The art of losing and finding.

Yes I have been absent for a bit. Sometimes that’s just the way things go. One of my favorite events came up recently (The Color Run) and I couldn’t just run in a t-shirt and shorts. Noooo. A tutu is required for this type of event (not officially, but c’mon, let’s have fun). It was great to sweat, feel like a kid, and help out some fantastic charities: Global Poverty Project, Global Citizen, and Back on My Feet.

Mellow Yellow!

Just leaving the yellow zone!

Just because I haven’t posted lately doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my mission.

In between tutu construction, I’ve gone through closets, boxes, and shelves. I discovered that a lot of things were easy to give up. Let’s be real – these items have been stashed away since I moved into my apartment. If I haven’t needed them since then why bother keeping them? Oh right, none.

But what about those items that weren’t so easy to give up? I’m talking books people. I’m a total bookworm. I love my books! I  was fine with this whole minimalism journey until I got to my preciouses (yes I just made up a plural form of “precious” – Gollum would approve).

My preciouses!

I thought I’d feel like Gollum trying to give up the ring when it came to my books.

I have some books that are off limits. I can identify those without blinking and so I did. Likewise, there were others I could quickly and happily put in the donate box. The ones in between? I looked at how applicable they were to my current lifestyle and situation. A book on home improvement is great but I live in an apartment. Oh and the book is from the 80s…I’d like to think home improvement has evolved since then. Out it went as did similar texts.

I was surprised when it was all over. I thought I would have to get over the emptiness caused by giving up my treasured books. But in reality I felt happier. It was like a weight had been lifted from my life.

I like books and I still enjoy reading. I’ll never tire of perusing bookstores or searching through flea markets for old classics. But I am not my books.

No, I am much more than that.

Letting Go Does Not Mean Giving Up

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

No kidding.

I’ve recently learned that I have to break down some ideals that were ingrained in my brain for years. One such ideal is wasting stuff. Fortunately, once I get my mind around minimalism then waste won’t be a problem. But today? Not quite there yet.

As I clean out closets I’m faced with half-used bottles of products that I didn’t even know I had! I repeatedly found myself saying, “Oh I’ll use this up. I can’t throw it out yet. There’s still some left!” I’m sure I said that when I put those bottles in my closet…two years ago.

So what did I do? It wasn’t so hard when I started to actually think about it. I asked myself a few questions about each item that I thought wanted to keep:

  • When did I last use this?
  • Do I still need it?
  • Do I still like it?

If I answered those last two questions with “no” then into the trash/recycling bin they went! For items I kept, they have six months to get used. If they’re sitting there with dust gathering then I won’t even ask. I’ll just toss.

But what about items such as clothing or books? I’m happy to say I have two bags filling up for donations to some great organizations. Groups like the Lupus Foundation of America and the United War Veterans Council make it ridiculously easy to donate. They send bags in the mail and you fill them up at your own pace. Bag full? Just call their number to schedule a time and they’ll pick it up from your doorstep! Just make sure you keep a list of the items and get a receipt (they always leave one after a pickup) and stash it until tax time.

Gonna need a bigger bag!

Gonna need a bigger bag!

Why should you donate? Good question, well it…

  1. Helps charitable organizations to help others.
  2. Gives you a clear head knowing you didn’t waste stuff.
  3. Enables you to clear out your space.
  4. Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
  5. Two words: Tax. Season.

It took me a bit of time to realize and understand that letting go of these items isn’t the same as giving up on the person I was. It’s actually me focusing on who I am today and doing what I can to make the me of today happy. Letting go feels good.

Evil Dead reference, anyone?

“I may be bad, but I feel…good.” (Evil Dead reference, anyone?)

Growing Pains

I realized earlier today that I was most likely destined for this journey. A couple events from my past painted a clear picture. Here they are in no particular order…

Event #1 I broke up with the man I thought I was going to marry. He didn’t cheat on me, steal from me or abuse me. But he didn’t make me happy. Now I understand I can’t depend on other people to generate my own happiness, but he dragged me down more than he lifted me up. It was a tough decision. Breaking up IS hard to do. I cried. I had trouble sleeping. I got over it. Swimming is easier without an anchor no matter how much you may like said anchor.

Event #2 I quit a job that I absolutely hated. And I didn’t have a new job waiting in the wings. It was risky and it was mad. Okay…it was absolutely insane. I gave myself some time to stash cash for those rainy days that were quickly approaching. How much did I save? Not enough. I eventually found a job working in a warehouse doing manual labor for peanuts. Did I mention my shift started at 3 am and I had to work with a bunch of scary, foul-mouthed fellows? But you know what? I had never been happier at a job! And those fellows? Never have I met a nicer group of people.

So what did these two life lessons teach me? I learned that sometimes losing everything gives you the space you need to grow. I learned that a good paying job does not mean it’s a good job. I learned that money does not equal happiness. I learned to really look at who a person is on the inside. I also gained a new appreciation for my family who supported me. I was happiest at my poorest because the little things suddenly had more meaning. And love? Well as Lady Gaga once sang, “Love is like a brick. You can build a house or sink a dead body.”

I’ve always wanted a house of my own.

heart garden 2

Slow Progress = Progress

This past Sunday I tackled my kitchen and dining areas. The closets remain untouched. To be honest, that task frightens me a bit. They’re my junk closets after all. The stuff of nightmares!

But I’ll get there. Slow progress is still progress.

So how did it go? I didn’t know where to start at first so I just dug in. Things flowed well after that. I had to actually stop and think about stuff. Do I really need this? When was the last time I used that? What in the world is this contraption? I realized I had accumulated stuff for those “if” moments too. Takeout menus for example. I always cook my food at home so why did I have them taking up space in a drawer? “In case I have company and they don’t like my cooking.” That’s really what I would tell myself! But guess what? Those menus are in the trash because I don’t need them.

Some other items were a bit harder to get rid of and I just couldn’t let go of them. A Foreman grill was one item. Granted I am mostly vegan these days so I’m not about to slap some ribs on the grill. But nothing beats grilled fruit and it isn’t a cheap kitchen item. So it stays. I was worried I was giving myself excuses for keeping extra crap around. But in reality I’m doing what works for me. If a year goes by and I haven’t used it, then it’ll be time for it to go. No offense George.

Here is a picture of the kitchen and dining areas before and after my adventure:

Before on the left. After on the right.

Before on the left. After on the right.

On the outside it might not look like  much. “Congrats, you cleaned your home dirtbag.” Touché. But the peace of mind that comes with having clutter-free areas is amazing. This is more than feeling good after cleaning up. This is a fantastic feeling of getting that weight off your shoulders. It really is wonderful.

big sun trees

Mother Nature: The ultimate minimalist?

What now? I’ll definitely work to maintain those two spaces. The nightmare junk closets are up next. They may have spooked me initially but I’m ready for it this time.

Have you encountered a daunting task such as preparing for a big move or major cleaning? I’d love to hear your tips for handling it all!

Four Quarters vs. 100 Pennies

I’ll be posting more about my cleaning house project in the next few weeks. As predicted my procrastinator ways have kicked in and besides, I’m a big Tour de France fan and it’s on now. Marcel Kittel makes me swoon!

Source: Marcel Kittel via Facebook

Source: Marcel Kittel via Facebook

But that’s not why we’re here. So back to business as it were…

I’m only cleaning through my belongings now but before that I worked on cleaning out my relationships. Simply put, I cut out those who did more harm than good. And sometimes it’s hard to let go. You’d never keep a friend around if they stole from you, would you? I hope not because that’s not a real friend. But what about that friend who upsets you a majority of the time? What about the drama queen (or king) who stresses you out or always causes a scene? Is your relationship really worth the distress? For me, it certainly was not. After I got rid of those people I noticed that I slept better and I had more energy. I was happier too.

We tend to have the idea that we should keep someone in our lives just because we’ve known them since forever or because they haven’t done some horrifying thing. We tell ourselves, “That’s just how he/she is.” Or, “But I’ve known Sally since first grade!” Well who cares? I’ve known my couch since forever but I’ll still get rid of it when the time comes. Then there’s my former standby line, “I can only handle so-and-so in small doses.” But poison in small doses will still do damage. It might not kill you but it will still make you sick.

Find what works for you!

Find what works for you!

In the past I maintained poisonous relationships because I thought I had to. But not anymore. I’m making my own set of rule these days and I couldn’t be happier.

Are there folks in your life weighing you down? Give it serious thought and do what’s best for you. Don’t feel guilty about it either. You don’t have to be mean but you do have to be honest both with yourself and others.

The universe works in mysterious ways.

As I focused on embracing a plant-based diet I realized I felt good getting back to the basics. I was amazed that an apple could be so delicious when it wasn’t sandwiched between pie crusts, fried in cinnamon and sugar, and topped with vanilla ice cream. Who’d have thought?! You mean Mother Nature provided a form of sustenance that could be eaten as it is? That’s when it hit me…

If a plain old apple could be amazing on its own, then what else could be just as amazing, if not better, in its simplest form? Oh right, my life.

There are many degrees of a minimalist lifestyle and I plan to choose the path that suits me best. Therefore I decided to break my apartment into sections and tackle it bit by bit. Here are the sections: 

  1. Kitchen/dining with two closets
  2. Office with one closet
  3. Living area
  4. Bathroom with two closets
  5. Bedroom with one closet 

The list may look small and simple (see even my lists are going minimal already!) but I’m anticipating drawers filled with random junk and of course my procrastinating ways. Let’s not forget my biggest challenge: figuring out what I actually need. I’ll allow myself a few days for each section. My goals are to divide items into three categories: Donate. Trash. Keep. The hope is that the trash and donate piles will be much larger than the keep piles. And don’t worry, I’ll keep notes on my frustrations, emotions, etc. and report back.

I honestly don’t know how I’ll pull it off. But I am 100% certain in my own abilities. I can do this.

Back to the Basics

I don’t know if it was the realization that I’ll soon be turning 30 or maybe it was finding that stray gray hair the other day. Perhaps it was holding down the fort at my Jersey shore home through two hurricanes…no, let’s be real. It was the gray hair. But I digress…

Something made me stop and look around at my life. I’ve got a great apartment, a car that runs and friends galore. So why am I not beaming with joy and overflowing with happiness? That’s when words from one of my most favorite movies (Leap Year) popped into my head. The leading female is asked what she would grab if her home was on fire and she had only 60 seconds. In the final moments of the movie, she pulls a fire alarm to escape a party of superficial nitwits. She then rushes to the man she loves and says: “When my 60 seconds came around I realized I had everything I ever wanted…but nothing I really needed.” And that sums things up quite perfectly.

With that said, hopefully you have an idea of my reason for starting this journey and this blog. I know myself well enough to realize that I need accountability. If my journey to leading a minimalist lifestyle was a private project of mine I would slack off and nothing would be done. And why yes, I am a procrastinator if you hadn’t guessed.

I’ve often heard that the big 3-0 is a massive turning point in life. Some folks may scoff at that and others may agree wholeheartedly. I don’t know what it will be for me. But I do know that when my 30th birthday rolls around in February 2014 I’ll have cleared out the junk that’s been weighing me down for the past decade.

You are welcome to join me as I tear myself down and Rebuild Rebecca but I ask that you keep your feedback positive. Your suggestions are welcome. Your negativity is not. This journey of mine is about getting rid of crap so please do not add to the already large pile of shit I need to go through.

Until next time…

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