Less Stuff: A Book Review

Image from the book Less Stuff by Lindsay Miles

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.

Frugal Wall Art

My daughter took this photo on a trip to the northwest states.

I printed it at a local office supply store in the 18″ x 24″ size, which cost $18 USD. I framed it with a frame purchased at the local craft store for $20 USD. I probably could have found something less expensive at the charity shops if I had been a bit more patient.

A New Home

A paper map of the city of Saint Louis and surrounding suburbs.

Maybe it was the smell of cigarettes in the hallway. Maybe it was the natural gas bill that charges me $22.00 USD for the “privilege” of using their climate change creating fuel each month–before I actually use any product. A typical summer bill is $10 for actual fuel and taxes and $22.00 for access. Then the winter bill shoots up as the apartment has single pane windows and there is no financial incentive for the landlord to replace them.

All that just burns my hide…and we don’t need THAT contributing to climate change.

I have decided to create a Zero energy building home as a sanctuary space for me and my disabled son, and also to demonstrate that it is not necessary to be rich to do so.

I have been poking around my current neighborhood, looking for a property that will fit my needs: either a empty lot that I can move a manufactured zero energy home like this to, or a older home that needs total rehab, so I can gut it and create the energy efficient space I desire. Since my son does not drive, we need to be close to public transportation.

Then, through a friend, I met the awesome architects at Virescentdesign.com link to Instagram photos, who specialize in sustainable architecture! When I described the project that I wanted to create, they were as excited as I am. They also were realistic about my budget, saying, “It is not impossible, but we will have to be creative.” Creative? Humans at their best!

They gave me some tools to work with. The Saint Louis Land Reutilization Development link which is a government body designed to help re-own abandoned properties in Saint Louis and the Walk Score which allows people in USA, Canada and Australia to evaluate the walkability of property that they are interested in.

All these online tools…. and still the old analog me felt a need to get a paper tool to map out what I am planning. Turns out that is harder to do than when I was a child. Back in the 1960’s every gas station had maps of the local area, state and national maps. But now we all have that on our phones. It did find a paper map of Saint Louis (see photo above) at a local bookstore.

I have been using a combination of the online tools and the paper tools to identify neighborhoods that I think might be good homes for me and my son. I have focused on the Metrolink electric train, as that is his transportation to school. But, he may be up to a short bus ride to the train, and if not, I can give him a hybrid car ride to the train station.

I  got in my car today and used my GPS to drive to 25 separate properties that might be the start of our new home. I could rule many of them out by driving by. Others seem more appealing when I view the “walkability” of the neighborhood.

I’m a little bit tired and a lot excited.

More later.


A Serene Home

My closet today.

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.

Here is the floor of the northeast corner of my bedroom. See the paint and scuff marks?

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.

Same corner after a couple scrubbings and a wood restore product.

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.

Close up of His Royal Highness. He is made of jade and sits atop my dresser for now. I am told that he is a Feng Shui prosperity toad. I think that he is adorable, and if he increases my prosperity or romantic prospects…well then, Yeah!

More Vision Board Manifestations

August 29th-sleeping with the windows open when an electrical storm passed through.

I felt the electricity on my skin when two nearby lightening strikes occurred. Yowza!

Carpet of moss on boulders (from the vision board.)

And a carpet of moss hidden in a nook of the Missouri Botanical garden that I have strolled past dozens of times.

No boulders, but moss carpet.

And bonus–not on the vision board, but any time I encounter a fawn in real life I feel I have stumbled into a secret dimension where my people live.

While on a walk in a local park today. See how pretty the spots are!


This Week’s Linen Project

I bought this 100% linen dress at a discount store for $16 USD.
Yeah, it had these weird trumpet sleeves and yeah, there was a stain like someone had dropped the dress in a snow puddle.

But let me remind you from the previous post that 1 yard of new linen is $26 USD and this is a complete garment (read 3-4 yards of linen) for $16 USD.

So, let’s get creative!

So I cut those weird sleeves off and hemmed them in a way I found interesting.
Sleeve hem detail
And I took the extra sleeve fabric and made a pocket. Because…well….pockets!!

But I have to say that I love the embellishments on this pocket and you will likely see similar details in future projects.

And after I lose 20#, I will model the garments rather than hanging them on a wall hook.


Birthday Wrap/Card

I bought this adorable faux plant at a fair trade store.

My daughter’s birthday is coming up. She likes to decorate with both live and imitation plants. I won’t see her in person, so I’m mailing it. I boxed it up.

Box repurposed from another use, and plain roll of paper that I can decorate.
I thought about printing a repeated pattern, but went with the idea of just using the wrap as the birthday greeting.

It’s a little scribbly–but enthusiastic. [Don’t tell her it’s on the way]

Bonus Content:

No green linen here.

I had an idea for a piece of fabric art I want to make and I went searching for some green linen for the project. I didn’t find any at the charity shops OR the expensive new fabric store. I did find all this beautiful fabric that I will turn into … I don’t know… something. While there are some design constraints to using not new fabric, I love the sustainability and frugality and required creativity of using found cloth. Just for comparison purposes, that brown linen in the lower left corner is new, one yard and cost $27.00 USD. All the other pieces combined were $13.00 USD. I’ll post completed projects here.