Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Posts Tagged ‘decluttering

Clearing house

with one comment

A long time ago, in a land far away…

(Really, just a few years, and pretty much right here…)

…was a girl who really, really liked cool vintage stuff.

And so she went to thrift stores and she bought lots and lots of cool vintage stuff.  Glasses.  Casserole dishes.  Dresses.  Jewelry.  Furniture.  Blankets.  Lamps.  Purses.  Dishes.

Her vintage things were lovely – well made, interesting, and like nothing else that most other people would have (this girl liked things that were somewhat unique).  But she felt a little silly wearing much of the clothing, since she was really more a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl.  And some of the dishes had hairline cracks, so they couldn’t be heated too much.  And some of the linens had holes, or stains, or were just difficult to wash spaghetti sauce out of.  And some of the things that were lovely and perfect and mint, well, she was just afraid to use those, lest they get damaged.

And so, the girl wound up with an apartment full of vintage things that weren’t used, plus a whole lot of semi-equivalent items that were.  And although it never came anywhere close to those scary homes that show up on Hoarders, it became more difficult to clean and manage.

As is probably very obvious, that girl is me.  A love of vintage and a love of collecting combined with the need to have things around that I actually use and a general unwillingness to get rid of anything that still has use in it (even if I’m not actually using it) has made for a full apartment (and this is before we even start talking about the many, many books that live here too).

Now, I try to buy only what I need and have a specific use for.  If I need something, I still usually try to look for something cool and vintage, but also something that’s sturdy and will last well and that I’ll be willing to use (in all honestly, though, in almost all cases function wins out over form these days, although I appreciate the form of the functional in a whole new way – ask me about how much I love my dutch oven, for instance).  These days, that means more cast iron, stainless steel, and heavy glass than anything else.

But I do have my eye on some things that I want to buy, things that I think will be useful.  They will, however, also take up space.  Which means making space.  Which also means going on the warpath again and getting rid of yet more stuff.

I’m trying to keep in mind other benefits too, though.  Getting rid of things means it’s easier to keep this place clean.  It also means more room for things that are more important, such as food, water, and tools.  If I have to move, either for work or for lack of work, it will be easier and less expensive to move fewer things.  More space and tidiness means I’m happier at home, which makes it more likely that I will want to spend time here, which is usually far more frugal than going out.  And less stuff means more room for the projects and activities (and stuff that goes along with them) that help me be more frugal, like the seeds starting on the coffee table, and the sourdough starter, ginger beer starter, and sprouts I have in the kitchen.

This is not something that comes naturally to me at all, but it’s something that needs to be done, and something that I’ve talked about before.  Although I’m currently too busy to set defined goals, I’m trying to get a few things into the donation pile each day, to tidy up here and there, and to consciously think about what I really want and need in my life.

Advertisements

Written by Jenn

March 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Making good use

leave a comment »

As I continue to declutter (which I’ve realised is a complete pain without a car, since now I have 3 garbage bags full of clothes and 100 or so books along with other assorted bits and pieces that stacked around the apartment as I move them one backpack at a time to the Goodwill donation dropoff) I’ve been considering my stuff.

I have, I’ll admit, a lot of duplicates of things, which is easier to see when everything’s dragged out for sorting and relocation.  As favourite things start to look worn, I have a tendency to replace them.  Trouble is, the original very rarely makes it out the door because I like it, which means that I regularly wind up with multiples of things (which may or may not be in the most fantastic of condition), and because there’s a replacement, the originals rarely get the care that could fix or help them to last longer.  So, in the interest of keeping my apartment clean and my wallet full(er), I’ve decided I’m going to keep the best of my things (which was the plan all along) but care for them better, so that there won’t be such an impulse to replace them, and so that they’ll last longer and serve my needs better.

Today, I’ve polished a favourite paid of clogs, oiled my butcher block (which was very long overdue), and fluffed out my down duvet so it doesn’t compress too much.  I’ve scrubbed out the cast iron and will be putting it all in the oven for a good re-seasoning shortly.  Up next, the wooden coffee tables are overdue for a dust and a polish, and I have some beloved shearling boots that could do with a good cleaning at the local cobbler’s.

Sadly, I know this won’t prevent things from ultimately degrading – eventually, everything fails or wears down. Because they’re used, favourite and useful things usually can’t last forever.  But I’m hoping these measures – all of which are pretty inexpensive and rather easy – will prolong the life of my favourite things and, in so doing, also make it less likely that I’ll need to replace them, or wind up with a home filled with duplicates of things that could be better cared for.

Written by Jenn

January 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

The Low Shopping Year

leave a comment »

I’m not much of a New Year’s resolutions kind of person.  I do, however, like a good challenge (could you tell?)  And so, with the coming new year, I’m taking on a new one, and one that fits rather well with some of the other projects that I’ve got in the works.

Here comes The Low Shopping Year.

In my efforts to save some money, prepare to move, clean out the clutter, and just generally sort out my life, shopping isn’t helping.  As I’ve said before, I don’t shop a lot, and I certainly don’t spend much, but it still means that things are making their way into my home here and there, money that doesn’t have to is making its way out the door, and the clutter and finances are all the more difficult to deal with as a result.  Also, because I almost always buy used, even spending a bit of money can bring in a lot of stuff ($10 at the used book store is usually good for three or four books).

The original thought was that I would start what I called “The No Shopping Year”.  Unfortunately, “The No Shopping Year” sounds a bit grandiose.  And, given my present situation, there’s no way I can go an entire year without actually shopping for anything, since I like to eat, need medication, and may require an academic book here or there as I plow through the dissertation, so the name’s a bit of a misnomer, cool as it sounds.  So, in the interest of accuracy, I’ve reconsidered the No Shopping Year in favour of the Low Shopping Year.  (More accurate, but sounds less cool, no?)

The plan?  Seriously reduce (my already rather reduced consumption) in much the same way as with my No Spending Month.

The benefit?  Less money going out.  Fewer things coming in.  Less clutter to deal with.  Less clutter to move.  More time for whatever I want.

There are still details to work out.  I need to figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t, whether there should be any exceptions, and if there’s anything else I should be figuring out.  I’ll probably wind up working out a new budget to reflect (and possibly reinforce) these changes.

Written by Jenn

December 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

10×30 update

leave a comment »

As the end of the month approaches, I’ve been trying to catch up a bit with my 10×30 progress – I figure even if the business of November hasn’t let me purge 10 items a day, by the end of the month I can at least do 30.  I actually finished up a bunch of work this week so I can spend part of the weekend working through the stuff.

That said, after the first week’s 70 things, I’ve managed to get rid of another 70 articles of clothing. 30 t-shirts, 10 belts, and the rest pants, skirts, sweaters, and jackets are all on their way to the thrift store the next time I can find myself a ride.  Happily or sadly, depending on how you look at it, there’s far too much for me to carry over in any reasonable time frame.

It feels good knowing that it’s out of here – I’m aiming for at least 20 percent of my wardrobe gone by the end of this – but there are still too many clothes, and there’s more to work through over the weekend.  I’ve also put together a box with 24 dishes, all ready to head to Goodwill too, and there are plans to start tackling the books (which I have to admit that I dread a little bit) soon too.

In the meantime, I’ve also cut down on my consumption, so a lot less has been coming in.  Trips to the bookstore have yielded a book at most, rather than a pile of them.  Thrift store visits – I’ve been heading over a lot in search of Mom’s beloved dishes, which are the only gifts she wants for the holidays – have generally ended empty-handed, or with only a single item of clothing in very rare cases.  I picked up a light to use to try growing some veggies indoors this winter for only a few dollars, but other than that, the consumption has been negligible (and the amount left even within my budget is proof of this.

While it’s still tough in some ways (getting rid of things still means fighting against the “I might use that someday!” battlecry), it feels good to be getting things in order again.  They’re not great yet by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re getting there, and this afternoon, hopefully another garbage bag will join the donation pile, ready to go out the door.

Written by Jenn

November 26, 2010 at 8:34 am

The Anyway Project – November goals

with 3 comments

Since it seems I can’t redesign my entire life in the span of a weekend (or even a month, I imagine, or longer), I’m plotting out some goals for this month for The Anyway Project.  The categories have changed a bit, but the ideas are still the same.  Given that things are still busy and that I still have a lot of writing, grading, and other sundry things to take care of, I think one or two things at most in each category will be a darn good start.

Domestic Infrastructure:

Get the kitchen cleared out, both in terms of food and other things that are kicking around in there that aren’t really needed (I have an awful lot of pots and cookbooks that aren’t really used).  I am, of course, still working to declutter the apartment as well.  This is also the time to winterproof as much as possible, so we’ll be fixing up the shrink plastic as much as possible and looking for ways to better insulate what’s left around here.

Household Economy:

I’m aiming to not only stay on track with my existing budget, but to cut down expenses and spending by another 10 percent in order to increase my savings this month.  I’ve also added a new category into my budget for putting towards purchases that help with sustainability and that hopefully will cut costs as well, so I’m planning on doing some research about the best investments to make.

Resource Consumption:

I’m going to start tracking my resource consumption here as well as I can (some resources are arranged through the landlords, though, and I can’t get a completely accurate read on them).  That said, I can do a better job of tracking my electricity usage and using less of it, as well as setting a timer for shorter showers, and taking them less frequently.  With respect to getting around, my mileage is all on public transit, which isn’t horrible, but I’m also setting a goal of walking or biking at least once a week when I normally would have taken the bus.  I’m considering starting in on the Riot for Austerity again, but it’s still under consideration.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:

This one, I’ll admit, has me a bit stumped.  Although I see the value, I’m not sure I’m in a position right now to take on extra work in a cottage industry sense.  Nor do I know what to do at this point, so this one needs some thought.  I think I might instead focus on finishing the dissertation so that it’s done and over with and I can focus my energies in other directions (and stop paying tuition).  For subsistence, though, I’m looking into my options for some indoor growing.  This may be a bust, but then again it may not, and I’d like to get set up for that a bit more this month (this might be a good use for that new budget category).

Family and Community:

There are a number of organizations focused on sustainability and related concerns in town that I haven’t yet had much to do with.  So, this month I’m going to make an effort to get out to at least a few of their events and maybe even meet some people.  I’d also like to continue focusing on spending money – when I do spend money, that is – on local people and businesses.

Outside Work:

With October over, some of my outside work commitments have dissipated.  I’d like to keep it this way, and for now only focus on the dissertation and anything that’s important to either my future academic life or my future farm life (this has been working well thus far).   This is especially true, I think, in terms of sticking to those commitments that  mesh with my values.  To that end, I’ve got my eye on some projects that go somewhat beyond my usual work and start to engage with topics like food security and urban planning.  Now that the crazy period is over, I’d like to transition my research into some new work that matches my values and ideals a bit more.

Time and Happiness:

More exercise, better eating habits, more time on the couch knitting and reading.  That’s really about it.

That seems like a long list in some ways, but it also feels rather manageable, and some of these goals are things I’m already working my way through.  Some, of course, will take longer than a month, but it’s nice to know that there are specific goals to be met both right now and a ways down the road as well.

Written by Jenn

November 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

10×30 – week one

leave a comment »

While the week got off to a slow start, at the end I pulled it together and managed to get together my 10 things a day of things to purge.  Now, admittedly, I was maybe hoping for some larger things, to clear a bit more room, but for a start, vintage hat-thing, apron, quilt, 2 journals, 14 books, 18 magazines, 11 pr chopsticks, 22 whiteboard markers, 2 umbrellas, 3 sunglasses, record, and 2 sigg bottles.

I think that actually adds up to more than 70, so that’s something.  And this week, there will be more, and then more after that.  This progress thing just takes awhile, although it’s happy to see that first batch on its way out the door.

Written by Jenn

November 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Home sweet home

Tagged with ,

10×30 and The Anyway Project

with 4 comments

This week has not lent itself to the starting of projects like I’d imagined it would.  In addition to starting my 10×30 decluttering project and The Anyway Project, I was hoping to do some NaNoWriMo, as well as the academic-type equivalent.  I’ve done okay on the academic, but between a late-running project and utter exhaustion, the others took a back seat.

Until today.

After a sleep in until after noon, today, glory be, is the first day I’ve felt really human in awhile now.  I’ve taken the weekend off, and I’m feeling inspired and ready to go and catch up on the things that slipped by the wayside (the promise of Thai food for dinner, a rare treat, is also helping the motivation.

For The Anyway Project, Sharon’s set up seven categories that I’ve been giving some thought to:  Domestic Economy, Household Economy, Resource Consumption, Farm and Subsistence, Family and Community, Outside Work, and Time and Happiness.  While I have plans for all of them, the focus right now seems to be on domestic economy – really focusing on my home and how it can be better set up to meet my needs.  In some ways, this comes down to a lot of decluttering.  But as I get rid of things, I also want to consider if there’s anything home needs to make it more functionable or suitable (insulation comes to mind, which is another project on the books), as well as ways in which it can be better organized to work better for the ways that we use it.

Right now, I think this comes down to a few things.  First, it gets cold in here in the winter, and this is something that needs to be addressed.  We’ve started, but have a few other things to try as well.  I’d also like to make sure that there’s room for people to come over.  And, with people coming over, anything that helps up keep the place tidy enough that there isn’t a last minute scrable to clean before they arrive would also be lovely.  Finally, with a few projects in mind for this year – worm composter, more baking and cooking, and possibly some attempts at indoor growing over the winter, I need appropriate spaces, so clearing and arranging them now would be helpful.

These are just a few things – I’m sure more will come up as I actually tackle the work.  But for now, I’m off to find some things I can get rid of, tackle the dishes, and try to make this place just a bit tidier and less full by the end of the day today.

Written by Jenn

November 6, 2010 at 1:55 pm