Life After Decluttering

Today, I’m working on a chapter of my new book about life after minimizing. Decluttering, minimizing, and organizing really does change your life. It really does do what is promised: it frees up your mind, your time and money to do the things you want to do.

The downside for people in my midlife bracket is that we do have more time. The kids are gone. Their needs are few if we’re lucky. Many of us are retiring or cutting back on our hours and we have more time to think about the negative, to worry, to wring our hands. When we’re not doing that “busy work” of keeping the house and saying we’re going to declutter, we get frustrated so we binge eat or watch Netflix. Maybe that’s just me. Or when we have no more excuses for why we can’t get out and walk or hike or do the things we always said we were going to do we just don’t know what to say.

When we come face to face with our real freed up selves right now, it can be, shall we say challenging. There’s this strange, gray-haired person in the mirror asking me, “What do I do now?” I don’t know about you but I always seemed to put others before me. So, I didn’t pay attention to the spare tire that showed up around my waist. I run and jump in my mind, but when I’m called on to do those things in real life, it feels odd and painful and parts of me jiggle that I didn’t know could. And I don’t really know how to dress this overweight older woman. I supported other’s dreams and aspirations and at this point when people ask me what my hobbies are or what my passions are, I don’t know what to say. “Uh, gardening?” I barely have a lawn.

I was always a wife, a mom and a teacher. That was overload. I didn’t have time for anything else.

So, the downside or the challenge of this time of life after decluttering is to find who I am now. And that’s a bit scary. It’s a challenge to not fall back into old patterns of behavior to avoid looking at myself and my life. It’s a challenge not to adopt new “hobbies” just to stay busy like shopping just to have something to do (and end up right back where I started in a cluttered house), or numbing my worried brain with hours of British dramas. (which I thoroughly enjoy!)

I mean, being a wife, mom and teacher was amazing. I mean, I still do those things, just in a different way. More from a distance and indirectly. But back in the day when my boots were on the ground and my hands were dirty, I had the privilege of producing, literally creating human beings. I created and managed a home and I weaved relationships that I believe will last longer than I’m alive. I poured into future executives, pastors and doctors – seriously, some of my students are those people right now. I was producing and nurturing every waking hour.

My life, right now, not so much.

But, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 
― Mother Theresa

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I believe in seasons and growth. I have to remember that it’s just as important to BE as it is to produce or make. I know it sounds groovy, but living, breathing and being have got to be enough to be considered valuable. Just look at people who are amazing even though they are hindered in some way.  I believe in my heart that just being is enough, just not every day in my brain, which brings me down. I have to not mourn what my life was and I have to be brave enough to embrace this future that is unknown. I hate the unknown. I guess that’s why they say, “growing old is not for the faint of heart.”

So, I have to find myself, reinvent myself, find a new normal and figure out how to dress this weird, old lady I see in the mirror. Or maybe I’ll just go watch “Downton Abbey” all over again. Pass the Doritos, thanks.

Peace,

Jill

 

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Let’s Get Real about Minimalism & Getting Older

I’m working on my new book called, “Minimalist Grandma” and it’s for women in their mid to later years. I’m writing it for that audience because that’s when we really need to take the idea of minimalism seriously. Because…

  1. TBH, you are getting older and you WILL be forced to minimize your possessions eventually. It is inevitable. If you don’t do it, your kids will. Do it now while you can make the decisions and while you can still bend over.
  2. It takes too much time and money to maintain a bunch of stuff. So, get rid of it.
  3. You’ve spent your life taking care of a home full of stuff. Why not spend your time now doing stuff you want to do?
  4. You don’t want a house full of crap to trip over and break your hip.
  5. Cool grandmas put on their Converse and The Beatles and dance with their grandkids in the kitchen.

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When people think of minimalism they often think of white, stark, austere homes. It doesn’t have to be that way. Keep your collections and trinkets, just keep them because you love them not because you’re lazy. And don’t keep them if it makes your house dangerous and dirty. Maybe you could just slim down the collection a bit.

After you’ve minimized and organized that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. You have to maintain it. See my last post about hating to do dishes. But, minimizing means it doesn’t take as long to deal with the stuff because there’s less of it.

By maintaining a decluttered and organized home, you can avoid some of the reasons why people hate being around old people:

  1. They smell weird – if you minimize you can quickly and easily clean your home and spray air freshener so your house won’t smell like eggs, coffee, joint ointment, and that mysterious musty smell. And you have more time to bathe so you won’t smell like that either
  2. They are stuck in the old days – if you minimize you have more time to get on social media and stalk your grandchildren and read articles to keep you up to date.
  3. They’re boring – if you minimize you’ll have more time and money to do fun things like parasailing (shout out to my 80 something-year-old hero and father-in-law!)
  4. They are depressing – if you have more time to stalk your grandchildren on social media, read articles in “Rolling Stone” magazine, watch the latest releases on Netflix, go parasailing and hiking, you’ll have more interesting things to talk about than all your ailments, your friend’s funerals and when you might have a date with the grim reaper.

So, to all my tribe out there, you should consider minimizing. I have found it to be quite liberating!

Peace, freedom and The Beatles,

Jill

 

Morning News Clips

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Well, here I am, up at 4 in the morning. I used to make fun of “old” people and their habit of waking up at 4am and eating dinner at 4pm and here I am doing that very thing!

I thought I’d just give you some snippets of thoughts today.

In Local News…

Just recently I took a map of Texas and I outlined the natural regions of the state. I know, I’m kinda weird like that. I just wanted to see where I lived and how it was defined. It was interesting, I found that I live at the edge of about 3 different regions: Gulf Coast subtropical, prairies, and piney woods. I guess that explains the sometimes weird weather here.

I started a 3-gallon fish tank. I have a beta fish named Elvis and a catfish named Ron Swanson, because of the mustache and attitude.

In World News…

So, last night Husband had to go to Home Depot and I went with him. Living here in the “outer suburbs” I sometimes feel like a character in an old Western when I have to “go into town” for supplies.

He went into the store and I stayed in the car. I had my phone and I wanted to check my blog to see if there were any comments I need to reply to, so I Googled my name to locate my blog and lo and behold I saw that my books had made it to Barnes and Noble, Walmart (Haha!), ABE Books, Thriftbooks and I saw that they had made it to sites in Japan, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, the UK, and Australia. So crazy! I noticed that some of my books had been sold in those countries through Amazon, but now they’re being sold on other sites as well.

I also had one of those knowledge panels pop up on Google with my name and “author.” So, I guess if Google calls me an author, then it’s official.

However, there’s still a matter of my shower needing cleaning.

Speaking of Cleaning…

I’m working on a new book based on my blog and my experience in decluttering called, “Minimalist Grandma.” I’ll be submitting it to a publisher soon. Cross your fingers!

Have a great day! Thanks for stopping by!

Jill

 

This Next Chapter of Life

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I listen to a lot of YouTube videos, Ted Talks, podcasts. I tune them up, put in my earbuds and do stuff while I listen. Even the videos I usually just listen. I listen to such a weird variety of stuff you’d probably not believe it.

Well, I was listening to a Catholic priest the other day and he explained something so clearly, and I felt so accurately, that I ordered his book. So, I may be sharing more after I read it.

In his lecture, he described our lives as being in 2 distinct chapters. I sort of think there are more, but I won’t go into that here. He said that in the first part of our lives we are busy finding out who we are and building our lives. He called it, “Building our containers.” Who am I? Where did I come from? What am I here? What is my purpose? You know all those questions we ask when we’re young – and sometimes if we’re older if we had a challenging childhood.

We are busy getting married, starting families, building careers, etc. He then said the next chapter or second chapter we are more concerned with the “Contents of our container.” Here’s where we are searching for meaning. We begin to notice the quality of character, values, virtue, etc.

If this is an accurate description, then the whole decluttering thing makes sense. Whatever age you are when this happens (often late 40’s and in your 50’s) –  the kids are on their own, you’re in the latter stages of your career, your parents are passing away, you are realizing your own mortality, you are becoming more of a mentor, sage than a worker drone and you’re getting a few gray (WISDOM) hairs – you begin to feel this surge of a new life beginning. You realize you can do whatever you want to. Your kids are not taking all your money and your time. You’re old enough and smart enough and mature enough not to make stupid decisions so you can create a new life!

That’s why we want to shed all the stuff that weighs us down. We don’t need all the trappings we did when we were younger when we were competing when we were racing. We’re perfectly fine now with a cup of good coffee and a nice view. We don’t want to clean a huge house, we’re fine with a couple of rooms and good company. We no longer care about the container, we want the contents.

The tag line for my original Minimalist Grandma blog was, “freeing myself up so I can enjoy this next chapter.” I might adjust it slightly to say, “keeping myself free so I can enjoy this next chapter.”

Stay free my friends!

Peace,

Jill

Research Shows Clutter Causes Stress

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There was an article in The Washington Post today that shared the results of a study that was done about how clutter affects people.

The study proved that clutter can cause stress and raised cortisol levels in people living in it. The study showed that women are mostly more stressed about it than men because the burden of cleaning and maintaining the home still falls mostly to women.

The study also supported my constantly repeated idea, “You have to develop systems and routines to maintain the decluttered lifestyle otherwise it’s a waste of time.” Here’s a quote from the actual study that jumped out at me:

“Overall our findings suggest that a general propensity to procrastinate when it comes to attending to routine, everyday tasks, such as sorting and disposing of personal inventory items, can lead to clutter.” See! You have to keep up those organizing systems and routines!” 

And it continues, “Clutter while often regarded as a seemingly innocuous and common problem among adults, can escalate as people accumulate more possessions, and fail to routinely review their burgeoning inventories. At the extreme, clutter can reduce a person’s general satisfaction with life.” 

from NYT link from Current Psychology, June 2018, Vol. 37, Issue 2, pp 426-431

The underlining is me, haha!

In reality, we didn’t need scientific research to show that clutter stresses us out, we live with it!

So, let this study be an encouragement, a catalyst and a kick in the butt to get you motivated to start decluttering and organizing. Seriously, it will really help your overall well-being.

Peace and storage bins,

Jill

 

Your Home As Sanctuary

I want to give you permission today. I want to give you permission to protect your home, to keep it safe and make it your sanctuary.

Sanctuary is defined as: “a place of refuge or safety.”

I grew up in a home that was not safe and it was a place of drama and trauma. I watched as people came in and out of the house and as they did they brought pain, insult and drama. They were able to change the atmosphere physically, emotionally and spiritually as they wanted. No one protected our home.

So, as an adult, I determined that I would have a home that was safe and a place of refuge for me and my family and for anyone who would respect what I was trying to achieve.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.thingstodowithkids.com

I have had to fight to protect my home. I have had to work hard to guard its peace.

My home is my only place. I know I am welcome at my kid’s homes, at friend’s homes, but my house is mine. It’s my place. I have the authority to make it what I want it to be.

Husband and I pay the mortgage. So, we get to say what happens in it and to it. Drama and trauma people don’t have that right. Manipulative people don’t have the right. If I invite people into my home, it is understood that they follow the rules and honor the vibe. I set the tone, they don’t.

I want to give you permission to take control of your home. Your kids, extended family, and friends don’t have permission to take over and change your home physically, emotionally or spiritually.

Your home should be a place where you can take refuge and feel safe.

Peace and safety,

Jill

 

 

Decluttering For Young Mothers: What I Wish I Knew Then

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I have a lot of young mothers in my life and I’d like to share some ideas that I have discovered as I’ve decluttered my life and well, basically, since I’ve gotten older. I think I might be able to help you a little in this area of decluttering, organizing and keeping your life simple so you can enjoy your family.

Let’s be honest, having kids, raising kids, is all very emotionally charged. Little things they give you, rocks, flowers, a piece of paper they colored means the world to you!!

The clothes they wore when they were infants, that card that great-grandma sent when she found out you were pregnant – all these things are pregnant with meaning and emotion.

If you keep every little thing that touches your heart, you will be drowning in stuff before your kids graduate high school. I know. I did.

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE (OF STUFF)…

Your kids make things. They save things. They give you things. Not long after they make, save or give, that thing is highly important! “Where’s that acorn, Mom?!” And if you threw it out their heart will be broken. From then on out, you save the acorns.

When they get a bit older, you’ll pull out that acorn and you will be all sentimental and tenderhearted about it remembering precious moments and your child will be like, “That’s just an acorn, Mom, OMG, you’re so dumb!” Then your heart will be broken.

Then when they’ve graduated and moved to college and you’re drowning in acorns, you’re ready to throw them out and your child says, “I don’t care, Mom, do what you want, it doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Then you’re at a crisis point, standing in the living room with your hands and house full of acorns not knowing what to do.

WE’RE NOT FULL CIRCLE YET…

Then your child “finds someone.” They fall in love. They want to show them their childhood and the acorns. Lucky you saved them. Their heart is bursting to share their acorns with the one they love. Hearts are happy. You’re glad you saved them.

Then they get married and start a home. “Yay!” you shout. “I can finally get these acorns out of my house.” But your child says, “I don’t want them, they’ll clutter up my house.” You’re angry. “Those stupid acorns have been cluttering up my house for years and now you don’t want them? I’m not your storage service!” There you are in the living room with your hands and house still full of acorns. You still don’t know what to do.

Then, the babies are born. You pull out the acorns and you and your child cry and take pictures of the babies with the acorns. “I’m so glad I kept them!” You sob. “I’m so glad you did, too, Mom!” Your child hugs you. Hearts are happy!

“Now you can take the acorns to your house,” you say to the new mother. “What? No. I don’t have room. Can’t you just keep them here?” SMH. Here we go again.

WHAT TO DO?

I told you a really long story to give you a short and simple solution: Save one acorn.

Actually, you have 2 choices. Save one acorn or get a plastic bin, put it in the closet and every time your kid brings, gives you or colors an acorn, put it in the bin and got through all the acorns when they’re 18.

It would have been easier and quicker if I had made the decisions as I went along. I suggest that way. Yes, you have to make emotionally charged decisions as you go along. You’ll have to choose between the painting of that blue blob or the unidentifiable clay thing. But believe me, it’s easier than drowning in tons of stuff.

Fortunately, technology is here to help you. I wish I had this when my kids were little.

SAVING YOUR KID’S ARTWORK

Thankfully, The Pioneer Woman did a blog post that gives you 4 apps that help you digitally save your kid’s artwork and then you can have them printed and bound in books. The perfect gift to give them when they leave home and/or have kids of their own when they can really appreciate it! I wish I had this! Click HERE to go to PW’s website.

SAVING YOUR KID’S CERTIFICATES AND AWARDS

I haven’t searched (and in fact, you might be able to use the same app) but you could do the same sort of thing with certificates that your child receives. In these days where kids get awards for breathing and being alive, you’ll end up with a lot of them. So, create a digital copy and discreetly dispose of the certificate. As far as actual trophies, let me segway into my next topic…

KEEPSAKES AND PRECIOUS ITEMS

For those trophies and little things that are precious that the kids give you or save or make, here’s what I did. I bought a relatively cheap curio cabinet from Ikea. A china cabinet would work, too. A curio cabinet is a cabinet with glass doors and shelves inside. Then you can put all those items on display! When the cabinet fills up, then you can make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. And by then, the decision may be easier because the cuteness and sweetness may have worn off. I made a rule that all that stuff HAD to fit in the cabinet. That was its place. (and my mantra is, “Everything must have a place!”) So, I made it all fit! You could also TAKE A PHOTO OF IT AND KEEP THE PHOTO!

BABY CLOTHES & TOYS

I will refer back to the acorn story. Save one or two important items. Save the dedication/christening outfit and one or two others. And only save a couple of special toys. Here are some reasons:

  • Your daughter may only have boys and your son may only have girls and you’ll end up with a bunch of clothes for nothing but just looking at once or twice.
  • Your kids won’t use them for real. It will be fun to pull out and look at take one or two photos with the babies wearing it. But believe me, your grandkids will not wear those old, out of date, dry rotted, yellowed clothes that have been in storage for 20 years to preschool. Seriously.
  • The toys will be dangerous and out-of-date. I say that with confidence because, by the year 2039, there will be more and different safety regulations and your kids WILL follow current safety trends no matter how safe you thought their toys were today.

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

As much as it’s trendy to print out photos or have those cute canvases, tiles or books,  I am telling you, listen to one who lived through the years of rolls of film, negatives and prints and VHS tapes and the giant cameras, 8mm and the projectors – DIGITIZE YOUR PHOTOS AND VIDEOS!! I have 30+ years of videos and photos on 2 thumb drives. And I LOVE photos! So much easier and SAFER! We had a pipe burst and I almost lost all of my photos and VHS tapes- and they were the originals with no other copies!

You are probably more familiar with what is available out there. I’ve heard of several apps that might help, so look around.

HEIRLOOMS & MEMORABILIA

Heirlooms are special items that are passed down from generation to generation. Memorabilia are souvenirs, things you saved to remember a special time or event.

Let me give you a general rule of thumb: Your kids don’t want your stuff! 

However, heirlooms are important and they will get them whether they want them or not. Then I’ve done my familial duty and they can decide if they want to stop the chain and get haunted by Grandpa Jack, haha!

As far as heirlooms that originate with you, your jewelry or special items that you own, you need to decide exactly who gets it and make sure you state that in your will. (GET A WILL MADE, EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO MAKE A WILL!) Store the item carefully, or better yet, use it and have it out so the memories of you using it will go along with the item.

About your memorabilia, your kids won’t have your memories to go along with it so it won’t mean anything to them. They might like to look at the stuff once but don’t pressure them to keep it forever. What a burden! And get rid of it before you kick the bucket so they won’t have the guilt of having to give it to Goodwill or chuck it in the trash. Do them a favor!

COMBINE SOME IDEAS

Since my kids are older, I was able to create some shadow boxes to display important items and photos all at the same time. I have one devoted to my daughter’s ballet years with her shoes, photos, newspaper clippings, etc. That way they’re protected and on display to enjoy all the time. The act of limiting the items and photos to what will fit in the display made me have to choose and eliminate thereby trimming down the number of keepsakes.

WHEN WILL YOU STOP BEING THE STORAGE SERVICE OR FAMILY MUSEUM CURATOR?

I decided that when my kids were settled in their adult lives I would stop storing their stuff. In our case, when they were married and settled in a home. It helped, too, when they had their own kids. That’s when they could see how meaningful the stuff was.

After they were settled, that’s when I said, “Come get your stuff or I’m going to get rid of it.” Then, when they didn’t take stuff that I thought they should have, I realized it meant more to me than to them. I had to decide again and I kept one acorn. So, I still have a cabinet of my favorite things that belonged to my kids. I have some shadow boxes. Of course, it’s up to you!

NOW THAT I PREDICTED YOUR FUTURE…

Let me remind you that decluttering and living that minimalist life is very difficult with kids. Your kids are their own people and it may be important to them to keep stuff. Be patient, you can have their room back in 18 years. And that goes by too quickly! You can let them have their space for now to become the people they’re meant to be.

Also, you are being financially responsible to hang on to toys and clothes that the next child can use. So, don’t get frustrated that you have to have more storage space than that cute childless couple in Simplify magazine.

Unless you spend every waking hour chasing after your child and guaranteeing that they will need counseling when they’re older, just resign yourself to the FACT that your house will be messy, dirty, crazy, CLUTTERED and unorganized most of the time. You can reel it back under control periodically, but this is your life with kids. Don’t worry, when you’re my age, you can have your minimalist dream house. But by then you’ll miss the craziness!

Do the best you can.

I wish you peace and sleep,

Jill