Thursday, May 28, 2015

Values and House Dreams

I have imagined the house and yard that I want for a very long time. When I was 12, my best friend loved fashion and wedding magazines, and she would spend hours poring over the pictures to plan her dream wedding. I preferred to read books about architecture and landscaping, watching This Old House and The Victory Garden on PBS with my parents on the weekends (back in the days of single TV homes and no internet or cable, unimaginable to many people now). I learned about woodworking and gardening, how to transplant trees and replace old plumbing, and that plants and animals require different care as the seasons change. I grew up in a rural area, where we were far more connected to nature. We had the beach right down the street, where people fished, shrimped, put out crab traps. Our grandfather went hunting every year, bringing home venison that lasted for months. Most of the other kids participated in 4H, the local agricultural club, by raising a pig, lamb, or rabbits for show awards at the rodeo and eventual slaughter and meals for the family. The life cycle from which so many urban dwellers are severed was actively playing out all around us, and it felt vital and necessary.

But I didn’t just want a slice of nature like the rural community around me, I wanted it to be beautiful. I wanted the open, brightly lit rooms that I saw in Martha Stewart Living magazines to be in my future house. I wanted the neatly landscaped gardens that were toured on The Victory Garden, the gracefully aging hosts traveling the world for the love of plants. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, when I wasn’t imagining myself living in Hobbiton. 

I may have somewhat lost sight of that early passion as I grew into adulthood, because I got caught in the business of being adult. But those old memories came back to me yesterday, when I asked myself one question: “What are my values?”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stopping to Pet the Bunnies

Tidying came to a full stop last week due to an unexpected houseguest and impromptu trip to visit my hometown. It was good to get down to the coast, thankfully during a break in the insane weather that we've had here in Texas the last couple of weeks, but I'll be glad to get back into the swing of things this week! In between catch up cleaning and house hunting, I'm planning to begin tackling that long list of komono that Kondo recommends next.

In the meantime, it was really cool to get down to see my mother's mini-farm! She's an enterprising woman, and spends her free time building up the backyard. This last year she added a greenhouse and rabbit hutch to the goats, chickens, fruit trees, and raised garden beds she already had in place.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

KonMari Method Third Step - Papers!

I've mentioned before how much time I've spent considering this process of sorting and discarding belongings, and during that time I thought a lot about how great it would feel to get rid of all of the stuff that I felt was kind of a spiritual burden. 

After many years of struggling with depression, I had been caught in the same basic cycle:

  • Get depressed and fall behind on the house work.
  • See the clutter piling up and feel more depressed.
  • Finally have a day when I feel mentally well enough to clean and make progress for a few hours or a few days.
  • Feel overwhelmed by the task and fall behind again.

This was only compounded if there were other challenges, like stress at work or large changes in my personal life and the anxiety that comes with that.

The cool thing about the KonMari method so far is that it is so structured that I can't go wrong. I didn't feel overwhelmed because Kondo is essentially as neurotic as I need her to be in guiding the process, detailing exactly how I should go about it. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

KonMari Method Second Step - Books!

When last we met, I was gazing with some trepidation at my bookshelf and already thinking about which books I wanted to keep. Yesterday morning, after just a couple of hours of procrastination (hey, I had to finish my coffee, right?), I got down to it!

Kondo mentions in her book the difficulty many customers feel in eliminating books from their collection, and I definitely anticipated this. Books are portals into other perspectives and worlds, and when you’re faced with choosing between them, it can be tough!

One thing that I considered first off is how many books I have compared with how many books I’ve actually read in the past several years. Here’s a confession: After I received my BA in English in 2008, I basically stopped reading for a few years. Where I was reading 1-2 books a week before my degree, I went down to 1-2 books a year! This was for several reasons to which I could devote an entire post, and probably will, but suffice it to say that I have already slimmed down my collection quite a bit over the past few moves I’ve undertaken because I recognized how many books I would never read again. 

Also, books are heavy. My moving helpers (family and friends) probably love me more the less I have.

But there was still plenty of room left for improvement!

A super messy bookshelf, with books that won't fit piled on the floor.
Not my ideal bookshelf situation.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Journey to Declutter Begins!

A few years ago while reading a blog on minimalism, I stumbled across a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up which had been translated into French at the time from the original Japanese. I'm not able to read French, so I couldn't explore it further, but the description the blog author gave of how the book had impacted her life planted a seed in the back of my mind. 

Since then, I've felt a growing urgency within myself to simplify my life and declutter. Sometimes we make the assumption that people are the way they are because they've chosen to be, that they like that mess. But the reality for me was that I simply didn't know how to change! 

Fast forward to last week, when I finally purchased the English translation!  

Marie Kondo's KonMari system of tidying can be summed up pretty simply:

1. Discard any items that do not bring you joy. 
     You discard items in specific categories, rather than going room by room as most decluttering gurus recommend (ideas which have failed miserably in my experience). 

2. Decide where to store things. 
      Only after you've discarded everything that fails to spark joy within you do you begin to organize. You find a place for everything that's left, and then you know exactly where to put it once you're done using it each day. This is designed to eliminate all that extra time we spend in our off hours trying to tidy up the mess before we can clean the surfaces of our home. 

As I read the book, my instincts were singing, Yes yes yes! This is what I'd been searching for! Besides, I figured, what the hell do I have to lose?

The answer is a whole bunch of junk I don't want!

Yesterday, I got started with the first category: Clothes.