Having less to have more

Life is about balance and for many of us, our lives are out of order because they are simply out of balance.

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This is a problem because we let our lives become so out of sync with the visions we originally had for them, and imbalanced by the demands of our professional and private selves. 

This is one reason I am attempting to tackle a different goal every month. I focus and attempt to improve in that area for four weeks. If I can, I keep going but, if I cannot, I don’t beat myself up because I don’t live in a vacuum. 

Some weeks are still tough though. 

Last month it took me at least a week to find a rhythm to learning German by myself. Once I finally gave in to a few minutes of practice every day, those few minutes turned into a few more

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Our lives as stuff stuffed away

Originally, when our son was born, my husband and I discussed and agreed that we would not have many toys. The toys he would have would not be bursting from cupboards or drawers. We agreed on the one-in, one-out rule. 

Since that was before our son was a part of our life, it was a bit like being the perfect parent before any children are born. 

Today, he has more toys than I am happy with, especially plastic crap. He loves it ALL though and it is incredibly hard for him to part with any of it. 

I don’t blame him though. I have clothes I haven’t worn since I don’t know when, and papers in folders from about a decade ago. When do those files become irrelevant?! 

My problem with the papers is that I like to hold the things I read in my hands, highlight sections, underline other sections, and write in the margins. I am learning to adapt to e-readers and PDFs, but it just isn’t the same for me. I spend too much time staring at screens, especially this year. When I am trying to read to learn, it is difficult to remain focused on a digital document or book. 

Why?! Why do I keep these?!

Is this adulting?!

Recycling was picked up the other morning. We always forget, even though I have it on all of our calendars, everywhere. The loud banging of the containers being picked up by the mechanical arm and their contents falling into the machine usually jolts me awake, then we (I) remember. 

In the rush to get the yellow plastic and metal-filled bags out the door and all of our cardboard fit into our house’s bins I had a minor crisis. I recently bought a bendy-swivel arm for my iPad/phone to act as a second screen for my computer or to allow us to watch or record video with these devices in the most optimal position. Well, the box this arm came in is high quality. 

Not your standard Amazon box, mind you, but the kind that folds into itself and is then, therefore secure. 

My silly moment of ‘crisis’ came when I was considering breaking the darn thing down to fit in with the rest of the paper recycling or to stick it with the rest of my gift supplies. 

At some point in my adult life, It came to seem reasonable to save containers and not just sometimes.  

I save ‘nice’ boxes products come in to reuse later as gift boxes. Shoeboxes become storage boxes, glass jars become storage containers, and jam jars. Even old face cream containers have a place in my home, saved for some future potential use.

I am the first to admit I have a problem. 

I am also the first to make fun of myself because OWN IT!

Why bring this up now? Because at some point this mattered more than the little moments, more than the bigger dreams that feed the soul. Or, at the very least, it became bigger than I ever thought it would take up considerable space in my house. 

Freaking boxes. 

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The Year of Less

Cait Flanders wrote the book “The Year of Less” as a testament to ‘less’. Through her year-long experiment into non-consumerism, she “learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.”

I first read this book back in January of 2019 as I had been searching to reduce both the amount of general stuff I/we owned and the number of plastic I/we bring into the house for some time, both before reading her book and since. 

Now, I am saying I/we, but the bulk of it is from ME. 

I am the one bringing most of it into the house, but I am the main remover of stuff as well. 

I found the book incredibly inspiring. 

 I think in general, I appreciate the first-person narrative of ‘this is the crappy place I was in regarding my life overall and this is my journey through that chaos’. It resonates with me because it is so human. 

We are flawed and imperfect. 

No amount of stuff will fix that. 

Additionally, I respect the fact that Flanders, in her year of less, gave away about seventy percent of her stuff. 

I can’t say how much of my stuff I will get rid of this month, I just know it needs to happen. 

When we moved into this apartment, I had a plethora of language learning coursebooks some of which I hadn’t touched in two to three years at that point. I did finally recycle or give away most of them in 2019. We moved into this space in 2014. 

Why can’t I get rid of anything?


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The exciting bits

How am I going to do this? I think it best to tackle this somewhat methodically. The stuff is probably best defeated if attacked room by room.

Which room is best considered the ‘lowest hanging fruit’? The bathroom or the kitchen perhaps. 

The worst rooms will likely be my office and our bedroom, followed by our basement storage space. 

Perhaps the larger question to consider is if I plan to organize our stuff once space has been cleared or leave it for my next thirty-day challenge, as that was the original plan. I suppose I will know by the end of week one, if not week two. 

Then the question may become Konmari or Death Cleaning? We shall see.

The plan of attack

1. The bathroom

First, I will clean out the bathroom. I think most of this will involve tossing old prescriptions and medications we haven’t used in some time. Ideally, I would love to replace medications with natural remedies and plastic bottles with glass or cardboard containers, or no containers, but that all might be trickier than I am ready for. 

The goal here is to reduce consumption and hoarding of things, not to go out and have a Pinterest-worthy, esthetically beautiful bathroom supply that costs a fortune to create. The point here is function and cost(-effectiveness). Ideally not buying a darn thing this month that isn’t related to work, nourishment (food/health), or education. 

2. The Kitchen/pantry

The next ‘lowest hanging fruit is the kitchen. It stands to reason that, since I am going through the kitchen I should attend to the pantry as well. The pantry may be a more colossal beast than I am ready for in the beginning, as it is a mixed-use storage space, but for that reason – it must be done. 

3. The bedroom

This is probably the worse space in the whole house and I hate it. The bedroom is supposed to be an oasis and ours is not. It has always been the space where things get put when I’ve purged them from other rooms. It is our transitory space. We collect my son’s clothes that he grows out of there, then never take the storage boxes to the basement. My husband has been working in the space for the past year, so it also contains his ‘office’ now. 

4. The living room/Our son’s room

I have put these two together because I hope that my husband and I can tackle these two spaces simultaneously. The living room doesn’t contain much other than old electronics that need to be expelled. The majority of our books are in the living room too, but I tend to go through those more frequently. 

While my husband tackles the old electronics, I hope to be able to address what seems like a thousand little pieces of plastic in my son’s room. At any birthday he has attended he has been given goodie bags of plastic crap that I have not been able to get rid of en masse, but I would love to. 

5. The basement

I think we could knock this out in a day, especially with our patio stuff on the roof space, no longer in storage. I may need to be a bit more methodical about how to approach this though as there may be stuff to sell, to give away (to charity), or to toss. 

6. Office Space

The other tricky space will be my office. I think the bulk of what will be expunged from this space will be recyclable though. In other words, a considerable amount of paper. 

It isn’t odd that now a growing sense of anxiety is growing inside of me. It just proves that this month’s challenge is necessary and likely overdue.

3 thoughts on “Having less to have more

  1. Pingback: April showers (& a freeze) May not actually bring flowers | Thirty Days to life

  2. I’m working on decluttering too! I am not doing a month long challenge – just taking it as I can & trying to do it regularly. I did the living room & started on my artist studio closet today.

    Cheers to you & good luck to both of us,


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