end up in the trash, the large majority will be going to the Vietnam Veterans of America. There are a lot of great charities out there to donate to but these guys are my fav. Not only do your donations benefit a great cause (50% of the funding for veteran programs comes from donations), but they’ll come right to your house to pick up your donations and you don’t even have to be home. Here’s the official list of acceptable donations from their website:

• Clothing of all types & sizes (men’s, ladies, children’s, baby’s)
• Clothing accessories – purses, belts, ties, wallets
• Shoes (all kinds)
• Baby items
• Houseware, glassware, and home decor
• Books, toys, bikes
• Stereos, radios, and other electronics
• Bedding, linens, draperies, curtains
• Kitchenware
• Usable small furniture & rugs
• Small appliances
• Tools (all kinds)
• Jewelry and cosmetics

If you’re looking for a place to send your unwanted things to, you can schedule a pickup here

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

100 Things

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” –William Morris

I’m no packrat; in fact I’m quite the opposite. If they had a show that was the exact opposite of Hoarders that showed people living in unreasonably clean houses with organized junk drawers, I’d be the poster child. Even being as tidy as I am though, I still have a ton of stuff, especially so because I haven’t moved in a few years. I’ve been meaning to go through everything and do a major purge for a while now but just haven’t made the time. What better time than now though, at the start of a new year?

A few months ago, a friend posted a link on Facebook to this article titled, Living Better With Less. It’s a segment from the nightly news that discusses our culture’s fascination/obsession with material possessions and how some people are learning to let go of it and live with less. I’ve always been one for simple and minimal living (building a tiny house in my parents backyard is still my plan B), so the story really struck a chord with me. One of the guys that they interviewed started an online minimalist movement called the Cult of Less, and has pared down everything he owns to a mere 100 things. While half of me romanticizes the notion of radically minimizing, the other half thinks that my house would look really empty and unwelcoming, and that someday I’d regret dropping all of Grammy’s china off at the Salvation Army. So where's the balance?

As the William Morris quote from above says, I try to only keep things in my possession that are either practical or beautiful (or sentimental) and my goal for January is to uphold that standard to everything I own. This month is my own spin on "Living Better With Less" where I’ll be getting rid of 100 things per week, rather than paring down my belongings to 100 things total. It may sound like a lot, but I managed to clear 70 things out of just my bedroom closet yesterday so I'm feeling hopeful that at the end of this month I'll indeed be 400 things lighter.

And speaking of 100 Things, I’ve still got 100 hammers (well, 50 or so) in my bedroom that are dying to be shipped out so please let me know if you’re interested in participating.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 Lent in Review

In looking back on 2010’s lent lineup, I have to admit, it looks a little skimpy compared to ‘09. I started the year off pretty slow, only completing 2 challenges from January-June, but managed to turn things around in the summer and get through 5 months of lent from July-December. I would have loved to do something each month like I had intended, but sometimes life gets in the way, and your priorities shift. Truth be told, last winter was a very difficult time for me personally so it comes as no surprise that I didn’t have it in me to tackle anything that demanded extra energy. Once the clouds started to part in the Spring though, I was psyched to get back on board and full of ideas to take me through to the end of the year.

From forcing myself out of a slump with Fun February, to making a living on a budget less dreary in Miser March, to eating my fair share of fruits and veggies in July and August (especially kale!), and figuring out how to get Back to Balance in October and November, it really was an incredible year filled with wonderful adventures and much personal growth. Blogging about my experiences has not only served as a way to hold myself accountable for actually completing these challenges, but also as a way to stay connected with friends and family and to continue to motivate and inspire myself to be a better person.

As for 2011, the Back to Balance lent from October and November laid the perfect foundation for the new year, and because of those dedicated two months, I feel like I truly am living a more whole and balanced life. Reflecting back on my physical, emotional, and spiritual states from this time last year, it’s amazing to see how much better, stronger and more at peace I feel, and I really do have the 12 Months of Lent to thank.

Happy New Year, looking forward to all that 2011 has to bring.