Since retirement from paid employment 2 years ago, my meditation practice has become more regular. And due to my yoga practice, my knees have become more flexible.
In the past, I meditated in a nice comfy chair. Lately, I have been assuming the more traditional posture of half lotus position. I thought about creating a more structured meditation space with a floating shelf with flowers and a candle on it.
But the minimalist in me loves for spaces to be mostly empty and flexible and (let’s be real here) easy to clean. So I have created this meditation corner out of objects that also serve at least one other purpose in my home.
This weekend’s project was a reorganizing and painting of the linen closet. Due to the shape of the hallway, I can only photograph 3 shelves at a time.
I’m not sure what is wrong with American interior designers that they can not use the word “color” without using the phrase “pop of,” but we will have none of that here. The phrase, I mean. I did want to add a bit of color to this closet. And I also wanted to unify and clean up the shelves.
I removed the old fabric and contact paper and applied new white contact paper. It did not go on as smoothly as I would have liked, and in hind sight, I should have sanded and painted the shelves white. But that would have taken another weekend.
I reorganized the shelves by purpose of the objects.
Minimalists are always trying to figure out how to live well with less stuff. Not to make life an unbearable grind, but because we find it extraordinarily fun to be efficient, we like to use our creativity in the service of humanity/earth and we have discovered it is the path to freedom.
I figured out a couple decades ago that American-sized refrigerators are waste creators. They as so big that people overbuy fresh foods and restaurant meals and then park the hopeful meat and vegetables and take-home boxes on the vast shelves. Then life happens. Work goes overlong and there is only time for fast-food or microwaved pizza rolls. Someone ends up in the hospital and there is only time for vending coffee and chips. Someone breaks up with you and the only thing that makes you feel better is ice cream and Netflix. I get it. And all that food that you bought when you were full of energy and a plan-to-get-fit turns into refrigerated compost.
I am a huge advocate for small refrigerators. Parisians have the right idea, but think smaller. Think dorm-sized fridges-just don’t fill them with beer. I have been using a refrigerator that fits under my kitchen counter for a couple decades, even when I was cooking for a family of four. When you can see everything, you are not as likely to waste it.
Many fridges come with a plastic partition for holding eggs. It is there, taking up your expensive refrigerated space, whether you have eggs or not. My system, photographed above, does not waste space. If you take a few of your dozen eggs and boil them, just indicate it in some way-a Scarlet H, or Sharpie happy face or stickers that you removed from the avocados you bought. Also, if space is really tight in your half-fridge (which does happen from time to time, I admit) you can Trim The Carton To The Number Of Eggs You Have. Even the bits are recyclable.
And speaking of refrigerator compost–
Even in my half-fridge, I have room for the small compost bin that some people keep on their counter top or under their sink. I learned a long time ago that refrigerating the compost keeps down stink and bugs. The difference between me and the big-refrigerator folks is 1) my compost is all gathered together, rather than in individual plastic bags rotting in the produce drawer 2) My compost is what is left after I have used the fruits and vegetables that I purchased. Rarely does edible food go to waste here.
Minimalists are always on the look-out for new tools that perform multiple functions. The mighty spring clip is one of those tools. You see it here as a prop for the recipe cards. (I don’t have a lot of recipe cards due to me simplifying our diet and virtually any recipe being available via an internet search.) It also works as a bag clip for spinach or frozen peas or any foodstuffs that come in a plastic bag. ALERT: not kitchen hint–It works great to hold fabric bits inline during an assembly of a creative reuse of second hand fabrics, whilst still being so creative that safety pins would be too much of a commitment. You can use it to hold bunches of paper together (boring!) or combined with a shoe string as an emergency tourniquet (I haven’t had to use this one yet-as a matter of fact in 30 years of nursing, the only time I have had to apply tourniquets was to plump up the veins to draw blood-no emergency.)
I know my readers to be the most helpful and creative of people. What are your favorite kitchen (or household) hacks?
P.S. I know a couple of you (i.e. 20% of my readers) signed up to follow the net-zero house story. I am spending a fair amount of my time tracking down the right property. I have real estate agents looking for it. I am looking for it, via online searches and then I drive to any viable listing. Other people, who are just excited about the concept of creating a net-zero house in boring old St. Louis, send me links every week. And I check them all out. So never fear, progress is being made…if it is only eliminating about 200 properties per week that will not work for one reason or another. I assure you, once we find the right property, the blog about it will be way more interesting. XOXO, Fawn
“Whaatt?” You say. What does shirking all your responsibilities have to do with goals and retirement?
And I say, “Everything. And it is not shirking your responsibilities, but aligning actions with your core purposes. And letting the rest go.” A religious person might describe this as aligning one’s will with the Divine Will, but we don’t want to scare people off…so we can just use New Age language to describe the process.
When I was a working stiff, my days revolved around the routine of working and all the support efforts that kept that lubricated: washing and ironing work clothing, packing work lunches, cooking food for the week on my days off work, using vacations from work to take care of the house and the kids. Anybody else use a Staycation to paint the exterior of their house? Or a travel trip to scope out prospective colleges?
Years ago I noticed that my life was deficient in play and spontaneous joy. And since then I have been finding my way back to that childlike innocent perception of the world that both sees what is true and delights in the variety and consistency of experience.
(Longtime reader Linda who asked about the diet plan is beginning to lose patience, I think.) Let me be as practical as I can be. I think workability is an excellent test for any theory that humans can devise.
Two years ago, I retired from paid employment because I was exhausted and Just. Could. Not. Anymore. I moved in with my mom and threw myself into helping her declutter her home after 46 years of hoarding. I helped entertain her guests and kept trying to figure out how to play. I took classes. I like yoga. I don’t like formal drawing. I don’t like Tai Chi. I don’t like Frisbee Golf. I like walking in the park. I like garden design. I like home design.
Then my son became ill and there was that one horrible week when he was in a hospital in one city and my mother was in a hospital in another city. Play? I have no idea.
But I do. Over the years I have discovered there is a Hansel and Gretel bread-crumb trail from where I am to the place I need to be.
Goals in Retirement (from paid employment-I’m not very retired)
Every day when I wake up, I ask my self first, “What does my son Mike need today to be as successful as he can be?” and secondly I ask myself, “What do I need to be my best and continue to be a good caregiver to Mike?” My counselor tells me I need to reverse the order that I ask these questions. But we have to start wherever we are, right? And let’s be really candid here, usually the first thing I ask is, “Coffee?”
I would like to be around for a couple decades so I start with what promotes personal health.
Sleep– When I retired from nursing, I stopped setting my alarm clock on a daily basis. When I was working, I got up at 5am and went to the gym for a cardio or weight workout before I woke the kiddos and drove them to school and then on to work at 7:30am. Now I let my body wake up when it wants to, which is usually between 7-7:30am. But I am listening to my body in a way I was never able to before. So after spending 3 hours wielding pick-ax on a landscape project, when I overslept the next day to 9am–okay, I get it. I am listening, beloved body.
Eat Healthy-For me this means organic, locally raised plants, which is why we have been members of a local CSA. But my son needs a lot of B vitamins, which are mostly found in animal products. So I try to keep the homestead meeting the needs of all the residents.
Minimizing Drug Ingestion-My favorite drugs are caffeine and wine. I’m glad that they are both legal for someone my age, but I recognize that some of my other goals are hindered by their ingestion.
Regular Movement-Some of us would call this exercise, but to peoples who live in cultures without access to cars, it is just getting on with your day. I want to live in a place that supports normal human movement (walking and more) and sometimes I need an intermediary support like a yoga studio, which supports my movement, local community and connection with others.
Connecting with others-Well, I have this blog, which connects me with you. I have my local church community (Yeah Quakers!), I have local friends I have made since I moved to St. Louis and I have recognized the importance for this introvert for creating down time from all these connections.
Play-Oh My Word…..this has been the most difficult part of the journey. What does “Play” look like for me? I’m completely bored by competition, so a retirement of golf would make me run back to work. It has taken a bit of effort to discern this but for me play includes: 1) a gift of service to community 2) a walk in nature 3) transforming something that is not functioning or beautiful into something that is both–this can be an article of clothing or an abandoned city lot or the decrepit tile situation in my current bathroom. Current arenas of play include: decluttering the Quaker Meeting house, planting native species plants there, hand-sewing projects, creating the zero-energy use house here in St. Louis.
What about all of you? What are your goals in retirement?
I have read a lot of books on decluttering, minimalism and voluntary simplicity. I read them mostly because it heartens me to learn of like-minded people in the world discovering the joy of discovering “enough.”
The newly published Less Stuff by Lindsay Miles is one of the better decluttering books I have read lately.
Miles covers the standard topics of how pleasing it is to live in a calm, ordered space and how to process your objects room by room and category by category by sorting them into keep, donate, repair, reuse, recycle and trash piles/boxes and then getting them where they need to be.
Where her book excels is in dealing with the responsibility of letting go of those objects in a way that is not harmful to the environment. It was one of her original difficulties in decluttering until
“Then I had an epiphany, a realization that decluttering and caring about waste actually go hand in hand. Decluttering doesn’t have to be about wasting stuff. It’s about identifying stuff that we own that is going to waste (because we don’t use it, or don’t like it, or don’t need it) and finding a better place for it: a place where it will actually be used. Decluttering does not have to mean landfill. We can find new homes for our things, or places where the resources can be used again. Actually, it’s an important part of the process. Decluttering can be the opposite of waste.
… I’ve redefined how I think of waste, too. If I have things I no longer need, I can let go of them responsibly. I may not need them, but if they still have life in them, they can be passed on to someone who can make use of them. It is more wasteful to keep things I don’t need than it is to let them be used to their full potential.” (italics mine)
She gives lots of resources in the book for places and methods for finding new homes for our stuff. She notes that this takes more time and effort than just dropping everything at the charity shop or the landfill, but that it helps us be more mindful of what we have accumulated that we don’t need. Then we can do the emotional work of discovering why we allowed ownership in the first place, which is important to preventing new clutter from coming in.
And lastly, I like that she advocates for responsible divestment, even when it costs you more money. If something is broken and you give it to a charity shop, it will likely end up in the landfill. If you fix it before you donate it, it has a much better chance of finding a new purposeful home.
A few years back, when I was getting ready to sell my home of 15 years, my mother lamented– “But you have created such an oasis of calm and peace here. How can you even think of leaving it?”
I replied, “I have that calm and peace within. I carry it with me. I can recreate it anywhere.
That said, the past year has not been calm or peaceful. But I still carry those feelings within me. And it is time to recreate it here.
As I have written before, I love the location of this apartment in a walkable city. I love being on the second floor up in the tree canopy. We are three blocks from the Metro train, which my son takes to school.
What I do not love is that the building manager smokes cigarettes in his workshop in the basement and the hallways smell like an ashtray. Also, the lady in the apartment below me is hard of hearing and in the evening I can hear her TV blaring. Ever the minimalist, I have solved two problems with one appliance: the air purifier. It cleans the air and the white noise of the fan cancels out the TV noise.
So how do we create “serene?” First we declutter. Then we clean. Then we add some nature elements.
As a sometime renter, I have noted that most folks do not have the same standards for cleanliness that I do. To be fair, none of my roommates or husbands did either. So, I have always understood that cleaning to my standards was a beauty requirement that I needed, but others have not. No judgement. I’m just taking care of my own needs here.
I’m not going to lie to you, this was a significant time investment. But I had recently attended an art show with a friend and we both loved a particular piece that had been created with a 24″ x 18″ piece of paper and a sewing needle. The needle had been used to poke holes in the handmade paper in a complex and beautiful pattern. I estimate that it took hundreds of hours of human labor to create.
And I asked myself, “What beautiful thing do I want to create this week?” And the answer was, “A serene home.”
You may see more serene home post in the coming weeks as I manifest that calm and peace from my heart to the apartment.
Beloved readers- I know that many of you wait eagerly all year for this post. And most years I have been equally eager to post it. But this year? Meh. Let me explain.
While I stand by my previous statement that minimalism makes almost everything easier, this has been a difficult year by any standard. I have moved. Twice. My youngest son has been hospitalized. Twice. And he has moved in with me, as he is currently unable to work or attend school. That makes three moves this year. He is undergoing treatment and we have high hopes of his disability being temporary.
So while my decades-long minimalism made all that moving a lot easier, I haven’t been excited about minimalism, like before. Just grateful for it during this challenging year.
But my dear readers have reminded me about how much fun minimalism can be and encouraged me to post the yearly count of stuff. So here it is:
Clothing (59 items total)
Add to the count 9 hangers seen in previous photos and 18 undergarments.
Miscellaneous Items (item count 16)
Personal Care (total items #7)
I’m not counting the 4 items of make-up which are consumables, but included them in the photo, for those curious about my make-up requirements. Just these 4 items: foundation, eyebrow pencil, mascara and hair tamer.
Also not included in the count this year: furniture and kitchen stuff that I share with my son. We combined households and there is some duplication, but I am not sorting it out until we determine the length of our rooming together.
I am ever so grateful for you all, my readers, and I will answer any questions you have about the count or my process of deciding on objects.
Recently, squirrel activity at the Meeting House increased exponentially.
There was the almost constant scampering noises in the walls.
There was the day that our squirrel friends got into the hot chocolate mix packets that were intended for our human homeless winter guests. There was a dusting of chocolate-sugar powder over a good portion of the social room along with 10 or 12 partially opened foil packets. And a fair amount of squirrel urine and poop on one of the tables that the humans usually eat at. It looked like they had had a demented chocolate frat party!
In the social room, I set a couple of traps that do not kill the trapped animal, slathered the bait tray with peanut butter and tiptoed out. A week went by. They ignored my traps and found a plastic container of jelly, chewed through that and smeared jelly around the squirrel poop. Sigh.
We put all the food that was not in metal cans inside a refrigerator that has been turned off for the off-season. They haven’t figured out how to get in there. Yet. Still they ignored my peanut butter laced traps.
I called in a professional varmint-catching company and they set two traps right outside the squirrel’s front door, which you see in the above photo. These were baited with professional-grade squirrel enticements. I was instructed to check the traps daily and call the company as soon as we had a critter. I went every day for a week. The squirrels left the traps alone and enlarged the hole which is their entrance to the wall. Hoo Boy.
Next week, I meet with the professional squirrel catcher to find out what Plan C looks like.
We do not have a spare bedroom or a sofa, but still host the occasional overnight guest. This is my solution: a gel foam mattress, pillow and a warm comforter.
I’ve had the inflatable beds before, but each developed a hole after just a few uses. And said hole was discovered as we were trying to blow up the bed at 10pm. This set up is compact, portable and leak proof.
The Saint Louis Quaker meeting house is also a warming shelter in the winter for homeless folk. There is a community organization that coordinates churches in the area that provide this service. There are a lot of moving parts to the work: providing the space, cooking, cleaning, working with the local authorities. There are hundreds of people working every year to provide this service.
Our church has space for 40 people when the weather is severely cold. We move the benches out of the way and set up cots in the sanctuary, and it becomes their sanctuary for the night. In between cold nights, the cots and blankets and pillows are folded and stored at the north end of the sanctuary in a couple of big piles.
About a year ago, some of the Friends (members of the church are called Friends) hatched a plan to store the shelter supplies in the basement in the off season. They wired the basement with plentiful lighting and painted the dark wood white. They installed some industrial strength shelves that were donated by a member.
Last week, after worship, we moved the supplies down to the newly refurbished basement.