stripped bare

I recently came across a great blog post titled What Would Happen if You Stripped Your Life Bare? on Love Minimalism. I think it must have been one of Courtney Carver’s P333 links on Facebook (a great way to find new blogs, and perhaps the reason some of you are here reading my blog today – hello, welcome, and thank you!)

Love Minimalism’s Faye talked about reading Dusti Arab’s ebook Conquer the Clutter and considering what her life would be like if she stripped her home bare. Dusti says that all we really need is a roof over our heads, clothes, hygiene items, some kitchenware and a bed. That’s the bare minimum for health and safety. A table, a sofa, storage cabinets, a TV… all are non-essential, although they may make our lives more comfortable.

Now before you panic and argue that you love your stuff and you’re not giving it up under any circumstances, think about your house if somehow you did only have the true essentials.

barest essentials

From Faye’s blog post:

“Imagine your house bare of everything except those things above.

Aside from the massive space you would suddenly find yourself living in … what would happen to your life?

You’d need to do something with your time, so what would you do?

You would probably end up buying things, so what would you buy?

What kind of life would you build if you started all over again?

Would it look anything like what you currently have, or would it be something completely different?


The beauty of this kind of exercise is it temporarily frees us from everything we have and allows us to imagine something completely different.

Who would you be? Would you still be the same without all of your things?”

just moved inI thought these were some really interesting questions.

I was looking at pictures of our house when we first moved in and it was brutally empty. If we didn’t have this much space we wouldn’t need so much stuff (and if we didn’t have so much stuff, we wouldn’t need this much space). I’ve often said that we don’t really need 800 sq ft plus a basement – that we could live quite well in 600 sq ft or a little less. Lately that notion has been challenged by starting a business, storing a lot of business supplies in our home, and having hubby working at home at least half of the time. The dining room and extra bedroom have become essential for storage and work space, and the basement has been very full. Without those spaces we would have been overwhelmed by this business, or we would have been forced to rent storage space. We’ve lived in less than 400 sq ft, so I know what that’s like, and it wouldn’t be right for this season of our lives.

I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my Things around me. Go a little crazy, probably. I’ve lived with very little before and it’s not comfortable. When I moved to Japan I really only had the barest essentials* and although it was exciting, it was also quite unsettling and uncomfortable. Maybe that unsettled feeling was compounded by being unsettled by culture shock and leaving home for the first time, as well as living alone in a space intended for a family. I guess I would go out a lot and try to find things to do, and lots of things to buy. I wouldn’t necessarily buy the same things again, but I would probably buy things in the same way, a little at a time, finding and buying things that are good enough but often not quite right because I am impatient and I don’t like big empty spaces. I wouldn’t splurge. I don’t think I could furnish a whole house in one shopping trip, as tempting as that sounds sometimes.

Japan, just moved inI sometimes think about what it would be like to do over my experience of moving to Japan. I wonder if I would have a different attitude and approach if I went there now. I’m sure I would, since I am 16 years older than I was then! If I went back and found myself living in the same circumstances I don’t know that it would be completely different though. Of course I would have the internet and the opportunity to blog, which really would change everything (I didn’t even have regular access to email when I moved to Japan in ’98) and I would pack very differently if I was going there now with the experiences I’ve had there and since. Yeah, hindsight is 20/20!

But I think my basic nature would still win out – a preference for home over out, a need for a certain amount of stuff to feel comfortable in my space, a general tendency to wanting more and better.

I wonder about how life would be different if I lived in a really vibrant city, some place really densely packed with things to see and do. I have heard many New Yorkers say that they don’t need a big living space because the whole city is their living room, the parks are their yards. They outsource many aspects of their lives and use communal resources. I wonder what kind of “nest” I would create for myself in that kind of context. I am so used to living in areas outlying major cities. Even in Japan I was stuck out in the boonies. I’m always a good hour away from the major cities I have lived – what’s up with that?! I guess I was closer in when we lived in Seattle, but maybe not quite as close in as I would have liked. And I might not have been quite in the right mental space for that city experience. Or maybe I never will be. Maybe I’m just a suburban girl…

Where would you start if you were starting over with only the bare necessities? Looking around your home right now, would you end up with the same stuff, assuming you could get it back? Or would you choose entirely different things? Does stripping your life bare sound like an exciting opportunity or a nightmare? 

By the way, I started this post a few days before my last post about the WA wildfires. While I was writing it I was thinking about 2 people I know who have recently been forced to start over again after fires. They had no choice but to start from scratch with what they could salvage from the debris of their homes and the charity they received from the people around them. I don’t think anyone would want to be in their shoes. Hopefully living with less allows us to be more generous with our possessions, time and money when people need help.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bye for now,


what I bought with me


*I moved to Japan with 1 suitcase weighing 30kg and 1 small carry on bag. My apartment was outfitted with 7 things – a futon/comforter/pillow set, a phone, a fan, a fridge, a gas cook top, some curtains, and 3 ceiling light fixtures. No, apartments in Japan are not rented with any of those things included – they were provided by my employer.

All the other basics (a kettle, plates, cups, a broom and cleaning supplies) were given to me by a kind teacher. I had to buy everything else, starting with spoons, sheets, a table, and something to store my clothes in.

It was a crazy experience.

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everything that makes you who you are

Eastern Washington is in the grip of several terrible lightning-sparked wildfires this week. The largest in the state’s history, the Carlton Complex fire, has destroyed at least 200 homes and burned an area 4 times the size of the city of Seattle (maybe more, as I edit this post several days later). One person has died while protecting his home. My friend’s in-laws lost 2 homes and a mobile home park they owned, while another relative’s house right next door was untouched. Many generations worth of memorabilia and belongings were lost to the firestorm.

I was watching a TV news story about the fire destroying the home of a 93 year old lady, a home her family built 71 years ago, where she had raised 5 kids. She never believed it could burn down, but the family was forced to evacuate when they heard the fire was approaching them fast. Almost nothing remains.

“Everything in a matter of minutes just went up,” said her daughter-in-law Mary Campbell on King5 news the other night. “It is everything, everything. Every memento, every memory, everything that makes you who you are is in five minutes, gone.”

The 93 year old Twisp woman escaped with just the clothes on her back, but some of her granddaughters were able to load up a vehicle with pictures and albums. The fire destroyed her home and the home of another family member, but skirted the house of another.

I don’t want to deny the terrible pain of losing 4 generations worth of belongings and mementos, or how much this pain will resonate through these people’s lives in the future, probably hitting them hard at unexpected moments for the rest of their lives. I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to have everything lost so quickly.

But I noticed something. Nobody in the family was crying. I imagine they were somewhat numb, although they didn’t seem numb either. The 93 year old said she hadn’t been back to see the property yet, but when things cooled down she would go and see what was left. The family seemed sad, and maybe annoyed, but not devastated the way they should be if what they had said was actually true – if they had lost every memory, everything that made them who they are. 

I think we believe that our possessions are more valuable to us than they actually are. We tend to believe that our memories are contained in the things that trigger them, the things that remind us when we haven’t been thinking about them.

But fortunately our memories are stronger than that. All kinds of things can trigger a memory – a sound, a smell, a story. If we make an effort we can remember things we would never imagine are still in our minds (something that people find if they start to write down the story of their lives). Spending time telling stories with family members and friends can bring countless memories to the surface, including many we would rather forget.

Of course, no one wants to lose everything. We all want to have a certain amount of stuff around us that reminds of where we come from and who we think we are. But if the worst happens and some or all of it is lost, be assured that life will go on and there will be chance to reconstruct the “memories” lost and make new ones.

Which reminds me, scan your photos and back them up externally – print them, send them out to family and friends – spread the wealth! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But also, play with them, look at them, write about them, talk about them – cement the best of them in your memory. Put them up on your walls where you can enjoy them. Also, check your insurance coverage. 

I certainly don’t mean to deny the loss that these people have suffered. I have been lucky so far in my life to have not suffered this way. Touch wood, my luck continues. I know a couple of people who have lost almost every Thing they owned, and it’s really sad to consider. I think it’s worth giving a thought to though. Nothing lasts. But they go on with the support of family, friends, and community, and the knowledge that they are not what they owned.

You are more than your photos, more than your china, more than your books, more than your treasures. Your memories are a part of you even if your Things are gone. I have read many a biography or memoir where people lost more than I could imagine a person could lose and keep on living. I think of war and Holocaust survivors who have lost their Things, their homes, their countries, and most of their family and friends, and yet, they go on. This kind of resilience is amazing to me. I have another blog post in the works about that, about what makes our lives meaningful, based on the work of Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. It’s taking me some time because it’s such an important topic and it is becoming more than I intended to write about when I first started the post. It’s funny that this was one of 3 related posts I drafted this week – topics I didn’t actually notice were related until I started fleshing them out.

See you back here soon? …if you can handle a little more philosophical stuff before I get back to the Project 333 and Project Life…





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waste not

I saw a new public service announcement ad the other day. King County wants to stop people from wasting food, which is a problem a lot of us struggle with (a true first world problem). They had some advice on how to do that… 

1. check to see what you need before you go shopping
2. only buy things you need and learn how to keep it fresh and 
3. eat everything you buy.

If only I had realized it was so easy! 

(oh wait – that’s all f-ing obvious stuff that doesn’t really help me on a practical level! I hope they have a website or flyers that actually offer useful advice on how to achieve those things. It’s definitely something I need to work on.)

That’s what I wrote on Facebook after I saw the ad. It seemed a bit pointless really. Of course you can stop wasting things by only buying what you need and using it all up. That’s what not wasting things means. But it turns out they do have a website and further resources to help people cut down on the amount of food they waste.

From the website:

“Whether it’s moldy cheese, limp celery or those long lost leftovers in the back of the fridge, chances are you’ve wasted food this week. And you’re not alone. Americans waste about 25 percent of all food and drinks we buy, adding up to more than $1,600 each year.

It’s a growing problem with profound financial and environmental impacts. When we throw away food, we also waste all the water and energy used to produce, package and transport food from the farm to our plates. Uneaten food accounts for 23 percent of all methane emissions in the U.S. – a potent climate change contributor.”

wastenotwasteI know I waste food. Hopefully not 25% of my food (we bring home 4 bags of groceries most weeks – I hope we don’t throw away one bag’s worth!) I buy things that I think I need, that I want to use, or want to want to use… And then sometimes they go bad before I get the chance. Sometimes I simply forget what I have until it’s too late to eat it. Sometimes I don’t like the food I’ve bought. We have a lot of food in the house, maybe not compared to many Americans, but certainly compared to most people in the world. We keep a decent stock of pantry staples on hand, and a bulk supply of the things that we use all the time. But of course those are not the things we waste, because they generally last a long time.

wastenotpantryThe things we waste are the fresh foods, the things that are so full of vital nutrients that they need to be eaten as soon as possible. The best, freshest foods are the ones we most need to eat and also the ones most likely to go to waste. I walk a very fine line here – I try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables because I want and need to eat them. But I try not to buy too many because I don’t want to waste them.

I’ve been thinking about why this happens so much, and one part of it is because where we live isn’t handy to a green grocer or market, so we shop weekly. The food I think I will eat on Sunday morning when we shop is not necessarily the food I think about preparing at 6pm on a Thursday after a busy day. I need to make sure I have a variety of things to cook from during the week – so many meal plans are thwarted by not having the right fresh ingredients available when dinnertime rolls around. But more often than not I am overly optimistic about how much cooking I’m going to do or the variety of meals I’m going to make, in which case I find myself on a Friday having not touched the lettuce or the bell peppers or the snap peas or the mushrooms all week.

The other way we waste a lot of food is when I open up a jar or can of something and use half of it for a recipe. The other half goes into the fridge, sealed up in a glass container. And then time goes on, and I find I still haven’t needed half a can of refried beans or half a jar of spaghetti sauce again. More often than not I will make a point of using up the remainder before it spoils, but not always. I find myself wishing for half sized cans of refried beans quite often… (I need to start freezing the leftovers in single serve portions.) Sometimes the veggies get wasted the same way – I will use a handful of asparagus, but I don’t really want to eat a handful every day to use up the bundle. I’ve never used up a whole bunch of cilantro either, but conversely, I never have cilantro handy when I need it. I guess I need to grow a plant…

We are actually very good about eating leftovers for lunch or snacks. And I’m pretty good about making just enough of things that don’t reheat well – no one really wants to eat day old stir fry around here, but leftover fried rice or pasta or curry makes a great quick eat the next day or the day after. And we like to make bigger batches of some things to freeze for easy meals in the future.

Planning is a big part of using up what you have but I know I’m not good at planning. I’ve tried making meals plans for the week, but I just don’t stick with it. I like to cook and eat what I’m in the mood for right now.  I often make a list on my fridge whiteboard of the foods that need to be eaten soon, especially the ones that hide in drawers in the fridge where I can’t see them. King County suggests making a space in your fridge for “eat now” foods so they are more visible.

wastenotfridgeThis whole problem comes back to the excess, and excess of choice, we have in this society. Our supermarkets are full of options, we can eat almost anything we want at any time of the year, and if we don’t feel like cooking a meal we can eat out at any number of places (most of which are serving huge portions that could feed a person for several meals).

There’s also a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation on what ‘use by’ and ‘best by’ dates mean and how to tell if a food has gone bad – most people feel that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but sometimes that means throwing out food that really isn’t bad at all. Some of us have heard the adage that certain foods are ‘better wasted outside the body than inside’ so when we realize that we’ve bought a lot of junk food, throwing it out in a fit of regret or will power seems like a better proposition than eating it. But not buying crap in the first place is a far better option. If only food marketing wasn’t so darn effective!

The food waste campaign seems to be aimed at consumers buying and preparing food at home, but as is quite common with these issues the business side of things is probably a lot worse. How much food do supermarkets throw out because the stock wasn’t properly rotated? Do they really sell all of the produce they put out each day or does someone throw out a big pile of it at the end of each day? And restaurants must be a huge site for food wastage. Anyone who has watched “Hell’s Kitchen” knows how much food can be wasted in a restaurant kitchen – if something gets messed up or sent back the whole portion goes into the trash. And those huge portions don’t always end up in doggie bags to be eaten as leftovers (or thrown out at home 4 days later). I have been frustrated many times over the years by the lunch portions in food courts, far too big for a person to eat alone, and unsuitable to carry around all day – not everyone is heading straight back to a place with a fridge. I love places that serve sensible portions – that’s real value for money to me.

Thinking about this issue as I wrote and edited this post today, I looked in my fridge with fresh eyes. I saw a lot of different foods in there. Too many. I saw some produce that needs to be eaten today. I chose some of it for lunch. Now I just need to follow through at dinnertime too. I thought about planning my meals a little bit – at least so that we eat the most perishable things earlier in the week and save the longer lasting polish sausage and sauerkraut for later in the week. I need to give myself fewer choices too. I have already decided not to cook certain cuisines at home so that I don’t need to stock so many spices and supplies. I probably only need to plan 5 real meals per week. The rest are made from basics, leftovers, or eaten out. I’m already doing pretty well with using my freezer, portioning out meat, but there are probably more things I can freeze to save waste (those refried beans!). I could also do better by pre-prepping some foods on the weekend to make them easier to grab and go during the week.

My food waste goes into the yard waste bin to be turned into compost, but that is only slightly better than tossing it in the trash. I think I can do better about eating the produce I buy. At least we almost never waste animal products – the massive resources that go into producing a pound of meat makes that kind of waste truly obscene.

Do you have any good ideas for me?

Do you have any secrets for avoiding waste in your kitchen?





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Project 333: summer selection

This was originally part of my previous post but it was getting crazy-long and rambling so I decided to split it into two posts. Forgive me if this post is still a bit disjointed. 

I pulled out my clothing storage totes a few weeks ago and happily stored away the last remnants of winter.  I took out all of the summer clothes, sorted them quickly and immediately added some of them to my current wardrobe, even before July began. (We have been having a lovely summer and I love summer clothes!) I set aside a few things that I probably should have donated long ago.

And then I got really busy.

So for the last few weeks I have been living with a fairly full closet, somewhere between 40 and 50 items hanging out in there. There weren’t many spring items coming out of rotation, but there were quite a few summery things added in. Having more things in the closet didn’t make it easier to get dressed. If anything, I felt like it made my choices a little slower each morning. I was glad to have certain items available to me though, especially some new pieces I recently acquired.

Late in June I was given 2 nice purple tanks with a little gathered detail in the front. They are the kind of thing I was talking about to add a little “fancy” to my everyday tops (although I have postponed searching for the fancy date night/casual chic top that I really want). Luckily they were too short for someone else, which meant they were just right for me. I’ve worn each of those tops a few times since I got them and even though they overlap slightly with my lilac tank, I think they will be useful, and if push comes to shove I will choose them over the plain lilac tank.

new thingsAs I mentioned in my last post, last month I also replaced my knee-length knicker shorts with a new pair of stretch cotton capri shorts, a little longer and looser. This was a straight one in, one out exchange, but the new shorts go with a lot more tops than the old ones so they should be very useful. I’m going to avoid grey bottoms in the future after realizing how many grey tops I have.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been swimming in clothes (relatively speaking!) and I haven’t had much time to do a proper assessment.

unpacking the storage

summer stuff coming out of storage, too many tshirts and so many dresses!

Most of my summer pieces in storage were either dresses or tshirts. I have a big pile of tshirts that I really have no intention of wearing again anytime soon. I think I will send the plain ones to the thrift store. The patterned ones have some sentimental value – not much, but just enough that I hesitate to let them go. (Of all the things I’ve ever donated, several printed tshirts are the only things I’ve really ever regretted getting rid of, especially when I made my tshirt quilt and didn’t have my favorite designs to go into it. But then again, I wasn’t all that cut up about it.) There are about half a dozen tshirts that will probably go back into storage. I’ve only added one tshirt to my wardrobe for thr summer and I’m taking a couple of others out, putting them in my closet “emergency” tote along with my swimwear, sarongs, and a few other extras.

emergencydressesI have also set these 3 dresses aside as an “emergency” special occasion capsule. The first is great for summer weddings, the second would be more appropriate for a work-related event, the third is more appropriate for a nighttime event. I don’t anticipate actually needing any of these dresses, but they are lovely, they fit well, and it makes more sense to have them hanging up and ready to wear than for them to be in storage. I have them on the other side of my closet so they aren’t in the way of the daily “which dress shall I wear?” process.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking at what I have and setting a few things aside to be stored. I put away a couple of skirts and probably still have too many out. I have more dresses than I really need. A few of my dresses are not looking too good on me this year – I have gained a little weight and although they are wearable, I don’t think I’m going to choose to wear them. I have plenty of other options. I tried them all on one day hoping one would work, but I just didn’t feel great. I wore something completely different. If that happens again I will put them away for the summer or more likely, add them to my growing donate pile. Why are you holding onto them now? you ask. They’re my 3 shortest, most summery, breezy dresses. They were cheap, but they are fun. They’re different from the other dresses I have. I like them and I want them to fit! But sooner or later I’m probably going to get rid of at least 2 of them.

I’ve been feeling resistant lately.

I was thinking about how I started P333 last summer and how hard it was to get anywhere near 33 items. I don’t like having things I could be wearing packed away. This has always been my point of resistance with this project, and it’s fairly easily overcome by just doing it anyway. I have learned that I get over it once the stuff is out of sight. But I’m always trying to whittle things down to the point where I have everything for the season out and part of my 33.

I also considered whether 33 might not be the right number for me, but I couldn’t really see why it wouldn’t be. I don’t have any special circumstances that make 33 difficult. I’m just resisting because I want to keep all my pretty lovely things, even if they don’t fit quite right or make me feel great. Clothes are hard!

While I was preparing these 2 posts I had a chance to really think about my wardrobe, and I think I’m doing just fine overall. I took photos of pretty much all of my summer clothes, and it wasn’t too much. I worked on my spreadsheet and started creating my list for this season, and again, it wasn’t too much. It might not be exactly 33 (depending on what counts and what doesn’t) and I’m still making exclusions (I’m only counting clothing, not shoes and accessories), but I think I’m in a pretty good place with just the right balance of discomfort (challenge) and room to do better.

You can see pictures of all my clothes here.

And see my spreadsheet where I track my clothes here.

Thanks for stopping by!



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Project 333: June review

It’s the end of the spring season of Project 333 and the beginning of the summer season. Another chance to choose what I’m going to wear! And another chance to review what I’ve been wearing and how well my wardrobe is working.

I did the same review that I’ve been doing for the last 2 months {x} and I have the spreadsheet shared {here} and as usual I was surprised at how little I wear each item of clothing.

You’ll be pleased to see I finally took photos! It took me a while, but I found a good spot in the house to hang stuff up and take pictures without too much of a color cast :) oh how I envy people with a big white wall or a full length mirror for taking outfit photos!

My most worn items, with 6 or 7 wears each, were my navy cardigan, my black cardigan, my grey sweatshirt, my striped tank dress, my denim skirt, my sweatpants, my tanks (4 items) and my leggings (2 items, although I think I only wore one pair, my skirted-capris). These are all very basic pieces, mostly the kinds of things I grab when I don’t want to think about what I’m wearing. They’re also the kinds of things I wear when I’m sick, which I was for part of the month. I spent 2 weeks at home with the pug while she was recovering from surgery, and for a week of that I had a bad cold, so getting dressed was a very low priority. I wouldn’t have gotten dressed at all except that I had to go out to walk the pug and do my hen-sitting duties.

mostwornbasicsThe navy cardigan was something I pulled out of storage part way through the spring season, and it has been extremely useful. I think I wore brightly colored cardis more in past years, but I’m in a more neutral zone lately. The striped grey and black tank dress was a bonus choice as well – unflattering but very useful on hot days and if I need something to wear with capris for working in the garden or around the house.

Funny thing about the grey sweatshirt – it has a star next to it on my sheet because I didn’t think it was very nice or useful and I was thinking about tossing it. But for the last 3 months I have consistently worn it more than once a week. If I didn’t have it I figured I would be wearing it’s fraternal twin, the pink sweatshirt. But would I? Hot pink just isn’t right every day. Grey isn’t my best (most flattering) color, but there are a lot of days when it’s my comfort zone.

nextmostwornMy next most-worn items were my pink striped tshirt, my lilac tank, my pink sweatshirt, my grey striped maxi skirt, and my black and white long sleeved tshirt. The long sleeved tee was probably part of my early June sick wardrobe. I haven’t worn it lately. It’s been too hot :) BTW that pink sweatshirt is impossible to photograph well! It’s a much truer hot pink than this picture would suggest, closer to the color of the striped tee. Oh, and those stripes might be doing crazy things on your screen. Sorry.


I have been “splitting my wears” when it comes to my dresses. Late in the month I added a couple of summer dresses as part of my changeover (I pulled them out about a week early and put away my winter wear) so I now have too many dresses hanging in my closet. They are so pretty, but I think I should narrow my choices down a bit, or accept that I’m unlikely to wear each one more than a couple of times a month. That might be OK, as long as having so many choices doesn’t make life more difficult. I wore 7 different dresses once or twice each last month. I had two dresses that I didn’t wear, at least among the dresses that were on my spring list. I have several more dresses hanging up that I haven’t worn yet this year, some of which may not fit very well any more. I have sorted a couple of dresses into the donate pile already.

bluecaprisHalf way through the month I replaced my grey “knicker” shorts with a pair of slate blue capris. They don’t fit quite as well as I had hoped and I doubt that they are flattering, but they are very useful and comfortable and I wore them 6 times in 2.5 weeks. I would have worn them once or twice more if they had been clean – as it was I had to wash them specifically so I could wear them again. I even wore them the same day I bought them. So obviously they are meeting an important need. I found them especially useful for the days I spent helping with a decluttering project in someone else’s home (ie. I couldn’t wear my pajama capris!) I might need to find a better fitting, better looking version of these pants. I learned that blue shorts are much more useful than grey shorts – I have several grey tops that looked horrible with my old grey shorts but they worked perfectly with my new blue pants. I will remember that lesson for future bottoms purchases.

I’m looking closely at the things that got no wears. Some were just unseasonably warm. Others I have worn in the first few days of July, so they are OK. There are a few things that go together that I haven’t worn because of the way June turned out – a lot fewer fun days and a lot more hard work days. But I’ve got a couple of things that might be on their way out. I always keep a bag in my closet to collect donations. It lets me make a quick choice, but I can change my mind and pull things out if I regret my choice. I rarely do.

I’ve started a post to follow very soon about my new selections for summer. I’m giving myself a week or two to whittle my summer wardrobe down to a reasonable level. Giving myself the same exclusions as I’ve been working with so far (not counting bags, shoes, jewelry, counting loungewear if I wear it all the time) I seem to be right around 40 items right now. I’ll work on it little by little and see what I’m really wearing.

It’s only just starting to be consistently hot, as is typical in the Pacific NW. I won’t be wearing my sweatpants at all for the next 3 months. I guess I should put them away. I’ve already stashed my sweaters away. Next year I probably won’t keep them out for the spring season at all. It’s always tricky to know what is going to work in the spring. We’ve had an unusually lovely spring this year with lots of warmth and sun. Who knows if this is our new normal or just an anomaly.

Back soon!

Thanks for stopping by,




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Independence Day: A minimalist holiday?

Happy day after the 4th of July! …known to most of the world as the 5th of July, which this year is also known as Saturday.


I tried out my camera’s fireworks mode for a few shots – this was the best. I love it!

I had a thought yesterday, while I was listening to “bombs bursting in air,” about the difference between this holiday and some of the others that this country celebrates. I wondered if Independence Day is one of the more minimalist of American holidays, at least as they are stereotypically celebrated. (I am about to make some generalizations, and I’m not sure if I’m going to conclude that my initial thought was right or wrong.)

The Fourth of July is about a few things – the peak of summer for some regions of the US (or the hope of summer coming tomorrow for the Pacific Northwest), patriotism, grilling and other casual feasting, and fireworks. Lots of fireworks. Most municipalities regulate the sale of fireworks very heavily (if they don’t ban them outright) so that they’re only available for a couple of weeks before the holiday. Within a few days of the 4th, most people have run out of fireworks and can’t get any more for another year. Fireworks are one of the few things Americans enjoy in a similar way to the Japanese love of cherry blossoms – as something beautiful, but short lived and ephemeral.


Fireworks are very in-the-moment. If you look down or look away, you miss them. They don’t last long – you can use up hundreds of dollars of fireworks in mere minutes. If you don’t pay attention when you’re lighting them, you can make a mistake that might cost you a hand or an eye. You don’t collect them or hoard them (well, you really shouldn’t!) and when you light them off you can’t help but share them with everyone around you.


We spent yesterday with family on the waterfront, feasting on burgers, freshly caught crab, sweetcorn, and salad (and at least a dozen other things), sitting around the fire pit wondering how anyone could eat more than 2 s’mores (so sickly), watching other people blow up fireworks. Our beachfront spot gave us wonderful views, so we were content with lighting and sending off some paper lanterns and letting other people entertain us with rockets. Luckily two doors down was a family with a lot of money and a pyromaniac streak (one is a firefighter) so we were treated to the best amateur display anyone could hope for – a 15+ minute non-stop barrage of the most beautiful fireworks. I think they had multiple lighters and had maybe bundled them and planned the whole thing, because it was as good as the shows I used to go to as a kid, and probably somewhat longer. Our host thought they had spent about $10,000, as they seem to most years.

Mimi firepit

So, is that minimalist? It’s sure as hell not frugal! But there was no holding on, no hoarding going on. That money was spent on pure experience. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it experience. I’m always going to view fireworks as setting fire to money, but then again, I’m the opposite of a pyro. I’m just really glad that other people do it and we get to share in the fun. I don’t need to light any myself.


Giving it some more thought I’ve decided that Memorial Day is the most minimalist major holiday on the American calendar – remembering those who have died serving their country, getting outdoors with family and friends, eating summer food, and it’s always a long weekend (although that’s probably why it’s more popular for sales on mattresses and cheap cars than the Fourth which is always on the 4th, even when that’s a Wednesday). Independence Day is pretty close though.

The best holidays are the ones where you get together with people and eat, with no expectation of gift giving. If Thanksgiving wasn’t such an intensive cooking project for the host I would give it the award for best holiday. But I’m not a fan of Fall or the earnest testimonials of people counting their blessings so it’s never going to be my favorite.

The Sisterhood of the Star Spangled Sweater: genuine, vintage, borrowed

The Sisterhood of the Star Spangled Sweater: genuine, vintage, borrowed from our host’s closet.

I don’t think any American holiday is really minimalist, unless it’s one of those ones that hardly anyone actually notices, but then it’s not really a holiday. But holiday can be minimalist if you choose to strip it down to their barest level. That doesn’t mean eating one s’more and lighting a sparkler with one small American flag in hand. Or Charlie Brown’s stick Christmas Tree.

I think it means:

Getting back to the meaning of the holiday, whatever that might be to you. Being with people who share that feeling. Eating food together that is appropriate to that event. Performing the rituals that make that day different from a normal everyday day.

Maybe borrowing a vintage Star Spangled sweater to wear over your Sketchbook Tour American map tshirt…


We had a fun and happy Fourth of July.

I hope you did too, or at least had a happy Friday if that’s all it was where you live.



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Currently: ideally vs actually

What I should be doing right now:

* planting the plants I’ve been given lately… and especially that one plant I bought over a month ago and still haven’t put in the ground.

* laying out my soaker hoses… I should have done that 2 months ago…

* weeding!! always weeding!!

* writing some blog posts about Project Life and Project 333.

* figuring out my summer Project 333! I put away my winter things and got out my summer things, but I haven’t gone through my summer dresses and chosen which ones I love the most and I haven’t made any decisions about the rest of the excess in my closet. I’m feeling some resistance. I’ll tell you more about it soon.

* writing my stories and memories from my college years… I did one page today, so that’s a better than nothing I guess.

* tidying up, cleaning, cooking meals, taking care of business around the house…

* sitting down with my husband and figuring out for real if there are ways I can help him out with his business.


What I’m actually doing lately:

* walking…! the dog is getting her outings and I’m walking around the neighborhood with my friend a couple of times a week. I’m averaging 9900 steps a day and 18 floors of stairs/hills. I’ve had a few of days over 15,000 steps lately, and yesterday I climbed the equivalent of 65 floors!

* helping someone else deal with some clutter… this is the big thing lately. I might write in more detail about this experience, but for now I will say I have been the middleman in rehoming 6 FULL garbage bags of yarn, one large bag of sewing and knitting tools, and a very heavy pile of Fiesta Ware plates. I helped shift a snow village collection from one room to another. And I’m trying to broker a deal to get rid of a MASSIVE collection of Avon decorative bottles. Please cross your fingers for us that this deal works out!

* getting together with friends… besides my regular walking date, I have had several lovely days visiting with friends. It’s been hectic, but also fun.

For me, any day where I have 2 things on the calendar is a “hectic” day. I know most people wouldn’t call my life hectic at all. But I’m not used to having to squeeze activities and people into my schedule. 

* reading… most recently John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and a funny memoir called Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (although I had to take a break half way through). Right now I’m cringing reading Nicholas Sparks’ awful The Notebook (one of those rare books that might not be better than the movie adaptation? the writing is appalling…) I don’t read a lot each day, but I’ve finished 15 books so far this year. Not great, but not bad. They’ve been pretty good books for the most part.

* feeling amazed that we are exactly half way through 2014 today!


Are you doing what you should be doing?

Or are you doing what you want to be doing?

Or are you all over the place like I am?


Back soon,


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