Soulful home progress report

“Nothing prepared me for the rush I got when that first bag of discards hit the curb. What I expected to be a tedious, and rather onerous, task turned out to be exhilarating. I was instantly addicted. I decluttered in the morning; I decluttered in the evening; I decluttered on the weekends; I decluttered in my dreams (really!). When I wasn’t actually decluttering, I was planning what I could declutter next. The high I experienced while decluttering was like no other; it’s as if I could feel the physical weight being lifted from my shoulders. After I’d been particularly productive, I’d twirl around in my (newly) empty space with a huge grin on my face.”

I could have written that myself! In fact, it was written by Francine Jay in The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life.  Reading her words caused me to nod in recognition.

There’s been no break with my effort to eliminate unnecessary items from our house.  I think if it’s been in the closet for over a year and we never needed it, we probably won’t be needing it in the future.

So far I have made about $800 by selling furniture that was crowding our space, books we don’t need hanging around taking up shelf real estate, kitchen items, etc.  I’ve been to Goodwill and the recycling dumpster multiple times and have given away a lot of things too.  I thought it was hilarious when someone in my facebook trading group asked me if we are moving.

media before after

This is the media console and hutch we sold to someone starting out in her first apartment. It’s going to be the nicest piece of furniture she has! And to the right, an idea of our new tv size. It sounded so big that I had to make sure with cardboard that it’s going to look ok.  :)

take it away

Taking away the old unit

Having fewer possessions but having a spot for each item has made a big difference so far. Mr. B has even remarked that he likes the progress I’ve made although he jokes that he’s afraid I’m going to sell his clothes if he doesn’t lock them up.  I admit that I’m being rather ruthless right now because I’m tired of straightening up!

shredWeek three of the process is CLEANSE.   By that, Balbes means we need to take those items that bring us joy and take care of them, framing pictures, cleaning silver, etc.  It happens after RELEASE, where we “reconnect with our valued possessions via simple-seeming activities such as dusting, washing, framing, and reupholstering.” I haven’t gotten to that point yet because I am still purging but I did spend a few hours shredding documents that have been piling up for quite a while and it felt good to get those done.  I do like the idea of breathing new life into our valued possessions and I know I will do that.

“As you renew your bonds to what is useful for you, you strengthen your connection to the parts of your history that are the foundation of who you are today and who you want to become.” 

new ottoman

I saw this ottoman on Joss & Main and had to have it! We also have a lovely neutral rug coming.

I’m getting ahead of myself in the SoulSpace process but we have rearranged furniture and purchased a couple of items that we really love. In getting rid of our very large entertainment center, moving our love seat elsewhere, and our coffee and end tables, we have found a ton of space in our living room.  It’s not finished but stay tuned.

patioThe next thing and most exciting update is that we have enclosed our back porch and that has dramatically changed where we spend our free time.  It’s a great place for my daughter to play restaurant with sand.  (So far she hasn’t noticed the junk items I’ve tossed!)

Francine Joy also explained the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule). In this context, it means we use 20 percent of our stuff 80 percent of the time.  I’ve simply decided not to keep much of the other 80%.  She also says that “the things with which we choose to surround ourselves tell our story.”  I am obviously finding many many items that no longer tell the story I wish to tell.

book sortingIf you know me well you know that what I am about to tell you is a really big deal. I sold or donated hundreds of books. There were some that I have been hanging to since before college and I finally realized that I am not going to ever read them a second time. There are so many new books to read! Then there were the ones that I bought for work or photography and I also am not going to look through again. I sold some through BookScouter, which netted me about $50.  I gave away craft magazines and anything that people would want and I gave five huge boxes to Goodwill.

My shelves are still jammed with books but at least I can see what I have and they are not triple stacked.  I may have to go through them again but I can tell you that the ones I kept are the ones I truly do treasure.

I’ve saved the hardest projects for last… the hall closet full of everything I don’t know what to do with, the filing cabinet, the playroom, and finally the garage and attic.

Between my purging, selling, donating, and organizing, and setting up the new sunroom (assembling furniture), I have tuckered myself out!

Tell me how you’re getting along in your own home.  :)

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Oneness with nature

California wavesOut of the frantic last week of school before winter break craziness, my daughter getting sick, last-minute preparations for our trip, getting up early and traveling all day, we arrived.  We ate.  We slept.  We found calm.

We found ourselves at the ocean.  We walked out on the sand and I think I finally exhaled. We watched the waves and the foam they made climb the shore.  After a couple minutes, my daughter and hubby went to a playground nearby and I watched as, over and over again, the largest waves I’ve ever seen came crashing forward upon the shore.  I felt such a deep sense of peace that these waves are and always have been full of motion, knowing exactly what to do.

Anytime I’m in nature, I feel that same sense of exhalation, like something within me that I didn’t even realize was clenched finally starts to unfurl.

Have you found this same connection with nature? Do tell!

P.S. Photo taken at Laguna Beach, California

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Soulful home – more is less

“Even the smallest changes in our daily routine can create incredible ripple effects that expand our vision of what is possible.” ~ Charles F. Glassman

quote.PNGIt can be hugely draining to be surrounded by lots of stuff.  By “stuff,” I mean extra books on the shelves, cups you never use, old spices gathering dust, expired medicines in the cabinet, clothes that don’t fit or you don’t enjoy wearing.  All these things confine us.  Why continue to live this way? Why not make space???

It takes time to put things away.  BUT… if every single item in your house had a home, it would be so much easier to put it back there after using it. Xorin Balbes writes that getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40% of housework in the average home.  I believe him.

Stage 2, RELEASE, of SoulSpace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life — Creating a Home That Is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You (catch up here) teaches us how to let go and why doing so is integral. This stage culminates in our disposing of literal and figurative baggage.  “Consider each object in your home. If you’re not sure whether to release it, use the following guidelines to help you decide. If you do not absolutely love it, release it. If it does not make you feel amazing, get rid of it. If it is beautiful but it makes you feel lousy, let it go. If it is broken and beyond repair, toss it. If it is expensive and carries negative emotional weight, sell it. If it is in good condition and no longer feels like yours, donate it.”

Let me first explain that this isn’t your usual spring cleaning project.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime complete revamping of your possessions and your space.  By systematically going through each item you have in your house, you can decide once and for all what you should keep and then let everything else go.  This is major, people.

In order to help myself get motivated for this enormous project, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  She says that “when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.”

“The moment you begin moving furniture around and getting rid of garbage, your room changes. It’s very simple. If you put your house in order in one fell swoop, you will have tidied up in one fell swoop. (In Japanese, the term is ikki ni, or “in one go.”) Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly, when in fact they have only sorted and stored things halfway. If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep your room tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature.” (By “one fell swoop,” she means an average of a 6 month period.)

This describes me “before” so well that I had to include it here: “I found myself going shopping just to relieve the stress and so failed miserably to reduce the total volume of my possessions. At home, I was always uptight, constantly on the lookout for superfluous things that could be discarded. When I found something not in use, I would pounce on it vengefully and throw it in the garbage. Not surprisingly, I became increasingly irritable and tense and found it impossible to relax even in my own home… We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.

“If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after…  Tidying in the end is just a physical act. The work involved can be broadly divided into two kinds: deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.”

“Unbelievable as it may sound, you only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it.”  I have thus far found this to be true.  One example… since there’s now a place in my home for all our glue and glue sticks, after we use it we know exactly where to put it back.  There’s not glue in the office, glue in the craft closet, glue in the playroom, glue in the kitchen drawer, etc.  Even if you do want to keep things where you most use them, making it easier for you to put things back, Kondo urges you to first gather all things in one category together so that you can assess what you have.  By doing this, we realized Mr. B has quite a lot of deodorant and now we will no longer be buying this every time we go to the store.  And pens.  Don’t even get me started on pens. :)

Selection criterion: does it spark joy?

There are those persnickety reasons for not getting something out of your house.  I understand.  “I may need this someday.” “My great aunt Mildred gave this to me.” “This is from that special time that…”

Allow yourself space to change and let go of the former you.  This is my favorite section of her book and what I found to be most impactful for me:

“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.”

She also says not to keep something around for “someday” because that day rarely comes.  If by chance it does, you can always go buy it again.

“There’s no need to let your family know the details of what you throw out or donate.”  The craft closet got done while my daughter was in school, which prevented the 5 bags of trash and recycling from getting scrutinized, put back, etc. I’m tossing items that were wedding gifts that I have never used or never particularly liked.  I’m ok with thinking that that particular salad bowl’s purpose was to allow the giver to express their congratulations and love and for us to experience our gratitude. Done.  Now it can move on to someone else who will treasure it.  (Of course, I’m not tossing Mr. B’s or my daughter’s personal treasures without their permission.)

More is less

Kondo suggests we begin with clothes, then move on to books, papers, miscellany, and finally things with sentimental value.  So far, I have finished the kitchen, my bedroom closet, the master bathroom, and the craft closet.  There are many more areas and categories to go.

b closet

I had already done a fairly good cleanout of my closet before beginning this project, but when Mr. B’s closet rod fell to the floor and I helped him do a huge purging, I was inspired to tackle my own again. I adopted Kondo’s criteria (does it spark joy? do I feel good wearing it?).  After reading this chapter, I took sections of clothes completely out of my closet, tried on almost everything, and only put back what I need and like.  I ended up with another car full of clothing for Goodwill.

my closet after

I know exactly what I own and where it is.  Since this is my first finished project, I return here often for motivation as I keep going.  :) I plan to frame the little paper quotation that I love reading, paint the back of the shelves an accent color, and put photos on my shoe boxes.  But that’s later…

Cookbooks before and afterCookbooks. I don’t really like to cook. I had two stuffed shelves of cookbooks and every time I’d see them in that very prominent spot in the kitchen, I imagined they were calling out to me, “You’re a failure as a homemaker!” I kept the very few that I have actually used in the past 20 years or so and a lovely person named Lilac came to collect the rest. If I need to make something, I’ll go to Ta da! Space for something better.

Since I was already in my kitchen, I figured I’d work in there.  When we moved in about 3 years ago, my mom was kind enough to unpack the kitchen boxes and put everything away.  It’s been fine, but I don’t know where lots of things are! I’ve got platters here and platters there, serving dishes mixed with casserole dishes and various pans.  I rarely use any of it and it’s all jumbled together, so I dove in.  I have to admit that I was so rarin’ to go that I mostly forgot to take “before” pics.

Drawer before and after

Above is a “before and after” of our cooking utensils drawer.  Below is the new organizer I bought for our silverware drawer.  I figured that if I look in this drawer multiple times each and every day, I deserve something more than cheap white plastic.

drawer 2

I tossed medicine droppers, very old spatulas, and sold extras of things on a Facebook trading group… and I found several very cool cheese graters I had no idea we owned.

tupperware before and after

storage before and afterI don’t have “before” pictures of these below.  You should probably be grateful.
other kitchen

I sold many things.  Cha ching!


Kondo writes, “The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.” This perspective will be most helpful when I get to the sentimental items like journals, photo albums, and old letters.  For now, I am sticking to the public areas of the house.

craft closet before and after

This is our craft closet before and after it was hugely streamlined and then organized.  I went to the dollar store (cute shopping carts, right?) to help contain the craziness.  more craft before

Here’s some detail shots of the end result.  My daughter can easily grab a jar of markers and take it somewhere and then easily put it back.  For construction paper, I thought I was great before with some stacking bins, but it was impossible to keep it sorted nicely that way.  Having everything in clear bins so we can see what we have helps us too.  I am keeping the doors open so I can enjoy the view every time I walk past it.  Bonus: I found our wedding video and DVD buried in a box at the top of the closet.  We have seriously been looking for it!

craft closet details

Finally, yesterday I tackled our bathroom cabinets and drawers and also got a drawer organizer for my bedside table.  The scale had to go because it definitely doesn’t bring me joy.  I now have a ton of empty drawers and shelves too.

bath cabinets

Balbes writes that “your home is an extension and a physical representation of who you are — and who you have been.” I can see how holding onto so many different past scenarios and situations can cause mental clutter, and I am eager to let it all fall away. “Once you face your belongings, confront your fears, unclutter your space, and discover your personal desires and truths, you will have more energy, feel more inspired, access more creativity, and find that you can harness your creativity and find refuge, renewal, and splendor within your own four walls.”  I can already see this is true.

By letting go of anything tied to a negative experience or memory and by treasuring those items that evoke joy or happy memories, I am literally shaping my life!

I have lots more to go: file cabinet, hall closet, picture frames, holiday decorations, books, office supplies, cleaning supplies, greeting cards, DVDs, gift wrap, tools/batteries, and eventually the playroom and the garage.  The list at this point seems endless.

I challenge you to spend just 5 minutes emptying out a drawer, tossing the things you don’t need (or relocating items that belong somewhere else), and putting back only items that you need/like, preferably in some kind of organized fashion.  See if it doesn’t perk you up each time you open that drawer.

Posts in this series:

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A walk in the snow

Walk in the snow

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.  ~Roger Miller

I snapped this on our recent trip to Vail… luckily the town shuttle was overflowing with skiers and so we decided to walk.  It was incredible.  What a winter wonderland.

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Soulful home – take emotional inventory

nestWhen was the last time you really examined all your possessions and reflected on how your home makes you feel? (OK, if you’re similar to me, you do that all the time.  Probably too much!) This week I began Step 1 of 8 in Xorin Balbes’ excellent guide toward creating a true refuge.

It’s not too late to join our Facebook group! Amazingly, there are now 75 of us and we are having a fantastic time encouraging each other, sharing photos and resources, and laughing at some of the decor that we must have thought was a good idea at the time of purchase. Read more about what we’re up to in last week’s post.

unlimited possibilities

This and all images in this post are from a vision board I created last January. Interestingly, over the past week, I have been looking for a way to add a fireplace to our home.

Balbes writes that “your living quarters are a physical manifestation of your emotional wants and needs, a mirror of your thoughts, dreams, hopes, wishes, and issues” and that “the interior design of your home is a mirror of the interior design of you.”

Woah.  If that’s true, I’m a hodgepodge of different ideas and styles with a ton of extra stuff thrown in there to confuse myself.  Knowing that I pack my days with way more activity than is healthy, my friend Patti e-mailed me this Einstein quotation a few months ago and it’s been top of mind ever since.  “Out of clutter, find simplicity.”

I want to do that! I’m ready.

letting goIn stage 1, ASSESS, we look at our home as it is today, examining why it is the way it is and who in the home it supports, and focusing on each room and each object with clarity.  We follow this stage with RELEASE (which I’m really good at ;-)  ) and CLEANSE in the upcoming weeks.

“The assessment phase is where you really need to consider what you love and why you love it, what you dislike and why you dislike it, what rooms in your house make your feel at home, and which ones make you feel like a stranger in your own home. You need to take inventory of your actual belongings and their organization within your home, as well as the feelings that you have attached to all those things… Truly consider what is in front of you, one step, one feeling, one object at a time.”

Balbes promises that “once you face your belongings, confront your fears, unclutter your space, and discover your personal desires and truths, you will have more energy, feel more inspired, access more creativity, and find that you can harness your creativity and find refuge, renewal, and splendor within your own four walls.”  Well sign me up for that!!!

That probably sounds to you like it could take a very long time.  Being the impulsive perfectionist that I am, I did a quick room-by-room assessment of our house, thinking about what in each room inspires me or annoys me and how the room is working for us overall, and then jumped ahead toward “fixing” it.  Lol. I am now far ahead of myself in the purging/decluttering stage.


“Reconnect” is huge for me right now, as is “finding joy in simplicity.” At least I’m consistent!

“Remember, if there are things missing from your life, there’s a good chance they are reflected in the space in which you live. If there are issues that you have been holding on to, you will likely see them represented in the objects and the space in your home as well.”

Every single time Mr. B and I discuss how we could spend more time together given his work and travel schedule, we come back to the not-exactly-brain science idea of being in the same room together at the same time.  After I put my daughter to bed at night, I want a cozy spot to relax, read, and decompress from the day.  If he’s home, Mr. B is in the living room.  I do not like spending time in the living room. Aha! You can bet I’ll be diving into this room and really thinking about it as I read upcoming chapters.

retreatWe are constantly evolving as we learn and grow and experience new things.  I am finally completely ok with letting go of things that no longer serve our family or are no longer useful.  Sometimes I feel remorse that we spent money on something that I no longer want, or something was a wedding gift and it’d be rude to give it away or sell it, but that’s no longer enough of a reason to keep it.  I have some things I have held on to for years and now I realize that each time I see these objects, they bring me down in one way or another.

So I guess you could say that where I am right now is in the “ruthlessly purging” stage.  I have already sold a few pieces of furniture, made three trips to Goodwill, and offered books, clocks, and toys to friends.  More on this next week as we discuss “release.”

I would love to hear about your own assessment process and whether you allow yourself room for changes and growth in your home decor decisions.   What do you keep and what do you let go of? Was there ever something that you kept for years and finally decided to part with?

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Winter wonderlandAnd so we begin.  A new year.  A new opportunity to get closer to who we strive to be.

Blogging and writing like this, for an audience who has opted in to being here, could be my version of being heard. Since I’m not one to speak up in groups, this is like the “water cooler at the office” for me.

Writing has always been how I make sense of things and it strikes me now that I don’t use that vehicle nearly enough. The benefits are so high, yet it’s as if I’m afraid of what may come from it.  At any rate, I’m grateful for each one of you for being here, for reading my words, and especially for your supportive comments.  Mwah.

This year, I have no formal resolutions and I’m not participating in One Little Word, but I do have a word to keep in the forefront of my mind all year.  Previous words have been very helpful in guiding me toward actions I am very proud of, and I hope this year will be no different.

BridgeMy word? CONNECTION.  First, I mean that spark between me and another person, both dear friends and random strangers.  Second, I mean the connection I have to my inner self and soul.  Finally, I refer to the unexplored but strong link I have with God/Spirit.

  • Between others – I will spend much more time catching up with those I care about, both online friends and in-person relationships, nurturing our friendships.  It also strikes me that just by being myself, smiling at strangers, helping someone here or there, I am making a difference for my fellow humans.  I love those meaningful moments between people.
  • Within – I’ve already begun to incorporate a little quiet time every day for reading and reflection.  Maybe this is similar to the next one?
  • With Spirit – It is only by calming my body and mind that I could hope to be in touch with my higher self.  I love exploring spirituality and the connection between me and the larger infinite life force.

So, you know, nothing big.  Lol.

What do you plan for yourself in this brand new year?

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