A Toast to the Big, Red Moon

Last night, after eating dinner by candlelight, we sat out on the balcony to catch the cool breeze that rolled westward off the ocean. The familiar, dusky darkness wrapped us in its dependable embrace while we sipped warm, red wine from stemless glasses watching bats as they zoomed above the parking lot in erratic flight.

Deprived of some of the conveniences that we usually take for granted, the dark opened our eyes to its hidden beauty which we often overlook. The bats, for one were a confusing entertainment, one we had not yet observed as we are often inside at that time, perpetually half-distracted by the digital world that we allow to bombard us daily. The big, red moon was another, more familiar one.

I did not realize until moving to the shore that when the moon rises each night over the ocean, it appears very large in size and reflects a deep red complexion. It is not a blood moon or a honey moon, but rather, just the regular old moon that many people have seen as orange, pale gold, or white in color as it rises higher in the sky. The big, red moon has become one of my favorite aspects of having an ocean view and last night, sitting out in the breezy darkness, we had excellent seats to watch it rise above the glassy, black horizon.

Without the light pollution from the parking lot and patio lights of our complex or from the streetlights on the bridge linking the mainland to the barrier island, our view had little disruption. It appeared above the water, slightly south east, and we marveled at its reassuring sight.

Meanwhile, in the far distance on Long Island, a tiny fireworks show of red and gold dazzled like a Lilliput carnival and further west in the distance, the planes taking off from and landing at JFK floated slowly in the sky like glowing, paper lanterns. We sipped our warm, red wine, chatted, and smiled, feeling lucky to live where we live. All the while, our home was filled with the deep navy of night and nothing but the breeze from the open windows to cool it, but we had each other and welcomed our present, pleasant company of the big red moon.

After the Storm: Tidying the Scattered Pieces

During yesterday’s Tropical Storm, Isaias, our condo lost power three times and only regained it twice.

Our power has been out since around 12:30pm eastern time yesterday. Throughout the day, we darted many a subconscious glance at where the stove and microwave clocks usually passed the time, but found the digital displays dark.  We slept unsoundly in sweltering stickiness and have since resigned ourselves to the reality that our perishables have long since perished after many hours of being uncool.

Having no power, internet, or cell service makes it very difficult to work and stay in the loop about what’s going on so today we drove about an hour and thirty minutes to mooch off of my parents’ still functioning electricity and internet supply for the day. (Thank you, Mom and Dad!)

Coming to my parents’ house, I had a personal goal in mind to minimize some of my belongings that I have been storing here for many years. I didn’t know exactly what I’d find, but knew that whatever was in my room lacked my TLC and the ruthless practicality of my tidying eye. I also decided to bring home any hidden treasures that could be stored with better preservation measures.

The key spaces that require attention are the underbed storage drawers (two twin beds-four drawers), closet, bookcase, and dresser top and drawers.

I began with the dresser drawers and packed up my old childhood and college sheets for recycling. They were pilled and had gotten many years of use. I started a clothing donation bag and a keep bag for clothing items to bring home.

The dresser clean-out actually went pretty quickly. It was mostly full of mementos which I plan to keep and store at home and the top held my old jewelry box, mostly full of costume jewelry from Claire’s and Icing (oh yeah- all the preteen sparkles!). I will keep some of the handmade items and items gifted for important life milestones, but plan to donate the stuff I have outgrown, am allergic to, or do not wear.

I emptied four out of five of the dresser drawers, but ended up using the dresser to store some other sentimental items that I rediscovered throughout the rest of today’s tidying process. I will deal with my sentimental items another time and may even keep a lot of them, but need to think of a better way to store them or document them to be able to enjoy those memories in a more accessible way.

Next, I tackled items I was storing in the closet. My parents store some clothes in my closet, but unless an item belongs to me, I do not touch it, so the closet was only partially mine to tackle. I collected my rolled-up acrylic canvases from college, my middle school clarinet, miscellaneous art supplies, old video camera and carry bag, and my old Casio piano keyboard and stand (not a full set of keys). I am bringing these items home as some of them I’ll keep and some I will try to sell or donate.

Having made some room in the closet, I turned my attention to the bookcase, which I partially cleared off just about a week ago, taking most of the books home, some of which I kept and many of which I have since donated. Earlier today, the bookshelf still held my elementary, middle, and high school yearbooks. I have now moved these items to the shelf in the closet since today’s tidying spree created ample storage there. Earlier today, the bookcase also held my old TV from college, which we never use and which, since Mike is working from home for the foreseeable future, we figure he can use at home as an additional monitor for work.

I feel a wave of accomplishment looking at the now empty bookshelf. Little wins!

Okay what’s next?

Oh right, the underbed storage drawers-eek!

I emptied two clear plastic storage drawers under one of the beds which mostly held CDs and electronics to be recycled properly. One of the plastic drawers held my pared down collection of Beanie Babies. I am considering these as sentimental items for now and stored them in the dresser to allow myself more time to figure out how to store, sell, or donate them in the future.

The two wooden drawers under my other bed were FULL of artwork, art paper, and my old schoolwork from through the years. Welcome to sentimental city!

I sat on the floor for a while, smiling, laughing, and demanding Mike’s attention as I thumbed through writing assignments from the first and second grade. We shared a hearty laugh when I showed him a “self-portrait” I made in the second grade that depicted me as a very stern-looking flower with stubby braids glued to the sides of my very two-dimensional face. I told him he married a delicate flower.

I made it through one of the two drawers-victory! I kept all of the schoolwork for now which I plan to photograph at home so it lasts and tossed some empty notebooks and sketch pads that were in poor shape or that have fulfilled their purpose and value to me.

I stumbled upon my old collection of Broadway Playbills (which is probably better classified as a hoard since I do not preserve them well.) They were strewn all around inside the drawer and were incredibly dusty. Maybe I’ll save those for another post, so back in the drawer they are going for now.

I did not go through the artwork drawer today as it is difficult to open since the nightstand is currently blocking it. Next time, I’ll rearrange some furniture to really dig in and “unpack” that drawer.

I feel a sense of calm and success having gone through these belongings and taken the time to really sort through them today.  The room feels a little larger and brighter. There is still more to do to complete the tidying process in here, as well as for the belongings I am removing from the house today, but I will save that for another day.

Portrait of a Blustery Day

Rain drops speckle the murky gray floor of the balcony outside as a chiffon haze blurs the horizon of ocean and sky. The wind tousles the magenta petals of the blooming Rose of Sharon outside our living room’s picture window as I sit on the over-stuffed, upholstered ottoman with my laptop, an eager spectator, documenting the prelude to the storm.

The salty tang of ham, dry singe of toast, and delicate breath of sweet cream butter and scrambled eggs linger in the room mingling with the pungent chocolate nuttiness of coffee. The dishwasher gargles and swishes obtrusively, emulating the churned song of the Atlantic ocean’s white-capped waves crashing with increasing frequency in the shallows.

Mike just let me know that there were reported sightings of a tornado in Ocean County, the next county south of ours. Time to relocate to a new writing spot downstairs.

I part the checkered white and gray curtains in the guest bedroom to let in the coastal gray light and switch on the nightstand lamp, a bronze candlestick base with a fabric shade printed with pink roses, for a cozy glow. The guest room is furnished practically with a bed, area rug, two nightstands, and a dresser in white and cool coastal colors. The closet is mostly empty save spare bed pillows, a welcome basket for the guests we will someday have, and our additional sleeping arrangements – a twin-sized, tri-fold floor mattress and camp cot, each accessibly tucked away in their compact carry cases. The only excess in here are two of my paintings from college all set in their new frames, ready to be hung up on the walls.

Outside, dark wispy clouds drift northeast over the ocean. My cozy glow flickers.

I usually love a good coastal storm, but when a storm is classified as a Tropical Storm or Hurricane, the love flickers, freckled with apprehension. We knew rough weather was a risk when we made the decision to move to the shore, but the reality of a storm hitting close to home, well… hits close to home. Still, I am glad to be safe inside on a day like this without the immediate need to run out for supplies. If the power goes out, there is nothing we can do, so why fret about it now?

The wind is picking up. Gusts are estimated to reach up to 45-55 mph. We brought the balcony furniture into the living room last night in preparation for the storm, but it appears that not all of our neighbors in the condo complex did the same.

The breath of the storm whistles and heaves. My cozy glow flickers again.

Rain tap dances on the pavement outside as a gust of wind shrieks like a poorly rosined bow stroke on a cello’s strings, the overture to the show about to begin. The time has come to turn off electronic devices, sit back, and absorb nature’s entertainment for the duration of its performance… or maybe close the curtains and retreat from the windows.

My cozy glow extinguishes. The show is starting.

Hard Learned Lessons: Clothing & Accessories

When I took the first step to removing my clutter in order to make room for the important things in my life, the most overwhelming question confronted me right from the get go as I looked around my seemingly never-ending, hopeless collection of things. Where do I start? As I have since learned that many new to the process of decluttering do, I began with my clothes and accessories.

I’ll try to draw up an image of my clothing and accessory collection prior to starting this journey. This is going to be a bit cringe-worthy for me, but it is important to lay it all out for this post, so here we go!

In our Williamsburg apartment, my husband and I shared a closet. The closet had a small organization system of racks and shelves built into it, though organized was far from how I would describe it. Mike had one neatly organized bar for his work clothes and I had two… and the shelves… for my closet collection. The weight capacity of each of my hangers was tested, some to the breaking point, almost each one holding two items (or more-yikes!).

My Hemnes dresser from Ikea (not a plug- just want to convey how large of a dresser it is) was packed, each drawer brimming over the top such that I had to squish down the contents to close the drawers. Countless shirts, sweaters, skirts, pants, jeans, leggings, scarves, hats, gloves, swimsuits, sweatshirts- some items folded, but most haplessly crumpled due to my having tried on multiple outfits in the morning to find something acceptable to put on my body.

Draped on the chair by my sewing table were usually the clean parts of my outfits from the previous few days along with other pieces from “tired frenzy – the morning collection” that didn’t make the cut.

In the corner of the room lurked my large storage bin filled with seasonal items and clothes that didn’t fit or that I did not enjoy wearing but had paid good money for and so needed to be kept (but kept hidden and unused), right? On top of the bin, as mentioned in my first post https://cozydoesit.com/2020/08/01/finding-minimalism/, lived my extensive collection of handbags, totes, backpacks, and soft-sided luggage, an addiction born from working in the NYC Midtown sales world of handbags for nearly two years. Just now I tried to think of all the bags I used to own and came up with the list below and I know this is likely not even all of them…

5 totes: 1x leather, 3x faux leather, 1xcanvas/leather

6 backpacks: 2x nylon, 2x canvas, 1x faux leather, 1x cotton twill

8 crossbodies: 2x leather, 2x nylon, 3x faux leather, 1x suede

3 evening bags: blue, black, gray

5 wallets: 4x faux leather, 1x leather

That’s 27 handbags / wallets. Twenty-seven. Ugh. I did not even include grocery totes and canvas tote bags or the main bags that I use today which I purchased in my early days of minimalism, a black canvas and leather crossbody, and my black “ebags” travel backpack.

I’m a monster.

Okay, moving on.

In front of the bin were at least two white kitchen trash bags stretching at the seams with clothes I was silly enough to think I could sell at Buffalo Exchange, a trendy consignment store in my neighborhood. After my first humiliating attempt to sell my items at Buffalo Exchange, I learned that they only take really nice or really unique stuff and you stand there as the in-store buyer sorts through your prized junk that you paid good money for. It was lucky if they took one thing for a pittance of a price but usually they just pushed most of the hoard back across the counter for me to awkwardly stuff back into the trash bags in front of the line of hopeful fashionistas waiting behind me to sell their last-season designer items.

After lugging my un-sellable stuff to and from Buffalo Exchange and Beacon’s Closet (another consignment shop in Williamsburg) countless times, I always felt drained and a little embarrassed. After donating to Salvation Army and Goodwill or dropping off my textile recyclables in H&M’s recycling bins, I always felt lighter- a weight off my shoulders- the cycle complete.

This lesson was one that, oddly enough, took a couple of years for me to learn and one that led to me donating many of my clothes and recycling the worse for wear ones instead of trying to sell them because it made me feel happier to do it that way. My clothes no longer had the same value to me as the price I paid for them, but I wanted to send them off in a way that was positive for my own mental health.

The hard lesson was learning that getting rid of my clothing items did not mean that those items never provided me value. The value of those items was in the distraction from stress or impulsive joy of the shopping experience, even if those items hung in my closet for years with the tags on. Their value lay in teaching me what does not work with my body shape or the type of fabrics and cuts that make me self-conscious, itchy, or feel just generally uncomfortable in. You don’t need those uncomfortable reminders in your closet staring you in the face everyday as you go to choose an outfit. You are enough whether that skirt makes you look a little chubsy or whether that dress caused someone to offer you their seat on the subway (cough- just chubby-not pregnant- oh the shame).

I wish I had written down how I initially approached deciding what to part with from my clothing hoard as I am having trouble remembering. I definitely did not know at that time about the KonMari method of putting all of your clothing items on the bed and holding each item one by one to see if it sparked joy (though experimented with this sometime later). I know that however I did it, it was little by little, two plastic grocery bags at a time, and I know that if you want to and put your brave face on, you can do it too.

Daughter of the Wilderness

Recently, I have been reading about camping and outdoorsy vacations fueled by a desire to feel closer to nature. Camping in the sense of carrying everything on your back as you trek through the woods, mountains, or along pilgrimage trails that cross borders of towns, states, or countries is probably one of the most minimalist activities a person can do. To carry strictly the bare essentials and sleep under the stars lulled to sleep by the repetitious buzzing and singing lullaby of cicadas and crickets evokes images of simplicity, ultimate self-sufficiency, and calm. I should be clear, this is not the kind of camping for which I have sought out information.

I confess I am guilty of typing, “Outdoorsy vacations for people who don’t like camping,” into my search engine. Perhaps I am more in search of “glamping” or maybe even just being a spectator into the activity. I crave the coziness of camping, which may, perhaps for me, live entirely in “the idea” of camping.

I imagine the warmth of the campfire cradling my cheeks, the air perfumed with the sweet, dry scent of wood ash and fresh coffee as embers glow like ruby fireflies floating towards the ground. Looking around my imaginary campfire, I see friendly faces of those I love most and those whose company I value, also enjoying the dream camping experience. They sip on hot coffee out of thermos cups, balancing plates heaped with camp stove sausages and potatoes. They are wrapped in sweaters, fleece, and jackets of all different colors and textures, their hands bundled in colorful, knit mittens and gloves to combat the crisp yet dewy chill of the morning air.

What a dream, huh?

While the idea of setting up and sleeping in a tent in the velvet dark of some forest campground is something I find somewhat terrifying (I’m a firm believer and active user of a night light and am not ashamed to say so), it is something I really enjoy reading about or emulating in experience by way of long walks in the woods. The peace that is born from the cacophonous quiet of the woods helps to clear my mind and put the worries away for a moment to make room for clarity and creativity. I really ought to bring a notebook with me on walks to document all the ideas that come to me, though perhaps that would detract from the immersive nature experience.

I can smell the damp green if I concentrate hard enough, can breathe in the minty pine and clean watery essence of ferns. I can feel the springy cushion of well-traveled dirt trails beneath my feet and can imagine the momentum of carrying myself through the trees, ears alert for the echo of owls, anxious tocking of woodpeckers, and tissue box-guitar strums of flirtatious frogs.

So maybe I’m not the “daughter of the wilderness” that I hold up on a self-sufficient, nature-goddess pedestal. That’s okay. I’m very happy being the daughter of my parents and to take in the joys of the camping experience via abbreviated treks through the wilderness or from the comfort and shelter of the roof over my head and the walls around me, which I feel so lucky to have.

Finding Minimalism

Before delving into posts on cozy minimalism, I thought it might be good to start with an introduction to how I began my own cozy minimalist journey. For the past three years, I have been captivated and influenced by the concept and practice of Minimalism. Originally introduced to the movement via the film “Minimalism: a documentary about the important things”, I have slowly been paring down my belongings and simplifying ever since.

I used to be a frequent shopper who had anxiety over parting with things I had paid “good money” for (or gotten for free or super cheap at estate sales or flea markets). I was also a “serial returner”, happy to spend loads of under-valued time waiting in winding cashier lines at TJMaxx and Marshalls or walking to the UPS store with my arms full of Amazon boxes to get my “good money” back from impulse purchases I had made as a stress coping or celebratory mechanism.

I remember a time when a corner of the bedroom in my and my husband’s 700 square foot Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment was cluttered with storage bins piled with hand bags packed full of other handbags and barricaded with trash bags full of clothes to donate or sell “someday”. That “someday” never seemed to come and the visual clutter that surrounded me daily seeped into my peace of mind, wearing me down slowly. My clutter would give me nightmares about unannounced visits and creepy crawlies and leave me waking up feeling tired and grimy with the unrelenting task looming overhead to vigorously clean, a chore that always left me exhausted and irritable at the end of the day because it involved rearranging so much stuff throughout the process and also piling all the stuff back where it started before the vigorous cleaning.

Minimalism presented a lifestyle without clutter, one of reduced stress, more clarity, and more space. It presented room for possibility, self-growth, and creativity. I was so attracted to the idea of a living space free of so much stuff and of distractions that continuously drained me of energy. I was tired of moving piles of stuff around whenever I needed to get to something. I was fed up with frequently misplacing my belongings that seemed to somehow get swallowed and digested by all of the existing clutter. I was done with wasting my time, my life, and my money with my shopping addiction. It had to go. I needed to change to find the things that are truly important. And change I did – slowly.

My journey into the world of Minimalism helped me to reconnect with former versions of myself, ones that cared less about how people perceive me on the outside, and helped drive me to reflect more introspectively. I learned that the things I enjoy most are not for sale at TJMaxx, Marshalls, H&M, Target, Zara, or any store for that matter. The things I enjoy most do not email me advertisements for “our biggest sale of the season!” and they certainly do not enter my life with just a few clicks of the mouse and entering my credit card info.

No, the things I enjoy most are not consumer things at all, but rather are people, practices, and activities that make me a more mindful, loving, thankful, and present human being.

With that, I thank you for joining me on this new adventure on which I am embarking. It is exciting, thrilling, and a little bit scary and will prove to be a little (or a lot) soul bearing, but I am glad to have company along for the ride.