The Value of Your Free Time

A few months ago, I lost my job of 14 years. It was devastating not because of the financial loss, as I did receive a severance that helped me get by, but because suddenly I was free… and I had absolutely no idea what to do.

The first week I wandered around. I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no extra money to do anything to lift my spirits. Wake up, get coffee, go back home. Fix lunch, watch TV or play games. Fix dinner, wait for primetime TV. Repeat, repeat.ba376f69-18a0-4d25-ac3a-3ff7e177f5cb

But one day, I decided I was going to do something productive. I always wanted to write a series of books for children, so I gathered my ideas and started. I don’t consider myself a very good artist, but I started drawing again and learning to draw cartoons and illustrate. I formed these habits and this became my daily routine (although the other parts were still there).

Now, almost two and half months later, I found a job. This will get me back to earning money, but now, I have a much greater appreciation for my time. Time is money, or so the saying goes.

When you work to earn money, you give up the most precious thing you have: your time. You can never replace this; once it’s gone, it’s gone. Now when I buy or pay for things, I am going to take a few moments and think about what I’m buying, and what it costs me.

I really don’t care that much about “stuff”, but there’s always a worry about how I can live without it. I suppose that is one of the hardest things to overcome with minimalism. If you get rid of everything, one day you find yourself buying the same thing because it turns out you need it.

From this point forward, I am training myself to be positive, more frugal, and make every bit of my time count. I don’t want to write children’s books; I AM going to write children’s books. As a friend told me recently, make a decision and go forward with not with “I want”, but “I am going”.

Say it with me: I am going to….

 

 

Decluttering More Clothes!

You know, I really didn’t I could get rid of anymore clothes in big chunk. I know that every so often I would get rid of a shirt or two and maybe a few pairs of pants. But not several bags of clothes!

But a couple of months ago I took an afternoon and decided to go through all of my clothes. It was a very liberating experience and although I missed a few pieces, I was glad to get rid of so much.

The first step was to decide to purge so many clothes. I had some clothing that I had not worn for two years! But, I was holding onto them because I either thought I might wear them again or they had sentimental value to me.

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Sentimental is almost always bad! I wish I could say just ignore it and purge the clothes, but the reality is that we LIVE in our clothes, therefore it makes sense that we have trouble getting rid of a shirt that we wore on the first date with our significant other.

But anyway …..

I set up a folding table and starting by taking all the clothes out of my chest of drawers. I put all my socks in a basket to go through later.

Just like any other decluttering project, I made piles of:

Keep
Donate
Discard

Since my goal was to clear out my closet, I had to put a lot into the donation piles. Some were easy but some were hard; again, I had sentimental attachment to some items. Even with all the clothing decluttering I had done up to this point, I still had a TON of stuff to get rid of.

Thankfully though, much of my wardrobe is from thrift stores so getting rid of a lot is not like I’m losing much. I take it back to the store and the cycle repeats.

The easy part was looking at my wonderfully organized drawers amd closet! My OCD demands that I keep the closet hangers all the same and my shirts and color order, but the drawers are not so lucky.

How about you? Are you ready to get your wardrobe down to minimalist proportions?

New Platform Bed

Recently I got tired of the old platform bed that I had made a couple of years ago. It was comfortable enough, and I had definitely made it sturdy enough, but ultimately I realized it was time for something a little nicer.

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This is the original bed I made two years ago.

It’s actually two platform sections side-by-side, it’s somewhat “portable” and easy to move around, or at least that was my idea. They’re not light, but not heavy either. The biggest issue I had with them, though, is how low they are to the ground. I thought that I wanted to be lower to the ground for a variety of reasons that I will not get into (one of them being that it would make the room seem larger).

I asked the wife if it was OK (she was not crazy about the low bed anyway), and went off to the home improvement store to get some materials to make this bed. I had made the original bed with barely a tape measure and a cheap dull saw. This time I had a few more tools at my disposal and I was determined to be a little more accurate with my measurements and cuts.

Here is the bed frame:

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The bed frame.

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The finished bed, complete with the handmade quilts my mom makes for us 🙂

We’re still using the same mattress setup as before; a memory foam topper that’s about six inches high, plus a fiber bed mattress topper. I really love this new bed, and it’s incredibly sturdy. I was worried about my construction skills building something that had legs (my projects are almost always wobbly), but I took my time and cut the pieces as straight as I could.

I’d love to say that I did everything the way I was supposed to, but I did cut a few corners. The best piece of advice I have for a project like this is (and the author of the Instructable says this also) is to NOT use phillips head wood screws! Seriously, I wish I had spent the extra $2 a box and had some better quality screws; it would have saved me a lot of time.

But otherwise, the construction took me about two hours in total. And that was due to the circular saw blade dying on me, and having to cut a lot by hand. It also took me longer than it should have because of my decision to not follow the instructions. I couldn’t find the lengths of wood the author described, so I just opted for the cheaper furring strips as I had used before. Going this route was OK, but I didn’t really save any money because I had so much waste. OK, I’ve learned a lesson for next time.

I got a lot of satisfaction from this project; it helped me learn some new skills and get better with the ones I had. It may not be a fine piece of furniture, but I smile a little bit each night getting into a bed that I made (that doesn’t wobble).

Simple DIY Storage for DVDs

I really hated all the cases of DVDs I had piling up around the house. In all, we have about 300 movies and TV sets, plus several dozen video game cases. We don’t have a lot shelving in the house and the cheap media storage stand we bought only lasted a year before all the shelves/slats were sagging.

What were the options?

I could create or buy more shelving. I could put them all away in a closet. I could sell or donate them.

What I decided to do was actually so simple, I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it. But first, I had to finish converting all of the DVDs to video files.

First- Conversion

About seven years ago I started to convert all of our movie and TV collection to digital files so I could watch them on the computer, or watch them directly from an external hard drive.

And, seven years later, I’m almost finished! With my old computer, each conversion took over an hour. On the laptop that I have now, it’s more in the 20-30 minute range, sometimes less than that.

Now I have that 300+ collection stored as files on an external hard drive that’s connected to the TV, so browsing our films are a breeze.

If you’re interested in converting your DVDs, download Handbrake. It’s the best DVD ripping program I’ve used, it’s FREE (free is always good), and it’s pretty easy to use.

Two- Taping it all Down

OK, this was so stupidly simple, again, I can’t believe I never thought it on my own. I did a search for DIY DVD storage, and found a video on YouTube by Shaina Green. I’m not taking complete credit for this; it was Shaina’s idea first.

The idea is this: you take the outer DVD artwork sleeve out of the plastic case, fold the spine in the middle, tape the bottom, tape the sides, and you’re done! Well, you also have to put the disc in the sleeve, but if you didn’t know that you probably shouldn’t do this project.

What I did was slightly different.

Materials needed:

¾” wide clear tape

disc sleeves or index cards

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Step one:

Take the sleeve out of the DVD case. Older sleeves (like before 2002) tend to be printed on thicker paper, and are generally much nicer. After 2002 companies got much cheaper with their materials and started printing them on super-thin paper.

Hold the sleeve so the ends match up, and press the spine section so that it folds in half (or as best as you can).

Step two:

Take a piece of tape and stick it to itself (so you have a tape loop), and stick that to the back of a disc sleeve. Stick the disc sleeve on the inside of the DVD sleeve you just folded over. Put another piece of tape on the bottom of the disc sleeve to secure it.

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Flip the disc sleeve over and tape the side with the clear window.

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Tape the sleeve face side down.

I placed my disc sleeves close to the top of the artwork so the DVD would be easier to get in and out.

Step three:

Tape the bottom of the sleeve, and the sides. The amount of tape you want to use is totally up to you, but it doesn’t take much to seal it. For my 300 discs, I went through about two big rolls of clear tape.

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Tape the sides closed.

Step four:

Put the disc in! You’re done.

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Optional: If you don’t want to buy the disc sleeves, you can use index cards instead. The idea is the same as the sleeve: you’re really just creating a pocket for the disc to sit in. Place the disc where you want on the inside, then tape the index card on the bottom and side.

If you don’t want to do either one, that’s fine. You can just tape the artwork up and the disc will slip in just fine that way. I like the sleeves because it gives them a little more structure.

The End

I’m a “keep in box” kind of guy. When I buy toys or nice electronic items, I always keep the box because I know it increases the resale value.

That same line of thinking held me back from getting rid of those DVD cases. I wanted to keep them in their original form. But ultimately the case clutter was just too much to take, and now I am incredibly happy with how it turned out.

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This is just one batch of cases I was able to get rid of!

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I’m able to fit all of my DVDs into one storage box now. You can fit about six to eight DVD sleeves in the space of that one case would take.

Those 300 DVDs were in five old copy paper boxes, and by using this method I was able to condense them down into one box. ONE BOX! Not only that, but I still have room in the box for more. I have them separated by category (Action, Comedy, etc), so they are very easy to locate. And I already converted most of our movies into files, so the only time I need the original discs is if I want to watch the special features.

So if you’re tired of the media clutter, do this! I only wish I had done this sooner.

How to Improve Your Mood

I’ve had some major backsliding going on lately. My new job duties have stressed me out tremendously, and I’ve had trouble sleeping. My fitness has declined in just one month, as I’ve been more inclined to drink a few beers to unwind rather than go for a run. I’m not really proud of that, because alcohol has primarily made me feel worse, especially since I already quit drinking before!

So today as I sat around feeling lousy, I realized that I needed to be proactive to changing my mood. So here are some things I’m going to try to help improve my sense of well being and mood:

1. Go back to good deeds and volunteering.

I used to volunteer at the SPCA walking dogs for over two years, but I got burnt out and just stopped going. I really loved helping out though, and I know that even though it made me upset sometimes, there were plenty of success stories as well.

But- I don’t have to give all of my extra time to one particular organization. There are nursing homes, community projects, schools, and more that can use volunteers. So I’m going to be on the lookout for ways I can help. Giving to others always makes you feel good- try it!

2. Try to let go of negativity.

I don’t really know how to overcome my extreme bouts of anxiety yet, but my first step is to remind myself that I’m not really in control of anything. I’ll do the best I can at my job, and stop worrying about things that are beyond my control.

3. Exercise more.

I don’t think I realized how important exercise was to me until I slacked off. I was running between 8-10 miles at a time, three days a week, and doing regular weights and strength training on off days.

When my stress levels started to rise, I was too strung out to make time to workout, and it got worse each day. Exercise can improve your mood greatly, and even moderate workouts can release endorphins (the feel-good chemicals released by brain in response to physical activity).

4. Get better sleep.

I sleep more poorly because I’ve been stressed. Stress has caused me to drink, which in turn has ruined my sleep patterns. I wake up late because I don’t sleep well, so I don’t get breakfast. Not eating breakfast makes my morning at work even more stressful because I’m hungry… you see the pattern here?

I think that fixing my workout routines, I will be able to correct the other problems. I may even have to get used to double workouts: a harder intense workout in the evening (like long runs), and shorter workouts in the morning to get the blood flowing and get me moving.

5. Be thankful for all that’s great in my life.

I have a great family, wife, two lovable dogs, and good friends. I need to remind myself that they’re the most important parts of my life and stop letting my job consume all of my time. I’m going to try and do something extra nice for those that I love as much as I can.

What about you- do you have any ways you improve your mood?

Want to Go Minimalist? Start Simple.

Have you ever watched one of those shows on hoarding? There’s Hoarding: Buried Alive, and Hoarders, and probably more; I’ve only watched the two. The programs showcase an individual with the disorder of hoarding, or maybe a whole family that hoards.

The first episode I saw, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe people could live like that! But the more I watched, the more I realized that hoarding is an illness and it has to be treated.  I also realized that my own habits were the early stages of hoarding, and if I didn’t change my path, I too would end up living entombed in a mountain of useless junk. I loved my “stuff” and I had emotional attachments to items that didn’t deserve such attention. These things were beginning to own me, instead of the other way around.

After I saw the show, I didn’t immediately hop up and start frantically cleaning, but I did make mental notes of what my goals were. If you feel overwhelmed, just try to start simple:

1. Get rid of things you don’t need or use. I can’t really remember what I have donated or trashed over the past two years, so I guess they weren’t that important (but sometimes, it’s the opposite). Yay, freedom!

2. Make sure things you keep are actually important. For example: I scanned and kept my old photos, but I got rid of the photo album.

3. Keep things that were useful. I got rid of a drawer-full of kitchen utensils. Garlic press? Food scoop? Mini food processor? I have an awesome Chinese-style cleaver that does all three jobs just fine, and doesn’t take up much space. My kitchen tools had better do at least three jobs or they don’t get to stay.

4. Try not to impulse buy items you don’t need. This is a difficult one. I’m looking at a computer keyboard right now that I bought from the thrift store six months ago… and I’ve NEVER used it. It was only $5. But I could have spent that money on something else, and now I have to figure out what to do with this keyboard.

5. Pick small areas to clear out first. This is super important! Each room in my house had mountains of junk forming, so I knew that it was not going to be something I could get done in a day, a weekend, or even a month. Your problems aren’t made in a day, so don’t treat them like that. Pick a small area to work on, get that clear, and then keep it that way. These small victories will motivate you to keep going!

6. Get help. If it’s more than you think you can handle, then see if your friends or family can help you. People that really care about you will probably be more than willing to help you get your house straight! Admitting a problem is the first step.

You will find that the more you get rid of the things, the better you feel. The weight you carry around will get lighter, and lighter. The less junk junk you have, the easier it will be to clean (and it will take less time). When you need to move, you might be able to make just use one truck!

… and just in case you think I have it all figured out, I don’t. Here is my project for today:

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Good luck in your de-cluttering and cleaning adventures!

Decluttering the Hall Closet

Believe it or not, some people actually like to clean and organize things. I’m somewhere in-between, I think. I love the end result of when a goal is accomplished; when I’ve successfully rid myself of unneeded items and now that space is reclaimed.

Clothing has been pretty easy for me to weed through and donate, sell or just toss out. Pure junk on the other hand, is much more difficult for me. My stress levels get higher and higher and I feel overwhelmed five minutes. Take, for example, my recent attempt to clear up this messy closet.

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Junky, junky, junky!

This is one of the junkiest areas in my whole house I think. Most people have a junk closet, and unfortunately I need a lot of things that are store in here. Irons, towels, medicines, etc. I can’t just get rid of all these things, but I can pare them down. We have about 16 towels (full-size, not just small ones) for the two us. That’s an insane amount of towels! So we’re just keeping the ones we actually like, some of the older ones go to utility uses (like in the car) and the rest I will be donating.

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Use a table to sort through items to get rid. Spacing things out can help you not be so stressed about the process.

I started the whole process by setting a small folding table beside the closet and began moving items out of it and onto the table to sort through. This made the process a little easier, but with all the junk that was in there I could have used four tables like this.

I made piles of the towels first, since they were the largest and most bulky items. Then I started going through the rest and separating everything into piles of like items. For example, all the medicine and first aid items were sorted by date, and then either discarded or put into containers. I used two basic containers to separate my wife’s items and my own. In the end, it’s not perfect, but it’s a great start.

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It’s getting slightly better… more work to do though!

Overall, the project took me about an hour and a half. I had to take a few garbage bags out, and clean some funky deep recesses of the space. The lesson I took from all this is:

It’s much easier to keep an area simple than it is to clean it up later.

So, I’m going to continue working on this space, it’s far from complete in my mind. But once I get it the way I’d really like it to be, I’ll update this post to reflect that.

Happy de-cluttering!