Transformation Tuesday: Charitable Donations

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6/16/2015 load of donations heading for Goodwill and the local animal shelter and library

Travel Tuesday will be taking a hiatus while I work toward transforming the cluttered spaces in my home into minimalist islands of tranquility. Today we took out our first load of donations, which packed the entire Jeep. The back seat has been taken out so that should give you some idea of the volume of items here. As I was cataloging the items for our tax write-offs next year, I counted 117 household items, 63 pieces of men’s clothing, 36 pieces of women’s clothing (I did a major purge last year), and 20 magazines. This doesn’t even include the three bags of books we sold to Half Price Books in the morning or the two bags of clothing my daughter took to the local consignment shop.

It was important to us to try to donate to local organizations, but many no longer take donations in kind, so we donated the clothing, decorative, and most of the household items to the closest Goodwill.  Our local animal shelter where my daughter used to volunteer takes towels and blankets for the cats and dogs to sleep on or be bathed with, so we took a giant box and full trash bag to them. Last year I cancelled all but one magazine subscription for each of us. We take the magazines every month or two to the local library for their book sale, as they prefer only near-current issues. Even though we only subscribe to two magazines, we have two or three gift or free subscriptions which just keep coming. By donating them every month or so I never get bogged down; I only keep the current month’s issue of Cleveland magazine and my husband gets rid of his weekly Sports Illustrated just as soon as he has finished reading it cover to cover.

Several years ago we needed to re-insulate our attic. This meant taking everything out of it, and once we took it out we had absolutely no desire to put it back. When I first looked up there I couldn’t believe my eyes. Due to the access point be very difficult to traverse, my husband was usually the one to take items up for storage, so I had no idea how packed it had become. I remember laying in bed that night, feeling that the items above me were literally weighing me down.

The crazy thing was, much of what was up there was our kids’ toys and clothes, but I had constantly given items away as they outgrew them!  I couldn’t believe they ever had that many toys, or that I had ever had any reason to save the little red patent leather shoes my daughter wore just a few times as an infant. In the end, after advertising on Craigslist, in our local newspaper, and with signs all around the neighborhood, we got rid of an astonishing amount of stuff and had $1300 more in our bank account. Most importantly, we have just one item left stored in our attic: a closet door that we don’t use but plan to leave for any future homeowners.

We considered having a garage sale after this clean-out as well–and we may still–but I strongly believe in donating items that are life necessities. By this I mean food, clothing, and shelter, and blankets count as an integral part of shelter in my book. So even if we decide to have the garage sale, I feel great about donating the clothing and household items we dropped off today. I know there will be much more to donate, but first I want to see what can be sold so the money can be used for more Travel Tuesday post material!

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this, please follow me or make a comment or share on FB or other social media. Check back tomorrow for Whole Food Wednesday…

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Minimalism Monday: Starting Over

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6/14/2015 craft room

When I started scrapbooking in 1997, I couldn’t even afford to buy the Creative Memories starter album for $36.00; I hosted a party to earn it for free. By that time my son was 9, my daughter was 4, and I had already saved drawers of their artwork and school projects, Safety Town badges, swim lesson certificates, and birthday crowns. I just knew I had finally found a way to preserve all of the wonderful treasures I had saved for them! If only I could afford all of the beautiful papers and fancy stickers to decorate our scrapbooks, my job as a mother would be done, I thought. Well, maybe not exactly those words, but the sentiment was the same: saving their memorabilia and chronicling it for all time was what a good mother was supposed to do. So I began to save my pennies for stickers and host parties to earn papers and page protectors and cutting tools and museum-quality adhesives. A year later, everything I owned for the hobby fit into a fancy tote bag just for taking to crops where I could work on my scrapbooks all day and all night without interruption. For several years, my hobby stayed within manageable margins.

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6/14/2015 craft room scrapbooks

And then things became less tight for us financially. Finally, I could have more of the fancy supplies to make even fancier scrapbooks! I started lots of scrapbooks–one for the family photos; one for each child’s school pictures and grade cards and awards; one for my husband’s coaching team photos; one for our Disney vacation; one for our anniversary renewal of vows; one for our new dog! The possibilities were endless!  The supply options were infinite!  The new design companies and lines of themed supplies were being released every few months, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. There was even a line called Candy Shoppe!

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6/14/2015 craft room stamping area

And then I discovered stamping. It was 2005 and I was appalled at the prices of the products when I attended my first home stamping party. I came home and told my husband that I would never become one of those fanatical stamping ladies. Then I was invited to another party. And another. And I loved it. It was so freeing!  It was like scrapbooking on a miniature scale, only with no pressure for perfection to be encased in archival-quality materials for all time! And thus began my stamping supply collection….

After 10 years of stamping (and teaching classes and selling my creations at several points), I still love it, but I am taking up an entire room of my house with all of the supplies to make personalized greeting cards for absolutely any occasion…but I almost never do. I have so many stamps, inks, embellishments, die cuts, and embossing folders to choose from that it is paralyzing. Add to that the boxes upon boxes of memorabilia I have saved from every trip, event, and loved one who has died, and I cannot even move in my craft room. When my brother died 9 and a half years ago, I essentially stopped scrapbooking because I couldn’t bear to look at family photos knowing that he would never be at another family event again. You might think the photos would be comforting instead, but it was too raw then. It just hurt too much, so I stopped the huge family heritage scrapbook project I was doing for my mom, step-dad, and brothers.

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6/14/2015 more stamp sets in basement

At different points over the past 18 years of these hobbies I have sold or given away many supplies. I used to participate in a big swap every year where I would sell my cast-offs and go refresh my stash with bargains from my papercrafting friends. Even so, I still counted at least 75 sets of stamps as I was moving them to the basement to prepare for sale. That doesn’t include the hundreds of single stamps stacked in baskets and artfully arranged in antique printer’s trays on my walls. What was toughest of all about moving all of these supplies to the basement was the fact that they had lived there once before, but I moved them upstairs to the spare room a few years ago. Many of the boxes of memorabilia have never even been opened in all that time. So this is it:  my chance to start over. How many times have I said to myself, If I knew then what I know now, I would only use this line of supplies for simplicity, or that style of tool because it works better than all the others. I have been using Miss Minimalist’s book The Joy of Less as my guide in this process. Of course, I have purchased countless organizational books in the past–even one specifically for scrapbookers:  The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker. None of those books ever told me how to be happy with less supplies–only how to dream about storing more in space I don’t have or don’t want to use for supplies I barely touch.

My approach is really two-pronged:  First, I am limiting the amount of space my supplies can take up. This will be equivalent to my library card catalog and a Creative Memories tote bag and Longaberger craft supply basket. Completed scrapbooks will go in a bookcase and do not count toward the supply total. Partially completed scrapbooks will go in a separate area of the bookcase until I can complete them. The second part of my approach is to choose what to keep, NOT what to get rid of. So, I have been choosing only my absolute favorite items that I know I used consistently. I haven’t made all of my choices yet, but having a process for doing so is extremely freeing at this point.

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6/14/2015 end of day 1 of room transformation

The biggest dilemma I have yet to face is the memorabilia. It is a whole category unto itself. Purging the memorabilia will be emotionally draining, so I am being gentle with myself. Much of what is saved is from my kids’ early years, and now that they are in their twenties it seems even harder to let go of those precious memories. Another major source of memorabilia is from trips we took. I would always purchase stickers, postcards, and whatever else they had that I could use in a scrapbook, but I rarely got these themed books completed–and often I didn’t even get them started! So that is a bit hard to swallow throwing out things I collected and paid for but never used. I will get there, but it will take time. Yesterday I was able to clear out almost all of the supplies from the craft room (with the help of my wonderful husband, of course) and most of what is left in the photo here is boxes of old photos and memorabilia.

So, I have my work cut out for me for the rest of the summer, both in selling off 90% of my supply collection and in purging memorabilia…but I know it will be worth the peace of mind I will have in the end when I am not feeling overwhelmed and guilty every time I pass another pile of kids’ drawings or family vacation photos I haven’t scrapbooked yet. And this is only the beginning. Stay tuned for my minimalist journey as I venture into each room of the house, paving the way for a new way of life unencumbered by past regrets and a future burdened with endless projects of chronicling the past. A life where I spend more time in physical activity and less in sedentary hobbies. A life with room for both types of activities within reasonable boundaries. A life with margins. A life of living in the NOW, in which ENOUGH is enough, and more is too much. A minimalist life.

Thank you for reading. Please follow my blog if you’d like to read more. Leave me a comment to let me know how the minimalist philosophy has improved your life. I’d love to hear from you! Have a great week!

Monday: Moving Toward Minimalism

What am I willing to give up or sacrifice in order to make room in my life for the habits that will make me healthy enough to live an active lifestyle now and for many years into long life? – note to myself, December 2013

When I realized in the spring of 2013 that I wanted to change my life (see June 4, 2015 post called “Fitness Friday: On Running), I knew I would need to be more physically active to lose weight, and conversely, that I wanted to lose weight to be more active. My husband has always been very athletic and I wanted for us to be able to do things together into old age–such as climb the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. In the past, he might go work out at the gym or try a new workout video while I sat in my craft room making scrapbook pages or greeting cards. In the past, this had made me happy.

In the fall of 2013, a friend and I rented a table together to sell our unwanted crafting supplies at a “New to You” sale I had participated in for many years. It was basically like a big crafters’ swap event; I sold the items I no longer wanted then used the earned money to buy others’ cast-offs. As my friend and I stood at our table, gazing out upon the rows of other tables overflowing with unwanted supplies a lot like the ones on our table, we commiserated over the difficulty of our respective weight loss journeys. As we chatted, I looked at the other women behind their tables and had an epiphany: almost every crafter in that room was obese–some morbidly so.

As I walked through the room, I noticed that one woman had stamped all of her shopping bags with the phrase, “She who dies with the most supplies wins!” This woman was quite large and, because she seemed to have difficulty standing, she stayed seated the entire time. At that moment I saw the correlation of the obesity and the supply hoarding, and I saw my future all around me–a future that I didn’t want. I knew then that I would have to make some tough decisions in my life. We only have 24 hours in each day, and between working full time and doing the things that need done daily, such as laundry and cooking and dishes, there are only so many leisure hours available. Did I want to spend those hours alone in my craft room, sitting on my butt, trying and failing to use up the many lifetimes worth of supplies I had so compulsively accumulated?

The answer was a resounding no. Around this time I saw a television segment about an elderly runner named Olga who was confounding scientists with her athletic abilities as they improved instead of declined as she aged. Reading What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-somethingTrack Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives was incredibly inspirational. (Check out the website here: http://whatmakesolgarun.com/). If Olga could take up running in her eighties, surely I could start running in my forties!

Further searches of books in the fitness section of the library led me to read Younger Next Year* Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy–Until You’re 80 and Beyond (read about this book and more here: http://youngernextyear.com/). This book was the one that helped me quantify what I actually wanted and needed to do to lose wight and be fit as I grow old with my husband. The level of fitness I wanted to achieve would require 45 to 60 minutes a day of exercise a minimum of 6 days a week. This was what I set out to do, so I began a schedule of running on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and taking barre classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Friday nights we rewarded ourselves with a movie night out.

Exercising 6 days a week drastically reduced the few leisure hours I had before beginning my fitness journey. By Christmas time I had internalized the understanding that in order to have time to exercise regularly and be active with my husband, I logically had to give up some of the activities that formerly took up my time. That was when I wrote the opening quote in my calendar to force me think about what I really wanted from my life. By now we were DVRing most of our shows and I would watch TV almost exclusively while folding laundry, averaging about one hour per day (and no commercials!). I managed to squeeze in reading on my lunch break at work, during car trips, and for a few minutes before bed each night. The main issue was the crafting.

Through the years I had accumulated enough supplies to fill an entire side of our finished basement, and I had recently moved everything into the spare bedroom. Since I began scrapbooking in 1997 I had accumulated thousands of dollars in supplies. I had made dozens of beautiful scrapbooks, hundreds of greeting cards, and countless other paper crafts. I had taught classes and sold my creations at craft fairs, but I felt the hobby no longer fit my new life. Dismantling my collection of supplies would be no small undertaking. The irony of the situation was that I wanted to give up the crafting to make time in my life for exercise, but because I was already exercising nearly every day, I didn’t have time to get rid of my craft supplies.

I did an internet search on how to reduce craft supplies. There weren’t a lot of hits that yielded me the type of information I was looking for: specifically, what guiding principles to apply to downsize a huge collection into something that I could still use from time to time when the creative muse struck, but which wouldn’t need to inhabit an entire room. One of the posts I stumbled across during this time was by Miss Minimalist. Her philosophy instantly resonated with me, and I have subscribed to her blog ever since. In the year or so since I discovered her blog, I have done more research into the Minimalist movement. My first attempt at practical application of Minimalist philosophies has been with my wardrobe, which was logical since I was rebuilding it as I lost weight and got rid of clothes that no longer fit. My next application of Minimalist philosophy will be on my craft room. Now that you have the back story on why I am doing it, stay tuned on Mondays for my adventures in culling an eighteen-year collection of supplies by ninety per cent!