Saturday, February 11, 2023

Using Up & De-Influencing

 An amusing thing going around TikTok recently has been de-influencing posts.  Rather than the "I want you to BUY this shiny thing"[ad] -- which hey, I'm here for people getting sponsorships -- it's "here's things you shouldn't buy/why did I waste money on these. An example here: -- this is her third of at least four so far and first she goes for my books and then towards the end of the video the 500 kinds of tea. 

Clearly we are kindred spirits. 

How's the using at the Chateau going? A modicum of forward progress. A very tiny one.  *pauses writing to go make more tea* 

I'm in a text thread with some friends that shares our goals and cheers each other on. It's solidarity and acknowledging that life happens and sometimes our goals are great big and sometimes they are tiny tiny things. We're here to celebrate and commiserate. I shared with them at the beginning of this year my goals of focusing more on things I love doing -- reading, knitting, and writing.  Two of those align with using things up.  And so far this year I've read 13 new books  in addition to a few re-reads. I've finished one knitting project, which isn't a lot but I'm nearly done with two pair of socks. 

Do I know where the one pair is at the moment? No. Minor problem.  But it will appear and I'll get through the last foot.  I'm also working on a shawl project that is more complicated than anything I knit last year and I'm so delighted to be working on it.  

I've also started setting aside working bags of "to go."  One for books, see also those duplicates or ones I knew I wouldn't read again when I was cataloging the to read pile last month; one for clothes - no point in owning things I know I won't wear; and one for other stuff. Having dedicated bags seems to be helping, things go in, they don't come out. Actually getting myself over to donation locations or sorting out what is going to thredup/poshmark -- still a work in progress. 

I also just ordered some shelving for my bathroom. I love my bathroom, it's huge, it has tons of vintage details, it has almost no storage.  And I've been on a bin kick, so I got one of those over the toilet shelving options and some pretty baskets. This will let me unpack yet another lingering box from the move and also actually have a landing location for the blow dryer. Can't wait.  (This also means I will need to go through and once again acknowledge my plethora of bath products.)

Oh -- in better new, I finished another hand lotion! One more down, something like 15 more to go? At least I like the scents.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Back to Books -- Category 2+ ?

Last night I made myself a pot of "good tea."  I rearranged the tea/coffee/hot cocoa cabinet the other day in anticipation of even more tea and coffee arriving soon and was reminding myself that there's lots of good stuff and it should get drunk. How else will I discover from all the various types I've tried the next "good" tea. 

It's back to the work grind this morning, but a big project over the break was to begin to understand just exactly *how many* unread books I own. I knew the number had grown significantly. And so I went back and cataloged the unread e-books, the audiobooks, and scanned the print books. I'm pretty sure I only found 3 duplicates (surprisingly) and the LibraryThing collections -- which is where I'm now keeping all these lists, is ... well everything is nicely stacked up high. 

The count is 650 +/- 20. I give myself that wiggle room because there were a couple of duplicates I removed from the collection that I didn't realize until I was working with all formats, and I've also found a few more books as I was putting things away.

And of course, that doesn't include the ~40 library books I have from the two institutions I'm presently affiliated with. Those won't stay here permanently, though I'm absolutely serving as swing space for my main library -- renewing things 6 months at a time. 

The last few years have been light on the new book reading. 2022 was 70 titles, which was actually a pretty solid increase. Notably, that would still leave me in the 10 years of reading place if I buy zero more books, which is obviously not happening. 

Going through and touching things and cataloging the books has been useful though, a reacquaintance with the things that I have and getting excited about reading them again. There are several new books on my Kindle Paperwhite ready to go.  I mentioned considering one a couple of years ago -- my partner got one for me for my birthday in 2021 and I have been really enjoying it as a way to read that isn't on my phone with all it's inherent distractions. 

I currently have 3 books going and a library due date tells me that this evening should be a fourth book -- a non fiction book that will likely be more frustrating than fun but I hope will give me some ideas. 

What of yours are you hoping to reconnect with in the new year? 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Book Review: Stop Buying Bins

Bins are appealing. Tidy boxes where things will live and will magically be accessible. Call it never having gotten past the Berenstain Bears story where Mama gets completely tired of the kids having a messy room and threatens to throw all their toys away. They figure out that it's just some storage and labels that was needed. 

Suddenly I have suspicions about all the home decorators who are close to my age.... Just how many of us are really trying to achieve that bedroom with the puzzles stacked neatly in the closet. 

Right, this is a book review. 

Yes, I do want to get back to UUY in 2023, same as I did last winter and as it spawned the winter before. I moved my office a few weeks ago -- just one floor in my work building and yet I pulled two full garbage bags out of that single room. And there's more to get rid of -- at least a full box of books and other things. So seeing this book rather relentlessly advertised to me, I grabbed an e-copy. 

Cover of book Stop buying bins. The title text is in red and it's a stack of clear bins

Stop Buying Bins by Bonnie Borromeo Tomlinson

The author plunges in almost belligerently, working through various client scenarios and episodes to give people ideas of where they might be struggling and ways what she helped them to work through the situation they might find themselves in.  

I felt it had an odd focus on her rather than her clients, more "confessions of an organizer" rather than actual meaningful suggestions for her audience. And while I understood her intent was blunt and a more tough love approach than other organizers might provide, it came off as obnoxious.  

One thing that particularly troubled me was her tone when describing men versus women.  Nearly all of the episodes had a woman as the main client, which wasn't particularly surprising. I assume that's also likely the audience for her book. But by replicating decluttering/too much stuff as a women's problem rather than a problem that adults have or scenarios many of us might encounter -- it reduced the helpfulness. Only one chapter is specifically focused on a man as the client and it was irritatingly forgiving "oh he was like other bachelors" and therefore excused for focusing all his time on his job and owning and carrying for multiple luxury cars. By that point in the book, I did not trust that if it had a been a female professional that the author would have presented her equally as positive.  The only other man that is really present in the book is a client's husband who Entirely Buys In after his military awards are on display -- but then leaves the author and his wife to *do* all the labor. 

Likely the most helpful advice she gave was focused on seeing what you have already purchased as enough-- you now have an abundance and it can be a blessing. That was a particular framework shift that I've seen in other organizer books but was notable here.  She also talked about not buying things you don't care about, which is a useful thing to consider but I think another book I'm reading, Financial Feminist, comes at it better. 

Can't say I recommend it. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Category 9: Soap and Body Scrubs

When I kicked all of this off it was with Lotion -- the backlog of which I was trying to make a dent in. I'm pleased to say that there is less lotion than there was.  I did have a brief fall down with a pumpkin lotion last year and a shipping issue meant there's now a lot of pumpkin lotion but overall the count is going in the downward direction. Progress! Go me! 

Now then -- the rest of the bath products. As you can see in addition to some lotion we have body scrubs, soap, face wipes, a ton of purse Kleenex (and yet there's never a package in my purse), etc. I checked the expiration date on the sunscreen -- still good to get me through spring or that one 70 degree day in February where I'll need to take a long walk. 

And then there's that USPS package. The one down there on the shelf next to my flat iron. See, my friend E decided last spring that she was going to use up all of her soap making supplies. She had a fair amount of supplies and that became a thousand bars of soap. (Yes that's the correct number of zeros, I went back and checked.) And then she had a pre-order for her FB family and friends. 

To say that we all went slightly bonkers is an understatement.  It was like the trading floor at the NYSE for a solid couple hours there with people Flinging Themselves into the Queue for Pretty and Delicious Smelling Soaps.  I was deeply amongst the fray, searching through the descriptions, choosing what I thought would be the finest, trying to keep an eye on what was probably already sold out. Once all bought and boxed, E sent it along...and it was one of the first things I moved into my bathroom. Where's it's sat unopened. 

See, first I was justifying that the soap was still curing. Which was true -- E recommended we give it an additional month or so. The soap was fine but a bit longer wouldn't hurt. Also it's not like I don't have other soap. 

But it's a new year and I am ready for a new bar of soap (or close enough -- the other soap end may just be banished to another shelf of the shower). 

I've unwrapped the Ripe flavor -- it's pretty and ready for my shower tonight. I'll get to think of the frantic sale and the silliness of all of us racing to buy soap and remembering watching E make all these loaves of soap and their pretty names and colors and scents. 

Your challenge-- go hunt through the bathroom and find the "fancy soap" you set aside for visitors or the mythical "later." Let's get those out. Later is now.  You deserve the good soap. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Use Up -- A Year In

 I planned and thought about this post a lot during the first week of December -- I should have drafted it then because now, instead of being two weeks early it's two weeks past when I launched this site. Ah well. Getting to it when one can. 

It's been a year of this buzzing around my head, serving as an additional Instagram account, giving me a place to say Hey I Used a Thing! I didn't have a specific rushing focus to achieve minimalism. I'm somewhere between my friend J's maximalist decorating approach and the Entirely Empty Rooms look.

Last year would have been very different had we not decided to buy and move. There's still a lot more cardboard in my life than there was in December of 2020. And my schedule and workload evolves with the pandemic, which has also changed how much I can do and what. 

But it's also made me a little more attentive of the piles and the wish for acquisitions.  I went through my  clothes before and after we moved and I think I want to go through them again -- only this time with an eye towards sending a box to ThredUp for some things rarely or barely worn that I'm unlikely to pull out again. 

I've started a bag of books that have been read and are ready to go onwards; unfortunately it's a very small bag still and and I'm not sure where it's going but it's started!

And it's a little easier to resist the siren call of new bath scrubs when I actively *know* that there's no space for them in the new bathroom. You'd think after a year that I'd have made a significant dent but they seem to spawn in there when I'm not looking. 

While the year winds down I'm making plans for the new year and those continue to include the Using Up. We shall see if 2022 can bring some more empty space.  

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Address Box

 Despite the myriad digital method for holding onto addresses, I have clung to a physical one -- mirroring what my mother uses. It's a box of 3x5 cards with hard colored alphabetic sorters. I go back to it over and over again, no matter how many times I try to put everyone's address in their contacts on my phone. 

This year, because we moved, I need to get holiday cards out early and so the past few days has involved the deep Updating of the Cards, and quite a lot of texting for "umm, so my address box is definitely out of date, help." 

There are new cards going in, people who have become closer friends over the past year or who I realize I have an address somewhere but not here and here is my source of truth.

There are many cards getting edits. Those are an adventure. History is written in those cards, mostly in black and blue ink, with things scrawled on the side or back, addresses crossed out and added. I did rewrite one card this year of a very old friend -- he's gotten engaged to someone and I felt that memories of his past marriage didn't need to remain on the card. So -- E, if you ever see this, you warranted a fresh 3x5 change. Congratulations. 

And there are cards that I'm letting go. People who were in my life in the past who won't be again. Some I'm not quite ready for yet, even if the details on the card are no doubt sorely out of date. But there are a few. It's strange to see what moves on out of the box -- who no longer has a card but might remain in mind. 

Add things and people who are precious, allow to fade what doesn't need to take up space in your life anymore. 

Even in the address box.  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Use the Good Things

 I am a regular prosecco/champagne consumer.  While I enjoy a glass of red or white wine -- as evidenced by being a wine club at my local wine store*-- realizing that I could just have some light bubbly wine on a regular basis was a discovery. 

So glad I sorted that out before the pandemic. And why yes, I have bought an entire case at a time --- if you have the space I recommend a mixed set so you can sort out which prosecco you like. However, I did not take complete enough notes so obviously I'll need to run the experiment again. Oh no. 

But with all of this bubbly drinking has been interest in some nicer glassware for it. My sister got me a pair of these JoyJolt glasses for my birthday and I've been doing the usual "oh, for a nice occasion" about them for a couple of months. 

Glad to tell you, I'm over that and the glasses have been used. One glass. Maybe I'll use the other one tomorrow.  It's a nice glass and definitely makes me think of a test tube, which I find hilarious. 

Use the gifts, use the good things, enjoy the small things that make you happy. Drink the bubbles. 

*If you have a local wine store, check and see if they have a wine club! Mine is very reasonably priced -- $40/month for two bottles and it means I always have a very decent bottle around for whatever we're having for dinner. Bonus of keeping a small woman-owned business open so I can wander in and ask for recommendations. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Category 8: The To Read Shelves (and an ebook update)

 My ability to obtain books in far greater amount than I have actual time to read has been fairly persistent since childhood. Granted, children's books had larger font and were generally shorter but it will come as little surprise that I have quite the to-read pile around the Chateau. Thinking about it just now, I'm realizing that the to-read pile is in at least four places. And perhaps I should consolidate one or two of those. 

I've had a To Read shelf for a while; but as I was unpacking I realized it's become a To Read Bookcase. These are books that I expect to read once. I'm no less excited for them; some are gifts, others are ones I purchased for myself. I look at them just there in front of me and I actively do want to read them. 

Do I have brain space or reading time.... that's a separate question.  I've been trying to read more fiction again from the perspective of I need not feel guilty about reading.  No, it's not a "productive" use of my time in terms of I'm not unpacking a box or dusting or brushing the cats but it's productive in that it's serving something I wish for me. And retaining a modicum of mental health through fiction reading is rarely a bad thing. 

That said, I've been carrying the same romance novel for a couple of weeks. Haven't opened it. It's by one of my favorite authors. I know it'll be a couple hours reading at most. 

On the ebook front though, my partner got me the newest Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday and that has been an interesting change! I got it a cover with a kickstand, allowing me to easily read, knit, eat, all the multi-tasking things that appeal and I've finished three books in the past week. The spreadsheet is getting very very slowly updated and I've also bought 2-3 e-books in the past week so I'm not quite on the making progress yet. 

But it has begun. And I'm reading cute stories and they end happily -- with the romance sorted, the mystery solved, the people generally happy for now. A much needed orderly change compared to the reality of a deeply messy world.  

Monday, November 8, 2021

Category: Returns NaNoBloMo

  It's better, of course, not to buy extraneous things. But given the reality that I am much more likely to buy new clothes if they are shipped to my home -- things will arrive which are not things that should be kept. No matter how many pictures, how much detail is provided, especially with clothing there are still things that really matter -- like oh that shirt won't remotely cover my long waist self or the fabric is absolutely gross when put on.  

I also, like many of us, struggle with returns. Getting things dropped off at the right location, printing the return slip and finding packing tape, it all takes *effort* and that takes time and energy and and and...  All this of course to the companies' benefit as now I will miss return windows or just decide to keep/dispose of the object another way. 

However, I'm getting better at it. 

I'm in the process of resetting my wardrobe again. I'm still in business casual most days and beyond that, I'm increasingly impatient with clothes that aren't meeting me where I want to be in appearance, cut, etc. Weird color I was willing to put up with before? Gone. Work pants that mostly fit but are kind of baggy? Out.  Shoes that I adored but are truly dead and it's time to let them go, they've left the building. I'm back in three inch heeled boots today and they are so wonderfully comfortable -- but even with a relatively normal shoe size it can be challenging to locate what I actually want.

It's also meant that rather than trying to make things work, if it's not working and it's not readily alterable, I'm sending it back.  Get the money back, get the item out of my house, stop pretending it'll be good enough for a mediocre day. Truthfully I know I won't wear it, I'll end up refolding it 18 times trying to convince myself to wear it, and then it'll go in the donation pile. So let's at least skip those parts. 

In terms of returns getting easier -- well we have a lot of packing tape still and miscellaneous boxes. Working from home a couple days a week still means that it's easier to take a 15 minute walk to the post office or the UPS drop site to hand over a prepared package. 

So far, this is mostly only working for clothes and a pair of boots. I'm less willing to mail books back unless something is clearly wrong; and mostly other stuff is things I still actually wanted. So there the goal is more to judiciously buy less and remember I have wish lists for a reason. If I still want it three weeks later, it can stay on the wish list. Otherwise it can come off and I didn't actually want it.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

NanoBloMo: Didn't We Get Rid of Things?

 I swear that before and during and now after the move, I've gotten rid of things. Lots of things. Many many things have gone to Goodwill, in the dumpster, to the appropriate recipients. 

So far you can't tell. 

Which means it's time to get back to using things up. 

Slow and Deliberate Unpacking continues. It's been somewhat derailed by my return to campus three days a week for the fall semester. Losing 9 hours a week just to the commute as well as the general exhaustion that accompanies all of the planning, being in public, etc makes a significant difference in what I can get done during the week. The encroaching darkness doesn't help either, signaling bedtime much much earlier in the day. 

But it's interesting to look at things again as they come out of boxes, unused for several months, and wonder what continues to need a home with us. Some things are pleasant surprises -- oh *that* is where that was. For example, the discovery of a box of clothes that I entirely did not remember packing, which included both of my bathrobes. Do I remember packing such a box? No. Did I label it properly? Also no, which means it was in the final moving push. Did I have to run the whole box through the laundry? Yes of course. 

In addition to a running box for donation, I've also started a box of Out of Sight. It's things I'm perhaps not quite ready to let go of yet but they also don't need to be in the everyday path where I might have familiarity attachment.  It makes for a random box and one I'll need to date with a "check this in a year and then let go onward."  

Now if I can get through the two "childhood" boxes that my mother brought on her last trip here without too many feelings... 

(Also I'm doing NaNoBloMo - -blogging daily between my three blogs to try and restart my writing in general and get back to these places I do enjoy being. Follow along at HedgehogLibrarian and HedgehogKnitting if you'd like to see everything!) 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Category 7: Cleaning Supplies

There was nothing quite like moving to multiply the cleaning supplies. First it was that I needed things in two places to begin cleaning one place and clear out another. Then it was "did we have X at A or B?" or the specialized cleaning products for Q or R. 

And then the pulling of things from all the various nooks and crannies where cleaning supplies had gone to live: the bathroom, the kitchen, the entryway, specific things in office and bedroom, a spare spray bottle here and there.  Why do we have three Swiffer handles? Who knows.  But we do. Add this to things like "we need 8 extra bottles of rubbing alcohol and every tub of Clorox wet wipes I can ever acquire" and...well, the cleaning supplies are taking up a bit of space right now. 

There were some things I managed to use up or to throw away, things that had dried out, or there was three splashes left, or it didn't work on weird stain it promised to eradicate.  But mostly it's useful stuff and I'll continue using it up and so it all moved to the new place. 

As we're continuing to unpack, I've tried to pay more attention to what I'm using -- do I reach for this cleaner or that one? If I'm not reaching for it, does it just need to leave? 

The two gallons of handsoap? Yes, those we'll get through eventually. Even with three soap dispensers in regular use in the house it takes a while but I won't buy the multipack on that next time. And not pictured here are the things that I have used up -- a half used box of trash bags that was just... around for some reason and not in rotation; a mostly used cleaner I use in the bathroom; another box of swiffer dusters; the handle for the swiffer fan thing that I used once and hated. 

I'm trying not to stress too much about this right now. I'm not expecting to obsessively be back to stalking wipes on Amazon anytime soon (I sincerely hope) and the ones that are here are going to get used up. The same with the rubbing alcohol and the handsoap. It'll be used; I'll buy much less next time; and the cabinet won't be as full.  

In the interim the goal is the prevent cat hair dust buffalos from taking over.  Bring on the boxes of swiffer cloths! 


Sunday, July 11, 2021

On the Side of Mount Cardboard

If you don't know me from other spaces -- I moved in June, going from our apartment of 9 years to our first owned space, a three bedroom condo in a 1920s courtyard building. It's lovely, tons of details, a  million projects we want to tackle -- and it meant that everything we owned had to change locations. 

Nine years is a long time for much of anything and when it came to inhabiting a physical space, the previous 15 months of which had been a global pandemic which kept us very housebound, and you end up with a lot of stuff.  I hadn't weeded much the last two moves, going between similar sized spaces and here again we have even more space. But moving always prompts a good cleanout on the front end where you can and now on the back end -- even more. 

Packing was time constrained, neither of us could really take time away from work and so it was shoved into the evenings and between other obligations. This meant a lot of the sorting I might have liked to do got put off as deadlines approached and things Went Into Boxes rather than were thoughtfully packed. I'm grateful to my mom -- who brought carloads of empty liquor boxes and my brother -- who sent packing labels that meant I can mostly find where the big things ended up. 

Then there was the grand "we have to do the repairs to the old place and get the Move By Hand stuff out of there" but finally we're here in the new place and I'm doing some intentional unpacking. As in , there's already  a giant bag ready to go for donation and I opened a box last night and realized I have a lot more I'm ready to let go of. 

The goal is Slow and Deliberate Unpacking. We're basically functional -- we have dishes, clothes, bathroom things, clean sheets. That's all fine. But the rest of the boxes I'm trying to not sprint through but to instead open and consider what I'm finding. Particularly for the books. "Will I ever read this again?" is becoming a familiar question. 

Of course, that will mean finding places for said books to go. There are a couple little free bookshelves nearby that I need to check out. If I can stock those for a few months on my way to the train; I'm amenable! Few of these books are special, I'm not worried about trying to sell first editions or anything like that. But even with as many bookcases as we intend to have, I know there was an entire 5 shelf bookcase full of books that I knew I wanted to read once and pass on. As I return to commuting, I'm hoping those go fairly quickly.  

Other categories of things where I'm debating if we can Just Get Rid of It include extra plastic tupperware of strange shapes; why do we have This Many Canning Jars (we probably will keep those); and a few other things.  Clothes were reduced as things got put into closets, though the Fall and Winter Coats box still needs a serious and slow examination. 

Cardboard is leaving more quickly. Friends are moving later in the summer and are very happy to receive all of our empty boxes, the majority of which we purchased. We're pleased to have the piles of cardboard go to be used rather than just to recycling.  

How is your Use Up Year continuing?

(also, we have to talk about bath products and cleaning products...) 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Category 6: Notepads and Notebooks

Going through various piles in my office as I've inhabited it non-stop for over a year has meant finding *all* of the half-used notebooks and notepads that are around. And I do mean all of them. I knew it was pretty bad, there are lovely journals around here that have a dozen entries from whenever I optimistically restart journaling again. There's even a pretty spiral bound notebook dedicated to my research ideas, so I can just sit down and scrawl it out, get it out of my head, and then never manage to get back to that research.

These are not the journals-- these are legal pads of yellow paper, and spiral notebooks that are somewhere between 2-17 years old. They're half used, with pages and pages ripped out and long since trashed or recycled. Where notes do occasionally remain, they're vague and don't tell me much. "Email Scott and Angela" one page said --- although I know neither a Scott or an Angela and cannot remember any such combination in the past decade. 

Notebook pages with misc text folded in to look like points

But I do prefer writing hand scrawled notes; it's better for me in many respects than online notes--easier to highlight and mark questions. Also I can usually pull out the three things after and then dump the rest which was mostly stream of conscious as I worked through an average 6 meeting day. So I've been using up all the half-used, not as pretty but still full of perfectly decent paper notebooks over the pandemic. I still have a half dozen or so to go but, knowing how many meetings I have in an average week, that'll probably be used up before we head back for full time in the fall.

What's the next step after that? Rocketbooks. These are a reusable notebook that is sort of like having my own whiteboards as notepads -- only you use water to clean them not alcohol. They work with the frixion pens, which are always handily available at Target.  They do have to be wiped down and remind me of being in high school and cleaning the overhead transparencies for my calculus teacher but also are very reusable. There's a microwaveable version which initially I was suspicious of but now I do sort of want to try.

An older and grubby Rocketbook spiral bound notebook

I've been using these for a couple of years as different versions have come out and I have five: a small purse sized notepad, the original 5x8, the 8x11, and two legal sized flip notepads with a dedicated magnetic board. I was stunned how fast I was going through the flip notepads recently. I spent a solid two hours transcribing and pulling notes from them and cleaning them up this past weekend. I absolutely use the lined side of the paper more than the dots.  It's a smidge fussy but so much easier than hauling around paper.  (not that I'll ever 100% give up paper, different tactile experience) 

Rocketbook Flip Chart that is legal sized on a teal board

You can see the QR code, the goal is to scan your notes then into whichever app you have set up on your phone. I'm not using them for that right now? I have before but mostly that's not how I want them to be used.  

Are you a half-notebook semi-abandoner like me? How do you prompt yourself to use them up?