Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The things I won't miss

I drafted this post a few weeks ago. I'm having a difficult time finding time to record my Minimization efforts today (It's not that exciting, mostly clothes) so I'll post this instead. It seems fitting to share now as I continue to play The Game:

If you get a great photographer, you shouldn't need to keep the dress...

Last night I donated my wedding dress to Goodwill. It's a size 10. I'm going to be honest and say there is measurably more of me now so... that ain't happening folks. I can't think of anything to wear it to anyway. When I lowered it from the attic to Chris and let him know I was donating it, he sounded sad, but didn't disagree. I don't need to keep it another 50 years until it's yellowed with age and moth eaten. Maybe at Goodwill it will find a penniless bride who can eek out the 50 dollars for it. It was a beautiful dress. I didn't open up the bag to get another look. I have the photos of our wedding when it looked best on me and I didn't want to invent any reasons to change my mind. I also unloaded a ton of crystal ware frames and candlestick holders. If you are gifting a bride who everyone thinks will have a van load of kids like her parents did, it's probably wise to not give them glass knicknacks. It's been over 13 years for them in my attic. The boxes were too age worn to re-gift (and I don't know anyone marrying who has those tastes or is planning on being childless). I donated them all.

I got rid of the last of many bags of silk flowers that I have been gradually letting go of for the past seven years.  I donated my collection of colored glass bottles that I had saved when I was a teen. I donated some books, and some lovely baskets that were too awkward to store and I didn't use much. A few more electronics found their way out- keyboards, mice, wires. The lions share of computer components and wires were let go of months ago when I held each up and asked Chris about it and we made several store bags of them, and even earlier yet in this past year, when we donated defunct towers and ancient monitors. Last Christmas we replaced our enormous old TV with a flatscreen on the wall (a generous gift from Best Friend); the huge one found a new home via freecycle.

Before we moved into this house I freecycled two heavy manual fly-wheel potter's wheels ( a saddle seat kick wheel and a treadle box style) and that may have been my first use of the community freecycle yahoo list. But when we got our home and I finished my degree, I then quickly purchased a kiln. While I knew I wasn't going to have space for a wheel, I thought we would be able to set up a work space just for hand-building and then "all" I would need was a kiln. (easy, right?) We were not able to afford any proper space for clay work or firing. Garages cost a lot. Sheds are not really in our budget (and if they were, we'd put lawn tools in them). I have tried several times, but I can't make back my money on the kiln, not even in small part. If I could go back and talk my self out of it, I would have put the 900 dollars into savings towards a shed instead, and then saved towards a smaller kiln, maybe making handbuilt cups and bowls mid fire and etsying them as gifts.

At this point, I'm not sure if I should keep it and see if it ever proves handy in the future or just give it away too. It takes up a lot of storage space, and it contributes to my personal guilt about feeling so rushed and desperate about my personal goals and expectations and not really hearing God about it, just feeling fear about never being able to work as a potter. It was an expensive lesson in not acting out of a place of worry for a large purchase.

In the end, I changed my degree from ceramics to a more generalized visual arts. I'm becoming more and more interested in changing my future expectations in the same vein. Now, I think God is telling me that I need to let go, to let all of the old dishes wear out and break, to give up of all of the tools and supplies, and the kiln. That if I can do this, He has something better for me. I have to give up. The more I give up, the less selfish and anxious I feel. I am eager to figure out what comes next but even if it is nothing at all, that will be a peace compared to feeling unfulfilled expectations for myself.

My Albatross

In June as I was going through an emotional time of waiting, I dove pretty intensely into decluttering our basement. My sister had given us the parts of a broken down vinyl shed, and although we were disappointed that we couldn't put it up as a shed again, and frustrated that no one even wanted the parts for free, I realized that they would make the perfect "flooring" material for the crawlspace in our basement- it turned out they all fit just right across the whole space, and even interlocked with each other. We gained a ton of storage. I bought huge locking lid tubs and vacuum seal bags and went through all of the winter outer wear in the attic, ruthlessly reducing it, then sealing it and storing it in the basement. I double wrapped our winter boots and put them with the outerwear bins too.

After seeing the fairytale happy ending of a coffee table my kids abused and I removed go to a much better home with my brother and his wife, who rehabbed it and made it a feature piece in their living room, I decided that there was a ton of other furniture and junk in my basement and living space that could probably find a better life else where. I set it all free on my curb and posted curbside alerts in a local facebook group.

Tables, chairs, stools, desks, shelves, an odd old sculpture of mine, tons of those glass electrical power cable caps, funky mismatched dirty wooden crates, broken pails and buckets, room divider photo frames, double and single strollers, dishes, just everything! Everything that I had been squirreling away expecting to have a use for or to rehabilitate.

Finally I was just admitting it was not a priority in my life. Not that I couldn't do it, or that I didn't know what to do with it, or that I didn't see value and purpose in those objects- just that in this season, those things that had filled a need or had promised to fill a need in the past were no longer what I wanted. I had gotten most of those things at tag sales or curb sides myself, and now someone else could rediscover the treasure-trash.

Anything that wasn't decent enough to bless someone else with got loaded up in the van and taken to the dump. Including our well worn 13 yr old sofa! Rest in peace.

With all of the new space in the basement, I was able to breakdown some of the sturdy shelving and tables that I wanted to keep for a future home, but currently don't need because my space is at a premium and I am downsizing the stuff. I found that the fastest way to commit myself to get rid of the books and toys, craft supplies and bric-a-brac was to take away the bin or shelf that contained it. Immediately the stuff became a tripping hazard and a pile I couldn't abide by and I began sorting it down. I go through it in passes.

The first pass is quick and dirty and ruthless. It's where I get the literal garbage out, and then the things in poorest condition which are either broken, worn out, out of date, or least loved (probably my child found it in a free box, or someone else decluttered and left it on my doorstep), stuff our kids or family has outgrown, and those things I really thought would help me in my life but I haven't ever used or touched and admit to myself I never will. They all go. This can be between a quarter and half of the stuff! My second pass is  usually comparative. I look at what's left and decide if I have something else that already addresses that need or if it's something I could borrow from a friend or the library or what have you on the rare occasion I would want to use it or read it. If it's something I'm not sure I'll use but haven't for years, and can easily be replaced new or used for less than twenty dollars that can go (it's a cheap mistake if I want it. The only thing I want back after all the intense de-cluttering so far is a quality salad spinner because of all the greens from the farm that I find myself cleaning that I didn't used to when I was first thinning my stuff out a couple years ago. This is a very small cost in the light of all the space and freedom I've gained!) There is a surprising amount of stuff this eliminates.

When it's been boiled down by that process, I then look at what's left and just flat out decide to halve what's there. I must make two boxes into one. So I do a this or this questioning- I pick between them. Now I am cutting out nice things that survived the first two passes. So what I'm saving is really the most useful and the most difficult to substitute or replace. Anything personally meaningful or memory box worthy is an automatic save, but I'm being discerning about it and not just allowing myself to be sentimental about everything. No one who gave me anything wants me to be burdened by it and wouldn't mind me giving that thing away years later. The nice things that don't make it into the final box become gifts, donations, or (rare) resale. I don't waste a lot of time and energy trying to sell things because it's not a good time in my life to hold tag sales, and I really don't want to store the junk in order to have enough to sell. The most resale I do is a few boxes of books and educational items for the annual home school used book fair. I severely under price, then mark all my books down in the last hour, then throw them on the free table near the end. Everything must go.

I started with a large overfilled book case taller than me, piled high to the ceiling, double layered, things sitting in front of it, and I end up with one box of the most meaningful stuff. The things I know I will need now, I find appropriate homes for. The rest is packed tightly, labeled specifically, and taken to the attic or the basement. For books I know I love, are rare to find, but I don't think I'll need in the next couple years, We have been taping the box closed and marking it "sorted" These go all the way to the very end of our short, cramped pull down door access attic .I do not need to keep looking at these anymore. It's my hope that one day we will have a reading room, with floor to ceiling shelves, and I will be able to put all of these books out. If not, then in a few years I will have them all pulled down and I'll sift them again and catalog what's left so I know every title up there in case I want it, and I'll use them to rotate with a few of our bookshelves that will never be overfilled and impossible to look through.

Similarly, I am figuring out how to manage our homeschool resources. I have been pretty decisive about which materials we will never use, even really good ones that I'm just not going to get to. I've set those free, recycled the out of date or partly used ones, and cut down our reference shelf material to the best stuff. I've put away everything I won't need for a couple years. Now the rest is still too much to display, and overwhelming if I did. So I am trying to come up with a system of book crates in a closet on hand, so that I can rotate the resources and access the next workbooks on a quarterly basis. I haven't got it perfected yet, but I only just started our second quarter this school year. I expect by the 3rd and 4th quarter, it will be a very flexible and reliable system.

It was lovely. It was too much. Still working on this.

Chris installed a big around-the-corner set of three shelves on the wall in our bedroom after he laid a new hardwood floor, we painted the walls deep red, and I bought curtains for the windows and the closet. I put all the books I loved on the shelves and had crates put on the walls like shelves to hold my fabrics. At first I loved seeing it all, having it at my finger tips. But as the months went by, I realized that I don't have the time to read all the things and make all the things, and it was too visually overwhelming and guilt ridden for me. So I took half the stuff off, did with it the same process as the other stuff in my house (except this was already my creme de la creme, so not much of it left my home; most went to the sealed up boxes in the attic) Then I moved school manuals and teacher guidebooks to some of the space, and took one of the shelves for drawing supplies. Another shelf holds photo albums. It still feels cluttered. I'm going to make a better home for the photo albums in our living room once we finish the current project of painting the walls.

We took the crafting supply crates off the walls. I gave away a massive amount of fabric (again. Most of it I had already donated to someone who supports her family by sewing. She got more of this pass of minimizing too. Some also went to my mom, some to a friend who makes doll dresses). I made a few thick rag-crochet bags for my supplies. I have decided that if what I bring in fills these up, I can't get more without using up or giving up something to make room for the new stuff. I have one sewing basket (it's too over filled and messy. I will simplify it and organize it), a small box of beading supplies (only because I know my girls want to make necklaces), a bag of yarn, a bag of fabric and a bag of wool for spinning.

Most of these went to someone who has this as a more regular hobby than I do. None of us can do all the things, all the time. If I ever need a few seed beads, I know who to ask.
All of this cutting out craft supplies has actually made me less stressed and more able to put my hands on what I am looking for and hopefully will free me up to be more focused on improving my illustration skills. You really don't need a lot of junk to draw. The paper and portfolios take up the most space, really.

Here's hoping I can change gears very soon from massive purging to regular maintenance and have free time for a personal renaissance.

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