Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Slash the Stationary - My Hoarding Addiction

As in the previous sections of my downsizing posts, I was forced to go through my belongings, item by item. I opened every pencil box and shuffled around every drawer and cabinet in the house to track down my stationary tidbits for evaluation.

No surprise, I had quite a lot.

Pens, pencils, mechanical pencils, tiny little containers of pencil lead, erasers, markers, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, highlighters in every color, my fountain pen collection, pen cases, ink cartridges, notebooks, loose paper, folders, file folders, note pads, post-its galore, note cards, blank books and journals, washi tape, scotch tape, staples, staplers, scissors, rulers, paperclips, binder clips in various sizes and colors, bookmarks, envelopes, binders, cards, postcards, business cards...you name it, I had it and in several colors and styles to boot.

So, what to do with all this stuff? As you might imagine, many of the items I'd clung onto for years had sentimental value. Although I hadn't seen the thing in five or ten years, as soon as I had it in my hand, a wave a memories descended. This can be challenging to navigate - not to mention time-consuming. I think I saved this step for last because I knew how difficult it was going to be.

You may shrug and say, what's the big deal, a bunch of paper? But you have to understand that stationary, paper, and blank books have never been just paper to me. These things are Potential - pure raw possibilities-to-be. They are great ideas about to be birthed. Stories on the verge of telling. My love for stationary is more about what they can do than what they are.

To help you see how beautiful and inspiring stationary could be, I thought I'd share one of my Pinterest boards with you:

And to fully understand how serious I am about my love for stationary, I'm going to share a picture of my one and only tattoo with you:

(Caption: There I am getting it done - this was about two months ago, June of 2016).
(Caption: A fountain pen! Isn't it simply beautiful! In case you're curious, it is designed after a MontBlanc Fountain Pen, with my own motifs added.)
(Caption: Here I am writing this post. And that is why it's on my forearm - so I can see it when I write. Now you know.)
Okay, that aside, how did I do it? How did I downsize my stationary? Well, I held myself to the same rigorous standards from the previous two stages of my downsizing project. I held each thing (after first organizing them according to type, size, and color, of course) and then I asked myself if it had use beyond the sentimental.

If it didn't have value related to usability, then I got rid of it. And by "got rid of it," I mean I packed it into a box to donate. I like to imagine a young girl, much like I once was, stumbling upon one of my old blank books and a set of colorful pens...what story will she write one day?

So, what did I keep? To accompany me to Chile, I am bringing a small box of assorted pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, and clipping/labeling devices. The box is small, I swear, probably 8 by 8 by 4 inches. As for paper goods, I am bringing three empty binders, three notebooks, two blank books, and one sketch book.

I'm going to strive to be much more responsible with my notebooks in the future. Upon going through all my notebooks and blank books of the past, I discovered (although, sigh, I already knew this) that I have a bad habit of filling them only half-way before giving into my urge to buy a new one.

(Caption: the Circa notebook system from Levenger.)

In keeping the content of the past, I cut out the used pages with a razor and punched them into one of my Circa notebooks. If you don't know what the Circa system is, you absolutely must visit Levenger, one of my favorite purveyors of stationary and all things writing-porn. (And if any of the Levenger folks happen upon this blog by any odd circumstance, I would totally NOT MIND if you wanted to provide corporate sponsorship for this project in the form of Circa products. I promise to promote the hell out of those things. Just saying...)

Anyway, now I'm all set with my stationary. It may have taken me forever and was at times, painful, but I got through it and now I am officially more streamlined and ecologically responsible!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Break up the Books - Bye Bye My Beauties

This step of my personal downsizing project is probably the most emotional for me.

I am and have always been a book lover. A book isn't just a stack of paper with a pretty cover. It is a doorway to another world, another side of myself. Books are not only linked to memories of the story itself, but also of the time in my life when I read them - and for books I owned before I could even read - memories of my imaginings on what the book could have been about. Plus, as an author myself, and one with many friends in the industry, I have many, many signed copies.

For these reasons, when downsizing my book collection, I have given myself certain liberties. Of my personal belongings, books and memorabilia can be stored in the US while we are in Chile. But even so, my collection could do with a bit of pruning.

So, here's how I handled downsizing my book collection:

1. Open the box (I have at least 20, waiting for my someday home library), or take the book off the shelf.

2. Ask myself these questions when evaluating: Do I LOVE this book? Is it signed? If I have not read this book, will I read this book? Is this book a limited edition? Is it difficult to find in a library or a bookstore? Did someone special give this to me?

3. If I answer "no" to all of the above, it is fair game to remove from the collection. These books can be brought to the used book store to exchanged for credit or other books.

(Caption: Some of the books I'm taking to Chile to read to Olivia.)

The Results:

I ended up with 8 boxes in storage in the US. These contain my absolute most favorite and beloved books. With the books I culled from my collection, I obtained massive credit at the used book store. With this credit, I was able to buy hundreds of paperback picture books and chapter books to bring to Chile for reading to Olivia.  Books are expensive in Chile and books in English aren't easy to come by, therefore, I packed 2 large storage tubs full of books to sate the voracious reading appetite of our five-year-old. I also packed one tub of paper books for myself - roughly 30 books. I plan to read a combination of these paper copies and e-books via Kindle and B&N.

(Caption: These are ARCs - or advanced reading copies - that I picked up at the PLA - Public Library Association - conference in April.)

Follow my progress in downsizing my possessions: Slash the Stationary.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Cut into the Closet - The Capsule Wardrobe

And now the first step of my downsizing project. 

For some reason - perhaps because I've had a lot of practice over the past five years while learning to weed and refresh my daughter's wardrobe every three months as she grew - I chose to begin downsizing with my clothes.

Normally, this would have caused some anxiety but I dealt with this like a pro. Ever since making our decision to relocate to Chile, I've found moving forward on difficult projects to be actually quite exciting. And so I tackled my closet without trepidation.

I had vaguely heard of the "Capsule Wardrobe" concept before attempting to create my own. I think I was scrolling through Pinterest early one morning when I happened upon a pin featuring a neatly laid out capsule wardrobe.

What is a capsule wardrobe, you ask?

A capsule wardrobe is a small number of apparel items (including handbags, shoes, and accessories) that all coordinate together. They are usually geared toward a specific season. The easiest example to picture is the clothing you might put together for a two-week vacation. Usually you select clothes from a set color palate that you can combine in different ways to make 14 different outfits. And all the shoes and accessories go with (nearly) all the outfits. There are two approaches to using a capsule wardrobe - you either change it out each season, or you upgrade it every few months with a new piece or two to help you move into different weather.

Isn't a capsule wardrobe too much work? Why bother?

A capsule wardrobe makes selecting outfits easy because there isn't a lot of stuff to wade through. Getting ready in the morning is a cinch and takes only minutes. You keep and wear only your favorites. Typically the clothes you stick with are high quality that have lasting power. Because of this, you're not wasting a lot of money on throw-away clothes that wear out or warp in the wash. Plus, you aren't adding to the trash heaps of the world with your cheap and poorly made clothes.

Above all else, here's what you've got to remember: You've already got a capsule wardrobe!

I do, you ask? (While raising an eyebrow skeptically.)

Let me explain. Most of us only use a small percentage of our wardrobe on an everyday basis. Take a look at your closet right now if you don't believe me.

Ignore the clothes you only wear for very special occasions.  Ignore the clothes that shrunk or warped in the wash but you hang onto them anyways because they were expensive. Ignore the clothes that you are meaning to let out, mend, etc. Ignore the clothes that you'll be able to fit into once you loose ten pounds. Ignore the clothes that were gifts that you don't really like but they might work someday. Ignore the clothes from ten years ago that are still in good condition but you don't ever wear. Ignore the items you bought because you love the style but they don't really go with anything you have so you never wear them.

Now...how many pieces are left? 20? 30? 40? There you have it - your capsule wardrobe.

How did I make my capsule wardrobe?

People have put together all sorts of guides for building the capsule wardrobe and I'm sure they teach a specific approach in fashion design school. But I'm going to tell you that there is no one rule for doing it right. There are a ton of resources, however, for those who want to give it a try. Check out my Pinterest board for some ideas:

Most of the guides online define capsule wardrobes with specific numbers of things such as X amount of skirts and X amount of shoes. The typical capsule wardrobe I encountered had around 20-40 items per season. I chose to shoot for a number of clothing items between 30-50 because I wanted an annual wardrobe that would include outdoor sporting and exercise clothes as well as professional and casual attire.

Once I had an idea of how many pieces I wanted and what purpose (year-round), I set some flexible guidelines for myself:

1. Only keep the items I love (and will wear).
2. Don't keep anything that isn't in great condition.
3. Don't keep anything that doesn't work with any other item in my wardrobe.
4. Make sure I have items for both warm and cold weather.
5. Make a list of essentials that I need to purchase (but keep it to ten or less things).

That's it. And here is a picture of the results. I recommend if you're going to try this, lay everything out so you can see how the colors and patterns work together and so you can get a quick visual of the types of items you have.

(Caption: From top left and clockwise - jackets, blouses, dresses, skirts, pants, and shirts at center.)

This picture isn't the best and you can't really see individual items but you can see a few trends - for instance, my color palate is predominantly dark. Before my research into the capsule wardrobe, I would have thought that was a bad thing. But it's not. I look good in dark colors and jewel tones (hence the fuscias and oranges) and most of my clothes go well together. (And no, I don't usually look like Wednesday Adams.)

My list of things to buy included: a blue jean skirt, new bras, new blue jeans, new running shoes, and a pair of neutral-toned booties.

Because we will be moving out of our house before I'm done with work; and because we plan to stay in the US camping and visiting family for an additional month; And then because we plan to arrive a couple weeks to a month before our shipping container arrives - I will need to live out of a suitcase for at least 3 months. So I'm cutting my capsule wardrobe in half and am shipping half in our container and toting the other half in a suitcase. Most of the suitcase clothes are geared for summer but, I've had to add a few warmer layers because once we arrive in Chile it will be the end of Winter.

Enough about clothes. Onto my books. For part two of the downsizing extravaganza, take a look at the next blog post: Break Up the Books.