Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Letter to my Coach Purse

Dear Coach Purse,

We've had a lot memories over the past six years but I am afraid it is time to part ways. As I am sure you remember I bought you six years ago after I received my first bonus check from my first real job. I could have used that $300 to pay down my rapidly growing credit card balance or put it in my bare bones savings account. But, no. Instead I choose you. You should feel honored! You see at the time I needed you. To me you were a status symbol. You made me feel like a better person. I felt as if I was an adult and that I had finally arrived in the world. By proudly displaying you over my shoulder I felt stylish, affluent, and entitled. Which was exactly the opposite of who I really was at the time. I was beginning to drown in debt and I had more payments and financial obligations than I had the money for. So I clutched on to your leather straps and tried to forget about all of that. Because after all, I was 22 years old, and I deserved a $300 purse.

Over the past six months I have felt quite silly carrying you around. You just don't fit into my life any more. I'm a woman who makes her own laundry and dish detergent. I'm a woman who paid off over $25,000 in debt on one meager income in less than 15 months. How much sense does it make for me to carry around such a luxury item? It's not just my new frugal lifestyle. I have realized I don't need you any more. I don't need you to make me feel like a better person. I don't need the approving compliments from complete strangers. I don't need you to make me feel important. I have realized that I am a pretty awesome person on my own. When you are on my shoulder I feel like a walking advertisement for your company. I don't want other women to see you and think that they must carry around a status symbol too. I don't want to be seen with you. The bottom line is: I have outgrown you.

I have been meaning to give you up for a little while now but it just didn't make sense to get rid of a perfectly good purse. You were the only one I had left! Finally, I have a good excuse. A sippy cup full of sour milk leaked all over you and you reek to high heaven. I actually smiled when this happened because I knew I was finally free of you. Yes, I know I could go and get you professionally cleaned. But I am over you and the time has come for me to move on. Do not worry. I won't be carrying around my belongings in a grocery bag. I have ordered a beautiful hand made purse from an Etsy artisan that was made right here in the good ol' USA at a much more reasonable price. It will serve as both my purse and diaper bag so I won't have to cart two bags around any more. It is just a better fit for my lifestyle.

I want to thank you for your years of a service but with this letter I would like to bid you adieu.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Living Room Closet

My latest task is to conquer the closet in the living room. I get a little anxiety attack every single time I open the door. I guess it isn't too bad but what you can't see is the contents of that file cabinet. It is STUFFED. It is so stuffed that I have a pile of paper waiting on top but I don't have any room for it. The ultimate goal is to get rid of that file cabinet completely and replace it with a small file box. I really want to scan everything and store it electronically. I am still trying to figure out the best way to go about doing this. I do have a printer/scanner combo but the scanner feature is temperamental and SLOW. Scanning all this paperwork will take me months of frustration. There is a scanner on the market that I have my eye on that scans up to ten sheets of paper at time and sends it to either your Evernote account or your Dropbox account. This sounds wonderful but its expensive and I can't decided if I want yet another piece of equipment lying around. So I am trying to find a better option. Maybe there is somewhere I can take all of this paperwork or a service that can do it for me. Also those clear stacking bins to the left? They are stuffed with all kinds of office supplies, forgotten electronics, cables to God only knows what, and various other odds and ends that need to go. My goal is to have this taken care of within the next month. If it wasn't for the paper situation I think I could probably accomplish this task by the end of the day. But tackling that file cabinet and potentially scanning what I need in there is going to take some time.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Baby Number One vs. Baby Number Two

Around this time three years ago I was about eight months pregnant with our daughter Lucy. I was an excited and nervous first time mom and I can guarantee that I had almost every single baby gadget known to man. I had FOUR baby showers and very loving family members who could not resist the urge to buy the first granddaughter everything she could possibly desire. So where did that leave me? Thankful that I had everything that I needed? To some degree, yes. But I was mostly stressed. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that one tiny baby who wasn't even born yet had accumulated. Our tiny 800 square foot condo was beginning to burst with baby stuff. So I did my very best to control it. I organized.

Exhibit A: We had TWO dressers. Dressers are not cheap people. Luckily I have a very generous mother who bought those for us. But still, this money could have gone to something a bit more useful. Diapers? College savings? Nope we needed two dressers to put all our daughter's stuff in. And let me tell you...those suckers were stuffed! Also, notice the closet? That was full too! Now half of it did have my husband's clothes in it since our closet was full of my stuff (that's a story for another day) but still. It's hard to tell by the picture but that is actually a very large closet. Two dressers and a closet!! Seriously? One would think we would have thought to pare down.  Well of course not.

Exhibit B: I decided to outsmart our stuff. I bought a cute shelving system and bins. Well guess what? Those bins were stuffed too! One of those was actually stuffed with just baby hats. WHY??? Oh and it got worse the older she got. This shelf is actually pretty tame compared to what it looked like a year ago. I was too ashamed to ever take a picture of that. Every single empty cubby was crammed with toys. But for some reason it still didn't click that we needed to do some serious paring down of her possessions.

Exhibit C: Isn't this bedding adorable? Practical? Not so much. I am way too ashamed to tell you how much this little set cost us. I am even more embarrassed to tell you how many hours I spent searching and stressing over the "perfect bedding." It took me a grand total of a two weeks to realize how useless all of this crap was. Baby blanket? You don't put a blanket over a baby under a year old when they sleep. The bumpers? The American Academy of Pediatrics isn't thrilled about the use of these things and they are highly against the use of them. I kept having nightmares of her rolling over and suffocating in them. The sheets? They were so hard to change that I sought out a better option. By the way do yourself a favor and check out The sheets zipper onto a base and you don't have to lift a heavy mattress in the middle of the night. Your welcome. That dust ruffle? The biggest pain in the ass EVER. Almost every single time I had to lift the mattress to change the sheets that stupid thing would fall off. So I had to yell for my husband to help me reposition it...while the baby screamed bloody murder. So if there are any first time mom's out there reading your money and go spend it on somebody to clean your house during those first hectic weeks. All a baby needs in a crib are sheets and mattress protector. Trust me.

Now I am five months pregnant with baby girl number two: Kimber. Things are quite different this time. I haven't stressed once about a purchase. I spent a half hour during Yo Gabba Gabba one day (Does that show make anybody else's eye twitch?) trying to find some better quality cloth diaper pre-folds. But I think that is it. I have hardly bought anything. Sure, I did save almost all of Lucy's clothes and gear. But I recently purged a ton of it and it is at a much more acceptable level. I have also gently threatened the grandparents to control their spending this time around.

The nursery in our new apartment actually has two small closets. This is allowing me to not even use a dresser. These are the clothes for newborn to three months. Honestly this is still a little more than I would prefer to have. But it is still not out of control. I also have some blankets, sheets, and pants on the hanging organizer. Notice the little toddler down there trying to pull everything down as fast she can? She is a BIG help.
This is the other closet. Those bins hold all of Lucy's old clothes that I decided to keep. Pictured here is everything from three months up to two years. I had to edit big time. The amount of clothes that I had saved was just ridiculous. A lot of them were stained and really worn looking.

Remember the shelving system from before? I was able to reduce Lucy's toys and such by so much that she only needs one shelf and I was able to move this one into her sister's room. Two of the bins have toys, one has a couple of hats, socks, and bibs, and the other two are empty. I don't plan to keep it quite this barren. She needs some more books and I am sure as she gets older a few more toys will matriculate in. But I will not let things get as out of control as they did in Lucy's room.

Bottom line: Things are very different this time around and I hope to keep it that way. I will still have to work to make sure Kimber's room does not become overrun with toys, clothes, and baby gear. I will have to resist the urge to go out and purchase every cute baby gadget and baby outfit that Buy Buy Baby has on the shelf. I spent way too much time and money trying to deal with all of Lucy's stuff. Things will be different this time around. They have to be.

It Began with a Key Box

About six months ago I had enough and I slowly made the transition into becoming minimal-ish. Hello, my name is Hannah. I am a recovering​ shopaholic, sentimental item hoarder, fridge magnet collector, closet stuffer, kitchen gadget enthusiast, and procrastinator. ​Here is my story.
So there we were sitting at the kitchen table with our realtor discussing the terms of our contract. Starting tomorrow morning our condo would be officially on the market. We knew this day was coming. But, I still couldn't believe the time had finally come that we would have to pack up everything and move. We had bought the place in 2006 when were young and stupid. We had only been married a year and you were getting nudges from everybody we knew that we needed to settle down and buy a place. So we bought a small condo of our very own despite the fact that my husband is in the Navy (meaning frequent relocation), we knew absolutely nothing about real estate, and we knew even less about the responsibilities of homeownership. Six years, a two year old, and way too many possessions later we were selling the place because my husband's inevitable transfer date was a year away. 
We were shaking hands with our realtor as she was walking out the door when she said the words that began this journey, "OH! I almost forgot! I need to run to my car and get your key box so we can go ahead and start showing your condo." Oh crap. I had completely forgot about that part. We had to let people in here. Strangers. People who could potentially buy our place. People who could judge us. I was immediately struck with panic. We had to get this place "show ready" and fast.
At first glance our little condo really wasn't in too bad of long as you didn't open a closet, a cabinet, a drawer, or look under a bed. Despite the fact we lived in a condo that was a little over 800 square feet we had enough stuff in there to fill a home twice that size AND we had a storage unit that was bursting at the seams with even more of our junk. So we began the process of getting the place ready to show. In two days at feverish pace we packed up some of the excess and moved it to our cramped storage unit. Ahhh....much better. I could open a kitchen drawer without getting maimed by unknown sharp objects. I could actually find things in my closet. Our daughter's room wasn't exploding with toys she never played with. I was inspired.
By the grace of God and our amazing realtor we had a received an offer and we were ready to close in a little less than two months. Another harsh reality hit me: we. had. to. pack. everything. EVERYTHING. It all had to go. Then it had to be unpacked and organized in our new place. Oh crap again. We had done our fair share of  moving all the excess from our condo to our storage unit. But I realized we were moving a good 25 miles on the other side of town and we needed to move all the ​junk out of our storage unit too. The time had come that we needed to stop just shuffling our stuff needed to go.
The task of actually ridding our home of the stuff we didn't need began. It was the most liberating feeling ever. Nine suits from my days as a banker that I had been holding on to for some unknown reason? Gone. Seventeen coffee cups that we were keeping just in case we decided to cram seventeen friends into our tiny kitchen for coffee? Gone. ​A bookshelf full of books that neither of us had any intention of reading again? Gone. Six extra mixing bowls? Three sets of measuring spoons? A dozen pairs of shoes? Eight towels? Seven sets of queen sized sheets? Gone, gone, gone, gone, and gone. I had never felt so free. The very thought of not having to unpack and deal with all of this stuff we didn't need made me giddy. I didn't want this feeling to end.
At first I didn't know that there was a name for what my goal was. I just knew I wanted all of the excess stuff that was taking my attention away from more important things in my life gone. A couple months later I read somewhere about minimalism. There are all kinds of different ways to define minimalism but my hands down favorite is quote by William Morris. He says, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." I am very slowly making my way towards this goal. It's a long slow process. Will I be there next month? No way. Will I be there six months from now? Probably not. A year from now? We'll see. The thing about minimalism is it must be maintained. It really is a lifestyle choice. All this effort could go to waste if we don't change our ways and stop bringing stuff into our home. So this will be an ongoing battle that I am determined not to lose. Some days when I open a box that is crammed full of our belongings it seems impossible. A lot of days I get discouraged. There is something my mother always says that has started to inspire me: "One bite of the elephant at time." She says this any time she is referring to dealing with stressful event, life change, or project. Something may seem overwhelming and out of reach but if you just take it as it comes, one little bite at time, you can be triumphant. So that's my goal. Piece by piece and project by project I will reach my goal. One bite of the elephant at a time.