Shiny New Year

January 09, 2021

Even though I'm ready for this shiny new year, I don't think 2020 was a total bust as it gave me the opportunity to slow down in a way I would never have had the courage to do otherwise. The long stretches of blank pages on my calendar looked so strange, but the forced simplification and depravation reminded me daily how much I have to be thankful for. Both my husband and I agreed that there is much that can be enjoyed from a pared down life. Also, 2020 gave us the opportunity to help our son and daughter-in-law with childcare. That has been amazing. I know so many grandparents have stepped up to help with childcare and online schooling and it's rewarding to have an opportunity to help young families. Don't you agree? We will be forever grateful that 2020 and covid did not terribly impact our family. Now a vaccine is here, we have collectively changed a boat load of bad habits and have learned to be more appreciative, proof that something good can come from something bad. 

In many households 2020 was the year of decluttering. Decluttering has been popular for years, but covid amplified and accelerated it. I love to read organizing blogs but so much of what I read is missing the point, which to me is, why do we have so much stuff in the first place? So much stuff that we have to spend hours organizing it?  My large 80 year old home came with ample built-ins. I was dewy eyed when we moved in 36 years ago as we came from a home with zero storage. Over the next decades I filled all the cupboards and closets with my own purchases and anything and everything that elder family members would give me. Did I need all this stuff? Did I use all this stuff? No, no, no, I did not. Eventually, managing so much made my house and me feel tired and heavy. I started my own declutter journey several years ago and have since drastically changed my buying and saving habits. Popular clutter and organizing blogs have their own systems of tackling clutter. I worked best if I have no deadline or expectations other than I should be happy with the results.  I chipped away at 47 years of marital accumulation in fits and starts, took a year off when my mother was sick, then intermittently tackled it again until every drawer and closet had been dealt with. If you are somewhere on this journey I have two books to recommend. First is The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. She is a gem, although her way of decluttering did not work for me but I loved her encouragement. I also love the charming, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. Please don't let the title put you off. The author is adorable and I loved her practical aesthetic. It's a book meant for empty nesters, but her tips are for anyone and I giggled my way through the entire book.

Last week our son offered to help clean out the attic. His offer came out of the blue and was totally welcomed. It was such a mess. I had stopped going up there and I really had no idea what we were storing anymore. Turns out we were holding on to a lot of nothing. Each item was taken down and placed into one of four piles: toss, donate, sell, save. My attic space now is lovely and organized and full of things we truly want and the rest of it is gone. 

There are two more big projects to tackle in 2021. I have several boxes filled with family memorabilia. I have letters from my grandparents to their families in Tennessee after they moved to California in 1905.  One of my favorites is a letter written by my young grandmother describing an avocado in detail, it's texture and taste, and another one exclaiming how beautifully fragrant an orange grove was. She wrote delightful letters and the Tennessee family wrote back agog with wonder; my grandparents might have as well moved to the moon! I won't be able to give those up, but I also have family mementos including scrapbooks and school annuals from the 1910s and 20s and I can give those up. You might be wondering why I have all this stuff? My mother had six older brothers. Four of the brothers died young, two tragically in high school and two in WWII. My grandfather was the original safeguard of all their mementos, then my mother, now me. I can't pass it on to my kids as they don't want the job and I understand. I rarely take the time to look at it anyway and now that mother is gone it's unlikely I will again. I called the high school and the curator of mother's tiny hometown museum and they both would like to look at our memorabilia. My brother has promised to come out this summer and go through the boxes with me. I want someone beside me who shares my memories and can help decide what to save (very little I think) and what is worthy to donate to the school and museum.

Our last project is the garage. That will be huge. Our son has again offered to help as long as dad is on board. My husband famously has a hard time getting rid of things. He's not a collector of anything really, but what he does have, he wants to keep. It's crazy hard to get him to tidy up his wardrobe (he cares not about stains and holes) and any attempts at the garage has fallen flat. He thinks because we can fit our cars inside that all is okie dokie. I recently talked to him about how important it is to not leave our kids with a mess "when that inevitable sad day arrives" (that's the Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning talking) and he has agreed to clean the garage for once and all. We are not minimalists here, but I love the simplicity of owning less and I'm truly looking forward to our summer projects.

As for today, the house is back to pre-Christmas cleanliness. I must say I love putting Christmas up, but maybe love taking it down even more because I love the spartan look of a January home.  Have you packed away Christmas? Are you in the process of decluttering?

As for knitting, there's always new things on my needles. One is Oatmeal by Libby Jonson (love her) with Rowan Island blend (love it). Second is a test for a slip stitch hat with hot colors. I've also started a new scrappy stripes for Carter. Also loving Betagen with chevron stripes in beautiful Rosy Green Manx Merino. 

Oatmeal V Neck
Slip Stitch hat test

Happy Stripes!


I always love to hear your comments and experiences. 
Please click here, or scroll down to make a comment.
Cheers to a happy and shiny new year.
xo Kristen

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  1. I so love reading your posts! I still have Christmas up because I live in north Idaho and the days are short and dark right now. No snow! The Christmas things are warm and make me smile. Soon though, I will feel the need to change. I love sorting and tossing, but like you, my husband (our 49th anniversary today!) is a collector and loathe to tossing. Happy New Year!

  2. Decluttering! What a great silver lining to a wretched year.

  3. Hi Kristen,
    I'm in the second year of my separation and living with my sister and her husband. I will be moving Feb 1st to an apartment, which is an upper floor of a house. I will be decluttering as I pack. I have a storage locker which my sons will be helping me empty to my apartment. I will then go through boxes and declutter. To new beginnings as I start my new chapter.
    I enjoy reading your emails.
    Thank you,
    Leslie Spencer

  4. Will be decluttering and getting back to exercising and dance lessons on our tapes. we will be getting back to our crafts,too. We enjoy seeing your knitting finished projects.Wishing you and yours a Blessed,Healthy and happy New year.
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

  5. I would love to have an attic! I couldn't bear to part with the family memorabilia. I still have my birthday cards from my 16th birthday...actually today I threw them out...I am 73! haha! Love your knitting and Libby of course. What are you making with the stripes?

  6. Loved hearing and seeing this, Kristin. Everything must seem fresh again. Such a nice feeling. But beware. We downsized when we moved. But possessions are creeping up again. Our 60-something family members down-sized many years ago and now in their 70s (like us) no longer have wall space for another picture/postersentimental memento. It happens. I wonder if Marie Kondo (which I read) or Swedish Death Cleaning (which I didn't) would help with that. (I could use some tips), Either way I love looking at your beautiful home. So serene and welcoming. Chloe

  7. Since the pandemic started, lots of people were taking neighborhood walks. (I also live is Los Altos). Since about April, I set out a makeshift table out front of the house with a sign saying "FREE -- aka "Freebay". I been continuously setting out free giveaway items on the table, or on the ground if the items are large. It all started with about 10 garden pruners because I accumulated too many pruners until I found really comfy ones. I've given away kitchen goods, stationery, tools, storage boxes, ornaments, you name it! The table has become an attraction and other neighbors have contributed their own items. I'm still getting rid of stuff, and I still have too much!

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