wanting less 

a-year-of-less

If you have a health concern that makes doing normal things like washing your hair difficult, organization around the house might get overlooked. If you don’t have a health concern and are just busy or would rather spend a day out with friends rather than cleaning your home, organization around the house might get overlooked.

But the truth for most is that we have too much stuff. Way too much stuff.

Below I’ve outlined a month-by-month guide to getting rid of unused / broken / meaningless things in your home that you don’t need. Do yourself a favor and give it a try. Stream “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” on Netflix or rent it on iTunes and get psyched. I know you can do this.

 


 

January focus : the computer  // Take a glance at your inbox. Delete what you don’t need, and unsubscribe from emails you no longer wish to receive. {I use unroll.me to help me identify the emails to which I subscribe.} Organize your documents and desktop. Backup your hard drive. Spend thirty minutes each day between now and January 31st uploading your old CD collection into your iTunes library.

February focus : the kitchen // Clean out the refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and that cabinet under the sink. Get rid of expired condiments and canned foods. Throw away old pots and pans we now know are unsafe to cook with. Do you have gadgets that make other tools in your kitchen obsolete {like a stand mixer that replaced your handmixer}? If so, get rid of the old model. Do you really need 20 or more plastic cups? And please, oh please, throw away the extra chopsticks that you keep when you get sushi delivered. You will never use those.

March focus : the spare room // We all have a room {or closet} in our home that we don’t want anyone to see. There’s no need to buy new furniture and spend a lot of money decorating, but clean it out and maybe even try to make the space work for you! Use this “new” room as a guest room, a home office, or a place to do yoga.

April focus : the outdoors // If you have a shed that’s full of junk clear it out. If you’ve been meaning to repaint the porch now is your time. Do all the things that you talk about but never actually get accomplished. Not only will you be happy you did, but you’ll feel great after spending your spare time outside!

May focus : the “collections” // Do you own a lot of books or DVDs? Maybe you have a closet full of ski clothes your family used to wear but your youngest outgrew years ago? If you have a sizable number of anything it’s time to take a closer look. Think about how much room these items are taking up and what you could use the space for instead.

June focus : the closet and the dresser // Look at each piece in your closet and dresser and ask the following questions. 1) Does it fit? 2) Did I wear it within the last year? 3) Do I like it? If the answer is no to any one of these three questions, it’s time to part ways. You can try to sell gently used items on websites such as Ebay or Poshmark, give pieces to friends or family, or donate what you no longer wear.

July focus : the bathroom // Toss expired products and the items you don’t use. Bring ratty towels to a local animal shelter. Take a good look at the collection of samples that has grown over the years and consider whether or not you will ever really use them. Organize what remains so you know you are out of toothpaste before you actually run out.

August focus : the workspace // Whether your desk is at home or away, spend some time organizing it this month. Use an app like Evernote to electronically file whatever you don’t need a physical copy of. Throw away pens that have been dried up for years. Recycle or shred old documents that you no longer need. Even if you don’t have a desk and do your work at the kitchen table go through your supplies, toss what you don’t want, and organize what you decide to keep.

September focus : the memorabilia // Have you heard the term “heirloom guilt?” If not, it’s worth reading this short post on Bea Johnson’s blog, Zero Waste Home. Take a look at the heirlooms in your home. If the item is something you don’t use then ask yourself if you only hang on to it only because the item belonged to someone you love. If the answer is yes, then it’s probably time to pass the item onto someone who will use it, donate it, or sell it if it’s valuable.

October focus : the laundry room // Expired cleaning products are probably your biggest waste of space, but don’t stop there. Go through your cabinets and drawers and clean it all out. Once you get rid of all that excess you’ll actually be able to see the items you do use!

November focus : the decorations // Now is a great time to go through your decorations. Get rid of the lights that don’t work and the wreath that you replaced with another two years prior. Catalog what you have so that you don’t purchase things you think you need because you didn’t realize you already own them. Organize everything so that it’s easy to take out and put away when the time comes.

December focus : the holes //  What did I leave off of this list that you need to tackle before the year is up? What did you rush through and maybe need to give another look? If you start early enough in the month your house will be in great shape for all of the holiday nonsense we love so much!


 

Here’s the thing…if you work a little every month to get rid of crap in your house you’ll be less likely to bring new crap in. You’ll find yourself asking “Do I really need this?” when you’re standing in a store holding yet another scented candle. Your standards for what can pass the threshold into your home will go up. Before you know it you’ll spend less time cleaning, more time doing the things you’ll love, and you might even save some money

I’ve worked on making do with less for years, and I am constantly finding new reasons to love living this way, and new things to toss. It’s a process, and as long as you work on it a little all the time you won’t curse me under your breath when you’re cleaning out the garage.

spoonie shortcuts

I love a good shortcut. The same or a similar result in less time…sign me up! It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I appreciate how precious my time and energy are. If I’m having a good day, I don’t want to waste it on something I don’t enjoy. And if I’m having a bad pain day and must check an item off my list, I want to do so as quickly as possible so I don’t make things worse.

Let’s take my food, for example. I know what I’m supposed to eat (or rather not eat), but I don’t always do this. When I make this conscious choice that’s one thing, but when I want something healthy and open the refrigerator and all I have are frozen pizzas and I can’t muster up the energy to go to the grocery…that really bums me out.

If you’ve read this blog before you might remember an account of my efforts to eat organic anti-inflammatory foods as much as possible. Well, the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is cook, so I have to take some shortcuts. One of my favorites is to stock the fridge with raw food. Carrots, spinach, radishes, cucumbers, and whatever fruit is in season are my go-to’s. I try to eat something raw with every meal; it is truly a hassle-free (and typically healthy) component.

 

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a go-to quick meal, my gf/df twist on a Steven Satterfield recipe, found in From Root to Leaf

Even easier is a juice. If you don’t want to deal with anything, from the recipe to cleaning the juicer, just find a place near you that sells delicious organic juice. I work with my brother and one of my sisters, and we have a deal that if during the workday anyone goes to pick up juice at our favorite spot they buy enough for everyone. (This is the ultimate shortcut, as there is zero work involved.)

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“pop your collard” juice from Raw Republic

The next shortcut involves my refusal to fold any clothes that I don’t feel need to be folded. Undies and bras, for example, are just thrown in the drawer. Tank tops: throw ’em in there. The “work out” clothes that are never used for exercising: same thing. These are all pieces that either a) are rarely seen or b) don’t really wrinkle. And even if I did fold my undies, wouldn’t they just get messed up every time I have to dig to find a color that isn’t see-through when I wear white jeans? Or is that the deal…fold your clothes and you don’t have to dig…hmmm..?

The third shortcut did not start as an effort to save time or energy. When I made the switch from regular shampoo to one that is chemical- and plastic-free I went from washing my hair daily to just two nights a week. It was quite the greasy journey, but my hair now is much better for it. I’m not sure if I could maintain this schedule if I exercised, but I don’t, so no need to worry about that. Anyone with chronic pain and a bit of hair knows that washing that hair can be a daunting task, so reducing the number of days from seven to two was meaningful. I’ve actually simplified my entire hygiene / makeup routine, which all started with my switch to chemical-free products, and not dealing with dozens of unnecessary lotions, soaps, and fragrances make this aspect of every day a little bit easier.

As long as I can continue to stay on top of my work, my home, and my hygiene I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. If one of those things starts to slip I hope that those around my let me know so I can elevate my standards, but until then I’m going to keep looking for clever little ways to make my life easier.

What shortcuts do you use? I’d love to hear them! Tweet me or comment below.

physical space

When we think about chronic pain we don’t necessarily consider how our environment contributes. Sure, an impeccably decorated home isn’t going to be your answer for breakthrough pain, but an unorganized / turbulent / messy living space may pile on your list of stressors, making those bad days even worse.

After I moved to my new home in October 2015 I quickly had a few unexpected repairs which required immediate attention. My focus on decorating turned into trying to make my house livable, and it took several months for things to shake out. While the work is far from complete, I feel that now I can finally start working on creating a space that fits me and my needs.

My day-to-day schedule might not be the best for my chronic pain, but I plan to do everything possible to make my home function while staying within my budget. For me, that means a place that is, above all else, clean and calm. On my wishlist is also (1) an outdoor space that gets enough sun so I can soak up Vitamin D, (2) a bit of grass for daily grounding, (3) space to grow a few herbs, and (4) a compost bin. Inside I would like organized and enclosed storage so that I can keep surfaces free from clutter and dust, adequate space where I can do my physical therapy exercises, and the most comfortable bed imaginable.

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My bedding is (so far) the most thought-through part of my home. I carefully selected the elements so that when I’m trying to go to sleep I’m as comfortable as my body will allow. There may be a few an embarrassing number of things I badly need (notice the lack of nightstands in the shot above because the ones I have are grossly out of scale), but at least the bedding is heavenly! The reason for my focus on this small section of my home is that there are many factors that are largely uncontrollable and unpredictable which keep me from sleeping at night. I don’t need scratchy sheets and flat pillows messing with this delicate balance.

Currently, I don’t actually have a bed, just a box-spring and a mattress. I have yet to select this piece of furniture, and for the moment what I have is working just fine. To hold me over I covered my box-spring with the same material out of which my bedding is made, so it all just blends together (or so is my hope). My duvet and shams are from the Restoration Hardware Stonewashed Belgian Linen Tipped collection, both in White/Fog. My sheets are from the plain Stonewashed Belgian Linen collection (White sheets, Graphite pillowcases).

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The comforter inside this cozy duvet is light enough for the toasty New Orleans climate but still keeps me warm in the winter. My pillows are gusseted (similar product here) and, like my comforter, feather-free. I always have two medium pillows and two that are firm on hand because I have different needs on different nights. Every piece of bedding, from the duvet to the pillowcases, gets washed regularly so that my bed is always clean.

The final element of my bed is that it is simple. Often the morning is the best I feel all day, and I do not want to waste that valued time fussing with throw pillows. So, I have an indigo linen throw and a single pillow which a wonderful friend gave me earlier in the year. (Unfortunately, I do not know who makes it, but it is pictured below.) Elephants are my spirit animal, so this pillow is absolute perfection.

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I can’t wait to share the changes around my home in the upcoming months. When you’re aiming for that minimalist-meets-Scandinavian decor there’s a fine line between sparse and cluttered, and I’m hoping to navigate these waters without too much professional assistance.