One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

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Happy 2015 everyone!!!!

I realize I have been absent for a looooong time.  I have good excuses though – I was in a play, then went to France for a couple weeks, came home to a ton of work due in a very tight timeline, and then the holidays hit and well, that pretty much brings us up to date.  I’m hoping to blog at least once a week if possible this year, but I know I’ve said that before and then…you know…life.

Another reason for the inactivity is precisely that – inactivity.  For the past few months I haven’t really done much cleaning, decluttering, or reevaluating.  It’s been all I could do to just be where I needed to be and make deadlines on time.  And while my house, purse, and car have been a MESS all fall and winter, I’m also happy to report I did very little purchasing either, so it was sort of a zero sum game on the whole lagom seeking mission.

I am proud to say that we did not go into credit card debt for our vacation, and while I did buy a few things in Europe, I didn’t go nuts either.  I bought a few, carefully curated, carefully planned items that I had done a lot of research on before our trip, and all in all, I spent VERY little time shopping – which was weird and great all at the same time.  Instead, we explored beautiful places, ate amazing food and drank tons of wine:

But for the most part, over the past few months when this blog has been silent, I’ve just been sitting with my stuff as it is, not really thinking about it one way or the other, and therefore have made no real changes.  With the launch of a fresh new year though, I have begun to feel a renewed sense of wanting to lighten my life.

For Christmas, Ron gave me a copy of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and reading it has newly inspired me to think about what I truly need, use, and love, and what stuff I’ve just grown accustomed to seeing in my space.  Ms. Kondo is a bit more of an extreme minimalist than I aspire to be, and I’m not 100% sure I subscribe to everything she suggests, but I still really enjoyed her book.  It’s made me start looking around with a keen eye again, and let me tell you, when that happens…nothing in my path is safe.

Even though Ron did not read the book and I haven’t really talked to him about it,  he seems to be on the same wavelength as well.  Yesterday morning, as we were putting away all the Christmas decorations, we were moving the armoire that holds our tv, stereo, dvd player, cable box, phone, etc. back into place, and he asked me how I would feel about getting rid of the stereo, since we never really use it.  We own a couple high quality smartphone speaker docks, and we just tend to plug our phones into one of those and listen to our music that way – I can’t really remember the last time I got out a CD and used the stereo.  So I agreed, and from there we also decided to get rid of the dvd player we have upstairs (it’s fairly old and had not been working properly, and we still have another one that does work in another part of the house, and I can’t say I’ve been missing the broken one since we usually watch movies on cable anyway).

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Then we went through the rest of the armoire, clearing our dvd collection of any movies we no longer cared about, our cd collection of music we no longer listened to, and I tossed about 60 (seriously) empty cd jewel cases I had been saving for oh, NO APPARENT REASON.  I even found a small stack of old VHS tapes that somehow survived the last purge, despite the fact it’s been about three years since we’ve owned a TV with a VHS player on which to use them:

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I particularly love the two that are titled “Laura – Misc. Tape”, with no further indication of anything else that is on them.  Especially since I don’t own anything to play them on in order to find out.  Genius decision making right there, folks.

And when I went to get a couple bags to hold the stuff we were getting rid of, I found myself plowing through a bunch of those well intentioned reusable shopping bags that multiply like rabbits in the closet because I always think I’ll use them, and then, of course, don’t.  Ron and I picked through them and each chose a couple to keep that we liked best, and the rest we got rid of.  In the process, I also I found not one, but TWO lost scarves I’d been searching madly for over the past couple weeks tangled up in the mess.

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As anyone who has been reading the blog for a while knows, I have been at this process since January of 2013, and with each area of my home I’ve decluttered, I’ve always gotten to the point where I’ve thought “That’s it – I can’t pare it down any less.  Everything that’s left is something I need, use, and love.”  Fascinating how time can change that perspective, isn’t it?  I think I maybe needed the past few months to just sit quietly with some of my decisions, before I could revisit them with a clear head.  If the first day of 2015 is any indication, I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m excited to discover what’s important to me in the new year.


I’ve got a new guest post up at the tiny homes site:

It actually went live yesterday and I forgot to post about it.  You know what else I forgot yesterday?  That is was Ron’s birthday, until I looked at Facebook and saw people wishing him a happy birthday there.  The best part is, my birthday was two weeks ago and Ron did the EXACT same thing – we were up and about for a couple hours before he went on Facebook and then realized it was my birthday.  

We weren’t trying to be callous.  It was an honest mistake on both our parts, because we decided to delay celebrating our birthdays this year until June, when we’ll have more money to celebrate with.  So we agreed that we wouldn’t do anything for each other this month on our actual birthdays – no card, no cake, no nice dinner, no gifts.  We’ll do a joint celebration in June instead.  As a result, when both days hit, they felt like any other day.   I’m totally looking forward to our celebration in June, but I have to say, getting out of debt this month was the best present ever!

Has anyone else received that many forwarded email with the story about the woman whose sister died of cancer, and when they were going through her belongings after her death they found nice things that she had been saving for a special occasion that had never gotten used?  The message of the story is about making every day a special occasion and to use and enjoy your best stuff now.  I have no idea if the actual story is true or just a parable someone made up to express this idea, but I really appreciate the sentiment.

And when I think about it, I am guilty of saving my “best” stuff for a nice occasion (which sometimes means never), and using stuff I am less crazy about on a daily basis.  I think one of my lagom goals this year will be to work on this issue, and I feel like I’ve put some things in place over the last year that already have me moving in the right direction.  As I continue to pare down various categories of things I own, I find myself getting down to just the things that are my favorites – though at this point in time, in most categories, I have to admit I have still kept one or two extra items that are just “okay” out of a scarcity mindset.  The only thing that seems to be helping conquer that issue is time – as months go by and I notice that even with a significantly reduced stash I STILL won’t use a certain item, it becomes clear that it is serving no purpose in my life.

I am also noticing that in some cases the item self-selects it’s own demise, and I find myself disappointed and cursing myself that I didn’t use it sooner.  That happened to me recently with a makeup sample I was really excited about.  I had picked up a sample of a super expensive lip treatment at Sephora, and by a stroke of luck I think the employee who helped me was new and gave me a waaaay more generous sample than she was supposed to.  The treatment came in a tiny little bottle that cost a fortune, and I was shocked to see her pump nearly half the bottle into one of their little sample holders for me.  “I am going to make this last FOREVER,” I thought gleefully.  And I did use it several times, but each time only a tiny amount, because it was “special” (and too expensive for me to go buy a whole new bottle when I finished the sample).   But then the container then fell behind another bottle in the cabinet, and I forgot about it for a while, until I moved some stuff around and discovered it again last week.  When I opened it up, I was dismayed to realize most of it had dried up and was unusable!

I looked through the rest of my makeup, and sure enough, a handful of other items had either dried up or smelled funny or looked somehow past their prime, and I ended up tossing them too – but thankfully most of my “best” makeup is still usable, provided I actually START USING IT.  My whole “use what I’ve already got” commitment (combined with the huge amount of stuff I own) means I’m working my way through so many products, it’s inevitable that some of what I have is just going to run out of shelf life before I get to it.

I’m still committed to using what I’ve already got, but I’m making a slight shift to it – use the stuff I like best first, and then if I end up having to throw something away because it goes bad before I can get to it, at least it won’t be my best stuff.


Makeup graveyard

I spent so much of 2013 getting rid of things.  Being OBSESSED with that process, really.  I devoted so much time and energy to purging, sorting, and cleaning my space, it was like a part time (unpaid) job.  Bags and bags of items were donated to the Goodwill.  Suitcases full of clothing and shoes were dragged to resale.  We sold several bigger-ticket items on ebay, and I gave still useful, high quality things to happy friends whenever possible.  Borrowed items were returned to their rightful owners (who in most every case, seemed surprised to see the stuff and had not missed it).    And I continue to be astonished at the amount of recycling and trash we haul out to the curb every week.

We’ve significantly slowed the inflow of stuff into our house, so basic math would tell me that if there isn’t much new coming in, and  what we have now is mostly stuff we love and need, there shouldn’t be much left to get rid of.  And yet, every time I say that, we somehow manage to generate another giant discard pile.

How is this possible?  I don’t know for sure.  I think it’s partly due to the fact that on our first purge, we were still pretty attached to stuff, and were too conservative in what we were willing to release.  But as time goes on and we start to notice that items we just couldn’t bear to part with are still hanging around unused, even when we have less to choose from, they start to fall out of favor.  We’re also doing a better job of not feeling guilty about getting rid of things that were given to us, and not letting our relationships feel defined by the exchange of stuff.

I also think  our continued discarding is a testament to the sheer volume of crap we started with.  We just really had a ton of stuff in this house.  I did a routine house cleaning yesterday, and I was struck by the realization that I was able to dust certain surfaces that I usually didn’t bother tackling, because they were finally clear of objects and piles of paper.  Things that once didn’t have a home are now put away in closets and cupboards because there is actually room for them.  Ron has done such impressive clutter clearing in our office space that I was able to sweep out the corner of the room near his desk that has been inaccessible for literally years.

I kind of wish I had kept a count of the number of items we purged in 2013.  On days when I still feel overwhelmed by my stuff, I could look at the number and it would make me feel better.

On New Year’s Eve, I took a load of stuff to the Goodwill, because it was my last day to get tax credit for a donation in 2013.  As I dropped it off, I thought “It will probably be a while before I need to do this again.”

Only one week later, our donation pile already looks like this:


A couple pairs of cheap shoes with no arch support that I rarely wear, a dog bed Stella no longer likes to sleep in (she still has three other ones in various rooms of the house), a stray Christmas ornament, an XM radio player for an XM radio unit we no longer own, an old CD carrying case, a couple old backpacks, a trash bag full of t-shirts Ron decided to get rid of, and an old-timey popcorn maker.  This doesn’t count the suitcase that is completely full of clothes bound for resale later this month, or the video game systems we are about to list on Ebay.

2014 is off to a good start.

We spent some of yesterday taking down the Christmas tree and putting all the holiday decorations away.  I love decorating and being festive and in the Christmas spirit, but I am also always relieved to have my normal house back, and to not be vacuuming up stray pine needles all the time.

I started my lagom project after Christmas of 2012 (on Jan. 11th, 2013 to be precise), so as we pulled out all the decorations this year, I realized that I hadn’t done any paring down where that stuff was concerned.  We don’t have a ton of decorations to start with, and the majority of the stuff we do have were either gifts we’ve received or things from my childhood – I’ve personally bought very little Christmas decor over the years.  The good news about that is there isn’t a tremendous amount of stuff on which to make decisions.   The bad news is that there IS a tremendous amount of sentimentality attached to it all for me.

One thing I knew we needed to declutter was Christmas tree ornaments.  Lord those things are easy to collect!  The first gift I ever gave Ron was two Christmas tree ornaments, because we met each other in person for the first time a couple days before Christmas Eve, so we had planned to decorate my Christmas tree together.  That started a tradition between us of giving each other a new ornament every year on the day we decorated our tree.  We’ve been together for eleven Christmases now, so that is a substantial amount of ornaments to add to our collection – though we have forgone the tradition a couple times because either one of us forgot, or we were broke.  Here is one of the first ornaments I gave him (the biker), and the one he gave me the Christmas after we got married, along with one I gave him to commemorate his love of Stella:

My mom has given me and my sister a new ornament every year on our “Santa” gifts – usually one that matches the theme of the paper she chose that year.  She now does ornaments for Ron and my sister’s boyfriend as well, so we come home from her house with two new ornaments every year.  Here is a trumpet from a year the paper she wrapped the gifts in had a musical instruments and angels theme:


I also have a bunch of ornaments that my aunt gave me when she had a business that sold holiday stuff – I remember going to her house one summer and she gave me and my sister each a big beach bag full of ornaments – here are just two of them:

At one point my Mom decided she wanted to decorate her tree every year in only blue and white and silver decorations, so she let me and my sister have any of the traditional ornaments from our childhood that we wanted.  I took this Santa, that a friend gave my Mom back in the 60’s, I think  it was before she even knew my dad.  When it was time to decorate the tree every year, I always wanted to be the one to hang it up:


And out of pure sentiment, I kept these ornaments I made in Bluebirds when I was little:

I also at some point inherited my grandmother’s collection of wooden stars – I don’t really remember hanging them on our tree growing up, but they totally make me think of her, so I love them:


And then there are ornaments we got as gifts from friends, like this little felt angel my friend Nikki gave me:


Or these Czech dough ornaments from our friends Petr and Simona, which Stella tried to pull off the tree and EAT this year:

Of the few ornaments I’ve actually bought, the birds are my favorites.  I think Ron thinks they’re creepy, but I love them.  It’s a TREE, for heaven’s sake.  It needs birds:

And I have no memory where I got this one, but it’s candy, and it’s pink, so…lovelovelove:


But in the end, no tree that will fit in our living room can handle the amount of ornaments we own, so a lot weren’t maing it out of the storage box.  I decided that this year, we would hang our favorites first, and anything that wasn’t an automatic yes would be under scrutiny.

It ended up being easier than I thought.  I’m getting the hang of being less attached to stuff at this point, and I no longer feel that throwing an object away is the same as throwing away a relationship or my memories of a person or event.  I put everything that didn’t make the cut in a bag, and let it sit in the corner until New Year’s Eve, when I suddenly remembered it was the last day to make Goodwill donations for 2013, so I grabbed the bag along with our other donations and got rid of it all before I could become  sentimental and change my mind.  I also got rid of it before I had a chance to photograph it, so you’ll have to take my word for it that we got rid of quite a few.  I can’t remember specifically which ornaments they were at this point, which is a good sign – if I can’t recall them, they were not my favorites.

When we packed all the ornaments back up this year, it was nice to not be cramming them all in – everything fit comfortably, with room to spare.   It’s nice to think that when we open the box again next year, we will only be greeted by our favorite stuff.

You know how certain items in your life just become a part of the landscape – you don’t actually SEE them anymore, because they have been around so long?  It almost takes someone who doesn’t know your space to come in and notice them to make you even remember they are there.  Items on my desk definitely fall into that category.  Anything I leave on my desk for an extended period of time becomes a fixture after a while – sometimes even things that I should deal with in a timely manner, like returns or bills or thank you notes.

Recently, while attempting to create order out of chaos on my desk for the zillionth time, I really noticed these two items that have been there for years:


They are paperweights.  The brown one was a promotional gift from Rock Bottom Brewery, made out of recycled beer glass, and the other one I bought at the Guinness Factory in Dublin – that little brown spot in the corner is a drop of actual beer imbedded inside.  I have had both of them for years because I think they are cute – though it’s odd they are both beer related, since despite many valiant tastings, I have never learned to like beer.

I have also never used these paperweights – or ANY paperweight I have ever had in my possession, for that matter.  And having had a lot of desk jobs in my life, I have had many paperweights cross my path.  It’s such an easy gift for someone you’re not that close to, isn’t it?  And catalogs create a million of them with inspirational sayings, so they feel like a profound thing to give – as if seeing a piece of metal proclaiming, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you always imagined!” will really make someone feel happier about their shitty soul-sucking desk job.

But I am as guilty of having given them to others as keeping them myself.  Even though I NEVER USE THEM.  Does anyone?  Aren’t they really just lame decoration under the guise of being useful for something?  Because let’s face it, if I ever have so much paper blowing around on my desk that I need a rock-like object to hold it all down, I am committed to taking a few minutes to either file it all or throw some of it away.  THAT would be going confidently in the direction of my dreams.  And I don’t need a paperweight to remind me of that idea.

So I’m throwing these away.  Beer and paperweights – two things I’m fine without.

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I am a first class procrastinator.  And I’ve never been sure why I do it, because it’s not like having pending things to do doesn’t affect me – it really does.  I’m the type who hates to be late, who loses sleep over a looming deadline, and who can’t totally relax and enjoy myself until things are complete.

There are so many things I want to do right now, things I should do right now, things I NEED to do right now, and for some reason I find myself doing an excellent job of staring at my to do list and not doing any of them.  I could even write a new blog post, for heaven’s sake, but because I haven’t really made any changes or progress in the last week, I haven’t been particularly inspired to do so.  Why haven’t I made any changes?  Because I’ve been PROCRASTINATING.

Here is just a short list of what I should have done today – a few of these things will get finished tonight because they have to get finished, but I can tell you right now most of it won’t:

  1. Run the dishwasher.  Yes, you read that right.  I don’t even have to wash dishes by hand – I have a dishwasher that does the work for me.  I need to gather up the stray glasses of water scattered around the house, and the few dishes that are in the sink waiting to be loaded, and run it.  But that would take efffffoorrrt.
  2. Take out the garbage, recycling, and compost.  I actually probably will do this tonight, since tomorrow is garbage day.  But I have literally been thinking all day that I need to do it, and haven’t done it yet.  My excuse?  It’s cold out.  And garbage is stinky.  I will be the jerk in the neighborhood who is dragging her loud garbage cans to the curb at midnight and disturbing your sleep.  You’re welcome.
  3. Record two chapters of the audiobook I’m working on.  I don’t know why it is, but every time I have an audiobook to do I get myself into a position where I am scraping it in against the last possible second of the deadline – where the slightest technical glitch or interruption to my recording schedule sends me into a white hot panic.  The problem is I always end up making it, so I’ve yet to suffer a consequence.  And like a lab rat, no consequence = no behavior change.  I think I might get one chapter done tonight, but I had such good intentions of doing two today.  I tried to get two done last night, but then Kramer Vs. Kramer was on cable and I got sucked in.  I didn’t even end up eating dinner as a result.   I can’t say it wasn’t totally worth it.
  4. Order new head shots.  Why haven’t I done this? I should have done this months ago. (I hope my agent is not reading this.)  I probably haven’t done it because I still have copies of my old one that I can use.  And unless I’m reaching into the file fifteen minutes before I need to leave for an audition and discovering it’s empty and freaking out, I just don’t tend to feel motivated to do it.
  5. Go back through my closet and get rid of more clothes, since I really do have more than my closet can hold now that I’ve consolidated everything.  UGH.  I’m DREADING doing this.  I know I need to do it, because lately I have been looking at my closet and thinking, “I don’t have anything to wear.”  I have learned this year that if you are looking at your overstuffed closet and thinking that, you must not like a lot of your clothes and you should get rid them.  But I still can’t afford to buy new stuff, so I find myself hanging on to things out of fear I’ll pare it down, get sick of that stuff, and then have no options.  I know, first world problem.  But it’s been bugging me for days and I need to deal with it.
  6. Take the clothes to resale, and take any money I get from that to the bank to put towards our credit card payment.  I don’t think I have to explain to anyone why I am putting this particular trifecta of tasks off.
  7. Record a couple voiceover auditions.  These I will do, because they’re due tomorrow.  Deadlines.  Thank god for them.  But they only work for me if they’re real, and real shame would be involved in missing them.  It’s not enough for me to set “fake” deadlines for myself, where I am the only person who would know and disapprove if something didn’t happen.  I am not afraid of me.
  8. Do laundry.  I won’t do this, even though the hamper is overflowing.  My excuse?  I need to record a bunch of stuff and since the laundry is in the basement w/my recording booth, I can’t do both at the same time.  Recording will win tonight.  Suck on that, laundry!  Hahahhahahahaha!  At least, that is what I will think until tomorrow when I need clean underwear.
  9. Read some plays.  The play reading committees I’m on are starting up again.  I’m excited, but now I’m also starting to feel the stress of how I’m going to keep up with my reading AND get the audio book done.  Just typing that sentence made me feel stressed.
  10. Answer about 7 emails from friends who I really, really like, but I haven’t answered their emails because I’ve wanted to write a thoughtful response and not a quick reply.  But now they probably think I’m a creep for taking so long to answer them, which tends to make me feel awkward and delay even longer.  If you are a friend who has not heard back from me recently, this is probably why.  Please forgive me.
  11. Clean the house.  Ron is currently out of town, and we always try to make sure that when one of us is gone, the other person cleans up the house before they get home so they can come home to peace and comfort instead of chaos and germs.  I’m not 100% sure it will happen this time around.  Sorry honey.  I’m a bad wife.  Please don’t be mad when you come home to a pile of mail and paperwork on the kitchen table, every scarf and coat I own strewn across the furniture, and piles of my clothes all over the bedroom.  And of course a dishwasher that still needs to be run and maybe some garbage and recycling I forgot to take out.

So you might be wondering, what I HAVE done today, or even this week for that matter, that has kept me from all this stuff?  Since I clearly haven’t been cleaning, or working hard or anything else important.  Well, I have managed to work out every day, and I did make it to a friend’s wedding reception, and I helped another friend put an audition on tape for a TV pilot he’s up for, and I did some dramaturg type work with a dance company for a new dance they’re creating, and I did complete a couple chapters of the audiobook.  But that is not a lot to show for almost a full week of time.  However,  I have accomplished one thing this week that I am very proud of – I have totally healed Stella’s wounded foot.  It has required making her wear the cone of shame, and even with that on, I have to constantly monitor her since she can still reach her toes if she stretches them out beyond the edge of it.  I’ve also had to keep her on a schedule of antibiotics and soak her foot in Epsom salts for ten minutes twice a day.  It’s to the point where she sees me get the bottle of medicine out of the fridge and  runs and hides under the kitchen table.  But after a week of diligence, the skin between her toes is healthy and wound-free.  And it didn’t cost hundreds of dollars like we thought it would – only $45 for the vet visit and meds, about five bucks for a bag of Epsom salts, and a lot of my time and effort.

Oh, and I guess I DID just write a new blog post.  Ha.

For this week, that will just have to be lagom.



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