Shift perspective with the release of 100 items

I gave myself an unusual Valentine's present this year....and it was not what I thought it was going to be.....

Last month, post-holidays, I was feeling some general malaise in my life and wanted to have something to look forward to, something to be excited about in my life, whether it be in the area of love, home, or career.  I began scouring Craig's list, thinking that the solution might reside in the housing section. I found a great place that felt retreat-like with it's deck-view of a lagoon and nature trail leading straight to the beach.  But the timing was just not yet to be.  So, I passed it up and was left with the question, "Am I really ready and/or wanting to move?"  So, I decided to pretend move.  What would I take with me and what would I let go of if I were to move?  This birthed the idea of releasing ONE HUNDRED items... that way it felt like more of a game to me.  Most people already view my home as very low clutter, even minimalist, but I knew there were things that needed to go.  As a reward, I told myself I could have my home professionally cleaned, an unusual treat for me.  So game on!  I let the freecycling, Craig's listing, E-baying, donating, mailing, and recycling begin and set a February 14th deadline for myself. Being intentional about each item I released was a time-consuming but satisfying process.  Who knew that people on Freecycle would be thrilled to take some gently used manila folders off my hands? Or that that my friend would be willing to take my dying orchid to her home to revive?  As both little and big items left the premises, I felt the small, but palpable joy of checking off items off a list.   It was around item seventy-five that I started to feel just a bit lighter on the inside.

And then it hit:  the big, emotional punch in the stomach.  During my sorting and sifting, I came across the 5 CD-set of memory photos sent to me by my ex-love-of-my-life partner.  This led me to engage in the not-so-productive (or so I thought) behavior of searching for him on Facebook. The photo I had taken of him in Italy sipping his cup of Illy coffee was no longer his profile picture, but in its place was a photo of him with a huge smile holding his giggling baby boy. This news of him being married with a child erupted into a whole lot of messy and unexpected grief.  I had done lots of processing and grieving of the relationship over the years and thought I was done.  When I woke up the next morning after the emotional catharsis, I literally felt like I had lost a pound or two, with which my friend validated, "grief is heavy."  While releasing emotion can feel uncomfortable, I knew deep down that seeing him move on was necessary, a way forward to true closure (that I didn't realize I was missing) on that chapter of my life.

When I began the  hundred item challenge, I hadn't known that I'd been holding on to a lot more than random mugs and used ink cartridges and that it was time for my heart to get an internal clearing as well.  The obvious reward of my hundred item challenge was the clean home, with the extra sparkle added by the professional cleaner.  An added bonus has been that my home feels more retreat-like now, more like the one I was drawn to on Craig's list.   And the greatest gift, of course, and my unexpected Valentine's present,  is that extra bit of space in my heart.  With space can come creation. And unlike my malaise of last month, I am now excited...for all of the possibilities that await me.


time banking and more sharing

"You help build the Sharing Society." was the sentence that jumped off the page at me on my July 19, 2012 Risa D'Angeles horoscope.  Hmmm... sharing society...not a term I'd heard before but felt super-curious about...so tried to define for myself:

- First, I thought about how my neighbors and I share the use of tools, gas grill, and other odds and ends (and may now extend to NY Times subscription and internet)

- Then as an avid Freecycler for more than five years, I concluded that this was a prime example of a sharing community where people give and receive goods, all completely free of charge.

- Next my mind jumped to CouchSurfing and AirBnB --  a fantastic concept of people opening their homes to provide accomodation for travelers and vacationers.

-  I thought I was out of ideas for a moment until Time Banking popped into my mind -- I had heard of this through a friend and decided with my horoscope's nudge, that it was time to check it out!

I discovered that, "Time Bank is a system of reciprocal service exchange that uses time units as currency."  I love it that everyone's time is equally valued whether you are providing legal advice, weeding a garden, or teaching someone how to play the guitar.  The Time Bank is no flimsy operation.... there's an application process, references required, an orientation meeting, and annual dues (on a sliding scale.)  Love it -- I felt these hoops would weed out those who aren't really into it or alternatively not so good at following through on things..oops, a little judgment coming through there.
My bank account started off in the black with time credits earned from the orientation. I was encouraged by the time bank founders to spend and help get some more activity in the system.  So, my first service received was a delightful and professional Thai massage....and just blocks from my home nonetheless!  In the giving realm, I decided to depart from the traditional skills I use at my job and think of other services to offer.  I came up with the following:  helping clutter clear people's closets and creating fun mail art (mostly out of recycled materials) to add a bit of cheer to someone's mail box and day. It surprised me that the latter was the first requested.  I gladly searched for images & quotes and cut, pasted, created, and sent some uplifting mail to another!   Then I found myself in the situation of unexpectedly leaving town for a conference and needing some care for my new kitty. A lovely timebanker who offers cat care was up for it; it was a win-win-win -- my kitty was well-cared for, I was at ease, and my fellow time banker earned time credits she can use on services she wants or needs....brilliant!  While at the conference (on Happiness, Well Being, and Sustainability), I found myself meeting others who participate in Time Banking and other forms of sharing like co-working (e.g. Next Space) and vehicle sharing (e.g. Zipcar).  I am looking forward to learning more from author & new friend/neighbor, Cecile Andrews, who is passionate about the this topic of sharing.  And thanks, Risa, for getting me motivated to dive in further!

article published at Everything Home Fall Edition of DIY Home Tips


lovely little freedoms

Law Black Clip Art
Something unusual arrived in the mail this week from the Superior Court of California -  a thank you letter.  For six and a half weeks this past fall, my part-time lifestyle was hijacked by jury duty.  While becoming entrenched in a double murder trial is far from a benign experience and I did bemoan the change to my daily existence, I found that some treasures surfaced:

1.  Commuting via beach cruiser . Each day, I  had a lovely six minute commute to and from courthouse along the river path.  The large handlebars and upright seating just make me feel like a little kid!  I also felt a bit European as I dressed nicely for court and hopped on my bike.  The act of pedalling home at the end of the day helped the transition from "juror #1" back to me.
2.  Eating lunch SLOWLY. Why has the idea of eating with a fork and knife at lunchtime gone by the wayside?! Our rushing and busy-ness has led to the phenomenon of one-handed lunches!  Having an hour and a half lunch break from court was a delight.
3. The power of music.  When you are strictly prohibited from talking to anyone about your "work day", you must find other ways to blow off steam.   This talk-it-out person found a connection to music like never before! 
4. Keeping work-life and home life separate.  There was  NOTHING I could do at home related to the trial, absolutely forbidden to do any research.  In this tech age, does this even exist anymore where you can't bring any work home? 
While I won't be biking to work or enjoying hour and half lunches during my work day anytime soon,  I am asking myself how I can incorporate some of the above into my current life?  How can I incorporate more movement into my daily routine, especially via beach cruiser?  Can I slow down at lunch time and simply eat instead of multi-tasking?  Can I lose myself in music more instead of kvetching about a stressful situation?  How can I keep the boundaries between work-life and home-life?

So, an unusual thank you back to the State of California for a new experience and food for thought. Unlike the defendant,  I am so grateful to have the freedom to create and re-create my life however I wish.


let nature do the work

It's  a simple formula :  clothesline +  sunshine + a bit of time = dry, fresh-smelling clothes.   So, what's the problem?  Why do we Americans tend to like images of clothes hanging out to dry in other countries but we won't actually hang clothes ourselves? 

On my visit to Oz, Australian friends were shocked that I'd never ever hung laundry outside to dry before.   Nope, never.  When I had been an exchange student in Spain, my host mom was the only one who operated the pulley-style clothesline strategically hung outside the kitchen window of the high-rise apartment building.  A few years living in England, though, gave me some good practice without a dryer, but there, hanging clothes was an inside job involving radiators and drying racks (and sometimes resulted in moldy-smelling clothing!)  

A clothesline was an early purchase at my current California home as I wanted to enjoy all this sunshine which I so sorely missed in England.  But it didn't take that long before my stackable washer/dryer right in my bathroom lured me away from my clothesline.  Did I just get re-Americanized?  Or lazy? Or rushed? Or out of touch with nature?  It took my German visitors this past summer who had no interest in my dryer to get me to brush the cobwebs off my neglected clothesline and re-discover a simple pleasure.   

Go Green (Forever) 2011 stamps
Technology, speed, and convenience are wonderful things that I truly appreciate in my life,  but how often do we allow ourselves to disconnect from technology these days and focus on one task at a time?  Being outdoors and engaging in a repetitive task actually seems to induce a state of calm... (for me at least!)
If you need a reason to slow down, save some money, and support the environment, try letting nature do the work!

Article published at:  Everything Home and A Carnival for Saving and Making Money


the closet shopper

"Living with fewer possessions can be a pure joy that is unmatched by anything you can buy." Leo Babauta, Zen Habits
Well said, Leo! Sometimes I've felt weird about how much I enjoy clutter clearing....  
Tuesday's spontaneous closet purge (and I'm already known to have a minimalist closet), resulted in more than 20 items leaving the premises. Most went to Goodwill, but I also decided to give The Closet Shopper a whirl. Their "boutique-style recycled clothing for women" tagline matches their tidy, eclectic, thoughfully-arranged shop; no smelly, cramped thrift store here. Articles of clothing are purchased outright and you receive either 35% of the new sale price in cash or 50% in store credit, much easier than traditional consignment which leaves you wondering / waiting / hoping for an item to sell before you see the $$. Two skirts made the cut; one even increased its value: got six bucks back for a Banana Republic skirt I'd purchased back in '07 for just five dollars (from a Jersey smelly, cramped thrift store, no less.) But a la Babauta, I'd say the joy really lies in the empty space between the hangers and the slightly less cluttered brain -- amazing how I feel cleaner on the inside.....