Living Lightly

Susan Vogt on living more simply but abundantly

Browsing Posts published by Susan Vogt

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.

I decided to divide my tops into long sleeve and short sleeve. Perhaps I should have combined the categories, but I don’t want to run out of groupings before the 40 days are up. I think this kind of thinking contradicts the spirit of Lent and generosity – but then I’m also giving up guilt.

One of my packing strategies for trips is to take a bunch of scarves so I can make three outfits out of one. Scarves are also a small and light accessory which helps me fit everything into a carry on – a constant goal of mine. In reviewing my scarves, however, I did find some I never wear. Now jewelry like earrings and necklaces don’t take a lot of storage room but do I really wear them all? I decided to keep a couple heirloom pieces even though I’ve hardly every worn them. Some memories are meant to be kept.

Not only do I have the sweaters I wear on a daily basis (layered of course against the winter chill), but I rediscovered a stash of sweaters I had stored under the bed. I like sweaters. Even the ones I don’t wear regularly are so pretty, it’s hard to part with them. There’s the kelly green one that I only wear on St. Patrick’s Day since green isn’t really my color, ditto for the red Christmas sweater. I remember Dan’s question about parting with things I love but others can use. Well, check out the photo.
Two things I learned from sorting sweaters:
1. I got a boost from my husband and our house guest, Isaac, donating several sweaters.
2. After reading some of your posts about not giving away trash, I felt guilty enough that I mended some holes in the sweaters and washed those that needed it. This is taking more time than just choosing what to give away!

Day 5: Slacks

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How many pairs of khaki slacks does one need? Well, more than one I guess since I could only get myself down to three (one dress pair for summer, one dress pair for winter, and one casual pair.) I justify these (plus my two pair of black slacks) by saying they are my all purpose travel/speaking uniform since I can match them with different tops and have a variety of outfits. Sounds reasonable to me. I wonder how it would sound to someone in Haiti. How important is it to a speaker’s credibility to have sharp, modern looking clothes? Your thoughts?

Since today is Sunday (and thus doesn’t count as one of the 40 days of Lent) I’m not giving anything away, but I am still thinking. (Maybe today I’m actually giving away thoughts. 🙂 ) Anyway, this blog has had the unintended side effect of putting me in touch with some lost friends. One of them, Dan Mulhall, posed two challenging questions:

1. Are you only giving away things that you no longer want, or are you also considering giving away things that you love but think that others can use?

2. Are you also giving away non-things , like ideas, suggestions for programs or talks, etc.?

So far, I’ve been giving from my excess. I’ll have to see where this experience leads.

Now it gets a little harder. Although my typical daily wardrobe consists of jeans and a turtleneck, I do need to have some professional attire for speaking engagements. (The fashion police, aka my daughter, informed me that my wardrobe really needed a makeover if I wanted to have credibility with the younger generation of couples and parents.) So, I have a few stock outfits that I use for travel and speaking. Plus, there are some really fine suits that I don’t wear all that often but, hey! you never know when I might need a whole week of professional suits. I also want to keep that black suit that’s perfect for funerals. As my mother says, “At my age I’m going to more and more of them.”