Saturday, February 21, 2015

De-cluttering and organizing office supplies and odds & ends.

The dreaded kitchen "junk" drawer. The entry way closet where miscellaneous items go to die. They don't have to be the bane of your minimalist existence!

My little weekend project was to get those two areas up and running to be functional and de-cluttered. We just had a bunch of leftover furniture assembly parts in our entry way closet, as well as some bags of items to take to Goodwill. Our kitchen junk drawer was getting quite junky indeed. I decided these areas would be the perfect place for storing necessary office and art supplies. We don't have that many office/art supplies (really, just the right amount to get us by), so merging them with the entry way closet was a great choice for us because otherwise, that great storage space in our house wouldn't really get any use. It's a good central location for storing that kind of stuff, too...especially for when the kids get older and need access to it.

My first step in de-cluttering and organizing is to pour everything out into a giant pile. We still had all our office supplies in a cardboard box from the move, and it was getting frustrating trying to do admin work with the supplies out of that box....
Using this plastic set of drawers, zip loc bags, a few labels and a sharpie, I sorted out our office and art supplies. You don't have to shell out a ton of cash to get organized. I did end up throwing away quite a bit of old items, like dried up liquid paper and packaging that wasn't needed any longer after I placed items into more compact zip loc bags.
#minimalistproblems - we have more kitchen cabinet/drawer space than we need. Two drawers in our kitchen are a bit of an "office supply/household item" extension. The one on the left has pads of paper (for jotting down quick notes), a tin box of push pins, and a tin box of markers/pens. The drawer on the right has scented wax melts that we use all the time, a lighter, flashlight, tape, scissors, clippers, kleenex, and a coupon we plan to use.

I set the office supply drawers in the entry way closet, and used two cloth bins on the shelf above for 1. umbrellas (either when guests arrive with wet umbrellas, and also to store ours) and 2. batteries, lightbulbs, hooks, miscellaneous household items. We hung the diaper bag/backpack we use when we go on long outings with the kids on a hanger to keep it easily accessible.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Work clothes haul! Replacing some items.

I've learned that when you have few clothes, it is so important to go shopping in person when you can, because you can meticulously inspect the quality and fit prior to purchasing. I was more of an online shopper for awhile, but I've realized that's not worth the vast selection for me...I'm more likely to forgive quality issues if I am trying to avoid paying return shipping or going to the effort to return. Not good. So when I needed to replace some items I got to return due to quality issues, I made myself go in person to shop for replacements.

I had success at Nordstrom Rack this time 'round!

1. Light aqua sweater cardigan. I know this one is a hit because I find myself wanting to wear it every single day. And I pretty much do, lately. And....hello, color!

2. Black skinny jeans. These are a brand I've never tried before, but I thought they fit well and were on a steep discount: Paige Denim. This brings my jeans total to 2. I like these, because I can make them look dressy and could possibly pass them as biz caz if I needed to...

3. Suit pants. Was in dire need of these. Calvin Klein is the brand of my suit jacket from 8 years ago that I still wear today, and these pants are the same brand and same material - SCORE.

4. These are black work slacks as well, but they are a wider leg cut and more of a silky, lightweight material. Perfect for summer, but I've been wearing them in the cold too, and they work.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

My jewelry collection and minimalism.

On the 0-10 spectrum of ultra-minimalist (0) to hoarder (10), I'd say I'm at a 3 out of 10 on my jewelry collection. I am working toward a collection of jewelry that is right for me, with little to no excess. The great thing about jewelry is that it doesn't take up a lot of physical space, so having a little bit of a collection isn't that heavy. If I ever have a weak spot for hanging onto anything at all, it's definitely jewelry. While I go back and forth between liking bold costume jewelry versus dainty pieces, I've found that I now place more value on higher quality items. Quality over quantity, for sure. Of course, my daily wear collection does have a few inexpensive items (but still high quality, and really beloved by me), and my "heirloom" keepsake collection has a couple of pieces with little monetary value as well....but it's not so much about the price as it is how much you use it or value it for historical purposes. However, I have to be careful with that very last phrase....it starts to sound like an episode of Hoarders...ha.

After going through all my jewelry today, there were five categories. I will go into detail on the contents of the first two down below.

1. Stuff to wear on a regular basis, 
2. Stuff that I don't wear, but has monetary or sentimental value (the key here is something that could be valuable to my kids someday).
3. Stuff that I don't wear any more, but would be able to sell (in the process now)
4. Stuff to give away - to friends, friends' teenage daughters, or whoever would wear it or appreciate it more often.
5. Stuff that has unfortunately broken and can't really be repaired...so should be recycled or disposed of.

I have pics of the first two categories:

Jewelry I wear on a regular basis (10 items)

1. Pearl necklace (wedding gift from husband) 2. Citrine James Avery silver birthstone necklace (gift from husband) 3. Fossil rose gold watch (5 year anniversary gift from husband) 4. Large iridescent Kendra Scott studs 5. Tiny diamond studs (bought first trip to St. Maarten) 6. Gold college ring 7. Wedding ring and engagement ring 8. Kendra Scott iridescent cuff 9. Rose gold titanium Caribbean Hook bangle (birthday gift from parents; bought during second trip in St. Maarten) 10. Stella and Dot "Devon layering necklace".
Jewelry I store in my keepsake bag (to pass onto kids?)
1. Crystal earrings and necklace (wore this on my wedding day) 2. Green rose necklace and earrings (1st dating anniversary gift from husband) 3. Rings - high school class ring, and my original wedding rings 4. Pearl earrings (wedding gift from husband - too delicate and snaggy to wear daily) 4. Amber teething necklace worn by my son as a baby 5. Bulova diamond watch my dad got for his 25 year company anniversary (I need to get it fixed - it started lagging the time) 6. James Avery silver charm bracelet I had a kid 7. Black coral heart pendant; gold chain (coral heart husband bought me from Passman in St. Thomas, gold chain was my mom's) 8. James Avery silver plumeria earrings 9. University of Patras pin (went there during study abroad in Greece) 10. Random koi charm that "swims" (had this since college and can't let go of it...lol.)


Saturday, February 14, 2015

In honor of V-Day...my Diva Cup experience.

In a previous post about the contents of my small purse, I alluded to my use of a diva cup. I decided that despite the personal nature of the topic, I'd like to go into a bit more detail about how I started using the diva cup, and what my general experience with it has been. If you are a lady with an open mind about that time of the month, then read on!

Before I get started, I want to mention that Diva Cup is a brand of menstrual cup - a reusable medical-grade silicon cup worn internally to collect menstrual flow. You can buy these online, at Whole Foods, or other natural health product boutiques. This brand has two sizes: one for pre-childbirth and one for post-childbirth. You only have to empty and rinse it off when you wake up in the morning and before bed at night.

To give a bit of personal history....

Before having kids, I had very light and short periods. After my first baby, I never got a postpartum period due to breastfeeding and subsequently getting pregnant with baby #2 while 8 months postpartum. After my second baby was born, I got a copper IUD (paragard) "installed" - LOL, like I'm a car or something. While I love the reliability, effortlessness, and lack of hormones that the copper IUD offers, with it came PERIODS FROM HELL. This is a common occurrence with copper IUDs. Thankfully it wasn't until 6 months after I got it put in that I even started having these periods, delayed again due to breastfeeding.

How I arrived at the diva cup solution....

With the heavy periods, I was literally changing my feminine products out every hour or two all day long. And ladies, I'm talking the super ultra ones. This was highly inconvenient and unrealistic for my lifestyle. I was like, I either have to get this copper IUD taken out (which I strongly didn't want because hormonal birth control makes me psychotic), or I have to find some solution to this insanity. After a very quick google search, I discovered the diva cup. Frankly, it weirded me out at first, and it took a couple more months of periods from hell before I actually decided to try it out. I bought the post-childbirth sized one from Whole Foods. I felt kind of bad for the poor cashier guy who completed my transaction. But then again, after giving birth, nothing really makes you shy or squeamish regarding "down there" any more. No embarrassment on my end.

My experience with the diva cup, at first....

The diva cup comes with pretty easy instructions on how to use, and there is tons of advice posted online if you google. However, when it comes down to it, it's a very personal thing regarding getting the correct fit and ensuring that the seal is there. This is what I struggled with the most, at first. On the days where I got it to fit well, I absolutely loved it, thought it was comfortable, etc.. However, leaking was a big issue because I thought I put it in correctly, but come to find out later on....not so much. I actually got so frustrated with the lack of reliability that I had to take a couple months' break from trying to use it.

Then...success! Being a woman just got easier!

After taking a couple of months off, somehow it just clicked. I figured out the exact right way to use it that works for me, and now it's fairly obvious to me immediately if the seal needs to be corrected. I absolutely recommend this product for any woman who isn't afraid to get a little up close and personal. It's not that gross or scary after you just try it out. What I love about it the most is being about to just "forget" that it's that time of the month for my entire day, aside from the chocolate cravings and road rage. Not having to ensure a constant supply of disposable feminine products and "having" to worry with bringing my purse everywhere I go is a freeing feeling.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Minimalist Tag Questions! Living With Less

I've seem some interesting minimalist-related tag questions floating around Youtube, so I thought it would be fun to answer them as they apply to my life. If you've done them, please link up or leave them in a comment below - it's interesting to read others' answers who appreciate minimalism as well!

Minimalism Tag Questions
1. What drew you to minimalism?

I naturally feel overwhelmed by an excess of clutter, and can't stand the idea of not knowing what all you have or what's going on because there are so many layers upon layers of clutter. As a kid, I remember feeling comforted and inspired by hotel rooms, because they were clutter free, knick-knack free, and contained only the essentials. I always knew I wanted to live this way "when I grew up". It's also more than a physical state too....I have found that if physical, mental, and digital clutter is kept at a minimum, I feel more calm and in control.

2. How did you start the de-cluttering process?

The de-cluttering process started in my closet! Clothes are something that I've had a history of having too many of, and blindly/thoughtlessly consuming too much of, so I have to make the most conscious effort in my wardrobe to keep it at bay. I have taken de-cluttering one area at a time. I did my closet, my toiletries/makeup, my filing cabinet, my computer files, my photos, kids' toys/clothes (a CONSTANT struggle), and am about to take on my kitchen. I revisit areas one at a time to do any intermittent clearing out or cleaning up.

3. Have you ever counted all your things? If so, how many things do you own?

I don't have the patience or time to count all my things...but I do like to keep a count/inventory of what is in my wardrobe:
  • 35 regular clothings items as of now
  • 3 "fancy" bras
  • 2 sports bras
  • 10 pairs of undies,
  • 6 pairs of shoes (including running shoes and Chacos)
  • Probably just under 6 pieces of workout clothes (I've sold quite a few recently)
  • one set of PJs
I don't set a limit, necessarily, but I do like to track it so that if it starts growing I can think about when it is appropriate to scale back or get rid of "duplicates". As I move into the kitchen, I may actually do a full out inventory and count how many of each item I have. I think counting can work well when you are making decisions on what needs to be cut, and thinking about what you really do need.

4. What are your tips for dealing with the desire for more?

I have a few practical ways that I curb my desire to bring more things into my life:
  • One in, one out. If you bring something new in, you have to let something else go.
  • For clothes, I keep a wish list of things I think I'll be wanting or needing. I give it time, and wait until the need is more imminent.
  •  For makeup and consumables like food or toiletries, I try to follow the "one of each" philosophy. For example, I can get some new makeup, but only after I've used up the particular type of what I currently have, or got rid of it because it didn't work.
  • For home decor, instead of decorating with trinkets and knick knacks, I like to bring in fresh flowers, or make some sort of improvement to a fixture or painting. I do have a ton of built in open shelves all around my fireplace, so still thinking of what to do there....that's where perhaps a few decorative items may be necessary and inspiring.
  • Being on a budget in general makes me prioritize what I really want...having limited resources means that you have to make some hard decisions about what you can actually get. Better for your bank account, and better for a clutter-free home!

5. How do you deal with non-minimalists in your life?

I wouldn't say I have to "deal" with them, as they are free to live their life however makes them happy. I don't feel too compelled to force my ideals on my non-minimalist relatives or friends, unless they ask me about it. However, the biggest issue that could arise is people trying to give you their stuff. I realize that they are coming from a good place, but ultimately I still have to be surgical/analytical in how I decide what comes into my home, even if it's being offered from someone I care about. I can't be afraid to "hurt feelings." I deal with this scenario by thanking for the offer, but ONLY accepting an item if it truly is something I need in my house. I have lots of hand-me-downs in my home, but I have to admit that I've turned a lot of hand-me-downs down as well, and I'm okay with that. As it turns out, they were too!

Another thing that can arise is people giving your kids tons of stuff. This is not really a battle I fight, because I think it's important to let family be generous to the kids as they please (hey, the kids aren't necessarily minimalists, after all). However, during times like birthdays or Christmas, we do go through and donate our kids' old stuff to make room for the new stuff. I think the process is actually valuable to the kids, and can teach them a lot.

6. Do you have any guilty pleasures where minimalism doesn't apply?

There are always areas where I can get a tighter grip on my ability to practice minimalism in my life, but I wouldn't say any of those are "guilty pleasures". If anything, my husband is the one who has guilty pleasures of hoarding workout equipment. Ladies and gents....if you live with someone who isn't quite as minimalist as you, letting them have a designated space to keep their clutter (which is out of your sight) is a marriage-saver! My husband is lucky enough to have a man cave that I never go into, and that's his space to keep whatever he wants. Other than that, he's got the same mindset that I do for the rest of our belongings, and the rest of our life.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Painting progress....concept sketches.

I did my first concept sketch of what direction I'm thinking of going for my painting. See a previous post for my "inspiration board". I just sketched one girl medallion, but I'm thinking that for the actual painting, I will do a repeating pattern of something like this....not sure if it will be a quad like this, or something more like a honeycomb. I'm still unsure if I want to do different girls, or choose one to give some more uniformity. At least they all have red lipstick. I'd want to add a lot more detail and dimension in the actual painting, but this gives a general idea of what I'm thinking.....

Friday, February 6, 2015

Purse chat. What does one keep in a small purse?

Small cross body purses are my favorite type, now that I don't have to have it double as a diaper bag. With a small purse, there is no room for clutter....you are forced to only keep a few things, which in turn makes it very easy and fuss free trying to access those things. Let's have a gander at what the contents of my purse are.

The purse I use is a Gold Coast Ginnie by Kate Spade. It looks smart, as they say in the UK, but doesn't look out of place with jeans and flats either. It's well-made, which is the most important quality to me. When I have a purse, I use that sucker until it falls apart.....I have high expectations for my purses. They need to last for years. My mom buys Louis Vuitton purses, and uses the same one for decades at a time (they are $$$$ but last forever and ever)....one day when I can drop that kind of cash, I'll probably go for something more like that, but now a few years at a time is good enough for me.

Now onto the contents.....here's what I carry around. When I travel or need to take a lot of stuff to/from work, I put this little purse into my large Longchamp Le Pliage along with the extra stuff.
  1. Cell phone (not pictured)...though I often have that in my hand or my pocket. It's my sidekick.
  2. Wallet. This one is a zippered Fossil wallet. I have always been a huge fan of Fossil...they have good stuff, and it is very durable.
  3. Car keys and house key.
  4. Work badge.
  5. Lip balm and lipstick (Burts Bees and bright red lipstick I LOVE called "British Red" by Loreal)
  6. Pen.
  7. Compact mirror. All I could find was grey and pink sparkly leopard print in HEB. But it's all good....I'll roll with it.
  8. Forever stamps. But actually, I RARELY use these...honestly, why do I even have these taking up real estate? I'll probably move them to my office supply box shortly hereafter.
  9. Sunglasses. I buy the super cheap kind from Target, and I love them. I just throw them in my bag without a worry....and they actually last me a long time, don't get scratched, etc.
  10. Not pictured.....a couple feminine products. This is probably TMI, but I have revolutionized "that time of the month" with a diva cup (being a woman just got easier!) so I actually no longer use that many disposable feminine products. Leave me a comment if you want me to write about that. I can't get too graphic, but I can speak to why I switched to that and what my general experience with it has been over the past year and a half.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Random confession time: church, the world, facebook leave

It's been really busy at work lately, but I've had a few themes of thoughts swimming around my mind when I'm not thinking about work, kids, or cooking....but actually, these are now confessions, because I'm convicted in them.

1. Church. We left a church we'd been members of last year because of the LGBT political hate mongering the preacher suddenly started partaking in (a pretty influential figure in our city, which disappointed us). It was the last straw. We can't support that, neither ideologically nor through tithing. I wrote about it here, I think.

Anyway, we found another local church that has been great. It's a different denomination in the same religion, which more closely aligns with what my husband and I believe...and the kids are really liking their sunday school classes. However, for some reason I have started dreading, like full-on anxiety attack, dreading going there every time sunday rolls around. I have no idea why. The people are really nice. There is nothing about it that would justify my feeling this way. A couple of sundays in a row, I went in the car there with my family, but couldn't go in. My husband took the kids inside, and I went grocery shopping or for a walk. This last sunday, I actually made it inside....but by the end I was so on edge. Like, what is wrong with me? It's like that "sweating like a whore in church" feeling, but I'm not feeling particularly guilty....besides for any regular level of sin! But, what is regular sin, really...

2. The world. Keeping abreast of world news is like a double edged sword. On one hand, I feel like I have to know what is going on in the world. Being cognizant of that is important to me. On the other hand, the world is actually a terrible place, for the most part. Many times when I read the news, or listen to NPR, I have this feeling like, "how could I have been a vessel to bring kids into this world?" My coping mechanism is that idea of "be in the world, not of the world." If you don't know what pure evil I'm talking about, spend the next three days checking the news morning, noon, and night. You'll probably get that feeling soon after.

3. Facebook leave. I've been away from facebook for a half-year now. I don't miss it at all, but this weekend I re-activated for just 30 minutes so that I could check a group I was a member of regarding a young mom in our previous church with stage IV breast cancer....I just had to know how she was doing, but couldn't find anything online aside from that group. She's still alive and kicking, which I was really happy to see. However.....I was reminded about how much I dislike facebook by all the other crap that was on my news feed. I hate to admit, but I had forgotten about all those people that were in my past, but I have no relationship with. I was amazed as I scrolled through my news feed. Lots of babies born/new pregnancies. Lots of selfies. Lots of "shared" articles. Lots of engagements/marriages. Lots of "I'm on a trip, look at my food and friends". And....a few divorces even. Like, who cares? Deactivate!


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The problem with having few clothes....

I've really enjoyed the benefits that having a minimal wardrobe has brought into my life, but there is a quite large side effect that I've had to face a lot more frequently now than I ever have in the past...

The problem with having few clothes is that THEY FALL APART, get damaged, get worn out, etc. very quickly. I always thought of clothes as an investment, but lately so many of the clothes I have are not making it the length of time I expect them to. Recently with my heels, and now with two pairs of pants....

I have two pairs of pants I got from Nordstrom back in late November: brown skinny trousers and grey slacks. While I've only had them for a couple of months, they have become so baggy that they no longer stay up (and no, sadly it's not because I've lost weight). The seams have also become very scratchy as the fabric has worn. When I buy something a bit nicer, I expect it to be high enough quality to get good wear out of it....but I'm starting to lose hope that that is even the case. Nordstrom is kind enough to allow a return of these (which is one of the reasons I love Nordstrom - they stand behind their stuff).

Meanwhile, the pair of black slacks I bought from Gap 6 years ago is still going pretty strong...though the hem is starting to come undone. I'll probably sew that up on my own.

Lately I've been wanting to explore more sustainable choices in my clothing purchases, such as second-hand or "ethically" sourced. Perhaps those items will bring better luck with longevity, whether more care goes into making them or they've already stood the test of time. If you have any sources for second-hand or sustainable/ethically sourced clothing, please send me links in the comments section. I'm open minded to it, for sure.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

How I went from hating cooking to loving it...

I used to rely on frozen food and restaurants to provide me with my nutrition. The extent of my cooking skills was making a bowl of cereal. Maybe some guacamole. But in this new year, with us re-vamping our budget and priorities, I've gotten to enjoy an unexpected side-effect....developing a love for cooking. Its now a *gasp* hobby of mine. Here are the things that created the perfect storm for my conversion from loathing cooking to actually enjoying and spending my free time doing it...

1. Placing ourselves on a tight budget this year leaves little resources to spend on my old ways (eating out, shopping, etc.). This has forced me to enjoy the mundane and necessary things in life...and find contentment and joy in them. Food is one of those things that I've had to find a new joy in.

2. Since I "can't" eat out any more, I survived a few weeks on rudimentary cooking and the bare minimum of food prep (think frozen food). However, after awhile that got really old and I decided to devote myself to preparing more high quality food that I may actually enjoy.

3. I found a couple of youtube channels/bloggers that I was inspired by, and found that I could trust. Thanks Chef Buck, for ALL your recipes. I've made 10 of his recipes so far, and all have been really easy and delicious. I really appreciate that he is budget-conscious too, so I'm not stressed out trying to shop for obscure/pricey ingredients for his dishes. He's by far the best "cooking inspiration" I've found. His stuff really resonates with me. Also, I've made Lily Pebbles' brookies 3 times in the past month...they are the best. The measurements are in metric, but someone in the comments section converted them to customary for us US folk.

4. Making "compartmentalized" grocery lists really helps the weekly grocery store trips less migraine-inducing. I'm actually kind of OCD about my grocery lists....whether I'm using pen and paper, or my list app called "List Ease". I like to order my lists in the way that I'd be walking through the store.
5. Prepare/chop all my ingredients at once. Economies of scale, baby. Only bust out that knife and cutting board once. It's much easier for me to cook when all my stuff is prepped and put away in an easily accessible manner. Instead of having to chop my stuff the same night I'm cooking something, I can just move right into the "cook" phase by reaching into the fridge for my pre-chopped veggies and fruits.

6. Just doing it...not over thinking it. I used to obsess over the recipes and wonder what the hell "golden brown" was supposed to mean. Just try to trust yourself and cook your ingredients to where they look appetizing to you. If something doesn't turn out right the first time, you'll know for next time. And keep building on the knowledge through practice.

Here are some things I've made during January....
brookies, buttermilk biscuits, thai quinoa, margherita pizza, stuffed "fancy pants" frech toast
pesto  and pesto pasta, vegetarian chili (approved my my meat-eater husband), indian style deviled eggs, spicy hummus