Living Lightly

Susan Vogt on living more simply but abundantly

Browsing Posts published by Susan Vogt

Although we have lots of sports equipment scattered throughout the house, I had forgotten about the balls, gloves, bat,  and Frisbees, that were stored in a cedar chest. I kept about half of what you see, will give half of the rest away and pitch the rest. (Some balls are really not worth saving – even for the dog – which we no longer have either.)
PS: The greenest sports items I could find were the almost green (but decidedly dead) tennis balls so I draped a green cloth behind them. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Knick knacks are a source of clutter in many homes – including ours. BUT, they are also a source of memories and that’s what makes it hard to decide what to give away. Today’s photo is probably most notable for what is NOT in it as there are probably 10 times the number of items shown. Since Jim and I travel a lot, most of our knick knacks are from foreign countries. They remind us of different cultures and especially the people we met that we may never see again. Should one give away memories or just take a photo of them?

Of course then I have to find a way to store the photos so I can find them. Most photos taken during the last decade are on our computers or a flash drive (although the file names may defy easy retrieval). BUT, we still have 19 photo albums (some over 60 years old) neatly stored under a window seat waiting for one of our children to surprise us by converting them all into digital form as a Christmas gift.

There are probably plenty of things that I could give away in the kitchen because I’m not the primary cook in our family and I only have a few standard menus. In order to avoid marital disharmony, however, I decided to take the low hanging fruit. (which were actually quite high) – baskets. As handy as baskets are I counted 23 of them perched on top of cabinets. One even had 17 pairs of sunglasses in it. Who knows what I thought I would do with 17 low quality sunglasses but they were out of sight and out of mind. I got rid of 1/3 of the baskets and almost all of the sunglasses. I probably should have included the fondue set we got as a wedding present 39 years ago and have used perhaps five times. That will have to wait till the next round of purges.

It occurs to me that even with all the things I’m giving away and throwing away, I still have much left. When I put myself in the shoes (now only one of 13 pair of course) of young adults or people with growing families I think this project would be much more difficult, perhaps not even wise. It’s often important to save hand-me-downs, craft supplies for a rainy day, and weird things to make costumes out of so you don’t have to run to the store and buy something new. Then of course there are people who don’t even have the necessities, much less stuff to give away. I’m continually challenged to discern – How much is enough and how much is too much?

Today’s photo doesn’t look like much but I had recently cleaned out the linen closet in our main bathroom so there wasn’t much left to get rid of. I did, however, find an old electric blanket that I never use because I’m not sure I feel safe having something electric on me overnight. I also found a “rag bag” – beyond the “rag crate” in the closet. Is it possible to have too many rags? I have a rag container for each floor of our home. When there’s no more room in these containers, that’s it! I’m just going to bite the bullet and throw them out. So there! I also was ruthless with throwing away all the barrettes and hair ties I’ve collected. I’m really never going to have long hair again.

We had 1,339 books in our house in the year 2000. I know this because our youngest child counted them. It was partly my attempt to give him a simple chore each day during summer vacation and partly curiosity. I’m sure it’s over 1,500 by now because we keep adding and seldom subtracting books. I confess that the picture of the bookcase today does not contain books I am giving away. That’s a much bigger project than I’m up to right now. I did note, however, that I have 13 Bibles. Does anyone need that many? Yes. For my writing I often check different translations plus some are children’s Bibles. What I AM getting rid of, however, are catalogs. I threw away 10 outdated ones. One way to decrease clutter and paper is to reduce the number of unwanted catalogs coming into the home. See www.catalogchoice.org for help. When I feel braver, I’ll tackle the books.

Update: Read How Giving Away 1,000 Books Made Me Love Reading Again for inspiration.

I had already gotten rid of a lot of baby clothes by giving them to the teenage mother we’re helping. I thought there wouldn’t be much left  since obviously our adult children could no longer wear the kids clothes I had stored in drawers. I was wrong. Commemorative t-shirts were the culprit! I was amazed at how many school, service, camp, etc. t-shirts I had saved. I felt almost guilty giving away t-shirts that came from so many worthy causes, but no one is wearing them. I kept a few sample ones, but I’m getting better at being hard nosed about these decisions.

While pruning and purging the bedroom I found a number of miscellaneous things that don’t really fit any category, but need to go to a home that can use them, not just store them. I found a box of mementos from the US/Soviet Peace Camp our family did before the iron curtain fell. (I’m passing on the plastic toys.) I found electric curlers (I’m never going back to a hair style that requires them.) I found some gag gifts. (Most of my peers passed 50 awhile ago.) But alas, I then found several items that made me wince. These were high quality skirts and a suit that for some reason I had stored in Jim’s side of the closet. Hmmm. Grey isn’t my color. Let it go to someone who is a “winter.”

Today was my first challenge to give away something really valuable. I hesitated about the one suitcase that was in really good condition, but I really never travel with more than a carry on so I don’t need two. I decided to send it to a good home and then added several sub-prime bags. I’m sure you can figure out which is which.

I’ve been out of town so I figured Halloween costumes would provide some quick and easy choices today. I probably should have chosen more, but you never know when you might need a gag costume. What you see are things that will be thrown away – the home-made pterodactyl dinosaur collar, the tie-died shirt with holes in it, the falling apart crazy hats… are not in good enough condition to give away. Fortunately I had already taken the photo when I rummaged deeper into the closet and found the hand sewn clown, lion, and witch costumes. How did I ever have time to make those?

Life is starting to interfere with my well organized plan of giving things away. Our teenage friend had a C-section a week ago which meant being with her during labor and numerous trips to bring her husband back and forth to the hospital while also trying to help him get a job. Meanwhile, my parents, who live about six hours away, are facing the health challenges normal to people in their 80’s and 90’s. I’m planning a “support the rents” trip this month. Meanwhile, our dining room ceiling is being repaired which means chaos in that part of the house. I ponder these things and remember that I’m blessed to have a car to transport people in, blessed to have my parents still alive, blessed to have a house and the money to repair a ceiling, but I’ve had to cancel meetings and rearrange my life. It seems frivolous when compared to the daily needs of those who don’t have these “luxuries.” Perhaps this “dying to self” is more of what Lent is about than giving things away, but still…
PS: If you can allow me one complaint, I can tell you that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not make it easy to get a visa. Now, that’s something to really worry about!

I used to sew. I still mend but rarely do serious sewing anymore. Guess I can throw away that zipper – I’ll never make anything that requires one again. As you can see most of the things in this photo are in the garbage can. I only saved remnants that were big enough or unique enough that I would really use them – my scraps would even challenge a quilter. The only things I’m actually giving away today are the hand sewn cloth napkins below the garbage can. (I have plenty I like better.) I decided, however, to rename the socks I thought I would darn some day as “rags.” (I kept hoping for a healthy match, but alas.) I better watch this tendency to move items from one part of the house to another though. This could be a cop-out.

I’m jumping from the bedroom to the dining room today because yesterday Jim and I had to clear everything out of the dining room in order to repair the ceiling. This interruption to my plan uncovered numerous items tucked away in corners and behind bookshelves. A room that I hadn’t considered cluttered revealed some hidden treasures but also useless items and more questions. For example, should I keep the 16 year old x-rays of my back? What about those protest signs against war, for health care reform, for church reform, and pro-life? Then there are the 101 used folders and 24 three-ring binders that I saved so I wouldn’t have to run to the store every time a child had a school project. Wait! It’s been six years since our youngest was in a local school! What you see in the photo is about ¼ of the folders/binders. Some I put into recycling, better stuff I’ll give away, some I’m just moving to a different place in the house for a later decision. I’m not sure if this is progress.

In order to save money, in the early days of our marriage I sewed a lot of simple curtains. Most of our windows are now dressed, thank you, but I still keep the fabric from previous homes and decorating stages because it’s large and flat and could be made into something else sometime. What? When?

I don’t know that the photo adequately captures the bulk of this day’s give-aways. I’ve been saving extra bedspreads for kids going away to college, setting up their first apartment, etc. Somehow they are currently settled in somewhere in the world without these items. But maybe they’ll boomerang home and need them? Susan, stop fantasizing.

Under the bed is such a handy place to store things. Out of sight, out of mind. In fact so far out of mind that I found some bed skirts that I didn’t know I had and thus had bought new ones. Mostly, however, I found a stash of purses. Some were nice but I’ve been on the search for the perfect purse for a few years (one tiny one that fits all my necessities but is the size of a wallet) and another larger one for travel (that fits file folders, a netbook, etc.) I now own my two ideal purses and really don’t need these others.

Three questions for today:

  1. Do any women wear slips anymore? Why do I have 5 that I seldom wear?
  2. Does anyone really want to wear my used panty-hose and tights?
  3. Why do I have a bikini that I wouldn’t dare wear anymore and a swim cap nobody but Olympic swimmers wear these days?

I threw away the cap along with some socks that weren’t even good as rags.

I’ve been pondering how pure my motivation should be about giving things away. I have to admit that a lot of what I’m giving away so far is rather satisfying because it’s decluttering our bedroom. It has taken some time and some cleaning, but it hasn’t really been sacrificial – at least not yet. My current policy is not to let the quest for “pure, altruistic motivation” keep me from doing something good. Just start.

OK, I realize these are primarily female clothes again, but I’m reluctant to throw away stuff from Jim’s drawers. Besides I don’t think you’d like to see his drawers. Again today I decided to wash one nightgown before deciding whether to give it away or now. The spots came out. I think I’ll keep it – at least a little longer.

Today was more of a challenge because in order to decide which tops to give away I had to get out many of my contradance skirts and dresses. So much of my clothing is mix and match and that is good but it also means that tops are dependent on which skirts they match. I’m reminded again of family systems and how we each depend on the other members.