Grim Grinning Ghosts in Turtlenecks

Happy Halloween cozy does it community! After over a week of constant cloud cover, intermittent torrential downpours, and wind gusts, the sun is peeking through the clouds on this chilly Halloween morning. We missed the vibrant colors of fall while they were still pinned to the tree branches and now the ground is covered with unsatisfying, soggy crunchiness like stale potato chips from a bag you forgot you’d opened and chip-clipped, then revisited a few days later.

As my first fall here was not all I dreamed in would be, I find myself turning to attempts to simulate that crisp coziness I am eager to fulfill. Wooden and fabric pumpkins garnish our white and tan television stand – a little twinkle of autumn hygge added to our regular minimal décor. A mug of chai with steamed milk is never far from reach and a hearty pot roast dinner is curating magically in the Crock Pot as I type by the window in one of our outdoor chairs which has moved inside for the off-season.

Earlier, I announced to Mike that I was going to get dressed after which I changed from my “yoga” pants to different “yoga” pants (I don’t yoga) and a layered turtleneck/sweatshirt combo, a la 1990s trend.

I actually think of Halloween whenever I don an article of clothing over a turtleneck, as I know many other American 90s girls do. As a 90s lady child, the turtleneck was a versatile, core fashion staple in my wardrobe along with “stirrup pants”.

Stirrup pants: leggings that pull themselves down as you move around due to the convenient elastic band wrapped around the arch of each of your feet.

In case you were not aware, the turtleneck and stirrup pants were classic additions to any costume that didn’t appropriately suit an American 90s girl’s age or the Halloween forecast. Princess Jasmine? She 100% wore a white turtleneck under her turquoise bikini top in the movie, right? The Little Mermaid? Even under the sea, the look was all the rage. Ballerina or Sky Dancer? Time to break out the full set: a pink or white turtleneck and pink stirrup pants. Any Disney princess for that matter – I’m sure detailed in their original fairytale version as wearing a white, cotton turtleneck – was fair game with the right staple accessories paired.

In my adult life, Halloween has become synonymous with (family-friendly) spooky movie classics, a la Tim Burton, Harry Potter, or the Disney Channel Original variety. Sometimes I switch it up with a Halloween Parks and Rec or Psych tv episode. I cannot watch movies that are actually scary (here’s looking at you “I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House”). Even the trailers freak me out for days…

No, I’d much rather bake something pumpkin-y or nutmeg-y (or both) and sit back with a nice crisp Sam October. I may take part of this cold Halloween day to read something spooky or magical. I might opt to flip through the crispy pages of a Harry Potter book, jumping straight into my favorite chapters which usually involve time spent at Ron’s family home, The Burrow, or one of the grand and mystical Great Hall feasts, or a getaway to The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

It is still fall and while not as colorful, crispy, and crunchy as I hoped it would be, I am determined to bring some coziness to our home and to our activities this season. We have a lineup of jigsaw puzzles in our seasonal dugout and a bright, sunny day to lift our spirits. If you are braving going out for any All Hallows Eve activities tonight, watch out for other spirits lifting as they may not be as cozily intentioned.

Boo!

Sirena

This morning, it’s time to dust off those keyboard cobwebs and get some words down. Since my last post, the temperatures in our corner of New Jersey have been cooling on a slow simmer, seasoned with a pinch of chill and a splash of crispness. The daylight hours have a bluer tinge and grow more fleeting with late September’s progression. The trees have started pulling out a few of their fall colors from vacuum-sealed space bags in Mother Nature’s walk-in closet and the crowds no longer flock to the beaches down the shore.

When people think of the fall season, I assume many do not associate it with the beach. I, however, do, and am particularly excited to be reacquainted with fall at the shore this year.

Ever since my mom’s family starting renting the family shore house during the off season for the past I – lost – count – how – many years, I have been nostalgic for the empty beaches that result from the change in season, the expansive shoreline carpeted in cold sand, littered with the treasures of washed ashore sand dollars, backdropped by the dunes’ mountainous terrain, a fortress to hold back the salty tides during storms.

The shallows are warmest now, in early fall, after cooking under the hot sun throughout the summer months. Jelly salps dot the shoreline like sparkling, solid bubbles and the towel and umbrella colonies and impromptu nerf football games have vanished until Memorial Day Weekend. The crowds are gone and peace settles heavy on the sand, adjusting the arms of its Tommy Bahama beach chair until the back is at a comfortable angle.

And once fall is settled on the shore and summer put to rest in a storage bin with its corresponding seasonal items, it is time to allow the crash of the waves and whispering pull of the tide to echo as it reverberates off the dunes. It is time to let the sirenas’ sea song surround you, an intimate audience, in a fluid turned dissonant composition, mystifying and overwhelming in its power.

We Keep Meeting

I met someone new today. Her name is Ella Brady. She lives in Dublin and frequents a restaurant called Quentins. We were unknowingly introduced by my Nana, back when I was fourteen and spending the summer with her and my Aunt Arlene down the shore, via her suggestion that I might enjoy the works of Maeve Binchy, an Irish author with a great descriptive talent for storytelling. Having tried a couple of pages of one of Ms. Binchy’s books back at fourteen, the title of which evades me now, I decided to occupy my reading time with other titles and authors instead. I slid the works of Maeve Binchy onto a bookshelf in the library in my head to be revisited another time.

Maeve Binchy and I met again in the ladies room at The Bank on College Green in Dublin when I was twenty-three and she was three years passed, a portrait of her hanging on the wall along with portraits of other female, Irish artists. Seeing the portrait tugged the ball chain pull to the light bulb over the bookshelf in my head and to my Nana’s suggestion from nine years earlier. On vacation and out to dinner celebrating the special occasion of Mike and my sixth anniversary of dating, the light bulb extinguished and I continued on with the evening, Maeve Binchy, an all but forgotten apparition haunting the library in my head.

We met again most recently on Friday morning when Mike and I spent an evening visiting with my parents at our extended family’s shore house a bit further down the New Jersey coast from where Mike and I now live. Having helped to manage the house’s fully-stacked, weekly rental schedule during this other-worldy summer, it was rewarding to get to enjoy the house for a night and to relax in the familiar space rather than feel stressed and pressed for time as we often do during five-hour rental “turnovers”.

We stayed in the room that was my Nana’s when she lived in the house, the room that she’d chosen to make her own space for years before she moved to an apartment in Pennsylvania. I’d not slept in the room since before she moved to New Jersey back in 2000, back when it was the original “Cousins’ Room” with two twin beds topped with crocheted, white coverlets – the floor blanketed in dusty rose carpeting.

Even after Nana moved from the house and slept in the “cozy room” downstairs during her visits, her room upstairs was designated for the parents and the West Coast family when they visited, and then for my cousins expecting children. On Thursday, after a summer of muscle, decision making, cleaning schedule communications, logging expenses, ordering and purchasing supplies, and initiating process improvements, I felt we deserved to sleep in Nana’s old room, the nicest room in the house. When Mike asked me on the second floor landing on Thursday night, “Cousins’ room?” I just replied, “Nana’s room.”

It is a strange thing to feel like you’ve grown up so significantly to the point of noticing it over the course of a summer, but I feel that is what has happened during this very strange summer. This is how I came to be comfortable and to feel deserving of sleeping in the best room in the house on Thursday. This is how I came to be reacquainted with Maeve Binchy when I woke up Friday and saw the dusty spine of Quentins resting on the bookshelf table under the center window in Nana’s room that morning.

I spoke with my Nana on Friday and let her know that I had found one of her Maeve Binchy books and let her know that I was going to read it. I told her it was called Quentins. She said, “You read it first and then I’ll read it.” Eager to have something to share with her, I took the book home and began to read it this morning. I met someone new today. Her name is Ella Brady. She lives in Dublin and frequents a restaurant called Quentins. Once I am acquainted with Ella’s story completely, I will send the book to my Nana, and she will meet her again too, and Ella will soon be a mutual friend or foe of ours; and to find out which, I’ll go back to reading the story.

Nature and Neighborly Nurture

Some of our new neighbors gifted us a real, live plant last week to welcome us to our condo community. They are much more thoughtful and kind than any neighbors we had while living in Brooklyn.

When one of our neighbors handed this plant to Mike (since I subconsciously backed away at the sight of real, green leaves in need of care and nurturing), they told us it would be difficult to kill. I’ll take their word for it, though it is evident that they have not yet come to understand that I have very un-green thumbs despite the warning signs of the very, very dead mountain daisies and English lavender in the teal, planter pots outside our front door.

Though I have proven somewhat incapable of keeping plants alive, I appreciate our neighbors’ kind gesture and am eager to welcome the warmth of that gesture as well as the added greenery into our home. We have placed the new plant on the entertainment stand opposite the faux succulent arrangement that I purchased from my favorite gardening supply store, TJMaxx. The cool, green leaves and warm, terracotta pot tied with a straw ribbon bring me calming joy each time I glance over at the arrangement.

The reason why I have an appreciation for plants, whether replica or real, is independent of my inability to maintain their living status. My mood is sensitive to my environment, and the color that plants paint in pockets of our space evoke calm. Creating a soothing, yet vibrant color palette for our interior decor is important to me in being able to foster coziness in an environment with pared down possessions. To me, green represents freshness and vitality. It also just makes me smile.

Our condo has many of these little pockets of color by way of artwork, fabric, and furniture (and don’t pockets just make everything better?). I believe in employing color and patterns to create coziness and as a person who sews and holds fabric on the same pedestal as artwork, I take extra care to choose fabrics that encourage a coastal, whimsical, cottage feel in our home. From our folksy, Provencal table cloth printed with rows of blue and periwinkle paisley flowers to the buffalo check curtains and marled, braided area rugs, to the squishy, tufted chair cushions tied in bows at the back of warm, wood slats, I try to invoke coziness, character, and simplicity as foundational decor rules in our home to disguise the standard, modern interior that shelters us.

Our new, cozy home is neighbored by welcoming individuals, something that I did not previously value coming from a residential environment where it is rare to know your neighbors. Here, I feel a comfort in being able to reach out to a neighbor to borrow something if I need something specific and don’t already own it vs. buying new. Having kind neighbors is very conducive to a minimalist lifestyle and while it is not a community style that is available to every individual, it puts in mind the idea of creating a borrowing community among friends or family to minimize items that you need to keep on hand in your living space all the time.

I hope to reflect our neighbors’ kindness in future and to offer continued signs of welcome and gratitude for this new community, even if that welcome is only communicated by way of a smile or a quiet “hello” in passing for the time being.

To-Do Dos in a Clutter-Prone Profession

Since going back to work, I am getting reacquainted with the concept of relying on a to-do list to stay organized. Unfortunately, minimalism in the workplace is nearly impossible for an administrative professional. My work day seems to go by in light speed, filled with tasks to complete, paperwork to file, data to enter into databases, voicemails to check, phone calls to answer and make, fax machine busy tones to check my blood pressure, and so very many questions to ask that come with the territory of being new and having to learn so many unfamiliar processes very quickly. I aim for a clear desk by the end of each day though rarely get to experience the serene joy of the sight of bare, faux-wood screen printed on laminate.

When I come home, I find it hard to leave the workday behind me and sometimes find myself jotting down to-do tasks with invisible sharpies on vanishing, fuchsia post-it notes in my head. I have to remind myself to slow down and tell myself that the work will get done when it gets done and that it’s okay if it’s not going to be done today. Having worked in a profession so conducive to clutter on and off for seven years, I know all too well that it is important to take a step back from the nitty-gritty details of my admin workday in order to fully rest and refresh my mind and body.

For me, being able to relax at the end of the day is reliant on my staying organized during the work day. It is extremely noticeable when I get lazy with updating my to do list. My shoulders ache from the tension of worry, my thoughts buzz around in my mind – flapping restless wings of disquietude, and my heart hammers flutters of remembrance into my esophagus every once in a while when I remember not to forget a task. Luckily, there are tools that I utilize to help keep myself organized.

In the wonderful world of technology that we get to live in, there are so many options for task and project management. I rely on my to-do list as a backup memory to minimize the times that I experience the annoying, worry inducing feeling that I can’t quite place my finger on something I needed to do. I choose to use good, old-fashioned Google Sheets to stay organized, though there are other tools available such as apps like Asana and Trello that I have heard work well too.

In my To-Do List, there are five headers: Date Logged, Status, Date Completed, Task, and Notes

Writing down what a task is along with the date that I learned of its existence helps to ensure it doesn’t get lost or forgotten. My “statuses” are In Progress, Complete, and On Hold. Once a task is complete, I add the date completed to the sheet which lets me know I can go about the very quick business of forgetting it ever existed. I could go a step further and add formatting to move completed items to another tab in a sheet, but that is a minimalism task for another day.

While it may never be possible to eliminate physical clutter in a profession like mine, it is still possible to reduce clutter in your mind by staying organized. Reducing thought clutter and silencing the buzz of frantic self-reminders helps in achieving a state of peace each day and allows for more restful sleep, leaving you more refreshed at the start of the next day.

The Hospitality of Cheese

Any person who has been a guest in our home is likely familiar with being greeted with a hearty, “Welcome!” and a platter or cutting board full of sliced summer sausage, neat columns or concentric circles of Carr’s Table Water Crackers, and fresh-off-the-block slices of Kerry Gold Irish Cheddar. I learned the tried and true hospitality trick of providing immediately accessible snacks for guests by growing up as part of a large extended family who held frequent family gatherings.

Hosting guests is one of my all time favorite activities, likely because I grew up with the fond experiences of being a welcomed guest and learning how to be a host from the happy examples set by my immediate and extended family. These examples just always happened to involve appetizers and plentiful beverages.

When we lived in Williamsburg, we had the fortune of hosting guests frequently. We were not usually the main destination or reason to visit New York for most of our out of town guests. No, we were usually just a stopover for a night after a flight into JFK or Laguardia or a birthday dinner, Broadway show, or holiday party, but it always felt nice to be a stop on their list.

Our railroad style apartment on Union Avenue was full of cozy character and hosted countless guests over the years, some frequent visitors, and some one time only stays. When we first saw the apartment in March of 2015, I was sold immediately, standing in what would be our kitchen for the next five years, a warmth in my heart and a tingle on my skin, not yet knowing how many happy memories were waiting to be made within the confines of its red brick walls, and honey hardwood and rust tile floors.

The brick brownstone with six units was estimated built in 1895 and some of the accents would attest to that estimation. Our large, sunlit bedroom had an old, sealed-off brick fireplace growing up the wall like English ivy and our modern stove was nestled in what used to be a brick kitchen hearth. The light wooden cabinets and laminate-topped peninsula counter added practical function and a homely, cottage appearance to the atmosphere of our space and contradicted the metropolis environment of the bustling city that surrounded us.

Our Union Avenue apartment was a place where guests knew they were welcome to a hearty snack, warm meal, cold beer and red wine in the evening, clean sheets and blankets for a comfortable night’s rest on our turquoise couch, and fresh Brooklyn bagels with a mug of hot tea or coffee in the morning.

Writing about it now makes me miss our old home so much.

We pushed up our move by a week this past March when things started shutting down left and right in the city due to the pandemic. If the pandemic had not happened, we’d have been hosting some of my cousins from California that week and taking daily adventures from a meticulously planned itinerary full of truly New York and Brooklyn experiences, things that would give my cousins memories that were unique to our city while also providing Mike and me a chance to give a proper send-off to our regular neighborhood haunts.

But the pandemic did happen.

My cousins made the decision to cancel their trip after their airline offered them vouchers if they chose to cancel and after I let them know it was probably a good idea to cancel as bars, restaurants, theaters, and visiting with our Nana and our cousin’s months old son became either impossible or too risky.

We ended up moving four days after closing on our condo. We did not really get a chance to linger in our goodbyes with our home of five years before driving away in the Uhaul and car, but maybe that is a good thing. It would have made it so hard to allow that emotion to hit me, for my gaze to linger on the nail holes in the walls where our pictures used to hang, on the shiny rectangle on the floor where our warm, multi-colored, striped, shag area rug had been, and to hear the faint echo of laughter, late night chats, Friendsgiving gatherings, and regalings of recent travels from guests just arrived from the airport.

Five months after moving to our new home, the time has finally come to christen this place as a hub of hospitality. Our pictures hang on new walls now and our turquoise couch is still the same with new neighboring furniture to get to know. We no longer have our long, red brick living room wall and brick fireplace and kitchen hearth, but I’m not ever going to complain about our expansive view of the Atlantic that we get to look upon every day. My parents are coming to visit tomorrow and will be our first overnight guests. With much improved scenery, more space to move around, and an actual guest room with four walls and a door, I have high hopes that this place will live up to the cozy memories of gatherings past, conversations shared, trips planned and discussed, and memories made on Union Avenue.

But first, I must buy some cheese.

“Today is Pizza Day…”

Our power came back early yesterday morning and our lives have been returned to a state of illuminated, plugged-in normalcy. Over the past couple of days, I had a chance to thoroughly go through the things that I brought home from my room at my parents’ house on Wednesday.

It was very helpful to refresh those items by bringing them to a different location so I could shed some clarity on my level of attachment to each of them with a logical, focused approach. While I did not grow up in the house that my parents currently live in, it is still a place of sacred sentimentality and therefore, provides added difficulty in approaching the minimizing process with a critical eye.

I have sentimental memories of packing my things up from the apartment that I did grow up in prior to the move, and of staying at the house during holiday breaks from college in my senior year and spending many a pleasant weekend and holiday there ever since I moved in with Mike. It is a cozy place, abundant with conversation, music, movies, laughter, haunted only by the savory ghost of holiday meals past, the scent of pine needles, pot roast, and pie easy to recall with a quick thought and a smile. It is a place where you notice happy memories in the making and drink in the sentimentality like sips of hot coffee and spiced, pumpkin beer on a crisp, fall day.

Prior to this round of minimizing, the items that I stored in my room at my parents’ house were kept out of sight and very out of mind. While it was pleasantly surprising to come across some of the items again during this recent clean-out, I knew that if I were to leave them in that room, I’d forget about them once again… and again and again and again, over and over.

As I got reacquainted with my old belongings, I reunited with memories from my elementary, middle, and high school days as well as those from college. For a few hours across two days, I sifted through old photo books, stuffed animals, costume jewelry, writing, and every old school assignment including each written page of all of the composition notebooks I’d brought home with me. Some people might view that as a bit excessive, but being a self-identified “writer” since childhood, these notebooks were very sentimental items and the girl who wrote the content really deserved my time and attention, above all people.

The seven and eight year old girl who I once was would have been furious if the older version of herself did not read the entirety of her 3rd grade class journal which, among other topics, noted every single “pizza day” that occurred in the 1999/2000 school year lunch schedule. The thirteen year old girl who wrote the poetry in the maroon composition notebook probably would have rather shoved the entire book through a shredder before the older version of herself read it, but the versions of me in between kept it for some reason and so I read her writing with a wary eye, some of the words or rhymes playing like an audio book track in my head from memory as I read along.

Some assignments really held no attachment for me at all and were easy to part with, but I did end up keeping a full, multi-compartment, accordion folder of old schoolwork , birthday cards and letters, and writing as well as composition notebooks from my 11th grade Creative Writing class, my 3rd Grade school year, and my personal poetry journal from ages 12-13 each of which sparked either happy or important memories.

After sorting through all of the other items, we brought three bags full of old clothes, costume jewelry, stuffed animals, art supplies, and miscellaneous items to our local Goodwill donation drop off and shed the excess, feeling lighter as we got in the car and drove home.

While the process of letting go is difficult in the beginning of the minimizing process, it becomes a regular, familiar part of a Minimalist’s routine. The letting go allows you to really cherish the items that you choose to keep and makes those items more accessible and easy to find and look through when you need to revisit those memories. With the time that you do not have to spend searching for those memories, you gain so many more opportunities to enjoy them without the burden of feeling like you’d be able to do so more easily if only you cleared out the clutter.

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.

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.