An Ode to Minimalism

cabinet-minimalism-lost-in-transitions.JPGThis is my medicine cabinet. I’ve had many medicine cabinets, but I’ve NEVER had a medicine cabinet this devoid of junk, one so spare and clean and lacking in duplicates (I have two tubes of toothpaste only because my daughter went on a trip and used just a small amount of one, and there is a two-pack of deodorant because that’s what was available). Notice that there are no rubber duckies, no hair bands, no brushes, no safety pins, no shelf completely dedicated to drugs, rubs, ointments or remedies.

Ahhhh.

This medicine cabinet represents my new mantra of simplify, simplify, simplify. When I open it I feel empowered to keep my life simple, to buy only what I need and nothing extra. Nothing for five months from now when I might need that 500-count of antacid or enough cotton balls to remove polish from 300 nails.

This feeling is similar to the concept behind Marie Kondo‘s tidying up phenomenon: I’m trying to make my entire life easier, clutter-free but comfortable without throwing away everything I own. I don’t want to take the time to determine whether every item I own gives me joy, but I do love to see an organized closet and spice rack. I heave a sigh of pleasure when I see my tiny but tidy linen closet (bye-bye blue towels and ancient pillowcases). This is another of my “release moments” and it feels so good.

I think my whole life, there’s been a minimalist curled up inside me, but there was always a need for more diapers, more paint remover, more tubs of hand cream and endless amounts of school supplies like No. 2 pencils, binders and reams of loose leaf filler paper.

As my new heroes, minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, say, getting rid of junk gives me “freedom from overwhelm.” It’s lovely and because of my move this year, I’m committed to being more deliberate in other areas of my life. I cleaned out closets and bins, storage rooms and garage eaves. I gave away nearly half of what we once owned, and I’m proud of two things:

  • I gave items we didn’t need to others who did need them
  • I can live without all of those things that I once thought were essential

I think living to excess with tons of stuff crammed into our homes is especially an American trait. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Now, if I could just get my children to subscribe to my newfound dedication to freedom from stuff, we might have even more decluttered rooms. And then I can tackle this crazy messy desk where I work …

 

 

Sign of the Season

lost-in-transitions-snowIt’s cold and it snowed. Being the second week of December, of course it is. But this isn’t the Midwest, it’s not the Northeast, it’s not mountainous terrain. It’s the Mid-Atlantic and snow doesn’t happen here very often. Nor does it stick around very long. And this snow is no different. The sun came out today, a Sunday, and things got melty, making all the brown and gray leaves that never got raked (OK, the leaves in my yard) all mushy and slippery. But it was beautiful while it lasted. Intricate, sharp-edged flakes coming down in clumps, staying on our mittens long enough for us to marvel at each shape.

Here’s the best news ever: No shovel needed. We had four (4!) shovels before we moved, plus a snowblower and several brooms. But I sold the snowblower, and donated or left on our tree lawn three of those shovels, so now there is one lonely snow mover. I hope to never use it again, to be honest. Nice to have it, but let’s just not ever need it. Another of what I call a “release moment”: A release to not worry about clearing a giant, long, double-wide driveway, our front sidewalk — maybe even our neighbors’ sidewalks.

The shock of sheets of frigid snow blowing back into your face and down the neck of your jacket as you clear it off your driveway.

The back-breaking hoisting of piles of hard boulders left by the plows at the base of your driveway. (Thank you, plow drivers, for clearing the streets. But come back and get this crap at the end of my driveway!)

Getting up and outside at 6 a.m. to clear a path wide enough to get the kids to school and yourself to work — and pray that each community or city on your commute has made a strong budgetary commitment to enough salt to last the winter.

THIS is among the reasons I’m OK with leaving the Midwest where I grew up, where I lived for decades, where I raised my family. I know I haven’t lived through a D.C. summer in decades as well, but the fall was FINE, and so far, the winter has been even more fine. I could live with this. In fact, I could handle these swings in temperatures from the upper 30s to mid-60s for months if I have to, as long as I don’t have to put up with slushy gray streets and tundra-like cold until April. Hallelujah, it’s warmish and it’s almost Christmas!

stop-the-winter.gif

 

 

 

Back to the Basics

house-soldJust like my blog’s subhead, I started in the middle of the story of our move. So let’s go back a couple of months, which will help frame the rest of my story.

S.O. made a major career coup last spring, and headed to D.C. by himself to start on his adventure. (More on that portion of the transition later.) I stayed back in the Midwest to get everyone acclimated to the idea of a move, and to actually make the move several months later. What a colossal, Herculean effort, if I don’t say so myself. Here’s what I did in 3 months: Continue reading →

A journey too tough

One thing about moving to a big city that I don’t think I ever will become accustomed to is getting to the grocery store. Sure, there are several Giant stores near me, a Whole Foods, a 7-Eleven and such. But either parking is nonexistent or proves to be such a headache that I dread the idea of taking the car out to get a big load of food. So my options for groceries then come down to:

  • A big run with the car when I feel like I have enough caffeine in my system to navigate crowded streets, nasty drivers, tight parking spaces and validating parking tickets.
  • Several smaller runs throughout the week where we heft a couple of bags with just the necessities and we walk the mile there and back.

What makes it is easy to do the latter is being empty-nesters with the occasional child visit or entertaining. In a way, it’s liberating to gauge what we crave for dinner during the day, and stop on our way home to get it. Easy peasy, done and done.

I realize that I fell deeply into that suburban trap of weekly trips to the grocery store, where there was ample (and free) parking, maybe even a Starbucks in the store for a quick jolt before you hit the toilet paper aisle. Or Target runs on Sunday afternoons to pick up glue for school projects — and oh! that pair of jeans for 12.99.

Not anymore. Target stores are few and far between in the city. Is my bank balance benefiting from this dearth of big box stores and easy grocery store access? No, because there is still Amazon.

But between all the walking, hauling and precision purchasing each week, my heart and thighs are probably in as good shape as any 30-year-old’s and we’ve saved perhaps THOUSANDS on gasoline for the vehicle. So the tradeoff is a win.

 

Am I really lost?

No, I’m not lost in the physical sense (although I did get lost on a very unintentionally long run into Maryland recently), and maybe not even in the emotional sense. What I hope to do with this blog is document how a 53-year-old woman packed up her longtime home in the Midwest and moved into a much smaller space on a busy street in our nation’s capital. I left behind a career, several groups of dear, loving friends and connections in a wonderful inner-ring suburb to join my SO in a thriving, growing, BIG city.  This is what happened …