balance, declutter, family, gratitude, health and wellness, live in the now

Keep the Original

December brought on a big wave of house reorganization and another much needed reminder of the People Not Things philosophy. The story remains pretty much the same since I started this blog. 

I still have too much stuff. 

I have more than enough. I went “shopping” in cabinets, closets, and the garage. I rearranged and recreated new living spaces all around the house. I transformed my living room with less than 3 simple furniture moves and now I have a new and noticeably better open space that also sometimes doubles as a behind-the-scenes home gym. 

The inventory is constant. I just hadn’t stopped and evaluated it since the summer. My kids discovered new old toys; awkward additions to their brand new Christmas gifts. I was reminded of how much blank paper I have in the house. Unopened printer ink cartridges that I forgot about sweetened the deal.

I still believe that I have enough craft supplies to entertain the most bored child who ever walks through the front door. I came up ahead and “made money” with gift cards that were freed from the junk drawer. Free crafts and caffeine might make for an epic rainy day experience. If it happens to be a high UV day, the family and I will be thoroughly protected from the sun AND from germs for many years with the amount of sunblock and hand sanitizer that I found.

The rediscovery of all this great stuff came with a price, even though I didn’t make any new purchases. I easily spent hours sorting through piles, bags, and papers. My kids had their share of screen time sessions (when they weren’t playing with their old new toys)  as I wrangled clothing, shoes, and USB charging cords. 

I learned the same lesson all over again. Every item or group of items in my house requires varying amounts of time and attention. Reusable grocery bags sometimes delay the departure to the store by about two minutes due to the trip back inside the house or to the other car to get them. On a cold day, three to four warm winter coat options are nice to have, but storage and maintenance, along with the decision-making process could easily add up to the equivalent of total coat-wearing minutes altogether. 

The one item that holds the most value after this recent decluttering session is one of the new board games that my daughter got for Christmas. She asked me to learn and play the game with her at the height of the “stuff shuffle”, and I was a bit stressed. Initially, I didn’t have enough patience to focus because I was devoting my time and my thoughts to the things that needed to be put away. It was a poor showing of being present.

Luckily, my board gamer husband and YouTube stepped in, and we all learned to play and enjoy it around the family table. I then realized that the neatly stacked pile of other board games (new and vintage), that are rarely played deserve time and attention. Playing Plastic Bin Tetris for an hour in the garage to either put something away or apprehend an item isn’t as fun. 

A reminder.

I’m once again trying to slow down the stream of incoming items that arrive here. I am aware of the inventory. I have a lot of stuff. I have the people. The amount of time and energy however, are unknown and limited. Some of the clutter will outlive some of the people. It’s a morbid thought, but it’s real. 

So instead of cleaning the cleaning supplies tomorrow, I’m going to enjoy all the things that will never fit into a basket or a box on a shelf in the cabinet: Eye contact. Hugs. Holding tight and laughing. Sending a genuine text to say thank you. Tastes and smells, and certain sounds that keep me grounded. Letting go and breathing.

I’ll never be able to store these things away and rediscover them later in their original form. But there’s time for all of it now. I’m sure of it.

I’ve cleared the space.       

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Sunnies California

In the late 1980’s, my mom had a beautiful pair of authentic Ray-Ban Wayfarers. They were definitely an upgrade from the half dozen pairs of  fashion sunglasses that were stored in a re purposed plastic McDonald’s Happy Meal bucket. The Ray-Bans obviously didn’t live in the Happy Meal bucket. These were special. They were stored in their designated case while my mom wasn’t wearing them, and she used neon Croakies during outdoor activities and sports to keep them secure and increase the chic factor. My dad made a big deal out of them, and said they were sharp. The photos of my mother wearing them during our family camping trips and ski trips really solidified her “cool mom” status.

When I was 32ish, I decided that it was finally time to own a pair of classy, high quality sunglasses. I wanted those Wayfarers. I wanted the exact pair that belonged to my mom. I thought that it would be so retro and cool, and it was also the most eco-responsible thing to do. I knew that she kept them, so I asked if she could pass them down to me. My mom made a face and frowned. “Really?” she said without any ounce of enthusiasm. “They’re really big and I think they’re pretty scratched up.” (Then why did you keep them, mom?!)

Bummer. It was all true. I learned that they didn’t really fit my mom all that well in the first place, and they weren’t really her favorite pair of glasses. Maybe that’s why she had to rock the Croakies? I was disappointed, but I was still going to own a pair of Ray-Bans even if it meant I had to purchase them myself. This was going to be a big milestone for me. Up to that point, all I knew in the world of sunglasses was the fast fashion type that you could pick up at any local Target, cheap mall store, or gas station.

So I finally did it. I purchased my first and only pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. They fit really well. I felt like my eyes were getting legit UV protection. I solemnly swore to take care of them because they were expensive according to my budget. I was excited too because of how classic and versatile they were, and I knew they would last me a long time.

Womp Womp. Our time together was brief. We enjoyed a year and a half at most. There were a few trips to Lake Tahoe, and The Napa Valley Wine Country. I believe I had them for a wedding or two that I attended. I definitely wore them to a Giants game and a 4th of July celebration. Before I lost them for good, Instagram captured the memories.  

Sunnies
It’s about the people, not the Wayfarers. Well, this collage is about the Wayfarers.

After I realized that they were gone for good, I never allowed myself to buy expensive sunglasses again. I don’t trust myself to give them enough care and attention, especially nowadays when I’m trying to invest more time into people and not things. But I’m in a tricky place right now. I own the metaphorical  McDonald’s Happy Meal bucket full of fast fashion sunnies. I like having the style options, but they’re everywhere. They’re in my house and in my car, in purses, and in my classroom. I even have a slip-on pair that I got from the optometry department that go over my prescription glasses when I’m not wearing my contacts. They look pretty “cutting edge”.

Now it’s time for me to choose again. Do I purge every pair of cheap shades that I own and invest in one quality pair? This is a silly problem to have. Perhaps I should consult the Instagram poll feature.

Fast suns (1)
I spy with my many eyes…a broken pair of shades.

 

Until then,

I’m thankful that I have a pair of eyes that help me to see, enjoy, and learn about the world. Choice of eye wear for sun protection shouldn’t be this dramatic. It’s time for me to get over it.  

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You Are Allowed One Personal Item

I had one of the dreaded teacher dreams last night. Thanks a lot teacher brain, there are still 16 days of summer left before I begin year 14. At least I got an idea for a post. The following however, is not the scary dream I had. It’s reality. Enjoy.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my arrival to work in the morning on a typical school day. My teacher bag rests uncomfortably on my shoulder. The straps get all twisted and dig into my skin. The bag itself is overloaded. I have my plan book in there. I like the really cute, thick spiral notebook kind that has all the bells and whistles and stickers and pockets. There’s a pencil bag full of writing tools too. A stack of papers that need to be graded is stuffed along the sides. They might go on an extended ride in the bag for a few days before I can finally sit down to grade them at home. The current novel or picture book that I’m planning on reading to my class is wedged somewhere in between papers and other items.

Of course, in addition, I need my personal purse with my wallet, phone, sunglasses, and other necessities. So now we are talking about some bag inside another bag action happening. Sometimes there’s even an additional shopping bag in the mix that is full of classroom items that I just couldn’t help but buy because they were a good deal.

All of these items hang on my shoulders, forearms, wrists. The collection also includes my lunch bag and the drinking vessel that contains my caffeinated beverage of the day. Sometimes my laptop bag is hanging on for dear life on the tip of one of my fingers. The all important 40 oz Hydro Flask is also either crammed in the teacher bag or hanging on to a different finger, testing the limits of strength and flexibility. Heaven forbid I should become dehydrated during this awkward, imbalanced walk across the parking lot.

Teacher bags2
It’s not as fun as it looks.

If I planned ahead properly, my teacher keys are already around my neck on a lanyard. If they’re not, I have to stop, drop, and dig. Walking up to the entrance of school is quite the production on most days. I’m lucky enough to have my daughter with me because she goes to school here too. Sometimes there’s a mini set of helping hands available for the small fee of a tiny sip of mommy’s iced coffee or energy drink. Oops.    

Once again, a collection of stuff has added an extra challenge, and literally extra weight to one of my daily routines. It hardly seems fair to feel this flustered, as well as experience an ever so slight degree of physical pain before the school day officially begins.

When things get really out of hand, I bust out my rickety old plastic fold-up rolling cart. It’s hideous. My back and shoulders find some temporary relief. Then I have to end up spending additional morning minutes unloading the thing before the bell rings. My back is strained again. No carts or wagons for me, I just won’t do it. Driving up to my classroom to unload stuff and re-parking the car isn’t happening either.

So the big question is, what is actually really necessary to haul to school everyday? I’m not getting any younger, and 40 (*gasp) is around the corner in a couple of years. It would be nice to have a functioning neck and shoulders throughout the remainder of my career, and somewhat healthy posture. It’s not a goal of mine to end up naturally standing lopsided without even realizing it because my body is growing accustomed to being weighed down by bags. Can I possibly lighten the load and eliminate some items?

This school year, I’ll be exploring some new options and routines in an effort to be kind to my body, while also cutting down on the amount of stuff that I cart back and forth to school. Ideas that I’d like to explore:

  • Ditch the actual physical plan book and do the work digitally (scary!!)
  • Be more mindful when buying supplies or items for the classroom. Keep an updated inventory of what I already have.
  • Manage time efficiently during contracted hours and take less work home (I hear the scoffs already)
  • Spy on other teachers in the parking lot and find the ones who don’t carry much at all. Interrogate them and find out how they are able to roll up to school and not look like they’re about to take a week long trip somewhere.

Feel free to comment with some ideas or suggestions on how I can still work efficiently and carry less. Extra points if you’re a teacher! 

Until then, I’m going to enjoy the next  16 days because it’s STILL SUMMER. Many props to my teacher friends and all the kiddos who have already started their year. 

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Starting a Blog Led Me to $48.51

It’s Thursday, so I will start this post with a #TBT story.

I kept working as long as I could before going out on maternity leave when I had my daughter in 2010. I did the same when I had my son almost seven years later. During both pregnancies, I felt good and I didn’t feel that I needed the extra time beforehand to relax or get organized for a new baby. I felt that I was as prepared as I could be. I also didn’t want to wait around folding baby laundry until the roller coaster of the most intense physical pain and crazy hormonal time of my life would begin. I really like my job and even back then, as super pregnant as I was, I didn’t mind passing the time by going to work.

The two weeks leading up to my son’s birth were filled with loving baby showers, barre classes (to gear up my pelvic floor and hips), gradebooks, sub plans, and quality time with my daughter before she would become a big sister. Therefore, the piles formed. A pile of baby clothes needed to be de-tagged and washed. A pile of 4th grade persuasive writing needed to be graded. A pile of thank you cards were only half-finished, and the greeting cards that accompanied the gifts were too cute to recycle at the moment. I built very neat and organized stacks that acted as a concrete to do list. They were all ready to be put away or sent away to their designated spaces in an orderly fashion should something eventful happen.


 

*Insert newborn baby photo of son here* (Just visualize how terribly cute he looks, all fresh and new, and terrified of the world outside the womb)


He arrived, and nothing else mattered but us. The piles got pushed away and sent away and replaced with new piles. More important things were happening, like trying to keep him nourished and alive, as well as take care of myself and the other two members of the family.

I still do not know how I survived the early weeks of newborn mode with either of my children, but I know that I did, and I wouldn’t have traded those times for anything. I miss those days. Nowadays, I push myself to stay in the moment, especially knowing how fast they’re both growing up, but I give myself permission to want those early days back again, only for a little bit, to remember how we all got through it together and progressed to where we are now.

Some things remained hidden and stagnant, however. Those sneaky little piles. I found one the other day. It was tucked away in the corner of a filing cabinet drawer.  This pile was formed about 17.5 months ago. It contained greeting cards, thank you cards, two old library cards, and $48.00 in cash. What in the world?! Jackpot. I can add this to the 51 cents I found in my bag-bin thingy from a few posts ago. 

Cash
My Instagram story saw this first

I started this blog as a way to organize my thoughts, simplify my life, and learn whatever I can along the way. It seems that the same teaching point keeps coming up: STOP MAKING PILES OF THINGS THAT I WILL GET TO “LATER”! I will literally lose money if I keep piling. Did I mention that I also found a water bill that is past due? No worries, I paid it. I came up even during this little purging adventure. Time to start shifting my habits.


Until then,

Acknowledgment: Important paperwork and money are easily lost in a piles. Take care of it immediately. 

Goal for the future: See bold print (yelling text) above.

Now: It’s time for a big glass of water. Simultaneous coffee is also great.

 

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I Can’t Contain Myself

Empty bins

I spent a good amount of time clearing these bins of items that I no longer need. This usually feels good. However, now that they’re somewhat in their original state, similar to when they were brand new and empty in the store, I am asking myself, Why did I need to buy these in the first place?

I am very enticed by containers. I always have been ever since I was young. The act of storing my special trinkets and toys into a box, bag, basket, envelope, cat-shaped purse etc. always brought me some sort of strange satisfaction. My daughter (and her cousins, I hear) are keeping this legacy alive.


K box

Now I know exactly where to find a miniature flipper for my next small snorkeling adventure.


As an adult who is responsible for helping to run a household and also run a classroom full of 8- year-old students, I acknowledge that containers and bins are security items that give me some sense of control. I HEREBY COMMAND THAT ALL 37 SQUISHY TOYS IN THIS HOUSE BE KEPT IN THE LARGE PLASTIC JAR THAT USED TO HAVE ANIMAL CRACKERS IN IT. This simple request makes me feel less guilty about letting the squishy collection get out of control in the first place, and I’m also “protecting the planet” by re-purposing a plastic jar. Yet, in the end I still feel pretty crappy. Or squishy and plastic. I feel some kind of way.

When items from containers are no longer necessary or functional, time is spent making a choice about what to do with them next. Then the “burden” of the items will eventually just be handed off to someone else or some other entity to deal with. I wonder what percentage of our landfills will be made up of squishies and surprise toy wrappers in a year or so. Now I am left with the decision of what to do with these empty containers. I am not feeling too jazzed about filling them back up and starting the cycle over again. If I pass them along to someone else, I’m just setting them up for some time consuming decision making later on down the road. Plastic bins do not deserve anymore of my emotional attention, that’s for sure. I have a husband and a daughter and a son who are waiting in line for their turn.  

Thanks to beloved Instagram, I came across some amazing posts and learned about an initiative by National Geographic that woke me up again regarding the impact of plastics on our planet. I had been turning a blind eye when life got a little more hectic with work and kids. I’m inspired and motivated to do better, and I want to model awareness for my kids and students in any way I can. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m up for it. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out: 

PLANET or PLASTIC?


Until then,

  • Acknowledgement: Plastic containers and bins are a “security blanket” in my home and in my workplace. When everything is in its place, I feel like I have control over stressful situations. Sometimes it’s efficient. It’s become more of a distraction lately.
  • Goals for the future: Work toward just having the basics in the home and in the classroom. Eliminate the stuff that will eventually eliminate the bins that eventually end up in the trash on purge day. Lots of work ahead!
  • Now: I’m going to take a deep breath. Maybe even a few.

Extra Credit Question: What do you usually do with empty bins after you’ve cleared out the items from them? Leave a reply if you’re not feeling shy!

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Bag. Bin. Things.

As I was finishing up my  last post, I already had a pretty clear idea of which time capsule junk pile I would dive into.  I’m ready to get this train rolling to success with less. Unfortunately, I didn’t choose to take on that hideous gift bag full of junk mail. Priorities. I decided to start small.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce Little Random Floral Bag-Bin Thingy! It has  remained full and untouched for months. Actually, it hasn’t been untouched completely. I think more has been added to the top layer in recent weeks . It’s one of the many catch-all kind of vessels that you would find strategically or erratically placed around my house.  As I dug deeper to the bottom of the bag-bin in preparation for the embarrassing Insta-post, I realized that this flowery little holder and all of its contents had most likely been sitting on top of the dresser in my closet for OVER A YEAR.

Floral bag bin
The contents of this bag-bin were found as is. No additions, subtractions, or embellishment of any items took place for the purpose of this post.

Packing up your life and relocating could be a very humbling experience, especially if you have collections of time capsules like I do. I’ve packed up classrooms and I’ve packed up my living spaces a handful of times. I tend to just give up toward the end. When there’s a time crunch, I do the classic one-armed surface swipe and throw all remaining random items into a container.  Floral Bag-Bin Thingy survived the move from one house to the next without even being touched or emptied for almost two years. Sneaky!


With my recent interest in trying to live a simpler life and studying some basic principles of Buddhism, I really appreciate the idea of how possessions do not define us.

At least we shouldn’t let them. I agree with this 100 percent. However, as I studied the contents of this bag-bin, I couldn’t help but think about what kinds of conclusions or judgments that strangers would make about me and the life I live. It reminds me of the classic “3 things in a paper bag” project that sometimes happens at the beginning of the year as a getting-to-know you activity. I will share my opinions about that in a later post. Until then, here are the goods: 

Bag bin contents
Um. Ok. 

The things in my bag-bin do not define who I am. I saved these trinkets, scraps and objects for either functional or sentimental purposes. I obviously threw some other things in there because I was lazy or there was some kind of dire emergency that prevented me from getting to a trash can. Some of these things are not functional anymore such as the crumpled up gum wrapper and cracked iPhone 4. Other items will serve a purpose in the future. 51 cents and an unused tampon is a major score! What is the story with the giftcards? It’s going to take some more of my valuable time (or some poor barista’s time) to figure out if there is any money left on them.

I am not going to address every item that is pictured, especially the sentimental ones. I know that they are symbolic of people and memories that are important to me. It is only now that I realize I don’t really need the physical objects anymore in order to connect with my loved ones or enjoy reminiscing. If you are reading this and you are somehow directly associated with any of the items pictured, please know that you either play a regular key role in my life, or at the least, I follow you on social media.


Here’s my plan with this little collection:

  • Keep the items that have monetary value and function (coins, giftcards)
  • Keep only 3 items for sentimental purposes (I have to start somewhere)
  • Recycle, shred, or throw everything else away. Recycle means recycle. Not holding on to it to  “re purpose” it later. I’ll never make any progress if I do that.

Until then,

  • Acknowledgement: Trinkets, souvenirs, functional and non-functional objects have been and always will be a part of my life.
  • Goals for the Future: Collect mental souvenirs and document the good times digitally. Do not allow any more bags or bins or any hybrid species to enter the house. Bonus travel goal: Just enjoy my time at whichever hotel I am staying in and turn in the damn key card to the front desk when we leave. A key card to the Wynn will not get me into my house when I forget the garage door opener. 
  • Now: Floral Bag-Bin Thingy is still in this room. It’s empty now, but still creepily present.