January is for Simplifying

For the past ten years I have intuitively come up with a word on New Years Eve that will guide me in the coming year.  In 2007 my word was “Simplify.”  What was really weird is that in 2008 my word that I was getting was once again “Simplify.”  I thought something was wrong with my intuition, but upon reflecting I had another layer to explore and that was my word, like it or not.  That became the year that I moved from San Diego to Portland and looking back it really was a big step towards a simpler life.  Just buying and reading Real Simple wasn’t going to give me simplicity, I had to go out and seek it and create it in my own life.

Pansies I saw while moving as I went through Mt. Shasta

Pansies in Mt. Shasta while moving to Portland

As December was coming to a close, I needed a January goal.  It seemed like the perfect time with a new year starting to work on simplifying now 5 years later.  The definition of simplify is to “make something simpler or easier. “ I wanted to take on my home and to go through each drawer, closet and room to see what I have, sort though what I need and get rid of items I no longer need.  It was sort of a physical purging, which then feels like it echoes in my mental, emotional and spiritual life.

Portland Insight Meditation Center

Portland Insight Meditation Center

I began with the upstairs and went  drawer by drawer, closet by closet and room by room.  Mind you I have a 3 bedroom home and it already is pretty simple (versus filled to the brim).  Also I have the time to devote to this being retired.  I believe in “chunking” where you break a task into chunks that are reasonable and where you can feel success with completing that chunk prior to taking on the next chunk.

Chinese Proverb

I started with the guest bedrooms, pulling everything out, sorting through it and cleaning the shelf or surface, and selecting what I wanted to keep and what I was ready to let go of.  I went through all my clothes and was happy to find some are too big.  There also were many that just are not ever going to be worn, so I put them in a pile for Goodwill.  I also thought about where things were located and moved stuff around.  I had financial papers in the nightstand on the side I am not using and that just did not seem like good Feng Shui, so I put them up in a guest closet.  I left some space in most areas versus packing things tightly.  I stumbled upon a little T-shirt that my daughter wore when she was a baby and got a sweet feeling inside remembering those days of holding her and changing her diaper.  I decided to save this should she someday have her own child.

I'm keeping the shirt

I’m keeping the shirt

I like to always keep a box going for Goodwill.  So once I take stuff to them I put out a new box.  This allows things to sit in there for a while and then I am even more clear, I am OK to live without it.

Getting rid of stuff I don't wear

Getting rid of stuff I don’t wear

In my bedroom I freshened up the room by putting new photos into a frame that had been the same for about 7 years.

Fresh up the old by adding new Photos!

Freshen up the old by adding new Photos!

At times my new life made it hard to decide about keeping or passing something on.  One good example of that is my hiking boots.  These aren’t just regular hiking boots.  As I looked back I remember buying them back in the late 80’s.  I then did not wear them for many years and when I moved to Portland I almost got rid of them, but they sure came in handy when we had that Arctic Blast back in the Winter of 2008.  I looked at the vegan wearing leather thing, the how hard it is to fit my foot thing and the lets create less waste thing and decided to keep them.

Decisions about what to keep

Decisions about what to keep

I paused for a few days after the bedrooms, then did the laundry room.  Next was the bathroom, which had more than the other rooms.   I like to take on the easiest chores first to feel a sense of accomplishment, so I did the guest bath.  What I realized in doing my own bathroom was even with moving several times and throwing away stuff, this is one room I have a lot of stuff in.  As I was cleaning the drawers and shelves, I realized how many beauty products I had bought with the hope of being more beautiful.  And it became clear that having lots of beauty products does not make one prettier.  People who I admire have a natural beauty that they let shine through.  It is not layers of make-up that that seem to make me notice someone’s beauty.  I also learned about toxic cosmetics and tried to lighten the load there too.  This was by far the room in which I threw away the most stuff.  I then sorted things into containers (such as items for eyes, items for teeth, first aid, etc).  I am hopeful in another year to be able to let go of even more items in my bathroom as it still feels like too much, but I am willing to wait until I am ready to release it versus tossing it all in one blow.

Stuff to let go of from the bathroom

Stuff to let go of from the bathroom

I organize by common use in fun containers

I organize by common use in fun containers

Items for guests to make them feel welcome

Items for guests to make them feel welcome

I found my Scrabble necklace pieces

I found my Scrabble necklace pieces

After I was done cleaning and sorting in the bathroom

After I was done cleaning and sorting in the bathroom

The kitchen was another place where I have a lot of stuff.  I pulled items out shelf by shelf and cleaned, sorted and reorganized.  I got rid of my plastic Tupperware, my Teflon skillets I no longer use and few cookbooks.  I threw away old labor contracts I no longer need to create more space for all the cookbooks I own.  I found some items I had forgotten I had such as baking pans and a few crockpots way in the back.

Cleaning & Organizing in the Kitchen

Cleaning & Organizing in the Kitchen

I took everything out, washed the shelves and organized

I took everything out, washed the shelves and organized

Plates and Bowls

Plates and Bowls

Ah, the Spice of Life!

Ah, the Spice of Life!

Karma comes to check out the items as I clean

Karma comes to check out the items as I clean

Grain drawer with IKEA containers

Grain drawer with IKEA containers

The good news is, I made it through the entire house and the garage!  It feels good to know what I have and to let go of that which no longer serves me.  To lighten the load in any way possible but not forced.

My backpack for the Camino!

My backpack for the Camino!

All of this simplifying will help me as I prepare to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage through France and Spain.  I will be going on that Journey in late May.  It is like doing a 12-15 mile day hike daily, but staying at Albergues (or hostels) along the way.  One needs to carry their personal items on their back that will last them the 5+ weeks that the journey takes.  This trip will be an amazing opportunity to lighten my load in so many ways!

Collect Moments Not Things

Collect Moments Not Things

There is a sense of freedom to not have clutter and to let go of items I am not going to use. Creating that space allows more room in which to think and feel and take in this moment.  I am grateful to have a roof over my head, to have my needs met and to have the freedom to take on this goal of simplifying.  There is a peace in simplicity!  ~ Namaste

I will be posting more about simplifying as it relates to plastics and a no make-up challenge I recently took.  Look for those soon.

8 Comments

  1. I too have been simplifying in advance of my imminent 3rd chapter. I have called it decluttering, and I’m not quite as far along as you are, but I see it as a spiritual as well as a practical path. Your May trip sounds just awesome. I look forward to following your blog!

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    • Thanks for joining me on the journey to a simple and happy life. Good luck with your 3rd chapter on the horizon. Glad to have you following my blog and I am now following you too.

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  2. River Cheung says:

    Get rid of stuff is not easy. But it brought us great happiness after this hard work. I hope to see your pictures of ” walk the Camino de Santiago ” in the future. Nice going.

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  3. Rox G. says:

    WOW this is really a huge journey you are taking on i had know idea
    Rock on

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    • Thanks Rox. It isn’t just a short hike and it isn’t just physical…thanks for your support. I sure hope you guys get to stay at my place while I am away. As the journey continues for each of us!

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