2014: The Year Of Clear

January 3, 2014 by Michelle

FL2W disclosure

It is amazing to me how quickly every surface in my house attracts not just dust – and it attracts its fair share of that, trust me – but random… everything.  And the more stuff that is on the kitchen counter, the coffee table, the wee ones’ desks, the kitchen table, etc., the harder it is for me to get anything done.  I am paralyzed by the visual of all that I need to do.

Or maybe it’s the recognition of how far my life is from what I want and expect it to be.  Or maybe it’s the feeling that I’m alone in this “battle” – whatever the battle might be against – and get disheartened.  Whatever the case, clutter around the house creates clutter in my mind, and I know things don’t work well for me then.  There’s nothing that relaxes my shoulders more than walking by my kitchen counter and seeing… nothing.

Empty kitchen counter promotes productivity

I spent much of the last year purging things and getting rid of all the items that we don’t need, that we’ve outgrown, that have expired, and more.  It is a bittersweet feeling because I look at everything I donated when we moved (thousands of dollars worth of items from clothing to televisions to toys and more) and feel like so much of it was wasted, but at the same time, it was so freeing.

Now, we don’t have “stuff” so much as we have the detritus of our normal lives that accumulates from the fundraiser requests from the wee ones’ schools to the bills that I have to pay, enter into my Excel sheet, and file to games and toys.  And mentally, I’ve taken a little bit of a break, which means that there is so much (in my mind anyway) that has piled up, and it’s depressing all over again.  Given that we have so much less space now than we did two months ago, anything out of place is that much more visible, too.

My kitchen counter is clear, but I’m staring at my coffee table that most definitely is not. And yet at the same time, it would take me probably five minutes to clear it off and put everything where it needs to go.  It’s overwhelming and disheartening until I remind myself of the five minutes.  When I was doing the Couch to 5K, one of the phrases I would repeat to myself was that I could do anything for 30 seconds (in the beginning) which grew to one minute that ended up at five minutes.  And it’s absolutely true.  As much pain as I was in, I could withstand it for just a little longer.

That attitude is one that I’m starting to put towards keeping myself organized in our small space.  Except that when it comes to picking up and organizing and straightening, it’s not 30 seconds.  I can easily take 15 minutes.  And when I’m done, it’s such an amazing feeling of satisfaction.  Sometimes there’s a little shame associated with it, but there’s definitely pride and satisfaction, too.

Earlier this week, the wee ones watched a movie before bed.  Instead of sitting on the couch and cuddling with Little Miss, I started the movie by going through all the purses I own – and I have my fair share.  I took every item out of every purse before putting them away.  So much of it was trash, of course – the receipts from grocery stores or pieces of scratch paper I’d written on or pens that didn’t work – but I found things I’d lost, too.  I now have rebuilt my lipstick collection to include some that I thought I’d lost somehow.  I found a total of 19 lipsticks/glosses in my purses, all in colors that I wear and like.

Worst of all?  I found money, too.  It wasn’t just the $9.87 in change, not counting the Canadian nickel or the 3 Monkey Joe or 3 Chuck E. Cheese’s tokens, but I found gift cards.  Tons of them.  They are ones that I’d bought and been given over probably the past two years, and they were worth hundreds of dollars.

Why did I have them instead of having used them up?  Well, that’s my other problem.  I don’t buy things often, but when I do, I don’t like to use them up.  I like to “savor” them, as Little Miss puts it.  And so I’ll tuck away that Starbucks gift card to use “later” though apparently later never came.  I tuck the McDonalds gift card into my purse pocket to use “next time” we go instead of planning an outing there to use it.  And so some gift cards expire, as do coupons I’ve never used.  And I forget about the ones I have, so they sit, lost in a purse pocket or worse.

The same holds true for items in my pantry.  I apparently have a bit of a salt fetish.  I love salt and different kinds of salt.  How much?  I pulled out just the ones I could easily reach in my pantry, and I know of at least two others that I didn’t grab.  I found 11 different varieties and packages of salt, which doesn’t count my regular iodized salt that I threw away tonight after finishing the canister.

11 varieties of salt

Does anyone actually need 11 different kinds of salt?  Probably not.  I could justify it, however, if I used them regularly.  The guava lime smoked Hawaiian salt that a friend of mine got for me on vacation *mumblemumble* years ago?  I opened it tonight to put on some roasted broccoli.  The truffle salt in front (number 3) I have used, but not in ages.  The pretzel salt on the far right?  I used that the last time we made homemade pretzels and saved the rest.  The seat salt in the big jar has been used, as well, but the other varieties?  They are unopened and untouched.


Because I’m saving them.  Saving them for what, I have no idea, but I’m saving them.  That’s why I decided to use the Hawaiian salt on our roasted broccoli tonight.  And why I plan to make homemade pretzels with the wee ones tomorrow morning after Mister Man’s tae kwon do.  I don’t intend to collect them, and I need to enjoy using what I own, and I have to say, that roasted broccoli with the guava lime salt was awesome.  Much better than it would have been with table salt.

This is why my word for this year is NOW.

Happier At Home by Gretchen RubinNow I am going to take the 15 minutes to straighten up a room.  Now I’m going to spend 10 minutes cleaning.  Now is when I’m going to write that post I’ve mentally composed more than once.  Now is when I’m going to play a game with the wee ones and goof around with them.  Now is when I’m going to devise a use for my Himalayan salt. Now is when I’m going to take charge and live.  And now?  Now is when I’m going to be happy and enjoy the fruits of the now I’ve created.

This post is inspired by the book “Happier At Home” by Gretchen Rubin as part of the From Left to Write book club where we write posts inspired by the books we read rather than traditional book reviews.  You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook!

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  • Thien-Kim

    I feel the same way when we drop boxes and boxes of things at our donation center. It gets easier. And whenever I buy something, I ask myself if I really need it. Keep it up!

    • Michelle

      Thanks, Kim! I’m so with you on the “do we really need it” which made me a NOT fun person if I was shopping for a Christmas gift for you 😉

  • Elaine

    I love the bajillion kinds of salt, actually! It just seems to add a certain bit of “fun” to me. Cheers in 2014!

    • Michelle

      Elaine, I love the bajillion kinds of salt, too, but what good are they doing me if I’m just “saving them” instead of actually using them for something. That’s what I’m working to change 🙂

  • Michelle L

    Looks amazing!!! My friends and I were just talking about how hard it is to keep a clear counter. I bet the guava lime salt is amazing for margaritas 🙂

    • Michelle

      It is SO hard. And it’s any flat surface. It’s amazing how they’re magnets for junk. I haven’t tried the guava lime salt for margaritas (since I … just opened it), but you’ve given me a brilliant idea!

  • Ariane/The Force Expansive

    NOW is a great word for the year! I did a little of that myself today, using the last 10 minutes at my desk to return a phone call instead of keeping the note for tomorrow morning, making a change to a document instead of adding it to my To Do list. Felt great to just get stuff done! Thanks for the inspiration! xo

    • Michelle

      Thanks 🙂 I love the now, and I love some of the stuff I’m getting done (ignoring the laundry that I’m currently ignoring). Just getting it done is such a great feeling… and now I know that I’m feeling guilty and will get up and put away all that laundry tonight before I go to bed because of you!

  • Claudya

    Use the salts. I’m a big fan of salts. I have a couple of gift cards for haircuts that I stored away in a safe spot for a special occasion and I can’t find them. Why didn’t I just use them? Sigh. Happy New Year!

    • Michelle

      Oh, I will. I love all different salts, but I haven’t DONE anything with them for no good reason. I’m with you on the gift cards. I have a $50 Outback gift card SOMEwhere and now I can’t find it. Good luck to you in your searching!

  • ally

    Oh the salt! We went to France last year where I bought salt, all the salt I could find. And then, because I bought it in France and could never, ever find a way to replace it, I stashed it all at the back of the pantry, never to be used. The insanity! Pass the salt!

    • Michelle

      Yes yes yes, the salt in France is so much fun! Much of the salt I have (the brown round ones and the blue in glass) are from my trip to Italy, which MIGHT be why I’m hesitant to use them. They’re so good and when they’re gone… but if I don’t use it, I don’t enjoy the yumminess of that salt.

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