clutter

The Closet Countdown: The Morning After

It’s over. My one hundred day adventure in minimalist-style clothing ended yesterday. I’m relieved and a bit overwhelmed. I doubt I will repeat The Closet Countdown any time soon. But I grew. I feel it. I see it in the pictures I posted.

I have my “lessons learned” post in the works but in the meantime, I thought I’d go ahead and post a few initial reactions while they are still very fresh in my mind.

Last night, I pulled down my two bins of “unchosen” clothing. First thing this morning, I opened them. Right after feeling joy at seeing some of my loved items, my heart sagged a bit. There were literally piles of clothes around me that needed to be sorted.

I felt buried.

So I put on the dress I’d missed the most: my Merrell Emery in Manganese Ikat. Honestly, I didn’t like it at first. I felt like the color was “wrong” or the fit felt “off”. The dress was fine. I was just in a strange funk.

I thought about how I felt the last weekend of The Closet Countdown. Brave. Bold. Creative. Beautiful even. Immediately my posture changed. My face brightened. So I decided to wear the dress for the day and take a few pics (see for yourself at the end of this post ;)).

Flattering clothes – fit, color, style, hem length, etc. – matters very much. But the real style is inside. The moment we choose to see ourselves as someone worth looking at, we become more attractive. Our confidence and freedom from fear of what others think makes our smile brighter, our posture straighter. When I feel beautiful, the world around me is more beautiful. Brighter. And I feel connected to that beauty because I have found a tiny grain of it in myself.

That’s how I decided to feel this morning when I put on my “other” Merrell Emery Dress. That’s how I hope to feel every morning. 🙂

If you are reading this, know that you are beautiful. Maybe your hair isn’t “perfect”. Maybe your shape won’t ever be in a magazine. Maybe you’ve had a few bad days in a row that kept you from smiling. But inside you is beauty. You carry it with you wherever you go. I know because today I walked out into the world and I felt it. It’s all around us. Inside us. We just have to have the courage to show it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words. I’m honored to share your company here on My Simplicity Quest.

Shine On,

G

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Minimalism and Liposuction

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“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken

Have you ever tried to lose weight? I have. You set your goals, you visualize a thinner, more muscular you. You work hard. You count calories or cut sugar or carbs or whatever. At first, it’s so easy because it’s so fun. Every minute spent working out feels like you are getting closer. Soon, your favorite clothes will fit again, your skin will glow, and everyone will ooh and ahh over the new, fabulous you. You’ve got your eye on the prize there’s no stopping you. But then maybe months weeks down the road did you start thinking oh eff this! I’m getting liposuction!?

Everything turns to rubbish. Your once-beloved salad combo makes you want to gag. Your favorite exercise guru has grown horns and uses her/his pitchfork to remind you of how you just need to work harder. Maybe you’ve lost a little bit but you still can’t zip your old jeans. And then you really must decide if it’s worth it. I call it the liposuction crossroad.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose the one with all-you-can-eat chocolate cake and potato chips.

No I didn’t (though I do love chocolate cake and potato chips). It took me a year to lose twenty pounds. Not four weeks or even four months. A year. This post is not about why I wanted to lose twenty pounds. It’s about minimalism. Really. It’s about my decision to not take the easy way out.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose the one with fewer processed foods and trails for running.

When I was about ten years old, I had a teacher tell me that I always take the easy way out. Ten. Years. Old. It was like a curse in a cheesy movie. Only she failed to tell me how it could be lifted. I had to find the “cure” on my own. I took her words and lived them and fought against them. I still do. My antidote for the curse is a constant dose of gratitude and forgiveness when I think of her. (And I think of her every time I hit those cruxes in my life.) I have to ask myself if I’m choosing the easy way out.

Here on my simplicity quest, I am at my liposuction crossroads. I just want it to be over sometimes. Throw it all overboard and get on with it. I want instant clear spaces and hours and hours to write and dance and run and think. I’m tempted to take a few boxes back up to the attic. The Minimalists, and Leo, and Courtney have become like my old Daisy Fuentes workout video. Irksome reminders of how far I have to go. I’m one phone call away from telling Clean Sweep to come and make it all better. Or go on a shopping spree.

Then I’m ten years old again. I see my teacher’s face. I hear her words. And I have to ask myself if I’m going to let this curse affect my simplicity quest and my desire to fully embrace minimalism. Will I take the easy way out by quitting?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose to take the wide open path marked by rows and rows of incinerators and shopping malls.

Not really.

I take a deep breath. I go for a run. I watch the clouds roll by overhead. I remember how much I’ve sorted through already. How good it feels to see the empty space where a box of stuff used to be. Stuff I don’t need and stuff I’ve thought about and sorted and pushed out of my life. I think about how having less of that stuff means having more time for the important things.

I remember that there are others who have chosen the more difficult path to simplicity. I find strength in their stories. I am not alone…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I took my ten-year-old self by the hand, gave the finger to the curse, and grabbed another box from the attic.

Minimalism and Buried Treasure

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“It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”
– Jane Fonda

As I sift and dig through the past, I find that I’ve collected a lot of things I don’t need – physically and mentally. Junk. Weighing me down. Slowing me down. Since my last big epiphany regarding minimalism and mental clutter, I’ve learned to enjoy the process a little more. For the first time ever, I’m living an intentional life. I’m less afraid of what I’ll find because I know that on the other side is freedom.

Recently, I found two bits of treasure in my digging. Little things to a stranger’s eye. But worth so much in my heart. After years of setting them aside, they just got buried beneath my busy life. I don’t know what to do with them yet. I’ve moved on so far that they are dusty and old. I’m older. But I believe that it’s not too late to live your dreams.

Both are from a distant past. But both remind me that my simplicity quest is not about getting rid of everything. That’s actually pretty easy. The hard part is deciding what to keep. Sifting through junk and dreams to find out what matters most to me. Belly dance matters. Love of writing poetry matters. I found the hip scarves in an old, unlabeled box in a cabinet this morning. The love of poetry I found in a coffee shop last week. Unfinished dreams worth keeping…

(Because of this post I decided to go ahead and post the poem I wrote. Lauren’s is the only blog I follow that is about writing. She is sincere, encouraging, and seems to know what she’s talking about. She inspires me to be a better writer. So Lauren, if you read this, thank you…)

Open Mic Night

I’m mesmerized
by this woman’s voice.
Whatever it is that real singers
with real talent have,
she’s got it.

Everyone knows it
in this tiny coffee shop –
a room full of broken souls.

So clear, so rich
her art reaches out.
It’s so pure…

I will never sing like this woman.

After twelve years
of public school choir
and many more years
singing Chain of Fools in the shower
I still don’t have what she has.
Even if I hired a tutor,
reserved an auditorium,
and sang with all my heart,
I could not come close
to what she brings.

Something inside me is angry.

Envious.

Not because she can sing.
But because she doesn’t have to look
to find her magic special something.
She just opens her soul
and there it is.

And me?
I’m still searching.
While I write.
While I run.
While I see the perfect beauty
in the faces of the people around me.

And someday,
when I find it…

I won’t hold back.
I’ll sit on a stool
on life’s little stage
in some remote corner of the world;
room full of strangers.

I will open my soul.
Whatever I’ve found
will shine out
and light up the night.
A reminder to all
to keep searching…

It’s never too late
to find your voice.

Stuff and Love

20130718-112020.jpgAs I lighten my load and explore many negative emotions associated with the process, I’ve learned that sometimes, the joy comes later. That’s the good news for me and for anyone else experimenting with minimalism. The joy isn’t always there right away. Well, not for me anyway. I second guess myself a lot. So this process is not any different…

I’m still working through the stuff I put up in the attic when I first started My Simplicity Quest. It’s a lot of stuff. But every day, I take down a few things and decide to keep them or get rid of them. So far, it’s just that. Making a place for the things I decide to keep and converting my boxes of old pics to digital copies is for later. Next year, probably. I must keep it simple or I will quit. I know because that’s what I’ve done in the past.

Some of the stuff is easy to toss in a box labeled “Donate”. It’s not useful, beautiful, nor does it hold special meaning for me. But other stuff is not so easy. I’m getting better. Taking a picture before I send it on helps.

I used to think I loved some of my stuff. But as I sort through all of my personal possessions (and endeavor to be honest with myself) I learn that it’s not the stuff that I love. It’s the people I associate with them. It’s the memory it represents. It’s the way I use it in my life. Stuff is just a reminder of love. My guitar reminds me that l love music. My dad’s old Dunhill lighter reminds me of his pipe and his cigarettes and the way he liked to smoke them while reading the paper. My dresses remind me that I love to feel girlie.

In a big, fat cheesy way, it’s all about love.

Yep. I went there.

(Don’t you love how you start out with an idea about what you want to write and then when you begin it grows into something else? It’s like some strange magic. It only happens when I get to the page and put it out there.)

I had a different title for this article: “Take a Picture. Say Goodbye. Let it go. “I was going to write about finding a picture of a an old backpack. How it made me happy to see it instead of sad. I had details to share about how my identity was wrapped up in that bag and all the happy memories I associate with it. The difficultly of letting it go because it was falling apart after years of use. The joy in knowing that I made the right decision.

But I guess my heart needed to know why I felt that sadness and why I felt that joy. My head and my hands gave me the answer through the process of writing. It’s about the love. Not the stuff.

Thanks for traveling with me along this path. I am quite the corny companion. But if you’ve read any of my other posts, you already know that. And you are still here. I think that’s awesome. Cheers to you and the love you find on your journey…

A Dream Deferred…Is Liberating

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What happens to a dream deferred?

– Langston Hughes

I am itching to “make it” as a travel writer. By “make it” I mean make money (even though I know it’s not about the money). I go places. Maybe not across the world with one backpack and a laptop. But I love road trips and I see adventure everywhere. And I want to share it through writing and fun photos. Lately, I’ve been researching travel writers and I even set up a skeleton profile on Matador.com. But every time I went to the page I felt something was “off”. Something inside me just wasn’t flowing into the travel articles I was writing attempting to write – even as practice.

So I unplugged from my life, did a few sun salutations, and searched my soul to find that nagging feeling. In minutes, I found clarity. This is not the time for me to be a travel writer. Oh, I know…”you gotta reach for your dreams while you can” but how can I reach for some of them when I’m bogged down in an attic half full of junk? My biggest dream is to live a minimalist lifestyle so that I can spend more time spreading sunshine. I want to get better at being a loving person (I have so far to go on this one). I want to live my goals and “do my thing” without any nagging voices inside me.

I need minimalism for my soul as well as my surroundings.

I wrote “Travel Writer” on my list of someday projects, closed my browser tabs telling me how to be a better travel writer, and exhaled. It felt so good. Like I had been carrying extra weight in my life’s backpack that I had not noticed. I went through a box of giveaway stuff with new zeal and pleasure.

I don’t know what happens to a dream deferred. But I’m going to continue on my simplicity quest to find out. This is my dream for now. Thank you for letting me share it with you. Cheers!

The Closet Countdown: Day 2

20130702-220937.jpgAs I reflect on the day, Slush in hand, I feel…peaceful, content, happy…

A rare cool front made a welcomed appearance in what is shaping up to be another brutal summer. Went for another walk/run. Spent a peaceful morning with my favorite man on the planet and a strong cup of coffee. I wore the same tank top from yesterday and thanks to the cool weather, I think it will make it another day. I ditched the leggings from yesterday and added an athletic skort for my slow run.

My black top (polyester/spandex blend) from yesterday went well with the skort and to prevent snags while doing various projects, I wore an old Starbucks apron. It’s a great, sturdy canvas and I choose it over my grandmother’s more delicate, pretty aprons almost every day. What a great way to preserve clothes.

On a podcast about minimalism, I heard a seasoned minimalist traveler say he would put his clothes on the shower floor to keep them fresh between washings. “Just stomp on them a bit while using soap/shampoo, give them a rinse, and hang them to dry.” I tried it about a year ago and found that my clothes did not dry very quickly. Earlier this year, I read a travel blog about how to hand wash. They said to roll the clothes in a towel and squish it. Then hang it to dry. That seemed to do the trick when I tried it and my clothes dried much faster. (please forgive me for not including links, I do not remember the sources at all)

So today, after a lot of hard work and sweat, I let my clothes take a shower with me. I’m trying to keep it simple so I just stomped, rinsed, rolled, and hung them to dry.

It’s only the second day of The Closet Countdown. The adventure in minimalism is still new and beautiful. I won’t promise that will post every day but I promise to try.

Thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my words. May you find something useful for your journey.  Cheers!

The Closet Countdown: T-5 Days

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 “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

The Closet Countdown almost ended for me yesterday. I hit some sort of wall. Not fear this time. Just fed up with thinking about it. Ready to just get on with it…but not really. Thinking about my things for too long just makes me sick to my stomach and I don’t want to deal with the tedium. As I stood and stared at my ten tops and now six pairs of shoes, it hit me…this might be why minimalism is not the most popular lifestyle choice.

It’s a pain. A real, brain-taxing pain sometimes. Going through stuff and making decisions about dresses and socks can be mentally exhausting and well…I’m lazy. This culling process feels like work. Feels like I should be doing something better with my time. Certainly something more “noble” or “impressive”. I almost quit.

I sat on the floor and let my mind wander as I considered really quitting. Pathetic. I know. I’m reconciled to the fact that I have these moments. Most of the time, they push me to give the finger to that discouraging voice inside my head, grab the reigns of my conflict, and ride it into the future. I have to know how this part of my story goes. If I quit now, I won’t get to know all the great things I could learn.

Yes, I’m lazy. But I’m also hopelessly curious and stubborn so that works out…most of the time. 🙂

The good news is that I’m not quitting and in preparation for the closet countdown, I went through a box of current clothing and easily got rid of half of it using my favorite Hell Yeah! method. That felt good. I still love that feeling that it does get easier (read more about how it gets easier here). It gets easier to let go. I guess that’s why I keep at this “silly” project. I’ve had a tiny taste of the mental and emotional freedom that comes from dealing with my stuff and I want more. I hope to find it as I continue to experiment with minimalism.

Thank you for wading through my rants and struggles (and triumphs!) related to minimalism. I appreciate your company on my simplicity quest. Cheers!

Best Tip for Clearing Closet Clutter: Hell Yeah!

“No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no. .” – Derek Sivers

If you don’t love it, don’t keep it. It really is that simple. But when you first embark on a simplicity quest of your own and you get to your closet, nothing seems simple. What about that dress you are going to fit into again someday? Or the skirt your mother bought you but the color looks terrible with your skin tone? Or that awesome, expensive designer shirt you found at the thrift store for only $2 that does not fit right? The shirt you wore to that special event that has a hole it in now?

To help you start out, check out this blog post by Derek Sivers (super cool guy who started CD Baby). He’s talking about the bigger picture of time commitments and hiring people but I apply it to my wardrobe (and life and minimalism) all the time. It makes culling and shopping so much easier.

Take an afternoon and go through all your clothes. Rate each item on a scale from 1 to 10 on how much you love it. Not just like it. LOVE it. It fits and flatters perfectly, is in good condition, and you love to wear it. Keep all of your 9s and 10s in your closet and put all of the 8s and lower on your bed or the floor. Now go look at your closet. It now contains only clothes you LOVE. The colors and fit and style that you want to represent to the world as you. Unique, beautiful you.

Here’s the fun part (and where I probably part ways with some other minimalists): do whatever you want to do with the stuff on the bed. Get rid of it. Hide it in you closet. Pack it up in boxes and hide it in your attic like I did. It’s your call. You don’t have to decide what to do with your dad’s old T-shirt today. You just need to see what it’s like to live with a wardrobe that you love for at lest 40 days.

You will be amazed how you feel about yourself and the world around you with this seemingly small change.

When you go shopping and you are in the dressing room with your pile of maybes, apply the Hell Yeah principle. Even if the price is amazing and you’ve always wanted one. If it doesn’t make you say Hell Yeah! about it when it’s on your body, forget it. There will be other bargains. Other treasures along the way that you will wear and wear with pride because you love everything about it.

Slowly. Very slowly, I am applying Hell Yeah! to other areas in my life due to the fact that it works so well in my closet. It feels good to have even a little bit of control and contentment in a life. It’s addicting and I want more of a Hell Yeah! life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I wish you an amazing, Hell Yeah! journey…

PS Use the above tip to help you decide what to keep for The Closet Countdown. 🙂

Minimalism + Cleaning = Awesome

In my teenage years, I was a clutter junkie. My poor carpet suffocated beneath a thick layer of random clutter and dirt. I hated cleaning and I certainly hated putting away all my stuff. Oh how adulthood changes us. The kids in my life don’t believe me when I say I am a recovering slob.

I found a surprise treasure along my path to simplicity. Minimalism makes it easier to to clean. I read about how nice it is to be able to take better care of things because you have less of them. I missed the part where that had to do with the floor.

Now I’m addicted to vacuuming. In the one room where I have focused my simplifying efforts, the carpet almost sparkles. It helps that I love my Dyson vacuum cleaner but I just can’t get over how much floor space I easily clean. Joy. Pure joy.

The less stuff I have, the less furniture I need to store the stuff. The less furniture I have, the less time it takes to clean it. Dusting is so much easier on the surfaces I have completely decluttered. I’ve simplified my cleaning products so it’s usually just a quick grab and go and I can make one room gleam with beauty in a matter of minutes. This is not true for all the rooms in my home but I’m getting there.

The road I chose to get this far was pretty long and winding. But it was worth it. Having one room that is easy to clean encourages and inspires me to finish the job and expand my hard-earned skills into other areas.

I say it all the time but it really is the little things that make a big difference.

If you are on your own simplicity quest, don’t give up. Do what works for you to stay on the road. If you do, you might find unintended treasures along the way. Like the joy of vacuuming. 🙂