Friday, March 29, 2013

Eliminating more excess

My word of the year is EXCESS (you can read more about it here). All around me I see possessions accumulating. When I tote bags up my 3 flights of stairs into my home, I frequently think "I'd better take some stuff out to make room". I recently tackled these trouble areas in my home and have come up with several more trashbags of donation items:

Maternity clothes: whittled it down from two big boxes to one (labeled now, of course). If I didn't wear it much (or at all), it's going away.

Linen closet: I have one queen sized bed but four sets of sheets. I have just one crib, but I had four sets of crib sheets. I used to groom dogs so I had a plethora of "junk" towels but I don't see myself going back to that anytime soon. All that to say, I filled nearly a whole garbage bag with just items from my linen closet--Goodwill here I come!

Bookshelf: I have learned that like my closet, I have to go through this area again and again and again. Sorting through my too-full shelves just one time a year is not enough. I have now given my shelves a serious stare-down twice in the last month. Each time I go through, I find a book I hated, never read, or just don't see the need to keep anymore. There are currently 15 books in my Goodwill bag and I plan to add more.

One interesting thing I've learned through this purging journey is that I have often thought "Well, what IF I need an extra ___ in the future?" My previous and quick answer would have been "Oh I'd better keep it in case". But I'm discovering that clinging to THINGS for an unforeseeable future is WASTEFUL. It's a selfish means of hoarding resources from others. It's a wasteful use of my limited space in my home.

Here's what I'm talking about: Q:What if Emma gets the flu and vomits on her sheets three times in one day? A: Then I'll do laundry or better yet throw any extra sheet on her bed (who said it had to be crib-sized in an emergency?!). Q: What if Emma needs to read Silas Marner in high school--shouldn't I hold onto my copy? A: That is a whopping 15 years away, I can easily get it at a used bookstore for a few dollars then, and I have no intention of going through that book again myself so by all means PITCH IT! It takes me taking the time to go through these questions in my mind as I'm staring into the endless pile of belongings to be able to reach these conclusions. There is no rushing a good healthy purge. It takes a few more minutes to think critically about each item but to see how much I DON'T need is greatly freeing...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Update on "Excess"

Quick update on my word of the year "excess" and how I'm cutting down on mine. You can read my initial post about it here.

~I have made another 4 bags of items to donate.
~Emma's three boxes of extra toys in the back stairwell are now down to two boxes.
~I had three baskets of toys for her to choose from in the house, but whittled it down to just two (she hasn't noticed, shows you how much she cared!)
~I have installed an app on my iPhone called KeyRing and have loaded up all my loyalty cards AND gift cards on there so that I have less to carry around in my wallet. The only cards I carry now are my license  insurance and credit card.

Fun, fun, fun! Every time I lug bags of stuff into my house I think "gotta take something out now to make room". Not a bad pattern of thought I think. :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Emma is 1 1/2 years old!

My daughter is 1 1/2 today. To pause and remember how quickly the time goes, I made a shutterfly book of the photo shoot that we did when Emma Penelope was a newborn. Shout out to our favorite photographer Kenny Nakai! First I'll leave you with a recent photo, however. Look how big my girl is!

Photo Book Tip: Create an adventurous travel photo album at

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Word of the Year

My word of the year is EXCESS. A number of things have contributed to this being my focus this year and I’d like to share with my readers how my progress has been going. First, one of my best friends Kristi is teaching in Brazil and she mentioned that there are only two kinds of cereal to choose from at the grocery store and no one complains about this. There are about 50 kinds at my local Jewel Osco (can you say excess!). The second contributing factor to my revelation is that my toddler is beginning to really accumulate possession and our apartment can only hold so much before we are all literally tripping over playthings. Oddly, Emma isn’t any more or less happy when she has 10 toys in front of her or 2. She can only focus on one thing at a time. Third, there is a family at my church that have three kids and they live in a studio apartment. There is really no reason for me to feel like I don’t have enough room for three people in our two bedroom apartment. Fourth, Nate Burkus always says you should have meaningful things in your home decor and your home should rise up to greet you. How can I make my home happy if I don’t know what’s in it?!

So here’s what I’ve done in my life to focus on eliminating the excess and organize my life at the same time. Hopefully you will find motivation to do the same in your home!

TOYS: Emma has three small baskets for toys: one in our bedroom, one in the living room, and one in her room. If it doesn’t fit in the baskets, it goes in the back stairwell which has three boxes of extra toys (I am ready to cut down on these but at the same time we like to rotate what’s in the baskets). I plan to further eliminate and reduce the number and maybe file away the infant toys.

BABY CLOTHES: Emma has two tubs of outgrown clothes even though she’s only 18 months old. So I went through all the baby clothes and donated or gave away anything that she didn’t wear more than twice (lots of hand-me-downs equals lots of clothes that aren’t quite my taste or the right size for the season but for some reason I previously felt the need to keep them). Needless to say I donated lots. The clothes 0-9months are now in a vacuumed sealed bag under Emma’s crib.

BABY GEAR: Is now labeled in a box (bottles, paci’s, carriers, spoons, breast pump, boppy, etc). I have lent my cloth diapers and baby swing to a new Mama and our giant saucer toy is in the backstairwell.

THE PANTRY: I have lots in my cupboards that I didn’t even know was there. If the world’s supply of food ended, I think I could live off my pantry goods for weeks—I’m not proud of that. I want to keep things that I need and use and eliminate the excess. So I have been using recipes that will get rid of those random items like…two cans of coconut milk! Expired or (dare I say) moldy items from pantry or fridge are now gone. Our medical supplies are stored in the kitchen and the shelves are now labeled “Emma, dog, vitamins, cold/flu, and pain” to organize the contents on each shelf.

OFFICE SUPPLIES: Our small desk was stuffed full with office supplies and we could never find what we needed. I re-organized so that there’s a box of office supplies in the closet next to the desk and in the desk is only a few of the things we need. Ex: one strip of staples instead of 500, four pens and two pencils instead of 30. The rest is labeled and in the box:

MAGAZINES: I used to keep magazines that had one or two good-looking recipes in them but no longer. I rip out the recipe I want to try, fold it up and put it in my recipe box (which is clearly labeled now). When I am searching for something new to make there’s only one place I need to go and that’s my box. Neat articles or pretty pictures get documented on my phone and put on my Pinterest board. I then recycle all extra paper (side note, we don’t have recycling bins here in Chicago which annoys me to no end, so I have been sending home tons of recycling with my family members every time we see each other. So ridiculous. Okay rant over).

PICTURES: Having an iPhone has changed our lives in more than one way, but one thing we’ve accumulated more of than ever before is tons of photos and video. When you have a video camera in your back pocket at every moment, you can catch every (and I mean every) moment of childhood you so desire but the result is thousands of photos/videos of the same thing (I surely thing my baby is the cutest but I’m not going to print 500 photos every month!). So I have been going through each photo and video from Emma’s life (and plan on going back even further in our computer photos). So far I have deleted 1900 photos and you’d never know it!! Scary (and excessive, no?)!

KITCHEN: I went through my kitchen drawers and cabinets with the term “excess” on my mind and came up with a whole paper bag for Goodwill (four plastic spatulas and three soup ladles were hiding in the farthest corners of my drawers. I just don’t NEED all these gadgets). I know and use what is in my kitchen now.

CLOSET: Emma’s closet has our extra boxes of belongings. I critically looked at the contents of each box and clearly labeled each.  Every single box or bin is labeled (and I got rid of lots in the process):

As for the master bedroom closet, I have critically gone through my entire wardrobe several times (I used to think once was enough each season, but now I know that that is not enough). Every article needs to be used frequently enough to warrant its space. To ascertain if I wear my clothes enough for my liking, I have turned every hanger around. When I use the item on that hanger, I turn it the proper way. In 6 months I can see what I haven’t worn at all and in December I suspect I’ll have even more clothing to donate. Extra purses, bags, bras, you name it, I’ve gone through it. I just don’t need so much! Oddly, I have yet to miss anything I’ve thrown out. And I’m more excited about my wardrobe than I ever have been before because I make sure I LOVE everything I have and wear it often! Here is every t-shirt I own--used to be three times this many:

MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD: The other half of this project is that I am focusing on what it means to be excessive spiritually. I want to walk with the Lord closely. I want to love Him excessively. You know, like “God will be most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” (thank you, John Piper). I think when I’m excessive toward the Lord by excessively giving Him all of me I will be satisfied that I am doing all I can to invest in our relationship. Not that our satisfaction in the Lord is anything to do with what we do or don’t do, but aiming to focus on Him more and really basking in the joy and grace He has given me. I am accomplishing this by surrounding myself with Scripture (and posting it around my home), being diligent with my quiet times, playing my guitar more, praying purposefully with Emma, and speaking about the Lord daily.

There are several exciting things about this venture of mine, but two major ones are that I feel FREEDOM. Free from clutter in my home, free from the burden of extra. I like my home more since I have thought about each item in it and decide keep only what I love. It really feels good to donate 8 bags to the Goodwill store. I feel happy when my husband asks “where are the batteries?” so that I can say “In the box labeled batteries! Hooray!” Let me know if you have any tips for ways you have organized and cut down on clutter. It’s only March--I can’t wait to see what June, September and December brings for this project! Goodbye excess, hello freedom!

Future projects: the utility closet, baby toys, and continue to go through old pictures. Wha-hoo!

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