Dealing With Paper

The very first step in dealing with paper is to eliminate as much as possible. Be ruthless.

I use only a few things for my paper. A paper calendar, a “pending” papers box, a note pad, a pronged folder with sheet protectors and a recipe box.

Paper Calendar (with sticky notes and a pen)

I hang it on the inside of my cabinet door. I have a pen and sticky notes next to my calendar. I don’t use the sticky notes often, but that is where I usually stand while making appointment related phone calls, so it is more convenient for me to have those supplies next to the calendar.

Pending Box (and magnets)

I have a box covered in contact paper and mounted to the side of my fridge with a lot of magnets taped to the inside. That is where the mail usually goes as well as any incoming papers. I like to keep that box as clear as possible, all the “pending” or “in-use” papers go here. These are papers that I don’t need to keep forever, but I do need to keep for now. I have been thinking about upgrading the box to something that I can just put on a desk, something that looks more sleek and presentable that I don’t feel the need to hide when company comes over, but for now it is just fine. I also have a few small, minimal magnets for papers that demand to be seen. I do prefer my refrigerator to be clear of clutter. It is more relaxing that way, but some art work is just too precious.

Note Pad (and pen)

I love to write and make notes, and I am looking for the “perfect” note pad for me. I have been carrying around a composition book, but it is not ideal for shopping lists. Recently I have been trying a spiral bound note pad that is a bit smaller and fits in my purse easily.

Pronged Folder (with sheet protectors)

There are some papers that are simply more convenient to keep in paper form. Birth certificates, social security cards, tax forms, pay stubs. There are often requested and difficult to obtain. For these items I use a three pronged plastic folder with page protectors in the prongs.

My children have their own paperwork, so I also have a plastic three prong file folder for each of them and my daughter has a pocket folder for her homework.

Recipe Box (and index cards)

One last thing that I have is a little box for recipes. I usually print new recipes out if I want to try them. They go in the pending box and if I don’t try them by the end of the week they go out.

If this seems like a bit much, that’s fair.  But my paper situation has never been this good.  Before I had two large file boxes, hanging files, file folders, countless binders, composition books, who knows how many note pads of every size, color and description. I had unused sticky note pads that I hated, but I kept around “just in case.” There were stacks and stacks of recipes that I wanted to try “someday.” I could never find what I needed. Now when my husband asks me for a paper I either know exactly where it is or I have already thrown it away. The second option is unfortunate, but at least I know I don’t have to look for it.

If you want to reduce your paper clutter and you want to do as I did I suggest starting with the pronged folder and the pending box. Gather all the items you would put in the pronged folder, this is what is in my folder, if you need a list to start:

  1. birth certificates
  2. marriage certificates
  3. social security cards
  4. immunization records
  5. contact list of all the people I know with their contact information
  6. a user name/password list with all the companies I am involved with, as well as their contact information
  7. pay stubs are in the front pocket b/c I get rid of them periodically
  8. prescription for glasses and contacts for both me and my husband
  9. photo copy of the contents of our wallets, in case our wallet/purse is lost/stolen
  10. tax information
  11. My husband’s employment information – because he is a teacher he needs a copy of his credential, his most recent TB test and of course a paper copy of his resume/cover letter, his at-will employment agreement and information on our retirement.
  12. my high school transcripts and my diploma
  13. I also have a legal document for a friend in my file folder. Because it is personal to her I won’t divulge the contents.
  14. Wills.

The next step is to find all of what you consider to be pending papers that might include:

  1. appointment reminders
  2. flyers from school
  3. unpaid bills (can you sign up for paperless billing and do all your bills online?)
  4. unopened mail
  5. recipes you want to try – this week

The next step was the hard part for me. It took a long time, but it was worth it. Go through every single paper and decide to shred or just recycle it. You might come across a paper that you really need to keep, or something you find sentimental. Set those papers to the side for now. This should be a very short stack because you have already taken out everything you really need, right?

For the recipe box, most of what I do on an everyday basis doesn’t need a recipe. Salads, stir fries, free-form casseroles, sandwiches, smoothies, and things of that nature don’t need a recipe. I keep a box of recipes for holiday foods that I don’t have memorized. My sister-in-law’s favorite potato dish for thanksgiving, my chocolate cake recipe, my dutch apple pie that my husband adores. Things that we only have occasionally.

I really recommend and for the best ways to meal plan and grocery shop when you are just starting out.

Scanning Documents 

I have heard a lot about scanning papers that you want to keep. I decided against this. One, I already have tons and tons of digital clutter that I need to go through still and I didn’t want to make it more of a mess. Two, I can never find anything on my computer, I have lost files due to computer crashes, I have deleted things on accident. I love my computer, I work on my computer, but if something is truly important I want to have it in paper form. You may disagree with me and that is fine.

Above all: do what works for you.



Thrift Store Shopping Methods?

As I mentioned in a previous post I buy all of my clothes from thrift stores. The only exceptions being my undergarments, socks and sneakers. I feel like I should have more of a system set up. It’s a bit all over the place. I want to be more methodical and intentional in my purchases. I am much more relaxed about how much I buy.  I’m no longer obsessed with having as small of a wardrobe as I possibly can. That’s not the goal of minimalism, after all. It’s about intentionality. If that’s your thing, please don’t let me stop you.

Side note: my dictionary says that intentionality is not a word. Guess again dictionary.

My main concern is bringing home more things that are flattering, blend with what I already have and is cohesive with my emerging aesthetic. I also want it to fit the body I have now. I want my clothes to be comfortable and practical, and I prefer natural fibers.

I should probably expand my thrift store shopping to more than one store, and I occasionally do, if I am looking for something specific. But for right now I stick to just one store, my local goodwill. A few years ago the prices were really out of control, but now they are back down to earth and I recently picked up a nice dress for $3.29.

The last few times I have went I browsed the dress rack first because I love dresses best of all, but occasionally I do need to wear pants and skirts. I have never actually counted how many racks of clothes are in goodwill, but it is a lot. I have the urge to look through every single item, but I don’t have hours every time I shop. It is helpful to have a specific list of things I want… color, type, and so on, and I usually do. I almost always find what I want, but what about serendipity? What about that chance unique find that is your favorite thing for a long time? My mind is going in two different directions and that is the real problem.

Do you have any tips for the best thrift store experience? I love to read your comments! Remember to subscribe.

Going Zero Waste: How to Contact a Company About Your Zero Waste Goals

Continued from last week’s blog post.

  1. Be professional – You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write well. Write in complete sentences. Spell check.
  2. Be polite and respectful. Please and thank you go a long way. Don’t be condescending and don’t bash the company.
  3. State the issue clearly – What, exactly is the problem? In my example letter to Sprouts below they cannot input the tare weight of my mason jars, so they had to transfer everything to a plastic bag, weigh it, then back to the mason jars… which completely missed the point of using mason jars.
  4. Ask for what, exactly you want from them. In this case I stated that I didn’t know if it was an issue of the equipment or training, but I asked them to fix the problem of inputting my tare weight
  5. Post it on social media. – hold them accountable.

I sent this to Sprouts on August 7, 2018. I will update as the story evolves. Will they email me back?


Update on My Tidying Process.

July was slow for me.  I didn’t do any blogging at all, and my tidying process came almost to a standstill.

Now I am going through my sentimental items and I can’t say it is easy. It is better than it was at the beginning of the year, at least I am able to touch the stuff and it is out of boxes and bins. I did finally begin to toss envelopes to cards in the recycling and I have recycled some greeting cards. It’s just a few sheets of paper, but it really adds up to a lot of bulk and I am getting closer to my goal, which is to be able to access and view all of my keepsakes. I am hoping that by the end of the month I will be done with the discarding and recycling process.

Then I want to make it more view-able – photo albums/scrapbooks. But I will leave that for next month. I might even leave it for October. I have a lot of photos to get through, so we shall see.

I am going to set the goal/intention of writing at least one blog post per week, or maybe I should write four blog posts and schedule them? I’ll probably do that.


Giving Up On a Dream

Something I didn’t expect to happen in my minimalism journey is that I would want to throw away dreams.

One of those dreams I am particularly sad about today is the idea that someday I will live in a Monolithic Dome. It has been 10 years since I first laid eyes on the Monolithic Dome website and first wanted one. I was looking for a home that would never burn, would never get blown over by a hurricane or a tornado, would never be affected by an earthquake. If you remember 2008 was a particularly bad year for natural disasters. Today I am giving up on that dream.

I am never going to have one. There is sadness in that, but also freedom. I have gained time to pursue other things in life and my house is no longer a holy grail of accomplishment. I have given up on the idea that there is a perfect house out there. I will never be satisfied. I will never be content. I will never be perfect. And that is ok. I can rest in that.

Even if I did have my “dream” home I would find fault in it. I know I would. My taste would change, there would be something I didn’t consider, something would go wrong during planning or construction.  I would find something at fault with it because that is what I do.

So, what now? I have chosen instead to find perfection and beauty in imperfection and the wear of time. The Japanese concept to Wabi-sabi is something I have just stumbled upon, but I have heard of the principals before.

I am choosing to live in an older home. I will update it and improve it only as much as it suits me and I am going to intentionally choose something that has not been remodeled.  I am going to be patient in the journey of finding a home and once escrow closes I am not going to get too attached to it. It is just a house. It could burn to the ground and I want to be at peace with that. When I die I will be some other place, not in that house.

Leave me a comment. What do you think of monolithic domes? Have you ever heard of Wabi-Sabi? Have you ever intentionally given up a dream and were happier for it?

Minimalism: Where do I start?

This question pops up a lot. I always say start with the stuff that is trash.

  • Junk mail sitting on the counter
  • Keys that don’t unlock anything
  • Season pass cards from last year
  • Receipts from taco bell and any receipts you are not going to be using to return something, or for tax purposes.
  • Lint and old candy from the bottom of your bag.
  • Socks with holes in them
  • Underwear with holes in them
  • Any clothes with holes in them
  • Pilled sweaters
  • Uncomfortable shoes, how many shoes do you have? How many do you need?
  • Extra mugs you never need that are cluttering up your cabinet,
  • Chipped plates – unless you really love that plate
  • Expired food in your pantry
  • Salad dressing you don’t like
  • Ketchup packets in the fridge door (empty them into a clean jar if you feel bad about it)
  • Paper you don’t need, like bank statements from 2003
  • Tupperware without lids and lids without Tupperware
  • Old makeup
  • Rusted razors
  • Consolidate your shampoo bottles, use up what you have before buying new
  • Dead batteries – recycle at a designated area and when you buy new buy reusable
  • Worn out elastic bands
  • Broken hangers
  • Pennies – or any change, put it in your wallet
  • Magazines from last month – you can give them to the library

That’s what I call the “top layer.” I find that once the top layer of trash is gone it is easier for the clutter blinders to come off, then you will find some other area to clean up and clear out. Most people find the closet has the most impact on the day to day. You know you are getting close when you no longer feel the need to buy new storage containers. Read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You can probably borrow it from the library so that when you are done reading it you don’t have to minimize that too. When you are ready for it you can read Goodbye, Things.

Should I Give Up Baking?

The first time I heard of this I thought, “that’s ridiculous, I am all for minimalism, but that’s just not for me.” I first heard of this idea from Melody, a blogger and YouTuber. If you want to read Melody’s article take a look: Simplicity Hack: Baking

Typically I make all of my children’s birthday cakes at home. Last year my mother in law was minimizing her baking collection and I was the lucky recipient of all of her Wilton’s baking pans. Including some that are no longer made. Before I had children I thought that birthday parties would be so much fun. I had fantasies of baking home made cakes and doing complicated decorating to match the theme.

Reality is beginning to set in. Usually I will bake and do a crumb coat of frosting a month ahead of time and put the cake in the freezer. A day or so ahead of the party I take the cake out of the freezer, finish the frosting and decorating and let it thaw in the fridge.

This time while the frosted cake was hanging out in the freezer it was ruined by one of the children. I’m not going to name any names, but it was the one with the extreme sweet tooth. It shouldn’t have been a big deal. The party is a month away. I have plenty of time. But, as I threw the ruined cake in the trash I realized that I didn’t want to spend another two mornings baking, frosting and cleaning up. I just don’t enjoy the process.

I like looking at pretty cakes and I like the end results, usually, of my effort. But the actual process of baking and frosting is not enjoyable for me. I want it to be fun, but it isn’t, it is stressful.

I am also thinking about all the space and time that is dedicated specifically to baking. I have several tote boxes of just baking supplies in the garage. I also have a cabinet dedicated to baking. And a Pinterest sub-board. I also spend a lot of time before the birthday party thinking about the cake. Flavor, filling, decorations. I watch tons of YouTube videos on cake decorating to get ideas. I even thought about going to a bakery across town to buy those popular french style macaroons to decorate the cake with. It’s excessive.

There is also the issue that Melody brought up, baked goods don’t contribute to health. Yes, they are very yummy. But they are best consumed in moderation, if at all. I find that I only bake around holidays and birthdays and most of the stress isn’t around the decorating or the presents or the other food items, I stress about the cake. Most of the time the cake is not completely eaten. We are all watching our weight. It is a difficult thing to do in the US, we gain weight by just breathing the air here. So most of the cake is thrown away.

Minimalism started for me as a way to help me keep the house cleaner. Now I am realizing that it is so much more than that. Not having baking supplies isn’t going to put a dent in how often I clean the house. But I think that not baking is going to significantly reduce the amount of stress I experience around birthday parties.

Now, one more minor issue. Money. In the grand scheme of things the cake is a very minor expense. I spend around about $20 to bake each cake. It would be less if the parties were closer together and I didn’t have to buy fresh ingredients each time I baked, but ingredients do go bad, especially the baking powder. I can pick up a cake at my local grocery store for only $6. If I were on an extreme budget that would be a better option.

As my friends on facebook suggested I am thinking about putting everything, all of my baking supplies, in a box in the garage. I might get back to it in a few years. Would it be better to just buy everything again when I need it? Would I enjoy it more in a few years if I had new things or would it be better to keep the equipment that I have? I am moving more and more toward a healthier style of eating. Will baking even have a place in my life then? Would I still prefer to outsource baking? More importantly, did I ever enjoy baking, or was it just a fantasy?

What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment.

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