Decluttering challenge: 40 Bags in 40 Days

I am participating in White House Black Shutter’s 40 Bags in 40 Days 2015 challenge. This challenge officially started last Wednesday, on the 18th of February. I started a day or so late – you can really do this any time. It is started on this date to coincide with Lent, but you don’t have to do it for this reason (I’m not).

What I love the most about it is the planning template and the ideas of places to declutter. I had difficulty stopping at 40. Maybe I won’t. So far I’ve chosen a mix of big and small tasks, some I’ve completed quickly, some have taken longer, some I thought I’d complete but only got half way through. I don’t think it really matters – it’s about momentum. I’m already finding stuff that I had no idea I still had and getting rid of stuff is easier than it has been in a long time.

Day 1 I cleared out the junk drawer / BP’s coin drawer and took $130 to the bank.

The Fearse Family: 40 bags in 40 days

Day 2 I cleared out the expired medicines and returned them to the chemist. I also gave away a Little Squirt nappy hose that I bought second hand at the beginning of our BNN challenge and which never fitted our toilet properly.

The Fearse Family: 40 bags in 40 days.

Day 3 I worked on Little Fearse’s wardrobe and got rid of a large stack of old greeting cards.

The Fearse Family: 40 bags in 40 days

Will you join me? I’m posting pretty much daily on our Facebook page, I’d love to see your progress, too.

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The beauty of blank spaces.

I’m not a blank spaces kind of girl. I like to see those spaces used for their purpose. Bookshelves full to overflowing with interesting books and drawers full of pretty clothes and knickknack shelves full of (preferably vintage) thingies.Over the past two years I have learnt to love blank spaces. They show me that I have made progress. By leaving them blank they incite my imagination. All the things I could do with that space, the way I could curate it or fill it with stuff I love. And being able to imagine is enough.

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

Here are some of the blank spaces I have cultivated since we began our BNN year. Even though they are spaces filled with nothing, I sometimes think this is my biggest Buy Nothing achievement. Currently I am piloting an e-course for Bethany of Our Journey to Ithaca (which I will look forward to recommending to you when it’s up and running. The e-course runs alongside reading the e-book Clutterfree by Leo Babauta and Courtney Carver (full disclosure: I purchased this – but education is something I’m always willing to invest in). I haven’t read enough of the book yet to recommend it, but so far it reconfirms a lot of the things I have already learned about living a less clutter-some life, and also reminds me of some home truths I choose to forget sometimes. This quote, which I read today, is particularly relevant to this post: When you have emptiness in your home you have space to fill it with conversation, play, laughter, and silence. 

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces  The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

I’d love to hear your tales of blank spaces! Share photos! 

Mamaxo

Do you dare count your clothes?

The Fearse Family: Wardrobe tips and traps.

 

When I initially wrote about counting the clothes in my wardrobe it opened up quite a bit of discussion, around the blog and off the blog. I still have friends who talk to me about doing a clothes stock take as an idea and how it frightens them. It has been over a year since my initial count and my decision to no longer purchase any clothes. I did an interim count in January, but was still unhappy with the numbers. I’ve spent the past 6 months paring down my wardrobe further.

When I first did the count the number of items that were going to stay in my wardrobe (this didn’t include the things I had set aside for eBay) was 371 items. I was pretty shocked. I’d taken out an additional 30 – 40 items to sell, so my real number was very high.

When I did my January count I hadn’t bought an item of clothing for eight months. I had actively analysed all the items I had in my wardrobe and removed as much as I felt I could. I was given three items of clothing for Christmas, which were the only new clothes I’d added to my wardrobe in that time. At this stage I still had 304 items in my wardrobe. This time I also found a stash of ‘sentimental’ clothes in the storeroom and some ancient clothes that had been put away to repair and forgotten about. This would have bumped the original number up even more, but let’s try not to think about that too much!

So, we’re now in July. It’s been more than 13 months since I stopped buying clothes. I have added, in that time, 7 items from a friend, 3 items as gifts at Christmas time, 1 item that was cut down from an oversized 60s dress to a wearable skirt, 1 vintage shirt from the market and 1 pair of $3.25 jeans from the op shop. Most of those items have been exchanged with items I have then donated, so they haven’t added to my overall total. I now own (excluding some items still waiting to sell) 265 items of clothing. That means I have reduced my original number by more than 100 items. Am I happy with that? Yeah, for a start, I am.

Here are some of my best improved areas:

May 2012 July 2014
Undies 59 38
Socks 41 29
Leggings 18 8
Bras 22 9
Dresses 38 23
Singlets 28 11
Cardigans 12 4
T-shirts 27 8

How did I do it?

  • I have learned that white clothes don’t store well, so any white maternity clothes or unworn sentimental clothes have now become yellowish rags. Either wear your white clothes or donate them.
  • I looked at the items I had far too many of in the first place with a critical eye. I noticed what I wore most and what I had too many doubles of and pared down those numbers. There is still room for improvement here. I have 4 black singlets, for example, and I probably wear two of them at least four times as much as the others. (Conversely I have four black cardigans and they are all worn as regularly as each other and are perfectly justifiable in my wardrobe.)
  • I tried to let go of sentimental attachments. If I am not wearing stuff, maybe someone else will. I know the thrill of finding just the right thing second hand, so passing on those sentimental or beautiful vintage pieces might make someone else’s day. I still have 7 sentimental items in my wardrobe which I am not willing to part with. These include shawls and scarves of my grandmother’s and old school shirts from graduating classes I have taught.
  • I have been experimenting with the hanger trick for the past few months and have discovered that most of the clothes in my wardrobe that are in season have already been worn. I guess this means I’m doing something right.
  • You’ve probably heard the rule that we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. I am finding this is very true, especially for my non working days (more than half the week). I will generally wear, at this time of year, many layers of singlet, long sleeved top, t-shirt, cardigan and jacket with jeans and boots or sneakers. This is my standard winter uniform. It may vary in different shades of grey, black and purple but day-to-day I’m dressed pretty much the same. I have, unfortunately, reduced my t-shirt and jeans wardrobe so much that the one pair of jeans I own get very worn and my four t-shirts that I regularly wear are getting very stretched and faded. It’s important to know your wardrobe and the way you use it before you start reducing. 
  • The good side of the above point is that on the days my jeans are in the wash I’m forced to dress with a little more thought. This means other items that might be ignored get a bit more of a work out, breaking me out of that 20% that gets overworked. On work days I rotate between several dressier outfits which gives the other 80% even more time in the fresh air.
  • Sometimes I get bored of my wardrobe, but in reality I’m not a trendy or particularly adventurous dresser, so it wouldn’t make a difference what is in there. I’ll still keep going back to the same old tried and true jeans and t-shirt combos.
  • When you know exactly what you have in your wardrobe you don’t need to fear donating something that you’re keeping just in case. I have often found that I don’t like donating long sleeved tops because they are so useful for three out of four seasons of the year. The thing is, if I don’t like the top then I’m not going to wear it. Even if I get desperate and all my other stuff is in the wash. I’ll probably just wear one of my 6 shirts instead. Keeping stuff you hate wearing for “just in case” times in some kind of rationalised lunacy when you have, say, 264 other things you could wear. 
  • Also, you know, what do we wear clothes for? To keep warm and dry, or cool and modest, or whatever. Clothes don’t make us anything, other than dressed. Why do we give them so much of the space in our house, so much of our time purchasing / cleaning / maintaining them, so much of our budget? Humans are pretty ridiculous, right?

And on that note.

Mama xo

PS I’m keen to do a couple of months worth of photos of what I wear each day to see how the 20/80 rule actually pans out for me. I haven’t had a great track record with taking a photo a day, so we’ll see how I go with that. I will also not be uploading these as I go as I really have no desire to have a discussion surrounding my daily wardrobe choices. I’ll chuck them all together some how at the end to show you how it looks from a statistical perspective.

 

As June 30th approaches (goal update)

The deadline for one of my January goals is fast approaching, so I felt it was a good time to update you and, in turn, keep myself on track.

1. I would like to reduce the stuff in our house by 1000 more items by Jan 1st 2015.

  • By our last update I had removed 191 items and added 55. We’re faring a lot better now, but I have been a bit slack in keeping track. Let’s call these numbers approximate.
  • Our outgoing stuff, helped along by the Minimalist Game, is at 635 items. I still have a lot of items in the out-going pile that just haven’t been moved on yet. I hope to focus on that a little these school holidays.
  • Our incoming stuff is at 101 items. This has been added to a lot due to Little Fearse’s birthday and, also, me losing focus a little. I’m getting less good at saying ‘no thanks’. I need to continually remind myself that we don’t need stuff. 
  • So, really, this brings our total for removed items (if I’m going to be strict) back to 534 items.
  • A little over half way at a little under the half way point. Not bad! Of course getting rid of 500 more items is going to be more challenging given the depths we have already gone to in our decluttering. I’ll let you know how I go.

2. I would like to further reduce the number of tubs in the storeroom by at least one 60 litre tub by Jan 1st 2015.

  • I have reduced the stuff in these tubs by half a tub. So, I guess, that puts me at the half way point, too.

3. I would like to maintain a clear dining room surface, permanently. (With the exception of times of high volumes of at home work, such as report writing time, when it doubles as my desk and some clutter is necessary.)

  • Here, you be the judge. Not toooooo bad.Image

4. I would like to sell (or, failing that, donate) all of the items that I currently have set aside for eBay by June 30th this year.

  • I have stopped selling things in eBay due to ludicrous fees and postage costs. I’m thinking about opening an Etsy store for my vintage dresses and BP’s vintage cup cake stands, but this is something I need to investigate further these holidays. I won’t be meeting this goal by June 30th, but will probably reassess and set a new goal once I know what I’m doing.

5. I would like to read 5 books on my to-read shelves by 1st Jan 2015.

  • This is the goal I am doing the best with. I have really prioritised reading lately, especially since BP’s new job means less reading time in the mornings. I use every free opportunity, including getting to school a little earlier to read in the car, reading in the bath, reading instead of watching movies or TV shows, going to bed earlier to read…reading, reading, reading.
  • I have read, since the last update, two more books from the shelves Last Words by George Carlin and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. This brings my total to four already!
  • My to-read shelves are now down to 99 books! I can’t remember the last time I had less than 100 books on this shelf. BP asked if I wanted some books for my birthday and it was so hard saying no, but I really want to get down to a less overwhelming number of unread books.
  • I have been borrowing a lot of books from friends and the library, and have been gifted some recent blockbusters which I raced through and passed on. None of these made it onto my to-read shelves, so I need to, perhaps, focus a little more on reading from the shelves and less on borrowing yet more books!
  • With my recent focus on reading perhaps I can set a goal within a goal and see if I can double it – 10 books by January 1st? You’re on!

Mama xo

The end (of April).

Today marks the end of two challenges we set for ourselves for the month of April; The Minimalist Game and Supermarket Free Month. Along with continuing to focus on reducing our waste and renovating a dollshouse for Little Fearse’s birthday, it’s been a big month.

The Minimalist Game became quite challenging towards the end and we still need to get rid of 28 things for Monday and another 13 for Tuesday. I have grand hopes that these things will be removed from Big Poppa’s office because I’m out. I have hunted everywhere! Here are some of the places we further decluttered to get to our total of 465 outgoing items:

  • DVD cabinet (this must be the fourth time we’ve been through these and still found more to get rid of)
  • Big Poppa’s office (a so-far untapped resource for stuff)
  • My jewellery box (again!)
  • CDs (for about the third time)
  • Clothes (unbelievably we are still getting rid of clothes from our adult wardrobes)Image
  • Books (yes, even books were ruthlessly discarded)
  • Furniture
  • Toys (although we did have some incoming for Little Fearse’s birthday – not as many as anticipated, our family and friends know us too well!)
  • Shoes (even Big Poppa!)
  • The shed
  • The cupboards in the spare bedroom (wowsers, they just keep filling up)
  • The garden (old pots, mostly)
  • Old electronics (yay for e-waste!)
  • The kitchen (again)
  • The linen press

The fabulous thing about this month of purging is that we really started to see our space with re-newed eyes. After finally moving on our beloved but large couch (yes, the one I mentioned here, right at the beginning of our journey) we were able to see that our back room had far more potential than we previously realised. We swapped my beautiful 1920s writing desk with the booksheves and created a whole new reading nook to house an antique coal shoot my Mum’s cousin passed on to us and one of my Mum’s antique library chairs. This also meant that Big Poppa finally got around to staining the coal shoot and it’s ready to go.

Our newly arranged, calm, functional, enjoyable dining room.

Our newly arranged, calm, functional, enjoyable dining room. And you know what else? I went in and took this photo without rearranging a thing. I love that there is so little purposeless clutter these days.

 

We also rearranged our kitchen to create a more cohesive preparation space and learned that we have an issue with our electrical plugs. This is something we need to get sorted, but with less stuff it just seems so much easier to do these things.

I also mounted a shadow box in Little Fearse’s play area that BP painted two years ago. We started a wall of family photos, something we’d been intending to do since we moved in three years ago.

Removing the stuff has really given us an opportunity to enjoy our home again. Even after a year of purging we still have such a long way to go but it’s beginning to get to the stage where we can see our progress and enjoy the empty space we’re making.

The actual act of physically removing stuff from our home has had an impact on so many areas of our lives – it is easier to invite people over, it is more enjoyable to be in every part of our home and spaces function as they’re intended.

If you haven’t started decluttering – I highly recommend it. Do the minimalist game this month. You won’t regret it!

[Coming up next: Our Supermarket Free month and a series on the dolls house renovation.]

Mama xo

Mama

Purge

For a long time I have been a “collector”, from basketball cards when I was a kid, to music and film on basically every kind of media you can imagine. I took pride In my collection and some weird way it gave me a sense of accomplishment. During this month we have been getting rid of the same amount of “things” as the day in the date. Today on the 23rd of April, I have purged and am not seeing the sense in the collection anymore. The first thing that took a shellacking was the DVD pile.

In this day and age, EVERYTHING is basically available on free or paid streaming, as well as the other means that one may obtain content from the good old internets. Instead of having a wall of DVDs I have a small black box that holds thousands of hours of music, film, tv and every other thing I could ever want that sits on a shelf next to the TV. Our TV aerial hadn’t been plugged in since the end of football season last September and was only plugged in recently for the very same reason, to watch one game of football a week. We don’t watch broadcast television and therefore are not advertised to or watch any of the lobotomy style programming the major networks in Australia pass off as entertainment or news.

Looking at my DVD stack, I realised I have most of the stuff digitally now and have pulled half of them out, to never be put back again. We maybe watch an actual DVD twice a year, all they are  doing is filling the space in our TV cabinet they could be better utilized. Out with the old in with the none.

I have even offered up three of my pairs of sneakers to the cause of a less cluttered life. More on that soon.

 

BPF

 

The Minimalist Game

We started the Minimalist Game on the 1st. No joke. Leading up to April, knowing we were starting, I’d been eyeing off junk in every corner of the house. “This will be easy!”  I told myself. I was wrong. This is already hard and we’re only on day 3. Today I have laid my hands on dozens of things that prior to April beginning I was sure I could part with. Now they seem so much more valuable. Decluttering is hard!

While I did the 2-4-1 Challenge last year I made some pretty hard and fast rules. One of them was that anything that was not passed on to someone else didn’t count. I couldn’t count something I recycled or trashed. I still believe that if it ends up in the rubbish it doesn’t count, so that rule sticks. I am going to relax on the recycling rule for the month, as I can’t see myself removing 465 items out of the house in 30 days in any other way.

On day 1 I offered a craft book on our Buy Nothing site, which will hopefully be collected by a local Mum for her daughter to enjoy over the holidays. On day 2 I offered two children’s vinyls which are still looking for a home. On day 3 (today) I have so far recycled two old photo albums (photos rescued by an acid-free album) and am still hunting for my third item. You can join us in the challenge (we’d love you to) by posting your discards (or even just the really satisfying ones) on our Facebook page.

Mama xo

By the end of the month we hope our house will look a little like this…bridge_house_empty_sittingroom

(By the way, click through the link. The image comes from a super cute dolls house site…since dolls house restoration is our thing at the moment I was pretty stoked to find some more ideas.)