Taking Stock Without Stocking Up

my new fuzzy slippers One of the things I could really relate with as I read The 100 Thing Challenge book (on my Kindle, of course!) was the chapter about how we often own many different items that serve similar purposes because none of the items is just right. As I was Inventorying & Packing Up my things because I was Downsizing from a Tiny House to a Tinier House, I got rid of several items that weren’t quite right, hoping to eventually replace them with things that were just right. I’ve done a bit of that replacing but I’ve also realized that some of the things weren’t actually necessary. It seems that sometimes promising myself that I can replace it lets me part with something that I really didn’t need.

After doing a New Years’ Re-Inventory I realized that I wanted to do some clothes shopping. But I also knew that I was 14 items over on My 200 Things Challenge. In addition, over the past month I was gifted a travel spice kit by my aunt the gourmet cook, two beautiful hand-painted tiny bowls from my 10 year old cousin, a hand-printed Old School Stationers letterpress calendar, and a flax seed pillow which is My New Favorite Thing. I also bought myself a pair of cozy slippers to deal with the fact that my floors are chilly when the temps drop below freezing, even after Weatherizing the Yurt. (REI had exactly one pair of the slippers I wanted - they just so happened to be my size and on clearance. My lucky day!)

So today I decided to do a little CPR (categorizing, purging, and reorganizing) on my stuff. Here’s what happened:

taking the not so big life digital
taking the not so big life digital
  • I realized that I prefer having photos cycle through on my desktop to having photo frames sitting around the house, so I was able to part with a couple of my decorations.
  • I checked the Kindle store to see if any of my books were available electronically. I decided to go for a digital version of The Not So Big Life since it’s mostly text and very few pictures. I’ll pass my copy along to some tiny house friends and they can pass it on from there. I decided not to digitize Sarah Suzanka’s Home by Design even though it is available in a digital format because I love the pictures!
  • I noticed that I hadn’t worn my slacks very much this winter so I’ve decided to put them into purgatory. If I don’t feel like digging them back out I might not keep them!
  • I put the white board that has been living on my fridge into purgatory, too, since I usually keep my grocery list in my phone. But I didn’t get rid of it since it’s nice to have a white board when sharing a house and I hope to share a home with someone beloved again someday.
  • I purged my two sweatshirts since I rarely wear them. I ditched two pairs of shoes that were never quite right for me. I decided to replace a couple skirts and a sweater that didn’t suit me with something I liked better. (See The Minimalist’s New Clothes for more about my clothes shopping guidelines.)

things I've decided to keep even though I don't use them every week

I also took a critical look at some things I don’t use much. I suppose I could go down to one cutting board, but it’s nice to have two when cooking with a friend. I don’t use my travel mug often since I’m not a coffee drinker, but sometimes it’s awfully nice being able to bring hot tea or cocoa with me. I don’t use my yoga mat at home since I do yoga at the gym at the university and they supply mats there, but I’d like to have it for when I’m done with school in a few months. I don’t swim very often, but having a swimsuit and goggles still seems like a good idea. So after all this I got myself down to 197 Things. I decided that was good enough. I headed out to find The Minimalist’s New Clothes.

Haunted by Unfinished Business

Moving is a great time to start The 100 Thing Challenge since you have to handle most of your stuff anyhow. But it is amazing how easy it is to just move that box/bin/tote/bag (again!) without actually taking a look through it. I’ve decided to leave no container unconsidered this summer. I’m taking time each week to dig through my stuff to prep myself for My Things Challenge. It’s been fascinating, but also disconcerting. When I moved into My Summer Garden Cottage two weeks ago I began my inventory for the 100 Thing Challenge. My plan is to inventory my things, decide how many things I want to live with and make a list of them, and then to spend the next school year living with those items. As I unpacked I recorded each item as I gave it a spot in my new home. I got through the kitchen, bathroom, clothes, and books with no problem. But by the time I got to my crafts supply bin, my toolbox, and my paperwork tote I was wiped out. I was totally overwhelmed just looking at these three containers. I couldn’t muster the mental and emotional energy to deal with them. So I took a break and decided to come back to them later.

First thing Saturday morning I fortified with a good breakfast before tackling my craft bin. Sifting through and considering its contents brought up nagging questions like these: When was the last time I painted with watercolors? Do I even like the fabric I’ve brought with me in my last two moves? Will I ever have the heart to pick up #2 needles again after burning out on knitting socks two years ago? What is this thingamajig anyhow and what in the world was I going to do with it? These are tough questions for me. Especially that last one, since some of the items in my craft bin have been in there for about twenty years now! If I haven’t done anything with the thingamajig by now, chances are really good I never will get around to it. So I’m surprised it’s so hard to consider getting rid of art and craft supplies.

Some of these materials remind me of certain times in my life and projects I felt a strong compulsion to tackle once upon a time. I was inspired a couple years ago to make a wind chime out of found objects. Another time I was motivated to make a skirt from some pretty fabric a friend picked up abroad. During my international travels I have been diligent about collecting gelato spoons and ticket stubs for my scrapbooks. But I never got around to these projects so now their unused components just make me feel guilty. My interests have shifted. This summer I have my Summer Dream Job building a tiny house, which is requiring plenty of creativity. I’ve found a new art form and a new outlet for my craft.

Unfinished scrapbooks, a lonely wristwarmer with a half-completed mate, unhemmed pants all taunt me. I’m a finisher by nature. I like a sense of accomplishment and I like having things wrapped up. My craft bin doesn’t say “look at all this potential!” It says “look what you never finished!” I’m tired of being haunted by the ghosts of projects past, present, and future. So I’ve decided that I need to do one of two things between now and my next move: I either need to address this unfinished business and devote time to these projects or I need to let them go so I can focus my space, time, and energy on other projects and ideas. Some things I may come back to. Some things I may not. Either way, I hope my craft projects and I can rest in peace.