Done vs. Perfect = No Contest

IMG_3068By Dave

We kept putting it off and putting it off.

The pieces of artwork sat framed on the floor, leaning up against walls or furniture. They may have been out of the way, but they were adding to the cluttered chaos of the dining room.

While I had been able to look past them, my wife was not. Enough was enough. We were going to put them up that Saturday, and time was not a factor.

So, while food was cooking in the oven, we grabbed a hammer, a stepladder, some nails and went to work. Rather than obsessing as we normally do, we let our eyeballs do most of the measuring.

The paintings went up in short order and, instead of having a cluttered mess, we had three pieces of art on our walls, giving our bedroom in particular the feel of a boutique hotel suite.

How long did this all take? Not the 2-3 hours I feared it would. A mere 20-30 minutes was all that was required for the task.

My wife is known for asking the question: Do you want it perfect or do you want it done? This project was a reminder that the answer to the question is often a simple one.

Done beats perfect almost every time.

Let’s see if we can apply that lesson to our next project.

On the Road to the Minimal Master Closet

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Before we purged the master bedroom closet.

By Renée

I’ve read a number of books on minimalism. One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to document the process instead of writing from a place of fait accompli. I felt so many of these books are being written so long after the actual house-wide purge that it’s hard for the authors to remember life as it was. When we started this experiment we were drowning in stuff and looking for a way out. Is minimalism going to be the answer? Probably. Will it be as easy as they make it out to be? Absolutely not!

Over time, I have noticed our attitudes and patterns changing. On of our latest successes was the master bedroom closet. We started on one side of our non-walk-in closet and took everything out. We decided to begin with Dave’s message tees. You can read his post below. Neither of us have a gigantic wardrobe, so it wasn’t the task it could have been. I’ve been slowly losing weight and have had to replace my wardrobe a couple of times in the last six years. It’s not a capsule by any means but it’s not vast either. By taking things out, it caused us to really look at stuff. Anything I hadn’t warn in six months I tried on to see if it even fit anymore. I have a strict policy that once something is too big I get rid of it. It’s too easy for me to gain weight when I have larger sizes readily available in the closet.

As I pulled things out I asked myself two questions. First, when was the last time I wore this? Second, why? I got rid of anything where the answer was something like, “I don’t really like it that much,” or “It’s not super flattering so I avoid wearing it.” This is prime real estate and stuff I don’t ever really wear doesn’t get to suck up room. At the end of the “cold” season I will purge again. We live in Southern California, I won’t insult anyone by calling it winter.

One of the major issues that Dave and I disagree on is the sentimental stuff. My advice is remove that stuff and put it in another room if you can. We got sidetracked for a solid 30 minutes on a box marked “Wedding Stuff” and I felt it hampered our momentum. Dave thought it was a nice stroll down memory lane in an otherwise boring project. Do what’s best for you. Also, depending on the size of your closet this may take two or three sessions. If you have clothes spread around the house, like in your guest room or office closet, you may want to get it all in one place so you can really see what you have. If you have five black dresses that are similar, you need to see them all at one time in order to decide what to keep and what it let go.

In the end we purged 60 items total. Yes, I actually counted as we went, on  a piece of paper on a clipboard no less. When the year is over I want to really understand where we came from so I can tell you if it was worth it.

I have to say that it has been really nice not needing to practically use a crow bar to get clothes out of the right side of our closet. Nothing is getting wrinkled anymore either.

Well, on to the next project.

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After the purge our clothes have room to hang and not be wrinkled.

Not Quite the Perfect Number

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By Dave

Like many guys I suppose, I love a good message T-shirt. Whether it is showing my love of a particular TV show, a place I have travelled to, a college I attended (I went to several) or support for the high school where I work (and because the latter are often free, I am happy to take one), I rarely pass by a cool tee without checking for one in my size.

This led to my collection of 42 message T-shirts (If you are a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you probably are geeking out right now). I knew I had “a bunch,” but had no clue how many that was.

The problem was that all of them had a special memory connected to them. Perhaps they were not worth the $15-$20 or so I paid for each (sans the free ones, of course), but they were important to me at one time for one reason or another.

But I had to come to terms with the fact that they were not all important enough to keep, particularly since many of them were fading, chipping or pilling. I could keep the memory of the shirt without the actual shirt, so into the trash or Goodwill bag they went.

Shirt after shirt, memory after memory, was gently retired.

In the end, 20 shirts remained. Besides the fact I normally wear collared shirts to work, I realized a very important fact: I am an adult and probably should dress like one. While fun, I don’t need clothing of my past when they don’t reflect my future.

And the extra closet space is a nice, added bonus.

Working the Plan

To Do List
Creative Commons photo by Justin See

By Dave

I may not be a planner by nature, but I definitely married one. While I plan because I have to, her eyes light up and there is a raw energy in her voice when she tells you about her latest strategy to tackle a problem. She not only loves to plan, she finds comfort in it.

It’s not that I just get up and live moment-by-moment without a clue of what comes next. I’m a teacher, so the need to plan is a by-product of my job. If I didn’t know what I was coming after the vocabulary review of a book chapter, any semblance of learning or organization can be expected to fly right out the window.

But transferring that skill from the classroom to home is not always that easy. At home, I want to be done with work and any reminder of it. While grading takes over some time and space in my sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of students and lesson plans and pacing guides, I want my home to be free from the structure that dictates my daily life.

The problem, however, is that the organization that helps my classroom run more efficiently, can be applied to the home environment to achieve the results that will make a long-lasting difference.

So, as much as I don’t like the idea, the only way this whole experiment is going to work is if I’m willing to use a calendar and start making some plans for success.

You Have to Start Somewhere

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By Renée

I’ve been reading books on decluttering and minimalism trying to find the perfect way to get my house cleared out and am dealing with some serious analysis paralysis. As I looked around our 1300 square-foot, three bedroom house I starting asking myself what needs to go? Of course, my mind immediately flew to the master bedroom closet shelf where my almost 21-year-old wedding dress resides. I felt my stomach clench and then I realized that this was not the place to start but rather the place to end. If I have learned one thing in my reading it’s that you start with something easy. You need to build momentum so that you will stay energized and make it to the finish line.

Going from room to room and looking over what we have I noticed that there are three layers of stuff in our house. The first layer is what I call The Eyesore Layer. It’s the clutter that makes our house look like a mess and makes me say bad words and get angry. The second layer is The Excessive Layer. These items are put away and not a mess but we have too many of them. Books, clothes, DVDs, CDs and dishes make up this layer. The third layer is two categories that we have a similar motivation for keeping, The Emotional Layer and The Expensive Layer. Gifts and keepsakes added to things like watches we don’t wear or kitchen appliances we spent a lot of money but didn’t use after a month.

We’re going to start with the first layer and work our way down. We’re beginning with what my husband calls the junk room. It’s our third bedroom and was supposed to be a craft room for me but then really turned into a dumping ground for anything that we didn’t have a place for. I’m setting a 15 minute timer for today and diving in.

Time to Leave Neverland

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By Dave

Let me start by clarifying that minimalism is my wife’s thing.

That’s not to say she is wrong and I am “putting up” with some hare-brained scheme. What I mean is that she has caught the vision and I haven’t yet (and, to be honest, I’m not sure I want to).

Part of the difference between us is that a little bit of chaos kind of works much better with my spontaneous, up-for-an-adventure nature. I want to move on to the next thing and cleaning up my mess from the last fun thing slows me down. An excuse, perhaps, but one I have let drive my actions in the past.

While maintaining a house up to the standards of June Cleaver or Carol Brady was not a daily expectation in either one of our homes, at my house, we took things to the next level. I won’t get into specifics here, because it isn’t all my story to tell, but a little bit of “slothfulness” in this area wasn’t considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins in our home (perhaps in retrospect it should have been).

But when I walk by the junk room, where the furniture for my wife’s studio is trapped by so much clutter that it look like we’re trying to build a conservatory in a war zone, I am convicted it’s not healthy to avoid this problem forever.

So, whether I am ready to do so or not, I suppose it’s high time to leave the responsibility-free Neverland I have created for myself and get aboard the Minimalism Train as it leaves the station.

Hopefully in a year there will be enough change to make the effort worth it.

Making Sense of Our Mess

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By Renée

You are probably asking yourself “Who are these crazy people and why are they inviting me into their messy house?”

We really aren’t crazy at all; we just have a problem we’re trying to solve. I know that should really explain it all but you were probably looking for a little more to go on. We’ve been married for almost 21 years and next to our money problem which we sorted in 2011 (thank you, Dave Ramsey), keeping the house tidy and decluttered is the number one thing we fight about. We came to this marriage having been raised in very different homes but neither of us ever really got the hang of being organized and picking up after ourselves. We decided that this is the year we are going to figure this out once and for all.

This past summer I started listening to podcasts for the first time and experienced something I call “drinking from the fire hose,” which really just means that I was exploring lots of new ideas at once. One of these ideas that I really started investigating was minimalism. I started reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts and trying to get a feel for what it is, what it isn’t and how it could work for us. The more I read about minimalism the more I realized it was what I was craving.

Due to some health issues I realized that we have way more belongings than I can possibly manage with my energy level, so downsizing our stuff will be key. Knowing that I accomplish more with external accountability, I came up with the idea for this blog and hopefully if there are two or three people out there reading it, that will be just the motivation I need.