Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Purge Project Part 2: The Hot Mess Express

 I've always loved clothes. For as long as I can remember, I've been into dressing up, fashion trends, and experimenting with fashion. As a kid, I got yelled at for using all of the tape and newspapers in the house to make paper dresses. 
Matching visor, shorts, and socks? Pink My Little Pony purse? Plaid skirt with bows?
Pulling. It. Off.

In high school, I tore through the Salvation Army and thrift stores searching for one-of-a-kind pieces. I even looked into the Savannah College of Art and Design for fashion design, but it was too expensive. I don't love all of my past fashion choices, but I've loved trying it all!
Let's just NOT talk about vests. 
When I was a teacher, my favorite compliments about my clothes were, "Oh, Ms. H! My daughter stops by your room every day just to see what you're wearing. She loves your style!"
"Ms. H, I act better in your class 'cuz you dress like you care."
and even
"Ms H. you look like a JCPenny catalog lady today." (I responded with, "Thanks?" The kid said it was a compliment. I'll take it.)

My love of fashion was instilled in me at a young age by my beautiful mother, who has always looked flawless. I would spend hours trying on her dresses, shoes, and jewelry. Good thing I got to play with her clothes when I was young, because I quickly trumped her tiny Filipina size by the end of fifth grade.
Wilma makes late 80s fashion look damn good. I don't know if I ever have or will look that good.
I just wanted to give excuses a little background about how I got to be a clothes hoarder. It's my mom's fault! 
No it's not. It's mine. 
Now. The second clothing purge:
The Hubs was out of town for this explosion of stuff that spread throughout the house. He would NOT have been a happy camper if he'd stayed around that weekend. 
After the first purge, I took every piece of clothing and pair of shoes that was left and put it in a pile:
I'm about a third of the way through the pile in this picture. Hannah is helping. 
Then I tried on every piece of clothing that I didn't 100% love. 
The piles of clothes in these pictures are the rejects.

I gained some new insight into myself as I spent 3+ hours trying on every piece of clothing I owned:
1. My body has changed since became more athletic.
Swimming has made the shape of my shoulders thicker 
Biking has made the shape of my legs different. 
None of the clothes that I was holding onto for when I finally "got to my goal weight" would even fit me if I ever reached said goal weight. I mean, I looked like the Hulk in some of my old shirts. 
Plus, if we ever have kids my body will probably change again and I will really never, ever fit into those goal weight clothes. 
They had to go. 

2. Blazers just don't look very good on me. It's time to invest in a really, really nice suit or let go of blazers all together. 
The pile of ill-fitting and cheap blazers from my first days of teaching had to go. 

3. I'm tall-- DUH. How about I stop buying pants that aren't made for tall people? 
The pants that I had to pull down every time I stood up had to go.

4. When you have big boobs, you just can't get shirts with high collars that cover your collar bone. It's not a good look. I can't explain it and I don't want to post a picture because I'm already doing enough revealing of my insecurities by posting the before pictures of my junk room. Let's just say the result of a high collared shirt on a busty gal is a mix of frumpy and saggy. 
Those shirts had to go. 

5. On the big boobs thing... button down shirts don't work and I don't know if they ever will. I need to let go of the idea that button down shirts=professionalism unless I want to invest in a more expensive button down shirt made just for busty gals. 
If I had to safety pin the big boob gap it had to go. 
6. I used to be so proud of saying, "This shirt was only $5!" or "This is designer and it was only $25!" Then I realized that I still had some of those $5 shirts with tags still on them buried in a pile of other $5 and $25 pieces of clothes that were quickly coming apart and/or didn't look good on me. Just because it's cheap or on clearance doesn't mean I have to buy it. Lesson learned, especially when I had the evidence in a hot mess of piles all around me. 
The cheap clothes that didn't look very good on me had to go.

The biggest lesson learned after trying on all of those clothes:
Buy clothes I love that look really, really good on me-- even if they cost a little more, even if they're not on the clearance rack, even if I could get ten $5 shirts for the cost of one good quality shirt that looks good on me and will last for longer than two washes.

Here is the end result of the second purge:
Just like after the first purge, I say seventy pieces of clothing when that was just what was coming off of hangers. It was probably closer to another hundred pieces of clothing and pairs of shoes (plus other random books and trinkets), which brings the grand total of clothing and shoes from my closet purge to something like...
Part of this load went to Goodwill because it was Sunday and nothing else was open. The rest went to my sisters, mom, 360 Degreesand the Free Store in Three Rivers. 

I've read about the regret people feel after purging so much of what they own. 
I have yet to feel that regret. 

I feel free.

I'll be gone for vacation and a business trip over the next week and half, but when I get back, I'll write about organizing what I had left, which was still a lot, but felt manageable. 

Other posts in this series:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Purge Project Part 1: The Tiny Closet

I was at the beach at the beginning of the month after a few nights of waking up in a panic with nothing to organize when I read this very well-written reflection from Meghan O'Rourke about her closet cleanse from the August issue of Elle Magazine.

"Dude," I said to my beach buddies, "I want two women to come to my house and make me get rid of everything that doesn't fit me well and then go shopping with me to find grown up pieces that make me look awesome." We quickly came to the conclusion that having personal organizers and stylists à la What Not to Wear probably costs thousands of dollars and that Elle Magazine probably paid or helped pay for Meghan O'Rourke to have these ladies help her out in order for her to write her piece about her amazing and life-altering closet cleanse and wardrobe makeover. 
I was inspired to put my need to organize towards my office area, which, in addition to being a junk room, had also become a closet and clothing storage room despite the built-in drawers in our bedroom. 

Step one of the purge was to get rid of some of my clothing, but I didn't know where to start because whenever I looked at the mess that was my junk room, I felt like I was slowly suffocating in quicksand:
So. Many. Clothes. Must. Breathe. Can't. Do. It. Slowly. Suffocating. Under. The. Clothes.
I decided to start small with one wall and a tiny closet. I went through the built-in drawers in our bedroom that I never use, yet were oddly stuffed to capacity with clothes (not pictured), the overstuffed clothing rack in my office (not pictured because it's on the other wall) and the smallest wall of my office that housed a cabinet stuffed with clothes, the small set of drawers stuffed with socks and underwear, and the tiny closet stuffed with shoes, hats, clothes, scarves, and belts:
All aforementioned storage areas were stuffed to the brim.

Before I started this purge, I'd never been able to shut the closet door due to all of the crap hanging on the overstuffed hooks. That's sad. 

My guidelines for getting rid of clothes during this purge depended on my answers to the following questions:
1. Have I worn this in the last two years?
2. Do I like this? 
3. Do I wear this size anymore?
4. Honestly, will I ever wear this size again? 
5. Is this in style? 
6. Do I have memories of this hurting when I wore it? For me, this question applied to shoes, but I guess you could make it work for any piece of clothing, amiright?

I also decided to embrace and love two aspects of my personal style without guilt:
1. I love t-shirts and although they must stand up to the purge, I will keep all of my favorites-- even if they fill up a whole drawer. 
2. I love Converse and although they must stand up to the purge, I will keep all of my favorites-- even if they fill up a whole shoe rack. 

I set aside two piles and ruled that as long as both piles fit into one Rubbermaid storage box, I was allowed to keep them:
1. Big Jen clothes
2. Lil' Jen clothes

When I obsessively and unhealthily lost 50 pounds a five years ago, so many ladies at Weight Watchers were like, "Oh honey, get rid of everything you have that will remind you of your old self! That way you'll have more motivation to keep it off!"
Mmmkay, ladies.
Listen. I did that. And then I gained some weight when I started eating again and I was like, "Where the eff are some pants that fit me?!"

I did get rid of anything size 8 and size 16 because I haven't worn those clothes in more than five years. 
Being a size 8 for a little while was fun, but then I gained weight when I drank water or at more than two M&M's. 
Being a size 16 after knee surgery was not fun. I have stayed away from that size for long enough to know that if I ever need that size again all of the clothes I had will be way out of style. 

I didn't try anything on during this first clothing purge. I just pulled everything out and looked at it.

Here is the end result of the first purge:
It was probably more than seventy pieces of clothing and who knows how many pairs of shoes. I counted seventy-three empty hangers and was left with a few empty drawers. I'd estimate that I actually purged about 100 pieces of clothing and shoes.

I dropped off my first load to 360 Degrees, which is my favorite consignment store. I donated everything they didn't take (which was a lot) to a domestic abuse women's shelter.
Here is the before and after of the Tiny Closet Wall:
1. The tall cabinet is now in our breezeway holding my outdoor workout gear, foam rollers, and winter boots.
2. The set of functional, but ugly drawers is now inside the tiny closet.
3. The Converse shoes are now hanging somewhere more discreet. I also purged one pair, even though I was okay with keeping all of them. 
4. The piles of stuff on top of each storage unit are now sorted and were either purged, tossed, or organized.
Ah, finishing the first wall and seeing the possibilities of the room was and still is a great feeling. 

On Thursday, I'll write about the second clothing purge, which was much harder than the first. 

Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Purge Project: An Introduction

One Thanksgiving, Grandma was at our house and she peeked into what I call my "office." 
"Oh my," she breathed, "you have quite the junk room!"
"Grandma, that's my office!" I exclaimed. 
She looked at me over her glasses. "Riiiight."
Since that embarrassing truth-telling encounter, the "office" door stays shut. The rest of the house is fairly neat and uncluttered. Sure, we have the usual pile of mail, sometimes the recycling sits for a day before one of us takes it out to the bin, and at times the kitchen table serves as a desk. 

But the kitchen table serves as a desk because my ACTUAL desk is ACTUALLY COVERED WITH PILES OF RANDOM STUFF. 

I should say the desk WAS covered with piles of random stuff. Something happened to me this back-to-school month. I didn't have to face the anxiety of going back to school because I'm not a teacher anymore. My August used to be full of revamping and reorganizing EVERYTHANG even though I didn't need to. It was hours of Pinning new first week of school activities (or before Pinterest, Google, or-- you know, reading books).  
I'm not the only teacher who feels this way.
My August was waking in the the night to anxiety dreams of getting to school to an empty room filled with 100 hyper students and no lesson plans. It was getting into my classroom a week before I had to and working from 7:30am-6:30pm organizing desks, files, documents, bookshelves, bulletin boards... etc. I was a little crazy, but my classroom was meticulous.

The pictures above are from my favorite classroom of all my classrooms. My other classrooms were tiny and meticulously kept after my first few years of teaching because if they weren't, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I was, am, and always will be a super fan of bins (of ALL sizes-- I don't discriminate), baskets, and label makers. And colors. And comfy spaces.  

When I got home, I'd open my "office" door to quickly throw my bag onto a pile and see the room in varying stages of this...
Ugh. Not okay.
 ...and shut the door so I could grade papers and lesson plan at the kitchen table. I did it for years.
This month I didn't devote the whole month to worrying about starting school. Yet, I still woke with the looming feeling in the pit of my gut that I needed to organize something, prep something, clean SOMETHING to prepare for a new school year even though I have no classroom and my office at work is clean.

It was time for a purge. 

I put that unused energy into going through my stuff-- so much stuff. Too much stuff. As an English teacher, I would scold my students when they used the words "stuff" and "things" in their writing, but that's the only way I can explain the piles in the "office."
Over the last month, I've been organizing the "office" junk room and purging that stuff. The goal is to make it an actual office, as opposed to an "office." 

I've confronted many uncomfortable questions about myself throughout this process, such as:
Why do I have so much stuff?
Why am I holding on to clothes from my 20s that aren't in style anymore? 
Why do I own so many cardigans?
Why are there so many piles of papers sitting in this room? What's even in these piles? 
Why can't I ever find anything when it's all right here in this pile?
Why do I have so much stuff that I don't even like? 

And most importantly:
Why was I so meticulous about my classroom when I was teaching, but not my own home? 

This post begins a series of posts about trying to de-clutter my junk room and create a comfortable space for myself. It's going to take awhile to get the room the way I really want it, but I will make the time. I've always been busy, but not so busy that I can't make time for me.

Here is the beginning:

Next up... the clothing purge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: The Purge Update

I've been listening to some old favorites from Modest Mouse lately. This probably due to the nostalgia caused by my gigantic de-cluttering project. I've been reading old letters, filing old pictures, collecting old concert ticket stubs-- it has been a walk through my late teens and 20's.

In a five hour frenzy last night accompanied by Parenthood on Netflix, I finished the three week project that has been de-cluttering my closet and most of my office. The last step is the de-cluttering of my bookshelf, which will happen over the next week. Then I will post an in-depth analysis of this cleansing process along with embarrassing pictures of the space at its worst. It's really terrible. If I didn't address it, you probably would have seen me on Hoarders in a few years, trapped behind walls of clothes that didn't fit properly but only cost $5.

I need Dramamine after all of that motion. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Earworm Wednesday: Walking on a Dream

I want to see Empire of the Sun on tour.
Are they for real? I bet they use a lot of pyro. 

This song has been on repeat for me lately. It's really lovely. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

30b430 Reflections: The Eleven before Whenever

I'm good with to-do lists.

I love to-do lists. I love making lists of what I want and need to get done minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and sometimes even decades ahead of time.

This brings me to reflect on my 30 Before 30.

I've been 31 for almost 3 months and I've been thinking about how motivated I was while I worked on the good 'ole 30 Before 30 list. It was challenging, fun, and completing items on the list changed my life for the better:
8. Visit my grandparents in California.
9. Pop a champagne cork with no fear.
10. Make leche flan (it's Filipino, it's amazing, and I'm makin' it).
12. Revised 5/1/12 because I remembered that I'm supposed to graduate in December and my Master's degree is really important to me!!! Get my Master's degree
14. Pay off at least 50% of my remaining undergraduate credit card debt.
17. Pick berries and bake something with them. 8/24/12 

18. Write at least one chapter of the novel that I write in my mind while I'm walking the dogs.
19. Thank my mom for everything she's done for me.
21. Get chosen for one more summer fellowship in another country where I am able to work with youth.
23. Get to 200 blog posts.
24. Revised 5/1/12 Make some decisions about my career and/or PhD prospects. 
25. Attend roller derby training so I can learn the moves.
26. Learn how to flip turn when I'm swimming laps. 4/19/12
27. Take a real personal day. 6/8/12
29. Go horseback riding.8/8/12
30. Poach an egg perfectly.

I didn't finish 12 of the items on the list, mostly due to my interests changing, lack of funds, lack of patience, fear, and indecision:
5. Play the piano in front of people: Fear
6. Visit my family in the Philippines (or at least have tickets booked by my 30th birthday): Lack of Funds
7. Have a conversation with a dear Senegalese friend in French or Wolof (preferably Wolof): Lack of Patience
11. Jar or can veggies, pickles, sauce... something: Lack of Patience
12. Submit some of my academic writing and then, maybe, you know... get it published: Fear, Indecision
13. Travel out of the country with Nate: Lack of Funds
15. Sing karaoke by myself in Kalamazoo in front of all of my friends: Fear
16. Eat clean for one month: Lack of Patience
20. Go further into the UP than the Mystery Spot tourist trap and jump into Lake Superior: Lack of Funds
22. Go on a police ride along: Interests Changing
24. Apply for PhD programs: Indecision
28. Learn how to drive a stick: Fear

So here is my new list: The Eleven Before Whenever List
1. Do something musical in front of people I know, whether it's playing the piano or singing-- just get over the childhood fear and do it.
The Hubs got me Beck's Song Reader (and a fishing pole) for my birthday, so I'll start with that.  I'm hoping to learn and record a diddy and just post it here. Someday. When the fear subsides. 
2. Travel, travel, travel: Maybe that means to the Philippines, maybe that means out of the country with Nate, maybe that means to Michigan's UP... I just want to travel and eat food as much and see as many new things as possible.
I went to NYC for work, which is a fun part of the job, but I want to go to places of my choosing as well. 
3. Learn conversational French or Wolof: Learning a language is SO FRUSTRATING for me. I'm not a natural language-picker-upper. I'm going to continue trying to be patient with this.

4. Keep on keepin' on with trying to be healthy: Participate in the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge, make garden boxes for the backyard and then jar or can something that we grow, work on loving myself at any size, find my happy weight (I feel thisclose), keep focusing on eating foods that aren't too processed, aim to do Swim to Moon one of these summers, compete in a half-ironman relay (swimming), lift weights and build my strength, not work too much, spend quality time with the Hubs... basically do everything that makes me feel awesome and nothing that makes me feel like crap physically OR emotionally.

5. Learn how to drive a damn stick: I just... I just... want to know.

6. Stop letting the prospect of a PhD loom over me: In an earlier post, I said I'd be posting curriculum here, but this isn't the space for it. I want to focus on establishing a website to share my research and teacher resources for free. I want to work on establishing my web presence as a curriculum person. I'd love to pick up some more curriculum consulting gigs too-- I got one this summer and it was so fun. The PhD Possibility will always be there.
But fer reals, this would be cool. [via]

7. I want to build something with the Hubs-- specifically, some kind of floor to ceiling bookshelf contraption for my office. I'm going to work over the next year to remodel my office. I will be posting more about it later. There is too much to say about the horror that is my office.

8. Continue to budget, pay off the rest of my debt outside of the big : Shame, shame... I just started budgeting in January for the first time in my life. I loving it and I even love a small percentage of Dave Ramsey's advice, despite the fact that we would not get along in real (or imaginary) life.

9. I'm working on a RIDIC clothing purge thanks to self-reflection, disgust in my clothing hoarding tendencies, Pinterest, and "Building a Grown-Up Wardrobe" ala the fantastic blog Aj Wears Clothes. It will be further described in a series of soul-baring posts. Let's just say that I don't wanna be a hoarder. I really don't.

10. Write, write, write: I won a micro-fiction writing contest around the concept for my novel. Hearing Steve Luxenberg, the author of the haunting Annie's Ghosts, read my work aloud in front of a few hundred people, hearing said people laugh where I hoped they would laugh, and having Mr. Luxenberg compliment my story were highlights of 2014. This is probably a project that will take me another five to ten years to complete-- in addition to the ten years I've already sat on this story and contemplated how I'm going to write it. That's some long term stuff.

11. Work on being more self-assured, more confident, and less hesitant:
It's time to read Lean In. And to stop apologizing for things that don't need an apology. 

There it is. My itch to write a list has been scratched. Now I must attempt to have the patience to work on completing these... whenever. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

When I Miss My Dad

Today is always a rough day for me. Luckily, it will probably be over by the time I post this. 

I'm a naturally positive person, so I automatically revert to optimism instead of wallowing in sadness or anger. However, I want to be pissed off for a few sentences. Like many of you, I hate death. I mean, how stupid is it that people--like your dad--can just die without getting to say a simple goodbye to your face right before it happens? It's really just the dumbest thing ever. It makes me shake my fist. Death can be very cruel. Very uncool.  
Instead of writing about what it was like when he died or the difficult months leading up to his death where we were all taking care of him and having lots of Important Talks, I'm going to write about the things that make me feel at ease when I'm missing him. 
1. When I miss my dad, I think about my family. 
 There is my mom (who is giving me away in this pic), my brother (who is also giving me away in this pic), my mom's boyfriend John (who is kindly holding the umbrella), these ladies...
the sisters, 
my half-siblings, Robert, Cathy, and Barbara. My half-brother Robert and his wife Beth are some of my favorite people. 

My family got bigger when I met Nate, which was great because our family was so small. 
I couldn't ask for a better extended family. 

2. When I miss my dad, I listen to music.
Sometimes I play music. I know how much he liked listening to his kids play the piano. 
My addiction to live music (like this Fitz and the Tantrums show from last month) is due to him. 

3. When I miss my dad, I do something active. 
My dad was pretty sick for most of my youth. An oxygen machine wasn't weird to me because it was always around. I want to be healthy, so I try my hardest to be active because he couldn't be. 
I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was twelve. I'm making up for all of that lost time. And you thought I just liked riding my bike? It's much bigger than that. Muahaha.

4. When I miss my dad, I educate myself by reading or writing or learning something new.
Education was really important to him. 
The 'lil sis got her BA when I got my MA. He would have been super pumped about this. 
Now, would he agree with my view on all things social and political? Probably not, but I would love to have the chance to fight with him about all of it. 

and 5. When I miss my dad, I play my memories like a movie. 
I don't remember his voice anymore, but I remember his stories.
I remember his humor.
I remember when I asked him where we were going in the car how he's always say, "We're going craaaazy." 
I remember him conducting the Saginaw Symphony Orchestra during a Sousa march. 
I remember him tucking us into bed. 
I remember the countless times that I sat in the maroon chair on the other side of his desk. 
There are a lot more memories and I'm so grateful for that. 

Anyway, this Father's Day has been harder than the last few and I'm glad it's officially midnight and Not Father's Day. I don't know why I was especially introspective and sad-sack-esque this year-- things hit us differently at different times depending on the day or hour, right?

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