The process of decluttering

Oh, hey. I’m talking about simplifying or decluttering again. But, this time I’m not talking about decluttering that I’ve done, instead, I want to talk about the process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the different times I decluttered and thought “Aha, this is it – I’m finally finished!” Like a lot of things in life, we’re led to believe that this one magic things will change everything – this exercise routine will make us fit, this diet will make us thin, this decluttering book will fix our home, this minimalism book will make us minimalists, etc. But, it’s not true. Often, we need to try a couple times or even a couple options before we find something that works for us, that’s sustainable and that helps us see what and where the problem really was.

For me, my decluttering journey was a bit like the oft used image of peeling onion layers: The first couple of times I decluttered, I really only removed the surface junk and re-organized everything. Seeing that it hadn’t help in the long run, I decided to be more ruthless and (because I still thought I could solve problems with better storage) to buy “better” furniture options (shelves that I thought would be more useful, etc.). It wasn’t until a couple months after this that I started to think that the problem was deeper. Maybe I actually needed to do a proper purge and than simplify my life.

I started to think about moving to a smaller space, something that I had resisted for a long time because “real adults” don’t live in bachelor apartments! Wanting to move made me do a little experiment – I forced myself to live in my living room only. My bedroom became a sort of storage unit for all the things that didn’t fit in the livingroom. The experiment taught me two things: living in a smaller space is awesome (for me, anyway) and I didn’t actually want a lot of the stuff I had.

I think that it was at this point that I finally did my first real declutter. I tried to channel Marie Kondo, and I was pretty ruthless. But, even after several weekends, I still knew that more had to go – not because I had too much to fit in a space, but because I had too many “I dunnos” and “I’m not readys.” I worked on selling and donating what I had decided to get rid of and planned to revisit everything in a few months.

Then things got a bit derailed because my neighbour had bed bugs. I can tell you, you will be willing to throw away anything and everything to avoid or get rid of bed bugs. Also, living out of plastic bags and containers for several weeks makes you realize just how awful it can be to have a lot of stuff. It was nearly 2 months from the day I had to pack everything up to the day that I was finally able to put everything back on shelves and such without worrying about bed bugs. I’d gotten rid of a lot of things in those 2 months – mostly things that couldn’t be washed or dried in high heat and things that were ruined by being washed or dried in high heat.

Immediately after that, I was offered a bachelor unit that I loved. I was still tired and stressed from the bed bugs, but I really wanted to new space, so I found myself selling/donating furniture and things in a mad fury, trying to get down to a reasonable amount of stuff for the new apartment, which was half the size on my one bedroom (and, yes, I was bed bug free then, so I didn’t put other people at risk). It was exhausting and I knew that I would need to rethink pretty much everything I kept because my new space simply didn’t have enough room, despite getting rid of so much before I moved. It felt like I’d gone back to having that too full apartment I’d started with – there were piles of things that didn’t have a home, boxes with detailed inventories so I could find things, and all my closets were crammed full.

At the time, I decided to just leave things and allow myself to live in the space for a while. I wanted to get a feel for what I wanted the space to look like and for how I used the space. Also, I wanted a break from decluttering, selling, and donating.

I did do a couple purposeful reviews, but as pleased as I was with my work, weeks later I would realize that I’d only skimmed the surface. By then, I’d decluttered so often, I think I was starting to feel burnt out from the efforts. So, I put off any big work for several months. 

I don’t know what spurred it, but this past Christmas, I finally did a really big job that took several days. It was huge for me. It was when I finally realized that I had to do something about my unread book collection (175-ish at the time – way too many for a slow reader) and when I realized that I was going to have to go back to my craft and sewing supplies to be really ruthless when I had the energy. Even though I hadn’t tackled the craft supplies, things finally started to fall into place. Someone asked me if I was moving, and it occurred to me that for the first time since my mom died, the idea of moving didn’t terrify me: I could afford it and I didn’t have too much stuff.

That realization was so liberating. Suddenly, my space didn’t just look better and more organized, it actually felt better. I no longer felt shackled in place by my stuff. This gave me the energy to tackle those last few areas (my craft supplies) with renewed commitment to only keep what I would use and what I truly loved. I only kept about a quarter of everything, and I don’t regret a single decision. 

At long last, I think that I’ve finally hit that magic spot. After all these years of peeling back layers and layers, I finally feel like I’ve reached a point of equilibrium – I have what I need, I use what I have and nothing owns me. For the first time, I can list specific items that I still need to make a decision about (before, it was whole categories):

  • I have a duvet cover that I bought to use as a summer “blanket”. It was an impulse purchase, but I want to wait and see if I’ll use it this summer before making a decision about it.
  • I have a few items in a “maybe” box, but already know that I only want to keep 2 of  them (a couple books), so I’ll clear that out later today.
  • I’m still on the fence about my slow cooker. I used it weekly when I first bought it, but I prefer my stove top recipes.
  • I have a large Ikea tray that’s beautiful but fairly useless in my space. I used to use it when I was working on projects on my bed (as a flat surface to hold things), but I’m trying to avoid using my bed for anything but sleep, so the tray can go.
  • I have my unread shelf, but I’m working on that as part of a separate project.

 

The reason I’m writing about this is because I want you to know that it you’re trying to declutter, simplify, or minimize – do it, but don’t expect miracles. Most people probably won’t have the long journey I had, but some will. Be patient, both with yourself and with the process. Keep working and have the courage to be ruthless. Find inspiration (books, videos, podcasts, friends and family, etc.). Finally, be aware that you may need to repeat the process a couple times – getting rid of some things may result in the realization that you don’t need other things.

Advertisements
Posted in Random Thoughts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Things I got rid of recently

I’m starting to work on digging out my eco-friendly self. She’s been hidden under layers of guilt, stuff, and other things. But, I did a kitchen review last weekend and she came out to point to a few things I needed to get rid of in order to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

The kitchen review happened a bit unexpectedly. I got home from work after a long and stressful week/day, and just started. I hadn’t even unpacked my backpack, I just dumped out my junk box (a small box for random things that I keep in one of my kitchen drawers) and started to sort things. I knew of a couple things that I wanted to get rid of, but I ended up spending about 2 hours doing a fairly ruthless job in my tiny kitchen. I got rid of things I didn’t want, things that I’d been meaning to replace, food I didn’t like (to be donated, where possible), spices that were old, etc.

Of note, I got rid of the following:

  • Baggies: I’ve wanted to get out of the habit of using baggies for ages, but I keep finding an excuse to buy “just one more box.” I have more than enough containers (mostly glass, but a few old plastic ones, too), but I kept telling myself that baggies were so convenient. Worse, I’d tell myself that I’ll wash and re-use them even though I hate washing them and would rarely follow through. Like .. just … gahh! I can be so lazy sometimes. No more, my friends! They’re gone (left in the laundry room for someone else to use them – hopefully, they’ll re-use them).
  • Silicone spatulas: I’m mostly getting rid of these because they are old and falling apart. Silicone, while not as eco-friendly as natural products, isn’t as awful for the environment as plastic is: it’s non-toxic, it is more resistant to degradation in extreme conditions, and it has a longer lifespan. This post by EcoLunchbox is a good overview of how silicone is better than plastic. This doesn’t mean we should all run out and buy silicone items, but if you must have a rubber spatula, make sure it’s good quality silicone. Personally, I’m going to try living without a rubber spatula. Spoons, knives and such may not be quite as effective as a silicon spatula, but I’m willing to put in the effort needed to get as much out of the jar as I can. 
  • Large plates: I had 2 large plates and only used them once or twice a year (when I was desperate and had nothing else clean). Instead, I use my salad plates or bowls for every meal. It’s a little thing, but it felt liberating to finally admit that I had no reason to keep these space hoarders. And, I now have more room for my bowls and mugs, which I use daily.
  • A large water bottle: Most people I know keep tonnes of water bottles. I was one of those people. Before I moved to my smaller apartment, I had at least 6 in varying sizes and then another 4 or so travel mugs for hot beverages. Me! One person! It took me a long time to admit that I didn’t need them all. I use a large one at work daily, and I used a large one at home for reasons that I can’t quite figure out. I live in less than 350 square feet and my sink is easy to get to – I do not need a water bottle at home! Especially not a water bottle with a narrow mouth that made it hard to clean (rarely bothered, so it was always a little gross). Instead, I’m going to use my easier to wash mug that I love and, if I feel the need to be lazy, a pitcher of water. As for water bottles, I now have one large water bottle for work, one medium water bottle for travel/walks/etc (so I don’t have to remember to bring my work one to/from), one old insulated travel container that works like a charm even on long walks in Canadian winters, and one brand name travel mug that happens to be really pretty (admittedly, I don’t need this one, but it’s so pretty!). It’s still more than I need, but it’s manageable and I use them all.

Sometimes, it’s the little decisions that make a big difference. I’m really pleased with myself for letting go of these things.

All told, I got rid of a banker’s box full of stuff that I don’t use: mugs, a muffin pan, a few random utensils, etc. But, the best part was that I finally have room for all my kitchen stuff in my kitchen. Heck, I have some empty cupboard space and I can now keep like with like (for example, all of my containers are in the same cupboard – before, my extras were stored elsewhere).

It felt really good and it helped me to finally get around to reviewing the few other areas that I kept meaning to review (namely, my outdoor gear – I got rid of a lot of hats and scarves).

And, yes, I do still have my “junkbox”, but it now has a defined purpose (holder of tape, pens, etc.) and it’s no longer full of random things. 

Posted in Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Simplifying in layers

Based on the number of times I’ve talked about simplifying or decluttering, you must think that I was either a hoarder in the beginning or that I’ve been continually buying new things after each declutter. And, it’s true that, at one point, I used every bit of space I had, kept things like cardboard boxes “just in case,” hesitated to get rid of mystery cables, etc. And, to be honest, the first couple of times I decluttered, I did so as excuses to get new things. So, maybe you wouldn’t be completely wrong to make those assumptions about past me. 

Present day me is just working through the final layers and trying to figure out priorities. For me, each layer I removed (i.e., each time I got rid of stuff) meant loosening the grip that obligation and shame had/have on me and allowing myself to reconsider things that I previously refused to get rid of – that extra water bottle, those expensive craft supplies, etc. I’m starting to get down to what I truly need and want in my life and I’m starting to be reminded of who I am and who I always aspired to be. The whole process has had some great consequences, like my recommitment to sketching regularly, which is something that brings me a great deal of pride and joy (even though some of my daily sketches are rushed and/or very rough).

As I remove the excess, I become more engaged with what’s left and find more clarity about what I want out of life. I know that sounds all woowoo new age-y, but it’s true. Until recently, I’d been ignoring the eco-chick inside. All through high school and university (my undergrad, anyway) I was dedicated to being an environmentalist – not just recycling, but making conscious efforts each day to be eco-friendly and working on conservation.

“But, Anne,” I hear you say, “You’re working a desk job in information management, which has little to do with conservation.”

Yeah, I kind of got derailed there with trying to make other people happy (i.e., seeking other people’s approval for what I did with my life) and trying to navigate myself into what I thought would be a “next best thing” career. Sadly, I also let that derail the rest of me – my inner artist, my inner eco-friendly citizen, etc. But, that’s all starting to come back. This year, I’ve been sketching and playing with art every day. I’ve also been using my motto (slow) as an excuse to explore and recommit myself to eco-friendly living.

And it’s been great! My personal life feels so freaking much better since I started working towards these endeavours. I’m more excited about life, I’m more eager to embrace the day (even Mondays), I’m making time to learn (or re-learn) about the issues, and I’m even trying to find more low-waste options (for example, yesterday, I bought loose roma tomatoes instead of packaged grape tomatoes – the recipe still turned out freaking awesome and the only piece of waste was an elastic that came with the cilantro, which I will re-use!).

So, yeah.

I think I’ll talk more about those sorts of things here because they matter to me and they’re part of my daily life. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you some ideas about ways that you can be more eco-friendly, too.

Posted in Random Thoughts | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The unread shelf project: February update

This month, I did the opposite of last month – I didn’t stress out about library books! In fact, I borrowed a lot of library books. It’s weird to think that library books were causing me so much grief last month, but I welcomed them this month. Clearly, I’m a bit fickle about some things.

I think the library book issue comes back to one of the many reasons I don’t want to have a large unread shelf (5 books or less is my target). Sometimes I want to read or research something new, I’m one of those people who often feels obliged to read what I already have before I read borrowed books. I know it’s silly, but I haven’t yet been able to let go of that feeling. And, this month, I became really interested in low-impact and zero waste options, so I borrowed a number of eco-living and zero waste books. Granted, I only skimmed through most of them, but that’s still time taken away from reading books I already own. And, just yesterday, I picked up 3 novels from the library (all very short, but still …).

 

Thankfully, my unread pile is getting smaller. This is partly because I’ve been keeping up with my reading, but mostly because I seem to have developed a habit of reviewing my unread book collection at the beginning of the month. In February, this led to 16 books being donated. And, despite still being within the first few days of March, I’ve already pulled a couple of books from my unread shelf to be donated because I lost interest in the books (note to self: don’t buy books unless you can get to them quickly, otherwise you’ll probably loose interest and it’ll end up being a waste of money).

In February, I removed 23 books from my unread shelf:

  • Read: 5
  • Quit: 2
  • Donated: 16

And, I added 1 new book. Technically, I bought 2 books this month, but one of them was a cookbook, so it’s not part of the unread shelf (also, it’s great and I’ve already found a couple new favourite recipes). I’m expecting a book that I pre-ordered in December and I ordered a poetry book (book buying ban be damned!), but that won’t arrive until end of March or early April.

Because I want to be accountable, here are the books I’ve purchased:

  1. The First Mess Cookbook, which was a planned purchased. I reviewed a library copy first and decided that I would likely use if often. So, I made a bargain with myself: if I got rid of one of my current cookbooks, I could buy this new one. In the end, I got rid of two old cookbooks (and put one on probation). The new cookbook is fantastic. I’ve already used it a couple of times and discovered a few new favourite recipes.
  2. The Good Lands which was a reward for my unread shelf progress. I have a points system where I gain points for reading or weeding books and lose points for accumulating books (for example, last month’s ebook purchase cost me a point). I use it as a reward system: every time I accumulate 40 points, I’m allowed to buy one book without penalty (no lost points and no guilt). Because of all the books I weeded in January and February, I was allowed to buy my first reward book much sooner than I’d expected and I went all-out with this art book that I’ve been itching to buy for a while. I was very excited to get it – doubly so because it was a reward for sticking to my plans.

So, my current tally sits at:

  • 37 physical books (2 books in progress)
  • 3 magazines
  • 6 audiobooks, plus 3 unused credits (no audiobooks currently in progress)
  • 17 ebooks (1 ebook in progress)

I feel like my numbers might be off by one or two, so I’ll re-count everything later this month. But, my chart looks good! It doesn’t include all the books I donated at the beginning of January (or all the books I donated before I officially started this project), so February looks really impressive!

Capture

The projects continues to be a success for me, though I’m worried that it will stall a bit as my numbers reduce, partly because I’ll have a reduced sense of urgency and partly because I might have a harder and harder time weeding the unread books. If I find it stalling, I may consider implementing some rules (“rules”) around library books. Whitney, the originator of the unread shelf project mentioned that she only borrows one library book at a time. This might be a good idea for me, but I might modify it to allow for audiobooks. Maybe one library book (paper or ebook) plus one audiobook.

If you’re doing the #unreadshelfproject, I hope it’s going well for you!

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Release Day to Floodgate Poetry Series Volume 4

I’m attached to the indie publisher who publishes the Floodgate Poetry Series, Upper Rubber Boot (URB), through being friends with the publisher and being a bad volunteer (slacker!). But, this post is my own and not requested or required by URB. I just want to share my love for the series!

I love the Floodgate Poetry Series. I’m not always a big fan of poetry, but I will always buy a new volume of Floodgate.

Volume 1 was my first introduction to the format – three chapbooks (short collections of poetry) combined to make a book with three different voices and topics. It’s pretty brilliant because you get enough poems to discover the poet(s) and get a good sense of their style, but you also get more then one poet.

Volume 2, specifically the section by Judy Jordan, did things to me that I didn’t know poetry could do to a person. I still feel a sense of sorrow and beauty when I think about it, despite the fact that it’s been two years since I read it. I could smell the earth and flowers as I read her words. It was a delightful read.

Volume 3 was fascinating. One section was a conversation in poems between two fathers, F. Douglas Brown and Geffrey Davis. The concept was  new to me. I knew poets could collaborate or talk to others through their work, but it never occurred to me that they might use their poetry as the discussion (think in terms of letters sent back and forth, but in poems).

And, now there’s a fourth. Today is it’s release day. You can buy it on Amazon, or you can order it from your favourite local indie store (check out Indiebound to find a local store and if there isn’t one nearby, consider asking an indie store if they’re ship to you … basically, support indie book stores because they’re awesome and deserve your love).

I know nothing about the 3 poets featured in Volume 4 because I’ve purposely not looked them up (I like the idea of everything being new to me). When I get it (probably not for a couple of weeks because it takes a long time to get it shipped to Canada), I’m sure I’ll let you guys know just how fabulous it is. The poets are Regina DiPerna, Ryan Teitman, and Paisley Rekdal.

And, if you have any interest in poetry, consider checking out this or past volumes.

Also, can we please talk about the gorgeous cover! This will be a book that I’ll want facing out on my bookshelf so that I can admire the art everyday. The piece is by Siolo Thompson, who has a fascinating Instagram feed.

FG4-front-fullsize

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Book review: The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

IMG_20180216_230055_712.jpgAt the end of December, I read and was utterly delighted by Hazel Gaynor’s The Cottingley Secret. I was so utterly charmed by the story that I immediately looked for more books by Gaynor. The Last Christmas in Paris was recommended by some book club members.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. [from the book summary]

It starts off innocently enough – letters between Evie and Will or Thomas talking excitedly about the adventure and their plans for Christmas. But, as the reality of the war slowly sinks in, we start to see not only how Evie and Thomas’ relationship evolves, but also how the war begins to affect everything: their relationship, their families and friends, mental and emotional health, and England as a whole.

One of the things I liked about the book was that it gave equal weight to the relationships and to the war. Obviously, the war affects the relationships, but wars can also have huge impacts on individual people and whole societies. The authors were honest about many of the impacts – fear, courage, miscommunication, and trauma. I really appreciated this. I liked that the book wasn’t just about a romance and that there was a good balance between the relationship and all the things that could affect it.

I found this to be the case in some other unexpected favourites: Jennifer Robson’s Goodnight from London and her The Great War series, Teresa Messineo’s The Fire by Night, and Jessica Shattuck’s The Women in the Castle. Robson’s books and their honesty about war introduced me to the idea that novels with romances weren’t all sickly sweet or overly dramatic (I had a long standing  hatred for romance novels or anything similar, which she proved was based on my prejudices about what I expect romance novels to be like – now I’m more open to books that focus on a romantic relationship). Messineo’s book pushed the romance to the back and was surprisingly honest about the trauma that women suffered during World War II (yes, we often forget that women served during WWII and that they were sometimes right in the thick of things, not always safely away from the action).

The Last Christmas in Paris starts full of naïveté and the main female character held that naïveté for a long time, but that’s not surprising as she was sheltered from the war to some degree. It allowed her to be jovial and even a little selfish (expecting to hear back, looking to her friends for comfort and support while they were facing war, etc.). It also allowed her to skirt around the possible romance budding between her and Thomas. It was very interesting to read her naive perspective while knowing the truth of the war.

I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the jumps to the future (late 1960’s, if I remember correctly). I felt that the story in the letters held its own and didn’t need the occasional distraction. Though, I know some people found that a story told in letters was odd, so they may have appreciated having the stage set by these interludes.

And, yes, I did find the rival to be ridiculous at times. The rival came off as an arrogant jerk and I kept having to remind myself that Evie would have had to seriously consider a good marriage in her time, even if it did mean marrying someone she didn’t love. That’s how things worked in those days, and I’m eternally grateful that we got out of that habit in Western society.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I appreciated the way it was told (in letters). I’m finding that I really enjoy Hazel Gaynor’s books and I’m looking forward to reading more. I have A Memory of Violets waiting on my unread shelf and I think I’ll try to get to it sometime soon. 

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get rid of things with purpose, not frustration

Just over two years ago, I posted about doing a big declutter. It wasn’t the first time I’d decluttered, but it was the first time I’d been really serious about it without necessity looming over me (like when I moved across the country and couldn’t afford to move everything with me). It was hard work, but I kept at it until I thought I knew what I wanted to keep and what would have to go if I decided to move to a smaller space.

Then, my neighbour had bed bugs that weren’t taken care of quickly enough, so I got rid of more things out of the fear of the bed bugs persisting for another month. Then I moved, quite suddenly, to a space that was about half the size (my current apartment), so I got rid of even more things.

I remember sitting on my bed a couple of weeks after the move thinking, “wow, I hardly have anything left!” I knew that I would need to do a review of everything after living in the space for a few months, but I thought I’d done a pretty good job of reducing my belongings to a level that Marie Kondo would approve of – the necessities, plus the things that made me happy. I thought that I’d hit maintenance mode: a quick annual review; practicing the one in, one out rule; adjusting for changing habits; and continuing to work on that balance between minimalism (or, some variation thereof) and frugality.

But, this past December, I realized that I still had some work to do because I’d been too lenient with myself when it came to art and craft supplies.

I’d started working on an old quilting project and quickly realized that I didn’t want to finish the project. I was working on it because I felt like it needed to be completed, not because I wanted to complete it or had any interest in the finished quilt. So, I quit and pick up another project … which I wasn’t interested in either. Looking at my mass collection of art and craft supplies, I realized that I had so many projects that I’d lost interest in or that simply didn’t fit with my decor or my new space. As I started going through everything, I realized that I didn’t need or want half of what I had, that I didn’t have the time or the inclination to work on most of the projects and patterns I’d kept. Most importantly, I really hated feeling overwhelmed by the very things that were supposed to be feeding my creativity.

I got rid of half my sewing, stitching, painting, and general art supplies. I then:

  • got rid of a third of my linens (bedding, etc.) to make space so that I could make my art and craft supplies more accessible (easy to get to in drawers, instead of crammed into boxes in a hard to access part of my closet)
  • got rid of some more clothes to make room in my dresser and an embarrassing number of books to make room on my shelf.
  • (because I was on a roll) I tackled my bathroom, front hall closet, and most of my storage closet.

At that point, I ran out of steam and simply made a note of any areas that still needed to be reviewed.

I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff I got rid of or the number of things I was adding to a “review in two months” list (i.e., things that I wasn’t sure about and wanted to come back to when I wasn’t frazzled from a weekend of cleaning, sorting and decluttering).

It’s only been a month and a bit, and I’m already seeing a huge difference. It’s easier to relax when everything has a home (i.e., isn’t sitting around in little cluttered piles), it’s easier to access everything, I’m more likely to remember about and use supplies that I can now get to without much effort, and I now have a better idea of what projects I want to complete.

I’ve also started to see a pattern in what I get rid of and what I keep. Almost everything that I keep is stuff that I want to use right now and almost everything I get rid of is stuff that I thought I might need, that I bought just in case or (in the case of crafts, etc.) that I bought because I read too many articles about “sewing essentials” or “tools you need for cross stitching.” I did not need a stash of fat quarters, a dozen basic thread colours, the “essential” watercolour colours, extra cross stitch linen, a dozen instructional books, or a giant bag of polyfill (for stuffed toys, which I never make). Like with books, I did not need buy things while they were popular.

Even now, I think I can get rid of more. And, it amazes me how much stuff I acquired while being totally convinced that I was only buying what I needed. All the money and all the time I’m now taking to sort through it – wasted! What was I looking for when I bought all those things? Was I looking to fill figurative empty spaces in my life? Was I looking to find that craft/art that I would fall in love with? Did I think that I would be an expert if I just had the prettiest fabrics and the most complete collection of tools? What the hell was I thinking?!

I can see why some people take minimalism to the extreme because I’m half inclined to just toss everything and start again, accumulating things only as I need them. Recently, I decided that I could buy a new cookbook (one that I found at the library and know that I will use), if I was willing to get rid of another cookbook. So, I pulled two. Then I pulled 2 books from my unread books and a couple more books from my read books. Then I tossed half my paint brushes (finally getting rid of the crap ones), the quilt that I was holding on to just until I had a chance to finish one I’d started 2 years ago, some linens that I stopped using a couple weeks ago, and … I nearly pulled out my fabric stash with the intent of getting rid of all of it! But, I realized that I needed to stop, breath, step away and think about it.

Some of the many fabric collections I created this week. Most are options for a quilt along, but some are just happy accidents.

Getting rid of things I don’t need is a good thing. For me, it’s been really liberating and it’s helped me to see past who/what I’ve been trying to be for years and start focusing on who/what I want to be now. But, I want to be thoughtful about it. I want to be sure that I’m getting rid of things with purpose and not just out of frustration.

I did end up getting rid of some more fabric (not much, but enough to make sorting it in bins a bit easier), but I did so thoughtfully. I pulled it all out during the day and considered what I would make with the fabric and if the fabric worked for my intended project (ex: if it was the right fabric for a cushion cover and if I would actually use the cushion cover).

Taking the time to be thoughtful did mean that it took a bit longer, but I also don’t regret the decisions I made about what to keep and what to toss. And, I think that’s a big part of why my motto (slow) is a good one for me this year. I’ve reached a point of frustration where I’m at risk of making hasty decisions and I need to remind myself to slow down and breath before jumping into something.

Do you guys ever find that you get overwhelmed and want to get rid of everything out of frustration?

Posted in Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Yoga

Forget all the usual benefits of yoga – I have never been as diligent about sweeping and mopping my floors!

To be honest, I don’t know why I started the 30 day challenge this year or why I actually kept up with it (only missing a couple of days, which I’ve since completed). Yoga has never been my thing – I lack the flexibility and balance needed for yoga. Yes, that’s a good reason to do yoga, but as someone who’s “failed” or not quite managed to succeed at just about every fitness related skill or endeavor, I’ve got to tell you that having some basic abilities is key to success. Yoga is something that I really struggle with because I struggle with just about every freaking pose and transition. I’m too fat or too stiff or too weak for yoga. I can’t hold downward dog for long, I can’t step or hop up to the top of my mat in one movement, and I can’t reach the floor in forward bend. These aren’t mental challenges I need to overcome, they are physical “impossibilities” that I hope to eventually be able to overcome, but that are problems right now.

Even with cheerful, welcoming instructors who encourage you to take your time and do things at your own pace and ability, it can sometimes be very demoralizing to practice something that involves a lot of moves you physically can’t do (yet). Convincing yourself to do something that you know you’re going to “fail” at is hard. Convincing yourself to stick with it is effing challenging and sometimes emotionally demanding.

The reason I’m trying to stick with it is because I’m trying to get back in the habit of doing something for my body each day. I figured that yoga would be a good way to get to know my body again, while also providing gentle stretching, relaxation and a bit of a challenge. Plus, it fits in with my 2018 motto quite well – I’m trying to embrace “slow” this year by slowing down, being more thoughtful, reconnecting with myself, etc.

I’ve managed to stick with daily yoga for January and I’m trying to continue that in February. It hasn’t been easy – I’ve missed several days already – but I’m still working on developing the habit.  Much of my success so far has come from the freedoms I gave myself:

  • I’m allowed to try everything
  • I’m also allowed to say no and move to a pose that I’m comfortable with
  • I’m allowed to quit a practice if it’s making me feel frustrated, sad, angry, or demoralized
  • I’m also allowed to do an easy-to-me practice if I need a break
  • I’m allowed to count a quick 5 minutes practice as my daily practice if that’s I’ll I’ve got in me that day
  • And, I’m allowed to do lots of extra yoga on the weekend if I want to “catch-up”

I started the year with Yoga with Adriene because she does a great 30 days of yoga challenge each January, and she’s so welcoming and forgiving (she’s good about reminding us that we don’t have to do the hard version of each pose and that we’re allowed to struggle). There was one practice that I quit in frustration and one that I was mad at right to the end, but most of the days were fine – not easy, but a level of challenge or modification that I could deal with. And, she put together a playlist for February which I’ve been following.

While I’m trying to avoid unnecessary purchases this year, I’m trying to do whatever I need to do to ensure success, so I bought new yoga blocks. I also made easy-to-access space to hold my yoga gear and I found a couple library books that I think will help with pose modification and, maybe, motivation:

  • Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love your Body by Jessamyn Stanley who is a plus size yoga superstar. Her book has poses, sequences, and body acceptance – all things I could use some help with.
  • Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories From Yoga Renegades for Every Body by Melanie Klein. This is a collection of personal essays. It’s not the kind of book I’d usually pick up but there is a plus size yogi on the front cover and the summary states, “Explore how body image and yoga intersect with race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, dis/ability, socioeconomic status, age, and size as part and parcel of culture and society.” Yes, please!

I hope to make yoga a habit – maybe not a daily practice, but certainly a most-days practice.

Do you do yoga? Do you know of any good novice/plus size friendly resources I might find useful? 

Posted in Health & fitness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book review: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

As a Maritimer (someone from the small eastern provinces), Anne of Green Gables was a pretty big part of my childhood. I was lucky enough to be the right age to enjoy the original TV series (1985) with Megan Follows and Colleen Dewhurst, and to visit Green Gables on Prince Edward Island. But, unlike so many of my peers, I wasn’t in love with the book. It was a nice story and I enjoyed seeing it dramatized for TV, but it wasn’t a genre that I was particularly interested in. 

This past fall, I Audible offered a free copy as part of their birthday celebrations and I decided that it would be interesting to re-read the story. Of course, I then ignored it for a couple months, but I finally listened to it. It’s still not my favourite genre, but I have to admit that I was utterly charmed by the story and found the production to be utterly delightful. And, I think that I appreciate the story and the description of the landscape much more, now that I’m older.

The performance was impeccable! Rachel McAdams, who did the full performance, was full of Anne’s sweet and somewhat frantic enthusiasm. She was able to convey the vibrant joy and dramatic sorrows in Anne’s life while still being able to pull off that almost military sternness we all expect from Marilla. It was weird not hearing Megan and Colleen’s voices, but Rachel did a wonderful job and I’m very tempted to get the next book in the series based purely on her performance.

This is one of those books that I’ll likely return to, not so much for the story, but for the performance. It was sweet and summery and everything I’d expect from Anne Shirley.

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A year of slow

I picked “slow” as my 2018 motto for a number of reasons, including the wish to be more thoughtful about things. I don’t want to set rules, but I do want to set out a few manageable intentions to keep me moving forward. So, here are the areas that I’ve decided to focus on this year:

Reading

I mentioned in my original post that I’d already planned to slow down my reading. I’m attempting to read or remove most, if not all, of my unread books by the end of the year, but I don’t want to take part in the competitiveness or need to read more more more that I feel when tracking on Goodreads. So, I’m reading what I want, when I want and I’m only sharing select updates: the occasional review and my monthly unread shelf project update. I track my reading at home in a notebook and in a spreadsheet because I like making charts.

I’m also going to stop making myself finish books, regardless of how much I’ve already read or how great the reviews have been. I’ll be more patient with non-fiction books as they can often be a bit more dry and because I picked them to learn something new. But, as a general rule of thumb, if I’m not enjoying a book, I’ll find something else to read.

Journalling

I’ve already found a better way to do this. I no longer use pen and paper because that creates to many limits for me – I have to be at home or have my journal with me and I have to print or draw things if I want to add a pictures. Keeping it digital means that I can access it anytime and I can even copy my blog posts in to keep track of my thought processes in a month.

This has also helped with time: instead of rushing to jot something down before bed, I use the time I have in the morning before work or during my lunch break to write my thoughts digitally. This has already allowed me to reflect and explore ideas and issues more fully.

Sketching

While I still want to continue my daily sketching habit, even if it’s just a silly doodle or a “crappy” sketch, I also want to give myself more time in case I’m in the mood to sketch several images or work on something more complex. This will also help me to find time to sketch ideas, practice techniques, and make notes about inspirations I’ve found throughout the day.

Fitness

We all need to exercise, but this year I want to focus on building habits instead of pushing myself to be stronger, faster, better. I also want to rediscover my love for walking and taking my jolly sweet time exploring the trails or my neighbourhood. Once I started to treat all my walks as fitness events, I started to feel like I had work harder, walk longer, and use every walk as a means of improving my fitness. Well, that backfired because I stopped enjoying it and stopped walking as much. I want to get back to a point where my walk is focused on enjoying being outside and not on trying to get in shape.

Being eco-friendly

I’m trying to work towards a more eco-conscious lifestyle. I used to be pretty hardcore about the environment, but I let other priorities and “busy-ness” get in the way.  Slow living works well with this because it encourages thoughtful consumption. For me, this means buying less, finding eco-friendly alternatives, and making my own things.

Reduce, reuse, recycle – reducing is the first and most important part of being eco-friendly. That’s why you see people who are trying to live zero-waste. I doubt I could ever be dedicated enough to be zero-waste, but I can slow down my consumption to be less-waste.

Simplifying

Tying in with the idea of reducing consumption, I also want to continue to work on simplifying my space. I know that there are still some areas with room for improvement (i.e., things that I don’t need to keep), but I would like to end the year with the comfort of knowing that I have purposely and thoughtfully made the decision to keep the things I have. This is partly because I’ve discovered that I really value living a more simplified life and partly because I want to set a good starting point for next year, when I will be working on redeveloping habits around things like book buying (i.e., not letting myself get back in a place where I have nearly 200 unread books).

That’s 6 things! They’re all things that I’ve already started to work on, things that support where I want to be, and things that will help me with some intentions I have for the future (being more eco-friendly, refocusing on my health, etc.).

I’ve already started to implement some practices that I think will be helpful. For example, I recently borrowed a cookbook, The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright, from the library and immediately wanted to buy it. Instead of ordering it on the spot, which had been my usual habit, I took some time with it. I reviewed the recipes, the types of ingredients needed, and even the author’s website. I then considered if I really needed it. In the end, I decided to buy the book – yes, I’m buying a book, but I came to that decision slowly and thoughtfully. Also, I’m getting rid of two old cookbooks that I never use.

Each month, I’m going to make a short (very short) list of things that I can work on to help me live by my motto and each day I’m going to try and remind myself to slow down, breath, reflect, and live more intentionally. This month, my list includes:

  • Remember to weed things with thoughtfulness and purpose, not just out of frustration
  • Have a nice hot bath with those bath salts you’ve been saving for a cozy night
  • Consider sketching with purpose, even if a piece takes more then one day to complete the picture
  • Take a few evenings to fill past sketches with colour, because colouring is fun

My list isn’t too serious, but it does help me work towards my goals. The challenge for me will be remembering to do these things.

Do you have a motto? If so, how are you working towards keeping that motto in mind over the year?

Posted in Environmentalism, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment