The Holiday Card Dilema

30 Dec

In the past I got into the habit of hand creating my holiday cards.  It was a huge endeavour which included making over 50 cards and decorated envelopes.  I would try to think “assembly line” when coming up with my design.  When making these cards they would take over a room in the house, usually the kitchen and the kitchen table.  There would be glitter, paint, glue, rubber stamps and attachments all over the place.  This went on for many years.

Although I did enjoy this activity, each year the pressure was on to come up with another idea.  In addition, the pressure mounted when I found out people were saving my creations and displaying them year to year.

One year when suffering the worst of Lyme Disease as well as a move at the same time,  I decided I needed to simplify my life and my holiday season.  Something had to go.  Bye Bye went the card making.  Actually shortly later, bye bye went sending any holiday cards all together.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  It took too much energy, and I just didn’t have it in me.

That was several years ago, and I still have not gotten back into the card making or the card sending.  Since we have been living simply and have removed ourselves from the mass consumerism, I have been making most of my Christmas presents.  What extra time and energy I have is put towards the present making which does not leave much time for card making.

This year we received very little cards from people.  It was such a contrast to years past that it was striking.  My mother informed me that it is because we don’t send cards anymore.  That concept really struck me as odd.  I can understand that thought from distant people (those people who your only contact is the annual holiday card) but from people in your life throughout the year, I found it odd.  I stopped sending cards because I was physically and financially incapable due to a chronic illness, not because I don’t appreciate these people in my life.  So to not receive a card from them just because I am not able to send one, seems petty (if in fact that is why the card number coming in is low).

I hope during the holiday season and throughout the year, we can all take a moment to remember and send some greetings to a friend or loved one who is going through a lot whether it be physical, emotional or financial.  Just let them know that you are thinking of them.  It will mean more than you know.

 

Trash Day

19 Oct

People in my neighborhood throw out the most amazing things!  I have seen leather sofa’s and sectionals in great condition just sitting on the side of the road.  If we weren’t renting and had a garage I would be hauling these home to sell them on-line.  It is so disturbing to think of these items sitting in a landfill because someone never thought to call a donation center for a pick up.  But sometimes I find things that people are getting rid of that we can actually use.

That was the case with the dining table I just found.  Although I hated the color, it was a solid sturdy table and would allow us to finally return the table we have been borrowing from my sister for all these years.

before

Somehow I managed to get this baby in the car all by myself!  I don’t know how I did it since it was really heavy, but I didn’t want to wait for my husband to get home from work since I feared it may be gone.

Out in the yard I sanded the top and primed it.  Then it got a coat of teal paint and I dry brushed brown over that.  I did not sand or paint the legs, all I did was dry brush the brown paint over the light tan legs.  The result was very pleasing.  It looks like dark wood grain and goes really nicely with the top.

after after set

Like I mentioned in my last post, here is where I struggle with two concepts that I love.  One concept I strive for is simplifying my life which means minimizing our stuff, purging and getting rid of things.  The other concept is reusing as much as we can and buying or finding used items to refurbish.  Over the years we have really gotten rid of so many things and are trying very hard to keep our possessions from taking over.  However we have also found many useful free items, like a coffee table, a leather office chair, an exercise bike, yard ornaments and baskets.  I guess this will be a life long struggle in finding balance.  Meanwhile I will enjoy the challenge  and creativity that a found treasure presents.

Thrift Store Scores!

14 Oct

As I simplify my life and remove myself from the consumerism and materialism of our society I find myself doing a balancing act of sorts.  I try to reduce, reuse, recycle, upcycle and refuse as much as possible. In reusing and upcycling I come upon the dilemma of saving things.  Saving things goes against minimizing and simplifying.  But it works with my desire to remove myself from consumerism, from buying new, from supporting companies that don’t pay their workers well and from supporting the consumption of “cheap crap” and adding all of that to our environment.  So I save some things and try to come up with ways of reusing them.

Right now I have a bag full of those mesh produce bags, the type onions would come in. I keep thinking there has got to be a way to turn them into dish scrubbers or something.  For awhile there I was in need of old t-shirts to be used as solutions for various problems I had.  At that time I had no old t-shirts and had to purchase one cheap in order to use the fabric.  Now I have several t-shirts that we are getting rid of; they are not good enough to donate to the thrift store, so I am going to save them for the next time I have a need for some soft jersey cotton fabric.

So do you see my dilemma?  Where do I keep those t-shirts and scrubby mesh?  How many of them do I keep?  Are they going to start cluttering my world?  Or can I get a good place to store them where they are out of the way, organized and not forgotten about?

I am however very comfortable with this new lifestyle.  We are not spending our money on anything new, except for underwear.  (Now in my head I am singing the “Underwear” song from camp… anyone care to join me???  “underwear, underwear, how I itch in my woolen underwear.  How I wish I had gotten a pair of cotton I wouldn’t be so itchy everywhere….”).  We are finding items we need used; either to purchase or put out on trash day.  We are shopping for needed items at thrift stores or on craigslist, and I am only purchasing used books when I want a book (I still like paper books, especially reference books).

The problem is, sometimes you find a lot at the thrift stores!  How do you limit yourself?  I think some of these thrift store scores are going to put a dent in our budget!  But how can I turn down a winter coat, boots and blouse that all fit me like a glove and that I have been looking for for years but couldn’t afford them at the regular store?  I didn’t and am enjoying wearing them already.

So I continue with my balancing act of clearing out the clutter, weeding down our possessions and staying out of the world of consumerism and materialism.  I guess if I am going to walk this tightrope I might as well enjoy it and put on a show!

Schlumpy Shorts

21 Jul

At the beginning of the summer I bought a couple of shirts for work.  After that time I decided to go through the whole summer season without buying any new clothes.  I have had to resist the urge to go shopping for a couple of “cute tops” or another pair of pants.  I have had to tell myself “NO! You don’t NEED anything”.  “Live with what you have.”  “Others have much less.”

So I have had to try to be creative with the clothing I have.  The other day I was wearing one of my favorite pair of shorts.  They were purchased last year, they are soft and comfortable and made out of a cool fabric.  My husband informed me they look horrible on me!  They are too baggy and make me look schlumpy.  “But I don’t have many shorts, and I vowed not to buy anything new this season.”  His response was “go out and buy a pair of shorts!”.

Often during this summer season of not purchasing, I have thought, “if only I had started this project AFTER I had just made a major purchase of all high quality clothing”, aaahhhhh if only.  But no, I made this decision probably after already getting rid of a bunch of clothing I no longer wear or that didn’t make me feel good when I wear it.  I made this decision after already slowing down on purchases and re-wearing the same clothes for many years.

Now I have vowed to make those shorts work, and of course I have two pairs of them!  I am going to explore taking them in and sewing them.  I am not sure if this adds to simplifying my life since it requires getting out the old sewing machine, trying to fix the knee pedal, oiling the old girl, and trying to remember how to sew!  But at least I will be saving money, reusing something I already own, and not contributing to the over consumerism world we live in.

Any sewing tips would be appreciated!

Obstacles in the Desire For Simple

17 Jun

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My desire for simple has to fight against my artistic, creative personality and my love of animals and plants.  Let’s start with the artistic part of me: I have a lot of art supplies, I have a lot of interests, I tend to pick up an old hobby years later and need the old supplies again.  I like taking things and reusing them, so I tend to keep a lot of things like old buttons, scraps of paper and ribbon.  In my old house I had a room dedicated to art, it was a large room, too large. It allowed me to keep all my supplies in excess, although neatly organized in labeled bins.  Then the move happened…  Then another move…  I started to see that although all the supplies were “neatly organized” they weren’t neat or organized at all.  And I was carrying with me all kinds of things I was never going to use.  Old dried out paint, markers that didn’t write, three times the amount of crayons any adult could ever need, supplies for hobbies I was never going to take up again, samples of materials, all kinds of papers and instructions.  It was time to dive in and PURGE.  So I did.  I still have a room dedicated to creating, but now it houses a bit less supplies and they are all useful and pretty much organized.

Now for my love of decorative items.  I do not like blank walls.  I like surrounding myself with art work and having colorful images to look out and feel inspired by.  But even with that, I had too many framed pieces.  Too many things I was moving with me and carrying along in life.  So these needed a look at with fresh eyes and some purging.  Keeping in mind only keeping those items I absolutely love and bring me joy.

Regarding the items that stand around collecting dust, these were another story.  Many of these were collected on trips and excursions with my ex.  Well, they no longer held the nice memories they once had.  It was time to let go of many of them.  I continue to look at these items with a new set of eyes in my new life and I continue to weed them out and let them go.  When I bring something new into my life I think about am I going to be okay with dusting and taking care of this item?  Am I going to be okay with packing and moving this items?  Do I want to look at this item for many years to come?

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The animals and plants are a whole other situation!  I love my kitty and my dog.  But they come with all kinds of hair and messes.  Their food and water bowls need to be maintained.  They need to be brushed, and even when brushed  they regularly leave a never-ending trail of hair on the carpets and furniture.  The cat sneezes all over things (gross i know!) and we have to constantly clean up after her.  The dog rips up every thing; bits of rubber toys, strings from sock toys, stuffing and chewed up squeaker all lay all over the living room laughing at our attempts to live in an orderly home!

Recently we had company and did a bang up job cleaning the house.  I looked around and thought “I ALWAYS want to live here!”  But alas, that lasted a day and we were back to the pet hair and chewed up toys.  For me there really isn’t a solution to this since I love having pets, always have, always will.

So living simply for me is a process.  It’s a shift in thinking.  I evolve, I make mistakes; I allow the wrong things in at times and get rid of needed items by accident.  But I love that we are embracing a simpler lifestyle and really appreciating the things that matter most: people we love, nature, mother earth, serenity, simplicity, being all natural, and keeping a sense of humor through it all.

A new concept- REFUSE

11 Apr

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I have been continuing on my quest to simplify my life.  It has come with some ups and downs, some triumphs and some mistakes.  Or missteps would be more accurate. 

 Triumphs include cutting down on the amount of stuff surrounding us in our home.  I am at times amazed at how much we have accomplished in the past 7 months.  The other day I looked in shock at my two book shelves, now only half full. When a year ago I had books filling more than 6 books shelves and probably some in boxes in other places.   The books we got rid of went to the local train station’s where they have a give and take book shelf.  We gave we didn’t take.

 This has all been a process and I am not completed with my journey.  But I am greeting this journey as life affirming and life changing.   I look forward to it, and am facing it head on.

 Lately I have been led to considering our lifestyle and what else we can do that is good for our planet as well as good for our home and our health. Part of this includes cutting down on what comes into the house.  The less that comes in, the less waist there is, the more time we have to spend on other things, and the better it is for the planet.  We have all heard the phrase “reduce reuse recycle” but I have been turned onto an addition to this phrase “refuse”.  REFUSE- what a powerful word, what a powerful action.  We can all refuse items that we don’t need.  Just say no; just say no to that free pen when you have 50 at home.  Just say no to that free sample of products you don’t need or won’t use. Just say no to that informational sheet that you think maybe someday you’ll read.  Just say no to junk mail and catalogues you do not want, tell the senders to take you off their mailing lists.  Refuse to take more items into your home, into your life. 

 What power that gives us!  The power to take control over what comes into our lives and into our homes, this power makes us strong and will bring us freedom.

 I see that this is the next phase of my journey.  Although I will continue to reduce what is in my home by purging, I am also going to be working on refusing.

 If you are interested in some homework: take a look at your “junk mail” and instead of just throwing it into the shredder, the recycle bin or the garbage-  write on the response card “Take me off your mailing list and do not share my contact information”, then use their envelope and send it back to them. You’ll be amazed at how much you can cut down on unwanted mail this way.

 Also, when you are at an informational fair, or at an office with freebees, just say NO, and don’t take anything home with you.

 This is what I’ll be working on.  Till next time, keep up the purging and just say NO.

Lessons from the Hurricane

31 Oct

Before Hurricane Sandy I had a blog post written about my garage sale.  However, due to the hurricane that blog will have to wait for another time.

 First let me say that my heart goes out to those people who have lost loved ones in the storm as well as those whose houses or businesses were lost or damaged.  This was a very devastating storm and makes us all wonder what would happen if a category 2 or 3 hurricane hit Long Island, NY?  We were lucky since the worst of the storm this time did not hit our area and my loved ones, pets, home, and car are all undamaged.

I would like to just speak about my experiences with the storm recognizing through out this writing  that we are very lucky.  We are one of the hundreds of thousands on Long Island (over 800,000) who have lost our power.  There are downed trees and wires all over the place and no traffic signal lights working so driving remains hazardous.  The storm knocked out the power to our house since 6 PM on Monday.  There is also no cell phone service.  No power means, no heat, hot water, stove, internet, laundry, lights and so on.  From this we are being forced to live simply.

  Last night (Tuesday), in the dark, we mistakenly drove around in search of food we didn’t have to make ourselves (mostly my partner’s desires).  What we found was our entire down town with no electricity, no businesses opened and trees still down with wires laying across the road, or hanging down precariously.  It was a very scary scene and a scary drive.  After losing my composure a bit, my partner (who was driving) reminded me that it was my job to keep him calm.  Boy did that switch my behavior really quickly.  I now had a job to keep my eyes peeled on the road in front of us and calmly warn him of dangers ahead.  Finally after a long ride we found a diner right by our house that had just regained power and opened.

 We sat in the diner that had one waiter, one busser, and one manager; and we waited for service- calmly. We watched others give up and walk out.  We watched one woman who seemed to have forgotten that 90% of the area has no power and we just came through a very dangerous storm.  She expected business as usual, and she peered and glared at the diner staff, she stood up at her table with her arms crossed, scowl on her face and asked everyone who passed if someone was going to take her order since they have been waiting a long time (mind you she came in after us and was only waiting a few minutes).  Her daughter was obviously embarrassed by her behavior because you could hear her pleading with her mother to knock it off.  But her mother didn’t, she continued to be annoyed and to let everyone know it.  Her energy permeated over to our table and unfortunately I allowed it to affect me negatively and make me anxious.  I was trying to will her with my mind to take a seat and patiently wait (we all know how good that always works).  Finally she got up and left.  We still sat patiently, eventually ordered, and then sat patiently for about a half an hour waiting for our simple order of turkey burger and chicken fingers.  When our food came we were ecstatic to have some hot food in front of us.  We didn’t care that it was missing a piece of cheese or some lettuce on the plate.  When we were done eating we left the waiter a 40% tip (for his hard work, dedication and pleasant attitude even after having to deal with people like that difficult woman) and we went home to our dark, cold house.

 Soon our house became warm and lovely. Not warm in temperature because we still didn’t have electricity, but warm with glowing candles that lit every room.  It felt cozy and intimate.  We made some hot water for tea on the BBQ outback, sat with our tea at the dining room table and played games by candle light with much conversation and laughter.  I thought how nice this is, the house is dead quiet and still; with no TV on, no music playing, no oil burner running, and no dryer balls bouncing and tumbling.  Stillness and quiet.  How nice.  How serene.  And rather than sitting and facing the TV with a bunch of talking heads annoying us with political news, we sat facing each other engaging in dialogue and silly games.

 Isn’t this what the desire for simple should be?  To keep things in perspective, to appreciate what we have, to have patience and understanding, to treat others with respect, to listen to others, to express our feelings and views calmly, and to enjoy the simple things of life.  After this experience I hope to take something from it to implement into my life.  Perhaps besides a “date night” we should have a “black out night”, no TV, no radios, no music, no lights, no laptops, ipads, smart phones, nothing running (including ourselves).  Well maybe we could put the heat on and use the stove top; but besides that, stillness, darkness, peace and quiet.  Wishing everyone some peace and serenity in your days and nights.