Joyful Spaces – my new home (and business)


Long story short, I’ve gotten to less. Although, there’s always more to go and more to say on this topic, I’m closing out this blog and devoting my energy to growing my feng shui and color consulting practice. Visit my website Creating Joyful Spaces, or follow me at Joyful Spaces on Facebook, where I’ve got lots of new tips to share.
See you there!

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Filed under Practical feng shui

Eating my words: I want to go home!

I loved the idea of being footloose and fancy free, of downsizing to so little Stuff that I could live happily in a carefree studio apartment or tiny cottage with just a handful of my most special Things around me.

I loved the idea of being so unshackled to Home and Stuff that I could pick up at a moment’s notice and go to Italy, India, or indeed Indianapolis. Well, maybe not Indianapolis. But wherever the whim wafted me.

I thought house-sitting for others would also be a workable option. Take care of their pets and plants in exchange for a place to stay.

The house-sitting thing hasn’t been so great though. In turns out that I’m still a nester at heart. My own nest. It’s one thing to live out of a suitcase when you’re traveling, as I was for a month.  But when I returned to the community I call home, I re-entered the world of obligations and responsibilities. Where were my files? my printer? easy internet access?unrumpled clothes?

Worse, I didn’t enjoy cooking in someone else’s kitchen without my favorite knife or Caphalon skillet. I missed my radio and CD collection. I worried that my cat would scratch their favorite chair. I wanted my own bed. In short, I was getting crabby.

In the nick of time I fell in love. With a house.  A darling Craftsman, built in 1926, updated in 2002. Great walkable neighborhood, close to everything. Many friends nearby. It is 30% smaller than my last house, and the yard is about 1/5 as big.

I made an offer, they countered, then I countered and they accepted. I move this weekend.

The amazing thing is that most of the furniture that I saved from my former house fits beautifully here. In fact, I’m having to retract some of the furniture I’d planned to give my peripatetic son, because I will have a second bedroom for guests after all.

So… I’ve gotten to a lot less, but not as LESS as I originally intended. My excuse is that one must ease carefully into these transitions…

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Rent or buy?

Solstice = return of the light? It’s still DARK.

Salmon Creek - early January

I know the light is returning, but I don’t see it yet. It’s cold, damp, and dark in the Pacific Northwest right now.

I want to huddle by my own fireside, but I don’t have one any more. I should get off my duff and go for a walk, but it’s too yucky (and my dear walking buddy is IN HAWAII where it’s 83 degrees and sunny). That pisses me off too.

Whine, whine, whine.

In his book, The Winter Solstice, John Matthews writes:

The Winter Solstice has always been recognized as a mysterious, shadowy, uncertain time, when the conviction that the sun would return becomes doubtful and the gates between the worlds stand ajar.

We need the dark – the fertile time underground without which we couldn’t grow. We wouldn’t know Light if we didn’t have Dark, Up without Down. The tide comes in and then it goes out.

But I want to rush through these transition times. I don’t want to linger at the threshold, just being where I am. I want to be settled again. New home, new adventure. Clear and in the Light.

A little sun wouldn’t hurt either.

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Home-buying on the rebound: bad idea

100-year-old charmer could have been mine...

I closed the sale of my beloved home on December 11, and thought I’d be perfectly happy floating for awhile.

Wrong. I hate living out of a few boxes. I’m already itching for a new love. Need that warm cozy feeling of Committed Relationship to My Place.

So a couple of days ago I started poking around the real estate listings to get a feel for what was out there. Wondering: should I buy or should I rent?

Two things make me think I should rent:

  • Renting is less expensive (no property taxes, expensive repairs, interest payments).
  • Renting is more flexible – you can unencumber yourself relatively quickly, stay light on your feet. Some time here, some time there, some travel, whatever. No seller’s outrageous closing costs.

More things make me think I should buy:

  • You can put your personal stamp on a home – colorful paint, yard revisions, open a wall here, build shelves in there. You can rarely do this with a rental.
  • Packing up and stuffing my stuff into a storage unit was A BIG DRAG. No sane person goes through that process more than once a decade.
  • You can settle into a neighborhood in a permanent sort of way – make friends across the street, join the neighborhood association, walk your neighbor’s dog when he’s away and vice versa – that sort of thing.
  • Oh yeah… and there’s the $6500 tax credit if the place is in escrow by April 30. That would cover a lot of paint.

My realtor friend and I went out for a look-see yesterday where I want to live in the downtown area. The 3rd house we saw was a charmer, and I was ready to buy! It was 100 years old, airy, quirky. Right across the street from a good friend. Four blocks from the grocery store and a 15 minute walk to my yoga class, the farmer’s market, restaurants.

I even made my ex, who’s very real estate savy, come and do a walk-thru.  He saw thru the charm to the ancient plumbing, the jerry-rigged kitchen and drafty Victorian era windows. The unreinforced brick construction (god forbid we’d have an earthquake!).

I slept (badly) on it. Woke up in the middle of the night realizing there was no closet for hanging coats, no place to put the broom or vacuum cleaner, and that my rugs were about two inches too long.

Called the realtor back and told her no deal. But now I feel as deflated as if I’d just lost a lover.

What I’ve learned: It’s one thing to live out of a suitcase when you’re actually traveling, but when you’re back in your regular busy life, you need a place to call home. I’m on the case now.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

Living out of a few boxes ain’t so easy.

All my stuff is in a storage unit except for: 2 suitcases, 2 boxes of files and office stuff, a box of random kitchen & bathroom stuff and a box of books. Oh, and the laptop on which I write.

Since I’m house-sitting for two different friends till mid-February I don’t have to worry about a bed, a refrigerator and the other necessities of civilized life.

But already I’ve had to trowel into the bowels of my storage unit, seeking this or that particular thing that I suddenly need and I KNOW IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE. But damned if I know in what box it lurks.

You see, in the throes of moving you simply can’t label every single thing that goes into each box. Where is the lined cutting mat I need in the design class? The sketch pad ? I must have a gazillion partially used pads tucked away — did I pack them with office stuff, art stuff, sewing stuff, random stuff?

And where is the white blouse my volunteer usher gig requires?

A friend suggests that every time I open a box and don’t find the thing I’m seeking, I write on the box for next time: “sketch pads not in here…” “no white blouse inside”.

I eventually found the white blouse, but I ended up buying yet another sketch pad.

Sandra Tsing Loh may enjoy living peripatetically, but it’s wearing thin for me.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Storage

I’m not the only writer living out of her car…

The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a piece by Sandra Tsing Loh, “On Being a Bad Mother,” which features a description of her “mobile home” – a paper-filled Volvo station wagon:

I am bad because after a domestic partnership of 20 years, when my kids were still elementary-school-age, I fell in love, had an affair, admitted it, and quite deservedly got tossed out of the house on my ass. Currently between homes (my earthly belongings reside in a 10-by-10-foot windowless U-Haul storage unit whilst I alternately house-sit, pool-sit, and cat-sit), I furtively park at the curb of my former home for an extra few minutes after dropping my kids off and, with my laptop, I steal wireless. Approaching 50, I am living a life that is less sunlit Waldman/Chabon than tattered Charles Bukowski.

My situation is less grimly colorful, thank goodness. I am peripatic by choice, not bad behavior. My Toyota minivan has space for more crap than a Volvo station wagon (I know this from experience… I had a VSW, in my “good mother” days). Plus the Toyota’s windows are darkened so passersby can’t see the crap.

Finally (neener neener NEEner, Sandra), my storage unit is almost twice as big. Though this may not be a plus in my favor.

Like Sandra, I am house-sitting, pet-sitting, and wireless stealing while I figure out what’s next. (No pools to sit where I am…).

The downside of living out of a couple of suitcases during the holiday season is that my meager wardrobe seems always to be one garment short of the perfect outfit. Sneakers with velvet pants, thin rain slicker over a little black dress when it just snowed. The slacks are right but the top is hopelessly rumpled.

It would help if I stayed long enough in one spot to hang my clothes in a closet. My next house-sitting gigs back in the Portland area are three weeks each – remind me to empty those suitcases.

And Sandra, why don’t you and I make a New Year’s resolution to get our cars (homes) detailed next week… We’ll both feel so much better.

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Filed under Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Storage

Consumer mentality dies hard

I have let go of more Stuff in the past six months than many people acquire in a lifetime. I felt good about this. Victorious! Virtuous!

“Consumerism,” I proclaimed, “you’re dead to me.”

Then at the end of a lovely afternoon at the SF Museum of Modern Art I made the mistake of swinging through the museum store. (Minimalist alert: museum stores are booby traps for the unaware.)

Although somewhere in a box in my storage unit I’ve stashed a perfectly adequate collection of assorted mixing bowls, strainers and colander, on the museum’s display shelf I spotted this:

It was so cool — the bright colors, the perfect way everything nested — even the colander,  strainer, and measuring cups which were part of the set.

But $50?  That stopped me. Plus it would just be one more thing rattling around in the back of my minivan for weeks (months?) till I land some place.

Curious, I went online to learn more about the company that made them and was glad I didn’t bite: the reviewers were uniformly disappointed – snagged like me by the pretty colors and clever design, but disgusted with the product’s poor quality.

Phew!! Saved from myself one more time…

A reminder that a padawan minimalist must be especially vigilant because she is as vulnerable to bright colors and shiny things as the early Native Americans were to the white traders’ worthless beads.

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Footloose and fancy free!

It’s been 12 days since my house closed and I left for California with a couple of suitcases and a bunch of holiday stuff tossed into the back of my minivan.

The family that bought the house emailed that they’re thrilled with their new home – especially to be moved in in time to enjoy Christmas there.

I keep waiting for the grief to sweep over me, but so far…NADA.

OK, a little twinge when I couldn’t gather greens from my yard for holiday decorations. And a little twinge when I realized that a particular thing I needed was no longer in the second drawer to the left of the stove, but is buried in some poorly marked box deep in the storage unit.

But mostly I feel very light. Light-hearted, light-footed.

The last few days I’ve stayed with an old friend, helping her get her house ready for her extended family to arrive for Christmas. She has a gorgeous home near the California coast, high on a ridge with spectacular views in all directions. Many people would kill to live in a place like this.

But she was not enjoying it. She fretted about getting the tree decorated. She fussed about food preparations. She was in a flap about cleaning the house (to her high standards) in time.  Would the yard person show up? Would the garbage man make a timely pickup? No way just enjoying where she is.

I’ve been there. Oh yeah, have I been there!

But not this year. It wasn’t my house, and it wasn’t my problem, so I just plowed through whatever task she set me to – no big deal. The more challenging the better. I had a blast.

No emotional attachment = no stress.

Must.Remember.This.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

Goodwill for the homeless?

I don’t need to look far in San Francisco so see what homeless looks like here. Several homeless people camp outside my son’s office in the Mission District. Matted hair, dirty face and hands, worldly possessions stuffed into a garbage bag stuffed into a shopping cart pinched from Safeway.

In the past month of radical downsizing I delivered to Goodwill the equivalent of a dozen shopping carts-full of perfectly good clothing and under-used household goods.  And several more cart-full equivalents to other local charities.

What does Goodwill DO with all that stuff?

I had washed and neatly folded the sheets, blankets, and quilts. I tried to pin, tape or tie shoelaces together, pants and jackets of suits, lids and pots, so that they would actually be useful to someone.  However when I got to Goodwill the man placed anything that seemed hard (shoes, pots etc) into one bin, and tossed everything soft into a bin marked “fabric”.

Suddenly I remembered that my friend Kristen goes to the Goodwill outlet (can you believe, even Goodwill has an outlet!) and pays something like a dollar for five pounds of fabric (which could be anything from perfectly good sheets, sweaters, kid’s overalls, to rags).  She uses it for various forms of fabric art.

I wanted to snatch back the quilts and blankets. Hey! That could go to the guy on Ethan’s corner who sleeps under pieces of cardboard.  Even if that sweater was a little “tired” (as Judi called a few of my clothes) and beyond reselling, it would keep someone on the street warm on a winter’s night.

If you go into a Goodwill these days, you’ll see that they have quite a retail operation going. In fact in my town alone there are at least two “Goodwill Superstores.” Salvation Army is another that has expanded mightily – but I don’t donate to them because I don’t appreciate their missionary zeal.

If I’d had more time and energy during the downsize process I’d have researched the most direct and cost-effective places to get my good stuff to the folks who need it most. Goodwill was close by and easy.

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Filed under Downsizing, Emotional issues, Resources, Spiritual lessons

No distractions = FOCUS!

One of my biggest goals in this downsize maneuver was to re-center myself, to stop feeling so pulled by external responsibilities and the demands of maintaining a big house and garden.

It’s in my yankee nature to be a Responsible Person. But I was responsible for so much that my attention span was more suited to a gnat. Flitting here and there, frustrated that I never seemed to accomplish my own priorities.

Here in San Francisco, staying in my son’s apartment while he’s off at work, I’m able to be totally engaged in what I’m doing – to sit down to one task and complete it, even!

So far, so good.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life