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It kind of bugs me to have excess stuff. I guess you could even say it overwhelms me. I don’t know if it’s from guilt or a need to be organised. But when I see a dress discarded at the back of my wardrobe, or an old Christmas card from a loved one in a draw or a pair of flippers and a tennis racket in the garage and a basket of tangled necklaces on my dresser, I feel a bit suffocated. Seeing these things day in and day out but not using them, but not being able to let them go, is claustrophobic.

You know the saying: “You don’t own things, they own you”? Well I never got it, it seemed a bit stupid. But then one day I bought a car, and after that a 3m long dining table, and then, and then, and then. Before I knew it I owned all these wonderful things, but each wonderful thing needs a little love and care. And then, somehow it goes from love-at-first site in a shop to the responsibility of insuring, upkeep and making time to use these wonderful things. Also, things hold you in one place. Want to live in Africa for a year? What about all my stuff? You get the picture.

It was about the time of all this accumulation that  I was lying on the couch at my grandparents house, staring up at the wall of books I had always admired. When it hit me that all these books in a decade would be old. Not vintage or special edition old. Just old and dusty and mostly unloved. At that time I had a growing collection, a little library of my very own.

Now I have a library card and that was the beginning of my journey towards a more simply lifestyle, a lifestyle with fewer possessions. A lifestyle where less things own me.

I hope this 100 day challenge brings me to the simple lifestyle I want. I want clarity over the possessions I own and the benefit they give my life. And I look forward to the peace, contentment and freedom this will bring.

To see how I’m going visit my 100 thing list.

The new leaf is turned

Tonight is the evening of 100 days.

100 days is a rather long time. I started strong, had a dip in energy at around 60 days, had to add an extra 5 days in lieu of being on holiday, but now I have made it, I’ve turned over my new leaf.

What does it feel like to have 126 things? Well, firstly you’ll notice that I don’t have 100 things, but a few more. I always felt the challenge was about finding my own personal ‘enough’ point. That point for me, today, is 126. Of course I could have made it to 100, or below. There are many people in our world living happy and full lives, or just living, with a minute amount of possessions. But they aren’t me, they’re not in my shoes. So with 126 things I feel – surprised. The whole challenge has been a surprise. I never imagined I owned 500+ things pre-challenge. Now I own 126 things. I don’t feel minimalist. I couldn’t, not with 8 short black dresses! Not with bath salts and eye lash curlers. These things aren’t essential for living, but at the moment they are a wonderful part of my life.

I could have dived below the 100 mark; reduced my wardrobe, ditched all the bathing paraphernalia. But it would have only been for my ego. The point of reducing my things was to find the essential, focus on the best, polish the compass of my life so I can plan the direction I’m taking.

The one hundred days has been like an onion, each week peeling off a new layer. Getting rid of the unnecessary; the easier to goes like extra stationary and beauty products; the unusual like my umbilical cord; the difficult like once loved hobbies. It really felt that with each layer coming off I was getting closer to myself. Me in this presence moment. 

I was rewriting my history. By removing things from my life I was also removing the memory triggers. This is one of the main reasons people have clutter; the ticket that reminds them of the concert and friends, the senior jersey that brings back highschool conversations, the birthday cards and photos of happy days, and sad days. Perhaps I was hedonistic, but my list of possessions now only has things that bring back good memories. From now on the trips down memory lane will be pretty rosy.

And as I write this I’m slowly starting to feel a little pride. For setting a goal and sticking with it. So many times I’ve started a project only to lose interest after a few days. I think I’m going to wake up tomorrow with the feeling I was striving for: contentment and peace. A kind of satisfaction or security from knowing I have what I need sans clutter.

This project has distilled my life into a few great hobbies, a few luxuries and some wonderful memories and now, a whole lot of space to fill with the people and activities I love. Now when I walk into a beautiful store I hear myself say; I already have enough, and it fills me with gratitude and knowledge that there are more important things in life than things.

 Items: 126 🙂

I put some hours in on Saturday morning to seriously reduce my 100 Thing List. It helps so much to have a list to work from, it could be that I’m just a List Girl, but really, it’s a great decluttering tool. Many of the things I still have to part with are in boxes, or at the back of a cupboard, or just part of the scene that you over look them on a day-to-day basis. Having the list reminds me of the excess I own. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, you can be a lot more brutal with a list of items than when the ‘thing’ is in your hand. Think of those army generals during World War One standing around the strategy table, a large map showing the territory and coloured disks for all the battalions of men. It’s easier to push a disk across the table and into battle than being at the front line. Same goes for my things, it’s much easier for me to decide I don’t need a 5th vase when I read it in Arial 10 font than when I’m holding it in my hand admiring its handpainted patterns.

So using my list as a battle plan I decided that this was D Day and that I was going to hunt down every last thing not needed and collect it in one place – the kitchen table of course.

I bagged up heaps of extra things for goodwill because seriously, if I haven’t found time to sell these things in the last 97 days then I’m probably not going to find time in the next 97. So another bag when to Lifeline – it still kills me when I push the bag into the huge metal bin and realise that the stuff is gone for ever. But overall I feel relief and lightness, happiness that I have more clarity over the things in my life that do matter.

D-Day outcome: 187 things to 137! Wow.

Part of this included;

I gave a gorgeous pink Clinique lipstick to my favourite Aunty. She is a super generous person (who adores fashion and makeup) and it felt great to give something to her for once. I also returned a school tie to my Grandma, it was hers 60 years ago and then I used it during primary school. She seemed really happy to see it again, reminiscing and fondly stroking the old metal school pins and badges, she said she’d put it in her treasure box for the next generation.

My 100 Thing Challenge is coming quickly to an end. But I have sabotaged myself by booking a flight to Darwin to visit my fiancé. This leads me to tell you a story;

While I was at university my best friend and I worked on a number of projects together, I liked to get things done over the allocated time where as my bestie preferred to leave it to the last minute. I think he liked the adrenaline rush.

It was the day before a big end of semester assignment was due and we’d been hard at it all day. I was typing, he was yelling clever sounding sentences over my shoulder. The deadline for submission was looming and I remember him standing there counting minutes on his watch as the printer was churning out the last pages, “We’re not going to make it by train, we’ll have to get a taxi!” he gasped. He was pacing the room and grabbing at pages and overall becoming pretty distressed. It was at this moment, at 20mins before our assignment was due that I thought I’d share with him my good news;

“I got us an extension!”

You can probably imagine the reaction: a dumbfounded blank nothing followed by hysterical dismay at my deceit which then turned into hysterical laughter. He was relieved that we didn’t have to sprint to campus and was slightly flattered that I knew him well enough to not have shared the extension news earlier. Sometimes you just know when you need an extension and it’s always best to ask for it well in advance.

So this leads to my news for you – I’m giving myself an extension. I realised with all the organising for a dirty weekend away I wasn’t going to have enough time to make it down to 100 things. Especially as it gets more and more challenging towards the end. I need full concentration and right now I’m more interested and painting my nails and dreaming about romantic reunion runs through airports.

So I’m substituting the week I’m away for another week doing the challenge. My new end date is: 17th March.

BTW – perfume gone and tan pumps sold on ebay yippee.

Items: 183

Under 200 things!

I made the most of being home with the flu by going through the storage bag of clothes I packed away a month ago. Just not using the clothes for a month made it a lot easier to decide which pieces to keep and which to part with. I only kept a white cotton blouse because it will work well in my new black&white capscule, and a pair of beige cargos which I added to my ‘gardening and working clothes box’ which is stored in the spare room.

Now I have two piles; ebay and goodwill.

I’m going to drop off the goodwill bag now on the way to the supermarket to buy some lunch.

Also out;

Wooden carved puzzle toy of my name from when I was a child.

Items: 186

200

Ps. Tomorrow I’m going to crack the 200 mark. I don’t know how, but I will!

More old hobbies bite the dust

Today I sold my swimming flippers and hopefully my goggles and swimming cap (the women is taking them home tonight for her daughter to try on).

It was awesome handing the flippers over, the girl was so appreciative and happy. I’ve never been in sales, perhaps this is why working in retail is popular?

I also sold my old computer, the one I used why I was at uni. Now a young girl will use it. Again the buyer was stoked to get a bargain she actually wrote in the email; Yippee.

Also the feeling of relief and freedom when I finally walked away from the flipper deal was huge. It was something I spent the whole challenge so far thinking about. Did I want to keep swimming, because keeping the stuff meant I had to swim. So I’ve given up swimming and will put the money towards my new hobby dancing.

Damn it, I found some extra things

I’ve noticed there a few things I’ve forgotten on my list (damn!);

iPhone – love it and use it so much its an extention of my hand, I guess this is why I didn’t notice it to put it in the list in the first place.

tin of bobbypins – it’s a cute tin and I use them almost every day

body lotion

To compensate this increase I’ve decided to make my three dressing gowns (summer, winter and slinky for travel) into one item – it’s my rules!

Items: 208

I don’t really need my Inflight Toiletries Ziplock Bag anymore. I used to fly a lot. All my university years were focused on saving enough money to travel to South Africa for summer breaks and before that I was living in the UK and flying to all sorts of fun locations with the super cheap flights available. Then last year I went on an epic journey with my fiancé to Colombia and then a whole bunch of other great countries which totalled many flights in a matter of weeks. The ziplock bag of goodies made all these flights more bearable.

I’ve realised that holding onto this bag equals holding onto that lifestyle. It’s like a little glimmer of hope in my vanity that I’ll be travelling the world again. But the reality is that lifestyle is not the lifestyle I now live. I’ve traded meeting new people and visiting new places for getting to know my own family and building my own home.

Of course I’ll still travel, but it will be a lot less frequently, and I think I’ll manage just fine without it.

Items: 208

Currently the Simple Living Forum has a thread on; “If you only had 3…” Of course many of the women have written about if they only had three make up items what they’d be. Lots of foundation, mascara and lipgloss featured.

 So I had new resolve over the weekend to see if I could decide what my 3 makeup items would be.

 I had a play around and decided that foundation would be my first item. I had kinda given up wearing foundation especially since cycling to and from work but I realised it really does give a polished look.

 Next item was mascara, I like this because it draws attention to the eyes and best of all it doesn’t need reapplying during the day.

 But the third choice was much harder. I’ve already given up my lipsticks so that wasn’t it, I love lip pencils but they aren’t very versatile, then there are eyeshadows to highlight the ‘windows of the soul’ but it ended up as a toss-up between eyeliner and lip & cheek tint.

 I went with the tint because a girl needs some glow, especially one who spends 8 hours a day in an office under fluro lighting and only one hour a week dancing. Plus this is a cheat product; I use one tint compact on lips, cheeks and eyes – awesome.

 So for the experiment, and this is a bit lame, I did up one half of my face with each ‘look’ and guess what? No real difference. And it was at this point that I had a realisation. You know when people do the grade thing? Like she’s a 10/10 or a 7/10 or maybe even a 3/10 god forbid? Well, I think I get out of bed a 6 and after showering and blow drying my hair I probably get to a 7 and then once I put on some foundation I can make it to 8/10. But I realised no amount of eyeshadow, bronzer, lipstick etc was really going to move me ‘up’ much more. I think everyone has a plateau, it’s genetics. For example, I just dyed my hair from blond (for 27 years) to brunette, I had lunch with my Mum today and she didn’t even notice. This really made me realise that you just look how you look and some extra highlighting cream or lip pencil really isn’t going to do anything!

Anyway, in the end I decided that my three things will be;

1. Liquid foundation
2. Brown mascara
3. Pink lip and cheek tint
And today I left the house without bronzer for the first time in, my god like, 9 years! And guess what, not one person exclaimed – Oh my, are you sick? You look SO pale.

Items: 209

What would your 3 make up items be? Feel free to add your list to the comments section.

Distinguishing what is essential

I know the main mantra of decluttering is ‘keep only what you need or use’ the problem is I have developed a lot of needs. 

Already I can see the improvement in my life from doing this challenge. Last night I started a Latin Dance class! I first took dance classes at the beginning of 2008 (that was where I meet mi amor) unfortunately we didn’t keep going, ‘life got in the way’. From that time I had a pair of pretty black satin dance shoes that had never been worn. This challenge brought them out of the cupboard and reminded me that dance is really something I want in my life. I’m so happy.

Zen Habits wrote today about the difference between simplicity and minimalism. Pretty much, minimalism goes all the way. And I’d call living with only 100 things very minimal so I am taking his definition to heart:

…how is minimalism different? It’s basically an extension of simplicity — not only do you take things from complex to simple, but you try to get rid of anything that’s unnecessary. All but the essential.

So I’ve discovered on this journey that dance is essential, now I have to resift my list of 211 things and purge anything that’s unnecessary – find the gold – find my essentials.

Out:

– baking soda face scrub (I can always use the kitchen stash if I want an at-home spa treatment)

– brown thongs (I don’t need two pairs and Mum was desperate for these)

– a detox book and an exercise book (I still like these books; they pass the smile test, but a friend at work is keen to get healthy and I don’t use them i.e they’re not essential, so I’m gifting them to her.)

Items: 211