Archive for the ‘Doing the challenge’ Category

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.


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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

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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.


– 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

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This week as been rainy and overcast, which is very unusual for Australia in summer and more unusual for my town which has been in drought for the last 15years. The rain is welcomed by the dry soils and welcomed by my solemn mood.

Being stuck in the low 200s with still 100+ possessions to part with I need inspiration. I’ve given myself a bit of breathing space from the challenge over the last few days, asking myself if I really want to continue, and the answer has been yes. Even with my rather low 214 things I still feel cramped and overwhelmed, I feel like I need to continue. So I’ve opened my eyes to inspiration and found;

Down to Earth, a beautiful blog written by an accomplished ‘simple liver’, Rhonda. This blog has a wonderful embracing community spirit, lots of good practical advice and what seems to be a love story – of two people living contently – running through it. It has reminded me of the bigger picture of a simple life. It has made me feel that while my challenge is useful for what I personally need, it is just one step in the long and fulfilling journey of Simple Living.

So with this in my mind I made a little time last night to work towards my goal. As Katy taught me a few days ago as The Non-Consumer Advocate (my favourite blog); No effort is ever wasted. So I approached my wardrobe with a big sigh and held clearly in my mind the end result as I pushed more and more unnecessary clothes into my large Indian duffle bag. This has definitely been the hardest part of the challenge so far.

Items: 214

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Many people talk about the one in – one out rule. But how many people really do it?  Especially as things come into our homes so easily. For example, a few days ago I donated blood with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Here in Australia our blood bank is a not for profit organisation and members of the public donate as a community service. It was only my second time and as the nurse was checking my medicals he handed me a key ring, my own Give Blood key ring with A+ on it. Most people love free things so he didn’t even think to ask me if I was interested, he just passed it over with a big smile. Thanks. I knew I’d never use it. I don’t even own keys (keyless car, only use remote to get into house etc) but at the same time I couldn’t just hand it back, that would have been rude. So another thing enters our lives. This also happens a lot with free cosmetic gifts and free things at trade shows. And of course things flood our homes during birthday and christmas celebrations. With the one-in-one-out rule, if something comes through your front door, something should also go out. Stella from SimpleLiving.net keeps a charity box by her front door for this.

Today I did my first one-in-one-out. I bought a new dress so I passed in a top. At the moment this is easy because I have an excess of clothing. I’m sure it will get much harder when I’m down to 100 and one new thing will mean parting with something pretty good. Of course I could just bend the rules, but the general theory is a good one to live by.

I also sent some farm working pants, a shirt and some other tops plus my new (but not well made) bikini to goodwill.

Items: 221

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Like me you probably still own your old mobile phone. They have monetary value, sentimental value (all those old sms) and tick the ‘just in case’ box if you new phone fails.

But my iphone is going great. If it does die I’d like to think I can survive a few days or weeks without a mobile phone. So today the old nokia and 3 chargers were recycled with Mobile Muster. This company collects the copper wiring for resale and recycles the plastic cases.

Before getting rid of the phone I went through some of the sms  and hand wrote them out for safe keeping. But after only two I got sick of this and just left them to the history of time.

Items: 186

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While I was visiting Madrid in 2006 I noticed a lot of girls wearing leopard print shoes – it was love at first sight, and by the end of the day I had a pair of my own. A few months ago I finally wore through the sole of one shoe and I’m embarrassed to say I stuck a piece of sticky tape over the hole to get through the after work walk to my car.

Normally I’d just get new soles put on but unfortunately these were a cheap pair of shoes. The sole is a kind of foam (oh so comfy) and I can’t see how a shoemaker would separate it from the equally cheap inner-sole. They kinda pass the smile test, they are great to wear and always look good under jeans and black capris. But, a few minutes ago I gave myself an ultimatum; fix them or throw them.

I based the final decision on their overall shabbiness. If I’m only going to have 30 items of clothing they better be good; in quality, in wearability and in looks and these ballet flats, with their scuffs and mangled bows, just didn’t make the cut so out they went.

Also out; a half painted canvas. Going with yesterday’s flow – that painting isn’t a practical ‘hobby’ for me – I have stopped kidding myself that I’m ever going to finish the canvas. So into the bin it went, another tiny weight off my shoulders.

Items: 291

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I’m an artist. I know it, I can feel it in my bones.

My soft spot is paintings, especially colourful acrylic ones and my favourite styles are contemporary Australian aboriginal and Cuban naïve style. (See below)

When I was studying for my business degree in Melbourne, Australia, I was luckily enough to work for  Sotheby’s International, one of the world’s premium art auction houses. There my eye quickly became tuned to beautiful pieces and excellent technique.

My eye also quickly picked up that I sux as a painter, I can’t really put it any more eloquently than that. This is unfortunate but its just the way it is. I guess I could practice for years until I can produce something of quality but the journey would be a painful one. I learnt to see the freedom and joy of the artist visible in the brushstrokes of their work, I learnt to see when a painting was forced or painted without soul (often occurs when an artist keeps repainting a popular work). It was a hard lesson, but then I came to see art in many other mediums; gardening, sewing, cooking the list is endless when it is work with passion and I opened my eyes to other pursuits;

One of these is cheese making, another is Spanish.

My 100 thing list has made me see that these passions are important enough to rank high on the list, but like most people, I often don’t make time for them. But what is life about if not for doing the things you love? Why own these things if I’m not going to use them, and use them often? So this morning when I woke up I raced to the kitchen and make two batches of Italian Ricotta cheese. Watching the milk curdle into whey is astonding – it’s magic. It makes me happy to create something, and then it makes me happier still when I get to eat it.

So I’ve decided to make space (and free up the guilt of not using these things) by gifting my paint sets and paint brushes to my Mum. She has just taken some art classes while on holiday in Cyprus and loves it. Again, it feels great that these resources are going to someone who wants and needs them and not sitting in my cupboard.

What hobbies are you holding onto that don’t suit your current lifestyle? How can you free up your life (physical and mental) so you have space for the things you truly are passionate about?

Items: 293

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One annoying thing I owned was a financial folder from my financial planner. Blue leather-bound with an engraved name plaque on the front and the year engraved on the spine. I can see the idea is for clients to line these folders up in a regal line along the shelf of a study bookcase. It is also a great marketing tool to make people feel better about spending $1500 on an annual service fee when you get a ‘free’ folder. Obviously I abide this kind of thing. What a waste of resources.

So today as part of my mini challenge to break into the 200 list zone I threw out the folder. Not ideal as it will go to landfill, but better than taking up space in my home. I have taken out the paper work to scan and keep as an electronic file (online backup) for reference. I will then shred the original.

I have cancelled my annual reviews with this financial advisor, and in the future when I do go for meetings I’ll ask them to hold the ‘glamour file’ and just show me the presentation on the overhead projector (which they already do) and email me the file in soft form.

Also out – 2 childhood books which I passed on to my sister.

Items: 397 (I had accidently listed the finance folder twice in my 100 thing list so it has reduced by a total of 4)

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Three pairs of shoes out the door. I had already resoled one pair but they had now lost their strength and I haven’t wore them since 2007. A pair of cream suede flats were embarrassingly scuffed with black marks, these had also been sitting in my wardrobe unworn for over a year. The third set was some raspberry velvet flats. I bought these at some markets in Singapore. They are gorgeous but have stretched quiet a bit and really don’t get much wear because of this.

Continuing the wardrobe saga I made more progress yesterday. I added to the clothes that I’ll see through the second-hand store and have packed in a travel bag all the clothes I think might not make it to the 100 thing list. This even includes tops and skirts I’ve only bought in the last few months, I just want to see how I go without them. Now I have 47 items left in my summer wardrobe and about 13 pairs of shoes. I think this needs to get down to a total of 30 things. Ahr! I don’t know how I’m going to do it.

Items: 356

(I just realised that I didn’t count the tan heels in the first place 😦 so it’s only less 2 items )

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