Welcome to my home!

I recently declared “I want to do a photo tour of my apartment, once I clean it and purge everything I haven’t used in the last six months.”

Guess what?

Yep. Cleaning marathon.

I spent about eight hours cleaning my apartment, assembling all my to-purge items in a big “organized” pile, rearranging my living room, cutting a LOT of clutter stress, and making everything pretty enough to show the world on my blog.

Here is is!

First, some minor background information: My apartment has two doors – one into the living room, and one into the kitchen.  The kitchen door is there so that when people got food deliveries back in the 1920s when the building was first used, the deliveryman could come right into the kitchen and not through the whole house. I call the living room door the “front door” and the kitchen door the “back door.”

When you walk in the front door, you see this:

liv room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The couch is a Salvation Army store find, covered in a white blanket because I didn’t like the floral print it had.  The rug is three kitchen rugs that I stitched together with embroidery thread.  The coffee table is a footlocker/trunk that I spray-painted white.  My desk area is comprised of an end table that my mom and I painted white this summer, and a storage ottoman I am using as a stool until I procure a desk chair I like.  And there are a couple of my record paintings on the wall and a print of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, my favorite painting.  It used to be hanging in the center of the front wall, but I can’t put nails in the wall so it was up with 3M velcro strips and it proved too heavy.  Sad day.  I’ll paint something for the wall eventually.

liv room 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the corner by my door, featuring a bookshelf – those are all the books I own, a far cry from my initial library — and easel.  The pretty box on the floor holds some records for painting projects.  The wall has various photos and another record painting.

I left out the closet.  It’s not that exciting.  Mostly storage, and my fancy purple pea coat.  To the left of the door is my hallway, and our next stop is:

bedroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My bedroom, which is finally clean.  I have two end tables (you can sort of see one in the background) which are finally clear of ALL CLUTTER.  My end table only has a book and my phone charger on it.

One way I save space in my bedroom is with my lovely accessory storage system:

bedroom 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hats, necklaces, and earrings are displayed on the wall.  I haven’t worn a lot of the jewelry lately, so some of it will likely end up in The Great Purge of 2013.

Next up is the kitchen!

kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stove – clean.  Sink – clean. Counters – clean. Satellite bowl full of oranges – awesome. Breakfast nook – lovely, and clean! Sign stating, “It’s official – I’ve become my mother” – hilarious, and true.

Some space saving tips for the kitchen:

kitchen 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnetic knife rack under the cabinet.

kitchen 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wall-mounted hooks (love those 3M strips) for cutting board and colander.

kitchen 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoe organizer on the fridge to hold utensils.  One day soon I will get rid of those awful plastic utensils.  Also, that’s Zoe!

Lastly, the bathroom:

bathroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All sparkling clean! And ZERO clutter, since everything fits in the vanity or medicine cabinet. Very soon that soap will be all used up and replaced with a natural alternative! Also, note my cat’s fancy top-entry litter box, full of eco-friendly and cat-friendly paper litter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tour!

 

Mid-year checkpoint

I moved into my first apartment All By Myself on June 15, 2012.  It’s been over six months, which means it is time to take a hard look at my belongings and evaluate what I have and have not used in the past half-year.  The way I see it, if I haven’t used it in six months, I’m not very likely to use it in the next six months either… and then I would have been holding onto stuff for a year!

When I began my minimalist journey, I decimated my stores of stuff and things and belongings and clutter.  I got rid of every long-sleeved blouse in my wardrobe because I don’t like long-sleeved blouses.  I got rid of over a hundred books, movies, and CDs. I got rid of pants with the tags on because I knew I wouldn’t wear them.  I got rid of a mountain of dress pants because I wound up getting a full-time job that requires jeans as daily wear.  I have four plates, bowls, cups, mugs, spoons, forks, and butter knives.  I did not own a metal baking pan.  I only bought three pots and pans for my new place.  I don’t have an iron, much to my mother’s dismay.

And still, I think there’s too much.

This six-month checkpoint will allow me to take a look at my closet and see what’s still on a backwards hanger.  It will allow me to take a more intense look at my CD, DVD, and book collections still remaining and really decide if I need them or not.  I have been feeling the need to purge, and I am excited to go through my stuff again.  I am no longer sure if “fit everything into my car” is my ultimate goal, but I do know that I’d like less stuff taking up space.  I might even rearrange my few pieces of furniture, or add a desk.  You never know!

The reverse 100 things challenge

I wrote before about the reverse 100 things challenge, in which I planned to purge 100 items before the end of 2012.  I only got rid of about 20 things, but I think I can reach 100 things by the end of January!  I’ll consider that my January challenge.

Monthly challenges

I think 2013 will be full of challenges — some from life (you can never avoid those) and some from me.  Each month I would like to challenge myself to do something “minimalist.”  January will be the mid-year purging of my belongings since I moved in and the finishing up of the reverse 100 things challenge.

Other ideas include not using a microwave for a month, not buying prepared food at the grocery store for a month, Project 333, repurposing items into something new, not buying anything new for a month, not buying anything for a month, and others I’ll think up along the way.  These monthly challenges will be in addition to my year-long commitment to eliminate disposable cups!

 

Decluttering the car

It is so easy to make a mess in the car.  You’re driving and eating, driving and talking, driving and dealing with a dog in the car, driving and listening to music… very rarely do we just get into the car and drive somewhere in silence without touching any other object.  Thus, our car gets dirty.  CD cases, pens, change, grain pellets from a drive-through wildlife safari, name tags from old jobs, magnets, newspaper, fast food bags, beverage bottles… these are all things I recently removed from my car.

Get ready for some terrifying before photos.

I solemnly swear to stop using my floorboards as a portable trash can.

The back, where stuff goes to die.

I started by going through everything in my car and sorting it into several categories:

  • Garbage
  • Recyclable
  • Relocate
  • Belongs in the car

Garbage was thrown away, recyclables were put into recycling, and the “relocate” pile was taken inside for its fate to be decided.  But I knew it didn’t belong in the car.  My car is not a docking station for excess stuff.  Things that belonged in the car were organized.  Cords were kept in individual baggies so they didn’t get tangled when I needed them. CDs are in my visor CD-holder (still too many CDs, but at least they are not all over my car).

Now for the good stuff, the after photos:

The front seat, with floorboard garbage magically removed and a bag for trash so I don’t make a giant mess anymore.

Glove compartment! Featuring: Car manuals, GPS and cord (in a bag together), change (in a pill bottle) for parking meters, ziploc baggie with insurance card, AAA card, other cards I won’t need unless I drive somewhere), flashlight, detergent pen in case of spills, and tire pressure gauge. Also napkins (not pictured).

If you think there is still a lot of stuff in my car, wait til you see what I took OUT of my car:

Ridiculous.  Good riddance!

Is your car a clutter magnet?

Love your body, clean your closet

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 was Love Your Body Day (LYBD).  LYBD seeks to encourage women (and men) to, clearly, love their bodies.  Stop fixating on the things you hate about your body.  Stop wishing it was different.  Stop worrying about numbers on a scale.  Stop negative self-talk.  Stop reading magazines that promote airbrushed models as the desired shape and size for beauty.  Stop letting other people’s words get you down. Here’s a secret: They aren’t always happy with their bodies either.

A pants size will not make you happy.

To bring this idea around to a practical minimalist application, I’d like to talk about the clothes in your closet, wardrobe, or dresser that do not fit and do not make you feel fabulous.

Holding on to clothes that are too big, just in case, is not healthy.  You have an excuse to stop being accountable for your health because you think it’s okay since you’ve got a pair of fat pants. First off, stop calling them fat pants.  Someone else out there just calls them pants.  They may like their body just how it is, and you calling their pants “fat pants” just adds another little layer of insecurity that society is throwing at them.  Stick to the clothes that fit you.  “But what if I gain weight?” Then you buy bigger clothes when you gain weight.  Keep yourself accountable — eat a balanced diet of mostly plants, and move for thirty minutes a day, and you should maintain your weight (minus any health issues that cause extreme weight fluctuations).

Holding on to clothes that are too small, as motivation, is not healthy.  Having clothes in your closet that are too small is a body-negative reminder of your “ideal” beauty and body.  Get comfy in your body, and stop making yourself feel bad by surrounding yourself with reminders of what you’re not.  If you want to lose weight and wear smaller clothes, do it.  In a healthy way.  Which will take a while, so go ahead and take that top to Goodwill.  Reward yourself with new clothes when you do lose the weight, instead of having to look at a blaring neon sign that says “YOU CAN’T WEAR ME” every time you get dressed.

Holding on to clothes that are not your style is silly. These are the clothes that technically fit, but that you don’t wear.  Because they have a weird pattern, or you don’t like the cut, or you just don’t wear long sleeved shirts but your aunt bought it for you, or a tee shirt from high school that you have no reason to wear, or any other of the million reasons people hang on to these clothes.  If you are not wearing them, get rid of them.  Try the hanger trick.

Some guidelines:

  • Only clothes that fit you and that make you feel good deserve a space in your closet.  Anything else is not worth your time.
  • If you are pregnant or otherwise gaining weight that is temporary, a range of sizes is acceptable, but it IS possible to avoid having an entire (soon useless) wardrobe of maternity clothes.  See Miss Minimalist for more on that.
  • If you have a lot of clothes in sizes that don’t fit and you can’t bring yourself to get rid of them all, limit yourself to one box of clothes to put in storage for you to have on hand in case of weight fluctuations.
  • Don’t let your mom guilt you into keeping an ugly shirt because she bought it for you. Apply this to whatever guilt-ridden sentimental reason you have for keeping something you don’t really wear. Sorry mom.
  • When purchasing new clothing, look for items made with forgiving fabrics with some stretch, or elastic waists.  This makes the clothing more comfortable to move in and accommodates minor weight fluctuations.

What’s your favorite item of clothing, and how does it make you feel to wear it? Share in the comments!

 

To unfriend, or not to unfriend?

This post is coming from the suggestion box!

If you have a Facebook profile, you likely have many friends who you have connected with via the social media giant over the years.  However, times change, lives change, people change, and you may no longer wish to be connected to some of those friends.  Many people just let the friends list grow because it is hard to disconnect.

Why is it so difficult?  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Drama.  I’m not saying it’s right, but people tend to feel rejected or snubbed when you unfriend them  I have unfriended people who add me right back, and even send me messages demanding an explanation.  Often it is easier just to let these people remain on your list than to deal with the drama of unfriending.
  2. Office politics.  If you’re friends with one coworker but not others, it can make things awkward in the office.  Many people circumvent this drama by having an all or none policy for work acquaintances and friends.
  3. They’re family.  Many Facebookers feel compelled to accept the friend requests of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, long lost relatives, etc.  And that’s why Facebook is great, because it allows you to keep in touch with family and friends you don’t see often.  However, I have noticed that many people feel obligated to keep family members on their Friends list, even if they don’t get along or even like the person, and then they feel frustrated every time they interact with the person.

 

Whether we like it or not, Facebook is a huge part of people’s lives.  And life is too short to surround ourselves with people we don’t like, even digitally.  You do not owe it to anyone to keep them on your Friends list.  And it’s okay to say no to a request.

Evaluate

Take a look at your Friends list and evaluate the following questions:

  1. Why did I accept this request (or send it)?  Maybe you’re related, you work together, you needed more friends for a Facebook game to get more prizes, you had a class project together one time in college, your children are friends, you agree about a cause, or any other reason.  None of these reasons are good or bad, as long as they make sense to you.  Thinking about your motivation for beginning the “Friendship” in the first place can make you think more critically about why they are still around.
  2. Do I like this person? If you genuinely dislike a person and you are not actually friends, what are you doing allowing them to comment on your personal life?
  3. Is there a reason I have not unfriended them?  Maybe it’s office politics, maybe your mom expects you to keep all of your family from her side on your Facebook, maybe they’re just a perpetual boomerang and you’d rather not deal with it.  Once again, you don’t owe anyone anything.  If you don’t want Jane from Accounting seeing the details of your weekend, you can remove her from your list.
  4. Is this connection appropriate?  If you use strong language in posts or are very political or opinionated on Facebook (who isn’t opinionated on the internet?), you may want to re-think adding children, coworkers, conservative family members who may be offended, etc.
  5. Does this person add value to my life?  If you are like most people, you’re on Facebook every day.  Do your Friends add value, or do you have to sort through a lot of updates you don’t care about  to find the ones you do?
  6. Is there a better place for us to connect?  You can keep professional contacts within digital reach via LinkedIn.  You can follow friends or celebrities on Twitter, without getting all of the updates in your Facebook feed as well.  If you like someone’s photography, see if they have a Flickr profile.  You get the idea — if there is a better place to connect, look into it.
  7. Would I invite this person to my home?  If you wouldn’t want a person in your home, think hard about keeping them in your digital world.
  8. Is being Friends with this person online in any way detrimental to my mental health, or the mental health of someone I care about?  This one has a broad range of depth.  Personally, I have considered unfriending my ex-husband’s siblings — even though I am still good friends with them — simply because I am still processing my divorce and seeing my ex on their profiles may be impeding my healing process.  Other situations in this “mental health” category include people who stay Facebook Friends with someone who has assaulted, bullied, or otherwise hurt them or someone close to them, and the connection is continually upsetting.

Go through and unfriend the people that aren’t adding real value to your life,and especially unfriend the people who actively detract value.

Some other valuable Facebook tips:

Facebook has a “Restricted List” feature, with which you can block people from seeing your updates without unfriending them.  It’s a way to keep the connection, should you ever need to get in touch, but  they will not be able to see your status updates, shared links, etc.

Facebook also has privacy settings under which you can set how easy it is for people to find you.  If no one can search for you on Facebook, then no one can send you a random friend request you feel compelled to accept for whatever reason outlined above, or another.

Facebook offers a block feature for the people who you really don’t want to interact with but who won’t  leave you alone.  Get some peace by blocking them, and they won’t be able to see any of your updates or even access your profile.

You can also remove people from your News Feed.  You remain friends with the person, but their updates do not appear on your homepage.

How do you keep your Friends List under control?

 

 

Click here to unsubscribe

How often do you delete emails without reading them?

It starts innocently enough.  Maybe you signed up for emails to get a discount on your shopping trip one day, or you signed up for a card at a restaurant to get a free appetizer.  Perhaps you signed a petition to show your support for a political cause.

And now you get the email updates.

As we de-clutter our closets, our attics, our cupboards and drawers, and our homes, we sometimes don’t stop to think about digital clutter.  Seeing a full inbox can be just as frustrating as seeing an overflowing dresser drawer, and you do have the power to de-clutter the inbox as well as the tangible items in your life.

I have a post coming on my own strategy for cleaning out your inbox to make it a well-oiled machine. Today, I just want to focus on the power of the unsubscribe feature.  Those four little words will do wonders to stop the junk email from flowing into your inbox in the first place.

If you are deleting an email without reading it, ask yourself why. 

Next time, open the email, scroll to the bottom, and find in the smallest, greyest print, “Click here to unsubscribe.”  The following page may be pleading and sad as it asks you in a tiny voice if you might please reconsider and continue getting the emails.  It’s okay to click unsubscribe.  Your time, even the time it takes to click “Delete,” is valuable.  Take it back. Unsubscribe.

What have you unsubscribed from lately?

My not-so-minimalist bathroom

Hi, I’m Caitlin, and I am a recovered Just-In-Case-A-Holic.

I took the opportunity to remove everything from my bathroom while I was cleaning it, so I could take an honest look at what I had.  My findings astounded me.

I am ashamed.

How about those four brand-new deodorants? The two packs of makeup remover cloths when I hardly wear any makeup? Four bars of soap that came with me when I moved out of my ex-husband’s apartment.  Two brand new bottles of body wash for my boyfriend, two for me, plus one for each of us that was in the shower? Five tubes of toothpaste?

This has to stop.

I quickly began to sort, based on what I would keep, what I would transfer to someone else or to the donate box, and what I could toss.  Tossing was easy — old cosmetics and a hairbrush.  The transfer/donate pile got the his & hers body washes, lotion, one of those bottles of baby oil, and some other odds and ends (like my two extra pairs of tweezers).

The stuff I kept got sorted further still — would its home be the shower, the medicine cabinet, under the sink in the vanity, or in the “bathroom” bin on my bedroom shelf?  Shower and medicine cabinet stuff got put away, and here’s the rest of what made the cut:

Much better. I also left out the kitty litter scoop and toilet bowl brush. Those are givens. Plus, I didn’t want them on my bed.

The clear tote box is my “refill” box, with deodorants, soaps, contact lenses, and toothpaste.  I vow to not buy any more of those things until I use up what’s in this box.  Purple box has the overflow that I use semi-regularly but doesn’t fit in the bathroom, so it stays on my bedroom shelf — it has a hairdryer, flat iron, cotton balls, and various hair and makeup odds and ends in the zip bag.  Pink polka dot box has lady stuff in it.  The white-lid container is for kitty litter (the litter box is in the bathroom), and the small cup is a shaving kit I got as a gift for my boyfriend.

Here’s how the finished bathroom looks:

Daily things —  dental hygiene stuff, face stuff, hairbrush.

Shower stuff — his & hers body washes (to be replaced with a single bar of soap upon their demise), shampoo and conditioner, face wash, shaving cream.

In the vanity — refills, lady stuff, kitty litter stuff, extra toilet paper, and cleaning stuff.

One more step toward just enough. I would like to be rid of the excess soaps and toothpastes before I move again, so I’ll be sure to work my way through this stash before I go buying anything new.

I love how clean and light my bathroom is when I don’t have clutter all over it.  How do you keep your bathroom free of clutter and just-in-case items?

Paring down the kitchen

I recently acquired a new love in my kitchen, the TofuXpress.  If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or someone who enjoys tofu (but doesn’t enjoy pressing it between two plates and beneath a tower of heavy objects), go check it out. Right now. I’ll wait.

Just look at this beauty. I’m never going to wrap soybean curds in paper towels again!

Per my own minimalist rules… if it doesn’t get used regularly (once weekly), it is a candidate for expulsion.  Also, a popular minimalist policy is the one-in-one-out rule.  I got a new TofuXpress, so I had to rifle through my kitchen to find something to boot out in its place.

Or 42. That seems like a good trade.

I purged:

  • 2 carving knives (I’m an almost-vegan, and have only been using a couple knives regularly, and they will do!)
  • 7 large spoons
  • 4 forks
  • 9 small spoons (I kept four small spoons, four forks, and four butter knives — do the math if you dare – who needs 20 spoons?!)
  • 1 meat thermometer (which is very handy and lovely and not in any way unusable… but I no longer cook meat, so I have no more use for it!
  • 1 pastry cutter (I have lived here a month and did not know I had it)
  • 1 can strainer (a lovely invention, but I have a colander)
  • 4 cups and threaded lip-cover-things to the Magic Bullet blender (keeping the blender and two blender cups but these were superfluous)
  • 2 heart-shaped pancake molds that I used on Valentine’s Day and never again
  • 1 cutting board (I have another, why have two?)
  • 1 spatula (I have another one I like better)
  • 1 plastic spoon (haven’t used it yet, and I have others)
  • 1 cake pan (I am giving up my dream of being a confectionary goddess)
  • 1 plastic pitcher (I have one that goes with my iced tea maker)
  • 1 rice cooker/crock pot (It was a gift that I asked for so this one was sort of hard, but I have only used it once in three years!
  • Rice scoop (with cooker)
  • 1 brand new, in box Martha Stewart enamel fancy schmancy casserole dish (a gift, but in my defense, not one I asked for)
  • 2 potholders (I have another two and who really has more than two hands for hot stuff anyway?)
I still haven’t broken up my Pyrex set… here are the contents of my cabinet.  Maybe you can help suggest what’s the most necessary to keep.  I welcome any advice!

In all its glory. Help me get rid of some of that Pyrex!

I have a 9×13 baking dish, a smaller baking dish, three mixing bowls, a square baking dish, and two circular bowls I use for storing leftovers or packing for lunch.  As an added bonus, check out my nifty knife rack! I used 3M Command velcro strips (for picture hanging, if you listen to the packaging) and put up a magnetic knife rack beneath the cabinet.

What’s in your minimalist kitchen?

Boxes

I’ve been living in my flat for a week now, and six boxes remain unpacked.  I’ve rifled through them on occasion to look for something, but I have yet to put them all away.  A couple major reasons for slacking are that (1) I spent most of the week at my partner’s house, and (2) I still haven’t purchased 3M Command Hooks to hang some things, and I can’t put nails in the walls.

To be honest, I don’t even know what’s in some of them.  The decluttering fairy approves, because that means I’ll have an easier time pitching things in the boxes into my yardsale box.  A pitfall of my cleaning process is that I always wind up with one box of “junk” that I don’t get rid of but I don’t have anywhere to put it, so it just gets decluttered into a smaller and smaller box.  Minimalist Me thinks that if I can’t remember what’s in a box, the contents of the box have lost the privilege to stay in the box.  Goodbye, stuff! 

Also related to boxes, I purchased some collapsible canvas tote boxes to use for storage in my flat.  They will keep things together and provide a home for loose items, such as my “office” box for post-it notes, paper clips, etc., and an “internet” box housing my modem and wireless router. It keeps them out of the way and reduces the amount of cords I have to look at.  I’ve never been a fan of cords all over the place. I also plan to have a “cat” box, with my cat’s brush, flea medication, etc. so that all cat items are in the same place and easily retrieved. 

I am still hopeful about my goal of having all my possessions fit into my car by next summer. 

 

 

 

My new fantasy self

Miss Minimalist, my inspiration for this blog, has an excellent post on decluttering one’s fantasy self.

I’ve come to understand that the craft supplies and baking pans are part of my old fantasy self.  The one that’s getting decluttered.  I don’t really want to spend all day in the kitchen making cupcakes.  I admire and appreciate people who do (and their cupcakes, yum!) but that’s not me.  I’m not a baker.

I admit that I’m not a master seamstress, and I tossed the shirts that had been destined for a memory quilt for six years, giving up the fantasy that I would get to it someday.

All these things I’m letting go of in order to focus on other things, and now my fantasy self has swung the completely opposite direction.

I want less and less and less.

I want my entire bathroom to fit into a gallon zip-baggie.  I want my closet to fit into a backpack.  I want my kitchen to fit into a box. I want everything I own to fit into my car.

I want to declutter to my fantasy self.

I want to let go of the just-in-cases.  I want to toss the curlers and the flat-iron and just love my hair however it decides to act that day.  I want to pick a base color for my wardrobe (I love blacks and greys, but I am having a love affair with a brown button-down).  I want to break up sets and only keep the pieces I use.  I want to let go of gifts people have given me.  I want to stop buying things in bulk to save a buck, because I would honestly rather have just enough and not have to store the rest in my space.

This new desire to shed and shed and shed scares me a little but it exhilarates me.  I don’t have to be surrounded by stuff to be happy.  In fact, I am finding more and more pleasure in empty spaces every day.  I can breathe easier.  I feel happier.