Remember all of those plastic bins filled with clothes? Down to one now, honey pie.
Both methodically and haphazardly, and based on our whims and fancies, we are creating space in our small townhome.
Life feels lighter.
It Doesn’t Get Better Than This
Over the past six months or so, we have been on a mission to rid ourselves of things we do not want or need. The first items to go were the easiest – unused recording equipment sold on Craigslist along with the plastic auto ramps so Music Man never has to change the oil again.
Some items were a little more difficult to send on their merry way. Gifts from long ago holidays. Old games. Half-used candles.
The most difficult were the books. The books we read for our Book Club of Two with all their notes in the margins? Almost all were boxed up and sold to the handy Half Price Books. We hope no one reads those margin notes, or surely we will be featured on the evening news. Fortunately, the TV has also left the premises so we will not see the broadcast of our own obloquy.
Although we were never in the running for a spin off for Sanford and Son, a grand purging was long overdue.
Not Saving it for Later
What is interesting if not perplexing is the fact that we took to the closets, shelves, and kitsch during the most productive time in our lives. We were writing a book, running two businesses, and Professor Renzi had one of his busiest semesters to date.
The decluttering effort began with a general understanding of the ground rules, but we didn’t start with the same fervor. I ripped into the closets and cabinets with the ferocity of a Tasmanian devil on crack while CJ meandered about like a fine, spring zephyr – tossing a shirt here, a dish there. We allowed the intensity to ebb and flow as it may.
This past weekend, I was in my side of our “walk-in” closet. Two doors approximately four feet apart allow for His and Hers entry. While it is long rather than deep, if you slide sideways, you can meet in the middle for a kiss. This is not what was on CJ’s mind when he exclaimed, Aw, what is that?!?
Glancing back over my shoulder I could see he was referring to the several boxes still stacked on my side of the closet.
Oh, just a few things I haven’t gotten to yet.
When to Draw the Line
The next day I had half an hour with no plans. The perfect amount of time to attack three boxes and a fishing tackle box. The first two boxes were rather easy and most of the contents were either thrown out or brought to the guest room for later consideration.
Since no one in this house fishes, we had been storing our marriage memorabilia in a small tackle box. The overflow of cards and notes were kept in an empty shoebox. I carried both downstairs and set them on the fireplace. My half an hour was up, and I resolved to tackle them during the week.
Two days passed. The boxes sat.
On the third evening, I opened the tackle box. Dear CJ…
Not even three lines in, I closed the box, stacked the shoebox upon it, and began the ascent to the closet.
What a waste of time! I yelled over my shoulder. I could be writing or something!
Yeah, we’ll read those when we’re old!
And you, Jolly Reader? Please share in Comments. We love to hear from you!
Our book is still free until May 31st. You may pick up your copy here. Please use Coupon Code: CV97M.
This is a guest post by Tony Mazzocchi of We Only Do This Once. Not long ago, Tony noticed that his free spending ways were out of control. He decided to sell most of his “stuff”, ditch all of his debt, downsize his life, and pursue only work for which he is truly passionate. His no-nonsense approach to debt and simplifying combined with the discipline of a professional trombonist who has played with symphony orchestras and in NYC Broadway productions, make a helpful and entertaining read every post!
It is amazing to me that once I started changing my behaviors — simplifying my clutter, eating healthier, exercising, and budgeting — the other people in my life didn’t instantly want to be changed in the same way.
It is pretty normal to have family, friends, and coworkers who resist changes we make, or even go as far as to intentionally detract from what we are trying to accomplish.
I was a culprit here, too. For years my wife ate only whole foods, and yet I ate pizza and frozen food. It took me years to get on board and eating healthy (I’m still working on it).
So when we are going through massive change in our life and we want others to follow our lead, what are we to do?
There is no easy answer, really. If you are single and living alone it is a lot easier to make changes with no ramifications — but if you’re married, you have to make compromises.
Before I continue, I have to admit how lucky I have been in my relationship. When I finally decided to start paring down expenses, getting rid of clutter, and budgeting, my wife said, “it’s about time!” She was already there! I honestly cannot imagine how life would be if we were both free spending spirits.
Getting Others On Board
Let’s say that you’ve read about personal finance for a while and followed some blogs about changes someone else has made. You decide to check out some books on the topic and get slowly pumped about making a serious change in your finances. One night, you decide to unleash the decision on your spouse and are surprised to see that he/she is not as psyched as you are. What a bummer! How did this happen?
It happened this way because you have gone through an entire process to arrive at your decision, and they are being asked to come in only at the end — after the decision has been made. That’s not fair to them, because they haven’t had time to go through the same thinking process, to consider the reasons, to find the motivation, to be included in the decision.
I’ve found a more effective method is to get all the people who will be affected in on the thinking process as early as possible. Don’t talk to them about it when you’re near the decision-making point … talk to them when you first hear or read about the idea. Talk about why it’s appealing to you. Get their input. Ask whether they’d consider that kind of change. Talk about your motivation. Include them every step of the way, until the decision is made, and even after.
People hate being changed against their will, so make sure you don’t make anyone feel that way. Don’t ask them to change … ask them to help you change, once you’ve made the decision. Tell them that you value their support (and they are welcome to join if they like!). Maybe they want to be an accountability partner.
Lead the Way
Even though people may not be on board off the bat, leading by example over time will have deep effects on others.
When my wife started exercising, I wasn’t doing it. She tried to convince me to join her, but I wasn’t going anywhere. When I saw her exercising, at first I thought she was going nuts. Then I saw the changes in her, and how much she enjoyed it, and how incredible she started looking and feeling.
That’s what you can do — inspire people to consider something they wouldn’t normally consider, just by setting a good example. No one else will do yoga with you? That’s OK … keep doing it, and share your experiences.
Making Changes on Your Own
If others won’t get on board with your changes, ask for a minimum amount of support: ask that they give you the space to make the change on your own, without their help. This isn’t a small thing sometimes — often people are threatened when someone in their life makes changes, or they don’t like the disruption of their routine of doing things with you (eating junk food together, for example). You doing something on your own is a big change for them.
Ask for the space to do it alone, and ask that they not criticize or otherwise make it hard on you. If they are resentful, this makes it more difficult, but you’ll have to make an effort to show that this is something that will make you happy, and you will do your best not to disrupt things for them. If that means you don’t spend mornings together because you are out running, then try to create other time together, like in the evenings or on weekends.
When you make changes on your own, without the support of others, it’s more difficult. You need to find other encouragement — I’ve joined groups online, a an accountability group for musical practice, and other similar groups. Facebook and other social networking tools can also be helpful in finding online support. Often there are groups in your area where you can meet people in person who are going through the same changes.
Ten months of toil and moil to give it all away for nothing?
Yes. This is what we propose.
So, what do you say, Big Reader?
Have a peek.
But we wary. This book could make you want to change your life, talk to the squirrels, or hang a dart board in your kitchen. It could make you a Jollyhoo, too!
All we could think about was making it to Friday. But by Sunday afternoon, the sirens of anxiety were sounding again. Back to work. Time’s up.
Fun had become a figment of our imagination, our time together a commodity. Diet and exercise – Puh-leeezzzzz.
A health crisis woke us to the misery of our lot. One of us is reduced to a list of symptoms and various discomforts. The other is lost in a silent world of maddening frustration.
What followed our lengthy recovery was an explosion of questions about our mediocre lives. Why were we still working our crappy jobs? Why were our pant sizes increasing with such ease, such nonchalance? Why we hadn’t retirement accounts? Why were we watching stupefying TV shows? Why was our marriage part-time when we wanted to be together so badly?
The answers to these questions frame the story of our transformation from merely existing to living – from starving for time together to having all we wanted – from dreary and dull to laughter and fun with a capital F. Ruthlessly, we began to cut the cancer of mediocrity out of our lives, beating it back with wild-eyed viciousness every time it dared to make so much as a peep.
We made a commitment to something loftier than work or obligation. We made a commitment to each other.
Please click here and plug in this handy code to get your FREE copy. Available through May 31st.
Coupon Code: CV97M
I yanked open the closet door as if I knew the guy who just stole my wallet would be hiding in there, counting ones and fives with a disdainful smirk. Rather, I found all the old, lifeless crap that had seemingly always been there since we bought the house. It’s called the CD closet because in it are all of our old CDs and cassette tapes. And since they are somewhat organized and sometimes used, they get to be the moniker for the closet. The other crap in there is unorganized and mostly unused.
I don’t know what this AC adapter is for, but we better hang on to it. Could come in handy, bullshitted I.
I get the incredulous stare-down, so I toss it in a trash bag and move on. The boxes, bags, envelopes, and albums of photos are regarded for their sheer bulk, then left to their peace.
A stack of CDs had just been sold back a week ago, but I suspiciously look the remainder over once more for any riffraff. Nothing.
How about the bunny ears and the elf cap? I thrust the festive hairbands out into view.
Keep ‘em. They’re fun. Do you want zany holidays or not?
At the bottom level of the closet are the rarely used and totally misunderstood tools and a few old Texas license plates. I present the plates to Tammy.
Some asshole will put them on their uninsured car.
Yeah, then the po-po will be pulling us over sticking their big snout in our driver’s side window, sniffin’ around.
Pure Freakin’ Gold
For some reason, my eyes linger on one of the middle shelves where a fancy storage box houses nails, screws, and bolts in their tiny, morgue-like drawers. Off to the left of that, a lonely drill rests atop its cord. And to its left, a black sack, just big enough to hold a canned ham – not that we eat those.
I pull the near weightless sack from the closet, ready to dispose of it, when I am struck with an epiphany, or at least a memory, both of which are rare. A few days ago, I was Skyping a guitar lesson when I realized how comfortable it was to play on the couch with my back fully supported by the couch’s end. The black sack hovered in limbo over the trash heap while I considered the comfort of my practices.
At last, I reached inside the sack and drew out the Dynarette, a special ergonomically designed cushion to place between the left leg and the guitar in lieu of a foot stool which raises the left foot, taking the back out of alignment. I had tried it years ago, but not on the couch. Practicing has been a bed of roses ever since. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh………………………
What if, delcuttering in haste, I had trashed the poor little Dynarette or had given it away to a more fortunate guitarist? In most cases, decluttering has been fantastically rewarding for us. Our home is cleaner, neater, lighter – it is breathable – and we even made some money by selling a few unwanted items. But in the excitement of it all, I am glad I could remain mindful enough to save the Dynarette, not to mention my effing back and shoulders. Perhaps best of all, the bunny and the elf are free to continue terrorizing the holidays and eating as much canned ham as they like.
What are you thoughts on decluttering, most Jolly reader?
Some Favorite Posts on Decluttering
On All the Sentimental Stuff and Clutter by Courtney Carver at Be More with Less
I Don’t Know Room by Mark Adam Douglass and Jess Geerligs at Minimalist Couple
I Got Rid of 2,000 Books and Started Reading More by Joshua Fields Millburn at The Minimalists
How to Reclaim Your Life from Clutter by Tony Mazzocchi at We Only Do This Once
CJ is a guest this week on We Only Do This Once. He wrote about why buying a car was dumb with a capital D. Check it out and chime in here. I am holding down the hut over here at The Hoombah this week. I miss him.
The productive morning at the coffee shop launched us into a caffeine and protein-induced high of grand proportions. Conversations interspersed with quaffing of hazelnut coffee. Ah, the good life.
After returning home with my I can do anything feelings, I suggested that we get CJ’s haircut out of the way so that we may make the most of the weekend ahead.
Splendid! What about grocery shopping?
Oh, after such a wonderful morning? Why ruin it?
A haircut it is! CJ amiably concurs.
I am the Barber of Seville, Edward of the Scissorhands variety of stylist. I am a pro and have been at it for the last few years – buzzing Sir Jolly’s hair with a flair unmatched.
The Zip and the Oink
The clippers were paid for in two at-home cuts. This titillates my frugal husband. A penny saved is a penny in the funny money container.
Proper preparations are made, and CJ takes his seat.
Ready, aim, zoom. I take my first six inches clean off. My smile fades. I sense something has gone dreadfully wrong. I am staring at my husband’s scalp. I have never seen it this up close and personal before. It appears we have a problem, Houston.
Um. Uh oh.
Um. I forgot to put on the guard. You know, the number 3.
I have stopped the incessant buzzing, and the clippers hang by my side. I am the barber, so I can see my husband in the mirror only. When I look down, the new row that I have just plowed up the back of his head is starting at me.
There comes another quiet, Oink? This one perhaps a little sadder than the first.
I realize this is all I’m going to get. Two oinks for my gross error in judgement. This is the moment where I would fly off the chair, flip on the hysterics, and rant about the house.
My apologies pour forth as we go about our morning routine. The small mirror is downstairs, and I offer to get it for a closer viewing. He declines and only makes one further comment. I will wear a hat this week.
There is no need to run to Super Clips and pay up for a fix up. We own our own business where CJ teaches guitar and I tutor. A baseball cap is donned for the week, no questions asked. No one refuses to have a lesson. There is no warning from a supervisor about proper business attire.
Our lives are different now.
A week later, we are on our morning walk talking about other matters, when CJ says, Sometimes my best choices are when I let you handle things.
I glimpse the now nearly grown in hairs on the back of his neck peeking out from under the baseball cap and smile.
How do you handle such Jolly matters? Please share your story, so that we may all laugh or cry with you.