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It’s Just Stuff

11 Jul

lamp

Today I sold the first Thing I Really Liked in preparation for our move to Wales. It was an orange table lamp — nothing fancy, just something I got at Marshall’s a year back. But I really did like it, a lot. I liked the color, I liked the shape, I liked that it allowed me to read at night without the full brightness of an overhead light. But in the end? It’s just a lamp. A lamp that is definitely not worth shipping over to the UK (did you know it costs about $50 to mail a 20 pound, 12 inch box from the US to the UK?).

I’ve already been thinking a lot about “stuff” over the past year — in some ways, it’s been really freeing. Trips to Target are a breeze (no point in walking by the fun, seasonal housewares), the only thing I’ve been looking for in thrift stores is large suitcases, and wandering in antique stores is admiration-only. Knowing that there’s no point in buying anything has freed up a surprising amount of space in my brain (and my wallet). I’ve seen a number of different blogging experiments about buying nothing for a month, wearing a limited amount of clothing, and whittling down possessions to 100 things, all of which I enjoy reading about (especially as the process unfolds). While this isn’t anything official like that, it is a challenge in its own manner. The rules?

1. Take a one bedroom, moderately furnished apartment…
2. Reduce it down to two large suitcases and two carry-on bags!
(plus five or so boxes that will be kept in storage with family — but for how long, we have no idea) 

It won’t be easy, I’m sure of that. But as I’ve walked around our apartment during the past few months, it’s amazing how few things I really find myself needing to hold on to. Because in the end, it’s just stuff. Honestly, most of it is pretty inexpensive, its value drawn only from the time spent discovering it at a yard sale, flea market or thrift store.

I’d like to keep track of how things go, but of course that will depend on how crazy it gets as we go through the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m incredibly inspired by Francine Jay (the author of The Joy of Less). I read her blog and book over a year ago and while she’s definitely on the extreme end of minimalism, her posts have really helped me better release my hold on “stuff.” She did an international move herself, and she and her husband left with just two suitcases and two boxes of clothes/books. You can read a post-mortem on their move over at her blog.

It’s easy to become super-attached to our stuff, thinking about where we’ll store it, how we’ll take care of it, and what happens if it breaks. But in the end, stuff is pretty low on the totem pole of Things That Actually Matter. I pray that over the next few months, even as we do purge much of what we own, my focus will be on enjoying the time spent with friends and family and experiencing my favorite things about St. Augustine — rather than worrying about the stuff and the process of getting rid of it.

Refreshed Carousel Spice Rack

24 Jan

carousel spice rack

Last weekend, I did some major cleaning. I’m talking the “pull-all-the-appliances-off-the-counters” kind of cleaning (which I admit, is somewhat rare for me). In the process, I had the striking realization that over half the spices in our carousel spice rack have never been opened or used. Since we got it for a wedding present three plus years ago, that means…they’re pretty much worthless.

The spice rack takes up a good bit of counter real estate, and I briefly considered giving it away so that I could have more space. But it was a wedding present! (Ok, not really that important.) But I like the way it looks! And I like the IDEA of having all my spices right there next to the stove, rather than in a cabinet that I can barely reach.

So it was decided–time for a refresh.

old spices

First, I took out all of the spice bottles and gave the rack a good wipe-down. It’s amazing what crud gets on your counter appliances and accessories, but nothing that a little soap and water can’t take care of.

Next came the difficult task of dumping out all the spices in to the trash. I kept the two that had whole unground spices (mustard seeds and coriander seeds) since those are supposed to last a little longer than three years. Even though I knew the spices that were expired had about the same amount of flavor as shaved wood, it still felt painful dumping them in the trash. I know, I’m sad.

spice template

I filled the sink with soapy water and put all the empty bottles and lids in to soak, save one. I happened to have a pack of label paper in my craft supplies, so (using the bottle lid as a stencil) I traced enough circles to cover the lids of all the spices. You can buy simple pre-cut circle stickers (there are even different colors) if you don’t have any label paper laying around. My circles were pretty loose, but I was going for more of a loose, hand drawn look than precision.

current spices

The next part was fun–I grabbed a chair and went through the spices in my cabinet, pulling out all the ones we use on a regular basis. We do use a lot of spices, and I can’t believe I’ve been keeping them way up high for so long. I know that if they’re too close to the stove, they lose their flavor more rapidly, but we go through them so quickly that I don’t think that will be an issue.

spice labels

I wrote the names of all the spices on the circles in ink–again, you can definitely go fancier and print them out, or use letter stamps–whatever suits your taste. I also used a library stamp to put numbers on each of them, just to add some more visual interest. The numbers didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted, but no matter. I can always make better labels down the road. :)

refreshed spice carousel

I rinsed out the bottles and let them dry overnight on a cookie rack. When all the moisture was gone, I stuck the labels on and then used a simple paper funnel to pour the spices in their respective jars.

Voila! A spice carousel with spices that I already own and will actually use. I’ve already been glad that I can reach right next to me instead of wayyyyy up above when I’m cooking. Plus, now my counter space doesn’t feel like it’s being wasted.

There’s no reason to keep things that you aren’t using, but before you throw it out or give it away, stop and consider if there’s a way you can refresh it so that you WILL use it.

The best part? I didn’t have to spend a dime.

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