The projects so far have been ones I've wanted to do, but haven't made the time for...or ones that weren't on my list of things to do, but have been good to do in an effort to de-clutter and simplify my life.
Some of the actions for Week #4 are ones that I need more time to do and will do them once homeschooling is done for the school year. These are all the activities for Week #4 and what I accomplished:
Day #22 - Keep Track of Your Valuables - Today, create a Valuables Binder for art, jewelry, silverware, and collections of anything you value and worry about losing to fire and theft. Detailed instructions follow. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 143)
Here are some of the suggestions (in short) that the authors make for keeping track of your valuables:
1. List them and put the list in a binder.
2. Photograph or videotape your valuables. Date the video.
3. Include the receipts.
4. Put any appraisals or authentication documents in your binder.
5. Store your valuables binder in a safe place.
This is a project that I'm going to have to come back to at a later date. This involves more work than one day. I've wanted to do something like this for a long time now. Once I wrap up homeschooling for this school year and have a short break, that will be the time I can tackle this project.
Day #23 - Give Vanishing Gifts - Today, tackle your wrapping paper, ribbons, gift bags, and gift tags/cards. Save a few of your favorite rolls of paper, some matching ribbon, and some gift enclosure cards. Give away your extraneous wrapping supplies (give a few rolls to the kids). If you cannot bear to give away beautiful wrapping paper, store the excess out of sight. Simplicity is about using up what you have --- and keeping things flowing through your life. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 147)
Over the past couple of years, I have slowly used up wrapping paper and ribbons; and I have very few bows left. For each birthday and holiday, I've been making re-usable gift bags from fabric. The first year when I make the bags, it's a bit labor-intensive. However, with each subsequent year of use, it's been a wonderful time saver.
Fabric bags I made for Sophia's birthday.
Her favorite colors are pink and purple.
I also have made hand-embroidered bags from wool felt and beads. These are a bit time-consuming to make, but they will last many years. If they take care of the bags, they will have them when they leave home and start their own families. Perhaps they can be passed onto their children.
Hand-embroidered and beaded bags I made
for Valentine's Day for the girls.
Day #24 - Create Hassle-Free Holidays - Make a list of the holidays you celebrate annually. Besides each entry, write down what each holiday means to you. For example, Thanksgiving may mean organizing a big potluck dinner for friends who don't have anyplace else to go.
Next, make another list of holidays with columns entitled "Joyful Activities" and "Stressful Activities." Fill in the blanks. For example, a joyful Christmas activity might be "Sending cards," whereas a stressful activity might be "Finding perfect gifts for household help." Once the list is made, vow to maximize joy and minimize stress. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 152)
Many of the joyful activities for the holidays centers around food and making food that ties in with the holidays.
Homemade candy hearts.
St. Lucia dinner. The girls and I made St. Lucia buns and Swedish meatballs.
The buns are ones that we have been making for many years now.
The Swedish meatball recipe was a new one we tried in 2010.
I also find joy in helping the girls with their costumes for Halloween. Often they want their hair done, so they have their hair up in curlers (the kind they have to wear overnight) or hot rollers; and get the final touch with the curling iron.
All dressed up in 2007 for Halloween.
Olivia was a fairy and Sophia was a princess.
I'm not one who enjoys huge crowds. However, the girls had an opportunity to ride horses on the Fourth of July in a small town parade. Since they were in the parade prep area, there were quieter places to sit which was nice. There weren't the crowds in that area...and the view was unobstructed.
Sophia riding in the 4th of July parade in 2010.
One of the ways we celebrate New Year's Day is by going to a Chinese restaurant. This tradition was started in the early 1990s in San Francisco where there seemed to be a huge number of Chinese restaurants. It is continued to this day, and enjoyed by us all.
The girls dressed up in their Chinese dresses in 2008. These were purchased in China (where they were adopted from) in 2001 and 2003. I brought back a variety of dresses in increasingly larger sizes so they could have special dresses to wear each year.
Sophia and Olivia with Casey before we headed out to a Chinese restaurant
for the annual New Year's Day dinner.
As I looked the holidays for the year, I realized that for several of them, we don't do anything special to celebrate them (e.g., Memorial Day, Labor Day). It might be nice to find a free activity in the community and do that, or have a picnic or go on a short day-trip to a place that we haven't gone before.
For me, things that are stressful center around large crowds and public chaos - big events, parades, and even children's services at the church where the girls sing. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I seem to prefer quiet, peaceful gatherings...or ones that I can go to early to avoid crowds.
At least I know what I find stressful and can try to avoid activities that I know will be too loud or where there are too many people crammed in too tight of an area.
Day #25 - Enjoy Your Photos and Mementos - Today, round up all of your photos and put them in one place. That's all you have to do. Make a commitment to buy some photo boxes in the near future. With these boxes, you will be able to sort your photos. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 156)
I have started to remove photographs from old photo albums (the kind that are pre-archival quality) and place the photographs in achival-quality boxes. I've been working on and off on this project for a couple of months now since I have quite a few albums to go through.
I use to operate a children's camp and found that I had taken a tremendous amount of photographs of the program. Some of the photographs were sent to funders, but I kept many of them and put them in albums. I kept some of the photos that had pictures of the girls, farm animals (sheep, chickens, horses), or were personally meaningful to me.
As I'm going through the photographs, I'm not keeping all of them. For some photos, I'm sending them to people (friends and family) who I think may enjoy them. For example, if their child participated in the camp program, they might enjoy seeing a photo of their child at camp when they were much younger.
Day #26 - Pare Down Your Garage - A garage is not a junk bin. It's an important base of operations, like your kitchen and home office. Today, sort your garage items into categories---tools, paint, gardening, recreational, barbecue, and so on. As you sort, ask yourself:
1. Do I use it---or think I should? If not, toss it.
2. When I want to do a project, is this item ready to use? Am I willing to keep it cleaned and repaired? If not, toss it.
3. Do I have enough space for this and is it well located? If not, toss it or move it.
After you have sorted and tossed, make a list of organizers that will streamline your garage. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 164)
I don't have a garage, so the closest thing that's like garage that's here is the hobby shed and barn.
Outside of the hobby shed.
Back in late-August and early-September 2010, I spent a lot of time cleaning out the shed and getting rid of a lot of items that were no longer good, usuable, or had been damaged by being in a non-temperature-controlled building.
I had been storing clothing for the girls that they could grow into as well as holiday items in the hobby shed. Unfortunately, some of the things that had been in there for multiple seasons (mostly clothing, some blankets, and pillows) now smelled like mildew which wasn't good. Because the smell was so strong, the items now were garbage.
As the dumpster was slowly filling, it was a very sick feeling to see not only items that were once good that were ruined because of inadequate storage space, but I thought about the money that was wasted that I would never get back. It was a financial loss...and not a positive impact on the environment by any stretch of the imagination.
When it gets warmer, I plan to re-visit organizing and further de-cluttering the hobby shed. It is more than a day's work; and more appropriate to do later in the spring or summer. At the same time, I will clean out the barn and shed again. After this round, things should be much better.
Day #27 - Make Landscaping Easier - A successful landscape is one that you thoroughly enjoy and is easy to maintain. Use plants that require little maintenance. Ask the nursery for three of the most successful plants in your region. Make these plants the mainstay of your garden. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 169)
I've been gradually adding more perennials and wildflowers over the years. Some have done well, while others haven't and were a waste of money.
The ones that seem to do the best here are hostas, ferns, siberian irises, lupines, peonies, hydrageneas, bleeding hearts, lilies, and some roses.
Day #28 - Get Physical - Make an appointment on your calendar to exercise three to four times a week for an hour, or daily for 30 minutes. This is a manageable amount of time for most people. With a simple routine, you won't have to think about when to exercise---it's prescheduled! (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 175)
Now that the weather is better, we can begin riding our bikes again which is fun. Olivia is still learning how to ride a bike, so I have a modified bike hooked up to mine until she can ride on her own and keep up with Sophia and me.
Olivia and me riding our bikes.
Sophia riding her bike.
I also typed a physical education chart in which each of us can mark off when we do some form of exercise for the day. It can be bike riding, working with the horses, taking the dogs for a walk, going on a nature walk, or playing in the backyard. The key for us is variety and fun more so than an extreme workout.