Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Decluttering & Simplifying

We've been decluttering or simplifying for quite a while now, realistically I've been purging extra belongings since I first started packing for my move out west 8 years ago for grad school, and I've done major purges several times since, once when I moved into my truck for a season or two nearing the end of grad school, and once as I moved down into the States to be with the mister.

I don't think I would call what we've been up to lately a major purge, but it has been a rather intentional stuff reduction to make room for more daily life, with less time spent daily on organizing/sorting/cleaning/tidying. I definitely started small with this several years back, and slowly have been building up steam. Its hard getting rid of stuff, especially stuff that has memories attached - oh, so and so gave me that, or oh, I got that at such and such, but for me the evidence is definitely behind having less stuff and being more content (and less stressed by the amount of tidying one has to do!).

Lately I've gotten a great little helper -  Little M has gotten big enough, and old enough, to be a great help, so she's been helping, and we are moving through different areas of our home, decluttering as we go, organizing, tidying, and making sure that we limit the amount of stuff we have, only keep things that are useful and/or beautiful, and attempt to have only one of things when duplicates aren't necessary.
some furniture (not my rowing machine though!) on it's way out the front door, with associated kid-decorations

One of the problems I've been noticing as we try to pare down certain areas, is that since a lot of our stuff is second hand, we often have two or three somewhat useful items, when we could get away with one if only it had all the right characteristics. For example, we had 4 oven mitts, but one was hard to use but a great thickness, two were nicely fitted but had random thin patches that often resulted in hot hands, and one was rather stained, singed, and a bit too large. We got rid of one, and likely could get rid of one of the thin ones, although I hate getting rid of half a set, so for the moment here they be. I could list any number of other things/types of things that we have that have the same problem, a couple not-quite perfect items where one would do.

kid clothes on their way to be donated
This is a problem I've found with second hand/gifted things, they often aren't the perfect ideal item for your current use. However, since thrifting saves so much money, and since reusing things instead of buying new is important to me, I'm not sure of the best solution for that problem. Another reason you end up with a multitude of not-quite perfect items is if you have stuff that you've had for a while, but your use of them has changed over time. I'm trying to be intentional and make do, but there are certain areas (my wardrobe for example), where I'm winnowing things down, to see what is really needed, and what might need to be replaced with something more suitable.

freshly decluttered bins of outgrown kid clothes waiting for Baby E to fit them
In terms of how much stuff we've gotten rid of, well pretty much every time my mother in law (an avid ebay seller!) comes to visit, we send her home with several bags and boxes of things to be sold, or donated if she doesn't feel they would sell or be worth selling. In addition, Little M and I took a large load of kid clothes in to a local women & child support group type organization, where they have a room in the back filled with donated kids clothes for people to pick through as needed. We had gone through our stash of Little M's outgrown clothes as I had realized we had over a dozen long sleeve t-shirts in one size, so clearly I was keeping too many items between kids!

As you can see from the above photos, there is still a long way to go to get a much simpler, streamlined house with less clutter, and less possessions, but we are on a roll at the moment, and motivated to get there!  Ahhh... less stuff just feels so good!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Upgrading

We resisted 'upgrading' to smart phones for years, but finally did this past month, and boy, do I regret not doing so earlier! The reason being - we were holding off because of the added cost of a data plan. Well, I'm not sure if this has just recently changed due to the big companies finally realizing they needed to compete with the smaller companies running off their towers, or what, but we are paying LESS now, for 2 smartphones than we were before for 2 dumbphones!

Part of the reason is our own fault. We were out of contract with our old dumpphones for several years, but hadn't realized that there was a 15 dollar a month per line discount if you bring your own phones, which phones out of contract are. So we should have been paying 30 bucks a month less before already. So there was that savings, and the rest of the cost savings must be due to better rates now than in the past.

We bought one old used iphone with some of my saved birthday/christmas money (thanks mom & dad!). I had been saving that money for a new laptop, but mine still is doing ok, so that got moved down the priority list for the time being, as the reason we had to upgrade, or do something, now with our phones was that my husband's finally died (at 4 years it was not a surprise, and had been coming for almost a year with a slowly dying screen). We'll use the monthly savings in our new phone bill for the next few months to save up for another used iphone, and then we will both have smart phones!

We had both been wanting smartphones for a while now, and so while it was a good exercise to delay that want, since it truly wasn't a need, once we needed a new phone, and realized we could actually save money with a smartphone plan now, it was a no-brainer. Not to mention the added savings and convenience we will realize by having the convenience of a iphone: GPS/map capabilities when driving in the city, imessage & facetime to better stay in touch with my Canadian friends and family, to do and grocery list apps to reduce paper lists & forgetting of said paper!, and easy photos without lugging the DSLR around everywhere - even in the house!
I've already been making my daily to do lists on my phone, and have started trying to find the perfect grocery list and grocery price book app, and the simplicity of snapping quick pics of the girls on the go has been just great (and stitching them together to create photo collages is SO easy on my phone!).
Having an extra 20 or so bucks in our pocket each month, even with setting aside money for future phones, and with having iphones, is a pretty great feeling!! Of course, there are associated costs - protective case (I have a bad habit of carrying too much stuff and thus dropping semi-important things like my phone - never the baby, but often the phone!), old-school handset (for Little M to talk more easily on it to the grandparents), and now I'm realizing that although I specifically got an old iphone 4 as nothing newer would be compatible with my old mac laptop running leopard (still!), due to it being upgraded to ios 7, it actually won't sync with my itunes. Not really a problem unless I wanted to sync my icalendar or itunes, as it still will sync photos,, but I had been excited to transfer some podcasts across from my itunes. It will be simple (I think) to set them up to be downloaded directly to my phone, but a bit of an inconvenience that I wasn't expecting. Ah the joys of having old things, right?!

--the photos in this post are from the last few days with my new phone. yay for moments captured that otherwise wouldn't be, as I'd been finding that with 2 kids, I rarely had time/hands free for the real camera, and I do so love having photos!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lost

So I don't know if there is some mysterious house elf in my home, or if I am losing my memory, but at the moment there are several things missing from my kitchen that I have no clue what happened to them! So frustrating if they are misplaced somewhere around the house, and so upsetting if they are actually lost for good!

The least significant is the special glass 3M pads that I use for scrubbing off the wood stove glass doors. Regular scrubber pads would scratch the glass, but these special softer ones are designed for glass. Can't scrub the baked on grit off my wood stove doors without them! I have no clue when they went missing, it has been longer than I like to admit since I scrubbed the glass on the stove, but when I went to put my rubber gloves on, the scrubbers weren't sitting on top like they used to be, nor were they fallen down behind. Hmmm...

Then more of a daily inconvenience is that one of the two one teaspoon measures that I have in the kitchen has been missing for months now. And of course it is my favorite all metal one from the set that my sister in law gave me for christmas one year, that goes in the dishwasher as there is no plastic on the handle like my other set. I've searched all through Little M's play kitchen things, but it is nowhere to be found. I've been thinking perhaps it is under the oven, and so cleaning under there is on my to do list, but clearly it has been on my to do list since around the New Year, so its not a huge priority to get that cleaned. If I knew the teaspoon measure was under there however, you can be sure I would be pulling the damn oven out immediately. Arg.

Anyway, anyone else have a house elf? Sigh... Or a faulty memory?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Upswing-ing

The past just over a year has been a bit of a rough one. Part of it has been how we've been looking at things (I mean come on, right? we brought a brand new healthy baby home, how could it not be an amazing year?). But there have been a lot of expensive things that have happened, some with good (and really great) outcomes, but still they have been draining, both emotionally, and financially. It was a year where we often felt like we couldn't catch a break, couldn't get ahead. Starting 2014 we felt like we would be getting out of it. You know, 2013 was that year, 2014 would be better. But January had barely begun and I felt Tia's lump returning. We started looking at prices, length of recovery, and quality of life. Hard things to weigh with a level head when you are talking about the best (dog) friend you have moved across the continent with, who has been by your side for over nine years. The year had barely begun and here we were right back into the heavy stuff.

We have a couple people in our lives who are pretty negative, glass half empty kind of folk. In truth, they are glass three quarters empty when in truth it is likely only a quarter empty. We do our best to dampen, and outright avoid, their negativity, as it really doesn't sit well with us. But we were feeling like we were turning into that sort of people. So we started trying to look on the bright side. Instead of choosing between two crappy options (amputate or euthanize), we looked at it the opposite - two good options - one where a beloved, 11 year old dog would get to live out a few more months until due to cancer impeding her walking ability she would have to be put down, and the other where a beloved, 11 year old dog would be able to get a third (or would this be fourth?) chance at life as a pampered-to-the-best-of-our-current-abilities three legged dog.

Then the vet said she wasn't sure it was actually the mass coming back, that it might just be scar tissue, and that she would look at it again in two weeks and see if it had changed.

Then one of the two remaining manuscripts from my masters thesis work was accepted pending revisions.

Then the waldorf-inspired daycare that we absolutely love told us that they were going to be expanding in the next few months, and that they might have some extra spots, which would solve my 1.5 day a week dilemma at our other daycare, where it takes me 45 minutes to drive to Baby E to nurse her bottle-refusing self, which severely limits my work hours, and really eats into our time at home those days, and generally has been causing me a lot of turmoil over not being able to find the current balance between earning enough money to get the necessary bills paid and being at home with my family enough to keep everyone healthy and happy and all the chores kept up with.

And all of a sudden, on the Friday of a long week, I'm feeling all joyful and happy. Hopeful. The upswing has happened. The worm has turned. I'm sure there will still be trials and tribulations to come. There always are. But there are now enough good and positive things under our belt, that the good will hopefully keep outweighing the bad for another good long while, and we will be able to look at it all with a positive light once again. Happy day. So on this Friday, I hope you all are able to look upon your lives with that positive outlook that makes for a bright tomorrow!
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