Recap of how I got more space in a few days

I'm hauling out. With every post-shopping haul out, I feel freer, less attached to crap. I can walk around without cringing while passing the hall closet. I feel proud.

I made space by letting go of...

4 Kids DVDs, 1 cd, 2 box sets of tv shows DVDs
a black metal magazine holder and matching card holder from anthropologie
An old umbrella that has no hole for hanging and is too enormous
​organizers from ikea, target and the container store
​big blue swiss ball, dh was relieved
​comfort u pillow, blankets
​clothes from j crew, Jeremy's, and anthropologie. Pricier things I'd been hoarding that I finally let go.
3 porcelain vases
1 branch
Kitchen crap: Ikea spice organizer, cake pans for 'tier' cakes
1 crate and barrel two tiered fruit basket that was way too big
cook books to pastry chef friend: lauduree, momofuku milk bar (I'm not a pastry chef)
40 books to the Los Angeles Public Library, including Martha Stewart's craft encyclopedia
Kids stuff: 1 walker toy, 1 kids carseat organizer, 1 rocking horse
1 radio Sony
1 clock white crate and barrel
stash of foam for felt crafting
2 dolls ayumi uyama styled vintage made in Japan, kids didn't want it either

I didn't sell these things. I just let them go to be resold elsewhere. The money earned is not worth my time.  I'm making value by saving time and future effort from handling these things.

Update on the compact:
I haven't bought anything for myself. Haven't felt the need to. But I will re-sign up for "pop physique" monthly unlimited classes as soon as my jury duty next week is over. And there are a few digital books on minimalism I want to get. I really enjoy reading other people's perspectives on losing their crap.

For my daughter's birthday, I bought dresses from second-hand consignment stores in Los Angeles: Blue Bird, The Green Bean and Grow Kid Grow. I found high end designer clothes made not in china but the u.s., france and denmark for the same price I'd pay for new clothes from Target made in who knows where sweatshop. I didn't buy her a toy, but my husband got her a small mirror that she wanted.

shopping is a burden

I've been letting go of a ton of stuff thanks to this blog! Blogging galvanizes my decluttering, materializing my dream of minimalism.

Shopping is a burden.
Shopping can get addictive as an escape mechanism. But escape is temporary and home awaits.
Decluttering will not change the problem if the underlying behavior is not challenged.

The supposition of the American crapitalist system is that shopping is recreation and relaxation. But that is wrong. Shopping is a burden. It causes a financial deficit by definition. It creates debt. It creates shame.

If you buy "it!" and you bring it home, you might:

  • remove it from its shopping bag.
  • throw away or recycle your shopping bag, raising eco guilt.
  • remove it's packaging.
  • throw away or recycle it's packaging, raising eco guilt. 
  • wash it if it's a textile or kitchen item
  • give it a place, otherwise it is clutter.
  • contain it. it may require a larger container--a piece of furniture.
  • use it or use it up
  • get rid of it eventually 

Or you might not. When you watch Hoarders, you see piles of unidentifiable shopping bags with unidentifiable stuff. And new things in boxes. It is too burdensome to open the object. The piles are preferable.

The hunting and gathering done, the shopped for object has lost its value. It sits useless as clutter at home.

Many hoarders try so hard to save everything. Yet they are so wasteful. Shopping is not saving. Shopping is wasting.

Letting go of containers

Since I've been vigilant and diligent about removing crap, I have much less need to contain my world. In the past few days, I've let go of a hundred containers--various vessels from vases and trays to acrylic cosmetic cases, plastic ikea boxes and aluminum tin trays. I can't even remember what I got rid of--and it was only hours ago I let them go! I took the time to wash each item in hot sudsy water. Now that I'm exclusively buying used items, I want the items from my home to recirculate in the world in their best condition for all those other like-minded people who are buying used.

Containers are not the solution. Containers contribute to the problem by giving a false solution that mystifies the real problem. The real problem is you have too much and you need to remove that stuff from your house! Containers enable middle-class approved hoarding--all those neat boxes with labels, just like Martha! But the dread of having too much crap remains, enervating you of hope for a truly clean home.

Containers can multiply with their sly appearance of usefulness, cluttering up pantries, closets and garages waiting to be used 'someday.' But this is precisely their menacing power. They beckon us to fill them with crap, to buy duplicates, and to store unloved things that might help someone else if we'd only free up the contained.

Containers waste your time. You sort your crap into different containers, label them, put them away. But then, you have more crap that you want to hide in the back closet, so you open, close and shift your containers, re-shifting them here to there to another there in a perpetual search for more space.

You can have more space. Get rid of the things you're hiding. If whatever's in the container is for 'someday,' that is a clue it needs to be removed immediately. If it's for some concrete date in the calendar system (the turkey roaster for thanksgiving, for instance), then it has dignity and reason to take up room in your home. Chances are, you can replace what you are storing/hiding easily when 'someday' actually materializes.

By removing the someday clutter, you are learning to redeem yourself of your crapitalist shopping habits. We have been taught to experience shopping as a leisure activity, as if browsing in stores was a fulfilling mode of being. No--browsing is for ghosts, alienated people disconnected from nature and community who embalm their loneliness with lifeless things, while pretending buying something equals an accomplishment. It does not. Sorry. I was there. I purchased many a stupid things and wasted thousands of dollars. Removing these poor judgment purchases is what finally revealed to me I have been a thoughtless and wretched accumulator of crap in the service of corporate global crapitalism. I was suckered by false desires.

I'm by no means perfect now. But I feel so much lighter and happier without the stuff it's like a miracle!

I no longer feel compelled to house and protect things useless to me now.

There's no little voice demanding: clean, organize, clean, organize. Without the crap, the chatter has dissipated. This is such an empowering feeling--I would like everyone to feel it.


Watching shows on Hoarders is educational. I learn a lot about fear. Hoarders, as a group, seem scared: of people, of intimacy, of decisions, of emotions.

As a group, they seem to have experienced trauma, a horrible loss that upsets their sense of temporality. They seem unaware of how time works.

Likewise, their sense of physical mobility seems compromised. They seem like shut-ins. They seem to prefer immobility. They are stuck to their stuff.

The stuff is not their real problem. Their real problem is ? feeling threatened. Fight or Flight or Relax? How can they breathe and experience meditation / the relaxation technique if the air is stinky? Their reaction is flight. They are sensitive human beings who choose to cocoon in their homes with stuff to protect themselves from the cruelties, humiliations, loneliness and feelings of failure associated with not feeling safe and good enough in late capitalist modernity.

I have used the word "they" but in reality, we are all hoarders. We who have been born into the capitalist system have been taught to buy things absentmindedly and accumulate a ton of stuff, much of it disposable, plastic and landfill-destined. If you cannot do an inventory of your home, then you are a hoarder. It's harsh, but beneath the facade of middle-class perfection, the truth is excessive closets and garages, wasteful grocery habits and delusional shopaholism. This is not sustainable.

If you are trying to organize your house all the time, the problem is you shop too much. You have too much crap. Whether or not you want to admit it, you have things in common with hoarders on tv. When hoarders on tv say things like "I might need it some day," correlate it to your own excuse patterns. This insight will lead to freedom. Aren't you sick of cleaning and organizing your home? Get rid of the stuff you don't use. Share it with others who might need it. Private property is a delusion. Private property is temporary. Stuff is tentative. When you let it go, you get that space back. Space and time are the most important luxuries for a free soul.

A parsing error was encountered

My new blog has encountered a feed problem. New posts aren't being updated because "A parsing error was encountered." 

I am already thinking about disposing this less-than-30-days blogsite and starting a new one.

Minimalist Dream: Bare and Pretty Living Room

source: Shoot Factory via mnmize
I spy...
  1. Bare walls. Feasible. Reduce or remove wall "accessories" like picture frames and mirrors. 
  2. No storage units--there are no things to store. Unfeasible as we have toys, jackets, a dog leash, bags (grocery and 1 purse).
  3. Bare windows. Maybe. "Frost" french windows and remove white curtains? Nah, curtains are enough.
  4. White... Unfeasible because sofa is blue velvet, carpet has colorful stripes and floor is wood-toned. Would need to replace major furniture which is wasteful.
  5. Furniture... Unfeasible because backless seating/bed looks uncomfortable. For looks, not living. 
  6. Ceiling rose and chandelier, love it! But not worth buying and breaking the compact.
  7. Cushions, throw pillows and blankets. Maybe one. We've had throw pillows before. They ended up on the floor. Who had to pick them up? Mama, not the pups.
In all, I love this bare and pretty room! It's peaceful and meditative. The room lost most of its crap.

Scrutinize Inventory: Living Room

We are a family of two adults, two children and one dog. We live in in a 1930s art deco duplex. Our apartment is gorgeous but rent is cheaper (not super-cheap) because we've had the lease for ten years, we're not demanding of the landlord and the apartment is not in the 'best' part of town. We really live our lives in the living/family room. It's huge with 12 ft ceilings. This is an inventory of the living room.

Clockwise from door, the larger pieces
(By the way, if I don't know where something was made, I assume it was made in China. Many of those items were purchased at "Ikea," something I am re-evaluating.)
  1. 1 storage bench, used daily (holds coats, shopping bags, kids backpacks) (extra seating during parties), made in china
  2. 1 media stand holding 1 tv and 1 dvd player, used daily, made in china
  3. 1 dog bed, made in china
  4. 1 computer desk w/ 1 chair, used daily (dh's work space), made in usa
  5. 1 bookcase next to desk, used daily (dh's stuff, 40% full), made in china
  6. 1 kids wooden castle, used daily, made in indonesia
  7. on wall above castle: tree made of used mylar (back of food packaging) made by dh
  8. 1 kids play kitchen, used daily, made in china
  9. 1 Large sofa, used daily with 1 throw pillow, made in usa (doubles as guest bed)
  10. 1 floor lamp, used daily, made in china
  11. 1 kids sofa, used daily, made in usa
  12. 1 kids' table with two chairs, used daily, made in china
  13. 2 armchairs, used weekly, made in usa
  14. 1 side table-stool, used weekly (extra seating during parties), made in philippines
  15. on floor: 1 wool rug, made in china
  16. on floor: 1 kids cushion playmat, made in korea
Clockwise from door, the smaller pieces
  1. 1 wall mirror, made in usa
  2. 1 key holder, used daily, made by me
  3. on mantel: 1 vase with a branch and crepe paper flowers made by me
  4. on mantel: three felt dolls representing family made by me
  5. on mantel: 1 wifi base and mac airport base, made in china
  6. on mantel: 2 remote controls, made in china
  7. above mante on wall: 1 mirror, made in usa
  8. above mantel on wall: paper mache animal head made by dh for my bday
  9. on mantel: swag of branches and crepe paper made by me
  10. hanging on ceiling: metallic paper lantern made in china
  11. 1 box on media stand holding 2 dumbbells, 1 book, 1 dvd wallet, 1 binder, made in china
  12. basket next to castle holding dolls and accessories (including felt beds made by me)
  13. on play kitchen, toy foods and serving ware (including felt sushi, donuts, cupcakes, veg and fruit made by me)
  14. above play kitchen: 2 string of butterflies made in china
  15. near play kitchen: puzzles, instruments, duplo made  in china, usa and germany
  16. under sofa: violin and kids violin, fold-up table, kids pop-up tent, made in germany, korea and china
  17. on wall behind sofa: 6 picture frames, made in china
  18. near kids table, 1 box with paper, crayons and coloring books, made in china
  19. above armchairs, 1 chandelier, made in vietnam
The living room also held the following, which I got rid of months ago. It was mostly my crap! 

1 XL craft/sewing table (ikea, china)
3 tall storage units with craft supplies (ikea, china)
1 shoe storage unit (kmart, china but was over twenty years old so maybe not)
1 coat tree (vintage, usa)
1 tall bookcase with books, magazines, picture albums, dvds (ikea bookcase)
2 small bookcases with kids books (unknown brand bookcases from china)

Francine Jay's Joy of Less helped me release my craft-hobby furniture. The kids' books are in the bedroom. My craft supplies are in closets (another post to come). Without a coffee table, the kids have room to roam. I no longer keep my books, mags or dvds in the living room-that's really cut clean up.

Since making this inventory, I have almost cleared the 60" mantel (only the wifi remains), removing the felt dolls, the paper lantern, and the flowers in the tall vase. I removed the six frames with family pictures above the sofa, and replaced it with my branch with flowers. My picture shows the damage I did for my 'pictorial essay hoard' before (a Martha Stewart crapitalist conspired project). 

Minimalism must reflect and advocate 'lived life,' not illusory perfectionism. As a mother with children, I see the living room as our playroom--it is as much the children's domain as it is the adult's. The dogma and perfectionism of minimalism (especially from browsing pictures of high-end homes with two pieces of furniture in white rooms) is a mystification to sell "status" and other 'high brow' crap (usually real estate or five-digit priced furniture). I could get rid of the tv, media stand, armchairs, stool/table and kids sofa to create a 'minimal' space. Then I could eliminate the sofa, the kids toys and dh's desk. However, as these are vigorously used and beloved objects, eliminating them for the sake of minimalism is absurd and wasteful. (However, for a college graduate starting with zero furniture, pictures of spare homes can keep-in-check artificial desire to hoard crap instead of developing relationships or dealing with uncomfortable and immaterial feelings.)

I've obsessed over white floors as seen in Scandinavian blogs, but that would require time, money and permission to fix my rental. I've lusted after white-white walls, but who will clear out the walls and rooms, buy the supplies, research the eco paint, paint the damn walls and safely dispose of the paint and supplies? We live in a servant-less society. That's modern living. I don't want to make myself into a servant for the sake of my consumer desires.

Although we got rid of cable, we watch movies on our tv and surf the internet on our computers (but I am open to experiments of going without tv, dryer, internet, etc.). Our life is modern, not Amish (with some regret). We are detraditionalized. Modernity is... to be in the matrix of crapitalism (car system, mcdonaldization of food outlets, home ownership system, the international advertising-making-selling-buying crap system, etc), for better and worse. So we partake in modernity, but we are  buckling down and constantly re-evaluating our false mystified desires versus our actual needs. I'm a hard-ass, but I'm gonna forgive myself for partaking in crapitalist activities and support my transition to a less wasteful, more simple life, with simple defined not by archaic tradition, but my own creative intelligence. (I've basically written all this to keep in check my perfectionism.)

If it doesn't pass the test of true life--lived day-to-day reality--it's a ruse: an illusion, a distraction, and a disappointment.

Have you tried making an inventory of your living room? Tip: do it while watching Hoarders to get your decluttering on!

Swank Picnic at Home? Yes, please!

I love to host! I love having people over, even though it can overwhelm. Shopping, prepping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, serving, washing dishes (guests help) and post-clean up does suck. But I love a chill, de-commodified, festive party! My kids adore it too! Here are pictures of simple pleasures at home from Milk (French kids rag I used to buy; great picture spreads but too many ads).
Cheri Messerli Milk Magazine
all pictures from Scout Holiday

As my truest desire is a minimalist, zero-waste life, I refuse to value swank in dollars. True swank is imagination, ingenuity, and integrity, aka, sustainability. No matter how great a party, if I see disposables, my land-fill guilt goes up. I want to befriend individuals who 'live beneath their means.' ... but not through food from a box or big box retailer--that's poverty mentality. No--cook from scratch as best you can. That's swank!
Cheri Messerli Milk Magazine
I spy berry lemonade (?), flowers, fancy mini cakes, tacos, strawberries, and macarons... Those stripey straws are cute, but I prefer my stainless steel ones. 

Cheri Messerli milk magazine
Is this a paint-splattered bed spread? No matter--any thing in the home will do! Those bottles have reusable tops!
Cheri Messerli milk magazine

Daughter's Birthday- Zero Waste chance?

My darling daughter is turning 5 next week. To celebrate, but how? We could have a party at her preschool as we did the past two years (yes, she attends preschool full-time with her sister). We could have a separate birthday party for 'home' as we did the past four years. Each year, the preparation has been a pain, but the parties have been fun. 

This year, I am nixing the 'grand' birthday party at school. I despise goodie bags. I have made 'bags' featuring paints and watercolor paper, but they were 'too nice' and age inappropriate. I hate spending $100-$200 for food from Costco or the caterer's, disposable balloons, disposable drink cartons, etc. Instead, the girls will have a mom & dad play-day with stops at Peekaboo (an indoor playground in Eagle Rock), Chuck e. Cheese (fyi, $2 in tokens is excess for toddlers) and pony riding at Griffith Park. I offered Disneyland like last year, but daughter preferred this as her trifecta.

Last week, we went to a birthday party for a darling little girl. There was a jumper, catered food from two places for adults and kids, a two-tiered cake, an amazing dessert buffet of cupcakes, petits fours, chocolate candies, scones, cookies, hand-made marshmallows and ice-cream. The theme was 'fairy princess.' The mother did an outstanding job of creating 'play-stations': fairy drawing, face painting and dressing-up as fairies with wings, tiaras and tutus. The boys played in the jumper and a train table. Her yard was decorated with enormous tissue paper flowers, butterflies and handmade signs. (I would include a picture but I don't want to give away my identity!) It was gorgeous, but I am freeing myself from recreating this for my daughter. 

My rule is to not compare myself to others. My passion is to hone my intelligence and creative powers to impart a less waste and memorable birthday.

Today is Friday. My daughter's birthday is on Wednesday. Maybe... 
Saturday: Dim sum at Elite in Monterey Park and a kid's movie with one other family. Remember to bring cloth napkins and to go containers from home! Sorry, no popcorn.
Sunday: Brunch at our place for whoever can show up (as the invites go out today), followed by a visit to LACMA or Franklin canyon duck pond. Take out Xmas lights for decoration? Eat in the backyard with a 'picnic' setup like in my earlier post? Request BOOKS or a 'coupon' promising to spend time with daughter. 
Tuesday: A little something at school... After the kids' nap, near 3:30pm. Happy Birthday song played by dad in person on his violin and cake bites like these by mom. And maybe a toy/fruit run for the kids: a blanket topped with our kids' excess new art/craft supplies (a decluttering moment!) and peelable fruit like tangerines and bananas. Make an invisible starting line and say Go! The kids can take whatever they want. I'm nixing bags since they have backpacks. I'm not wrapping the craft toys since I want the kids to be selective of their loot.
Wednesday: The big day. No school. Eat breakfast at home. Go to Peekaboo. Hang out for an hour or two. Then have lunch, probably at Oinksters, although since they use disposable (but 'green') plates, I may seek elsewhere. Then go to Chuck E. Cheese. And then sleep in the car. Option to go pony riding if the girls want it. 

The Compact to Curb Consumerism

I joined a yahoo group called "the compact" to curb my consumerism. I made a promise to avoid buying anything new for a year. Of course, you can buy new food, health and safety items. You borrow, barter or buy used everything else. The compact is individualize-able  so you can tailor exceptions. The bigger picture is to transform one's consumption habits--which starts in the head.

Parts of this Le Toy Van castle broke and splintered after two months! Not worth it new!
Last fall, I went a month without buying anything. Then Xmas hit. Ay caramba. I bought crap "for" my kids. Why? Because I could. Because I wanted to see their faces light up when I gave them princess crap. Did anyone pressure me? Yup--my internalized beliefs (aka crapitalist ideology). Although my daughter did request a 'castle,' I wasted much time hunting for the right one--from diy cardboard & paper mache structures to used plastic barbie palaces. I found the wooden one pictured for over $200 from a shi shi online store and bought it. At the time, there were no used wooden castles listed on craigslist. The girls have been playing with it almost everyday. And they do adore it. When kids come over, they head straight to the castle. So it's not totally crap, I guess.

However, however... a rambunctious boy broke the castle's music box at my last dinner party, less than two months after xmas! And... And... I found the same castle on craigslist for $40 a few weeks ago (why was I cruising craigslist for castles?--help!). 
There's a light though... since joining the compact, I've lost (or lessened) my 'desire to desire' (gaining pleasure from browsing without a purchase in mind and then buying like a you-got-marketed dolt). I'm not cruising craigslist or amazon. I'm not joining gilt or groupon just to find something I might like. 

The Compact is a gift to myself--a get-out-of buying crap "for" my kids, my home, and other people. I am retraining the self to show love through immaterial joy-scapes, not crap.