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Guest Post: Getting Rid of Stuff and Moving On

Today we have a guest post from my BFF Ashley. I'm pretty pumped about it, and hope you are too!

Internet! It’s Ashley from Writing To Reach You. You may remember me as Tom’s BFF. I’m here again, because Tom asked me to write about how to go through and get rid of stuff when you’re preparing to move, and how to setup your new living space as a minimalist. The first thing I’ll say is that while moving is the perfect opportunity to purge, you don’t have to transition into a minimalistic lifestyle all at once. Some people sell all of their worldly belongings and set off to travel for a couple years, but I took the approach of getting rid of things in phases, slowly learning to live with less. This can be where you start. It doesn’t have to be where you end.

I would suggest going through everything you own. It may take a while, but it’s worth it. You will be packing anyway, so you might as well. You don’t want to start your new life in a new space with a bunch of crap you don’t need and don’t care about.

The first thing to get rid of is trash. That’s anything that has no value and means nothing to you. This can feel kind of wasteful, but if you have a half-full bottle of cheap cologne around that you’re never going to wear again because it smells terrible, then get rid of it. Get rid of the box that your old flip phone came in, because it’s probably too late to return it. Recycle whatever you can, use up whatever you can, but be realistic about the stuff that you’re just going to move to a new location and then never touch again.

Get rid of stuff that doesn’t work and that you have no immediate plans to fix. I’m not talking about the piano your Grandmother gave you that just needs tuning. I’m talking about that table from IKEA that has always wobbled and the old iPod that doesn’t hold a charge and the sweater with a hole that you thought you might patch. You probably held onto these things with the best of intentions, but it’s been two years now, so give yourself a break and let them go.

Get rid of stuff you don’t use. This seems simple enough, but we all like to hold onto things just in case. I have this coat I never wear. It’s perfectly fine, but it’s almost never coat weather where I live, and I have another coat that I prefer. Every time I go through my stuff, I keep this coat, because it’s a perfectly nice coat! Then I proceed to forget about it until I go through my stuff again. Last time I tried it on I thought, “This would be nice to wear to a funeral.” So, basically, I’m holding onto this coat so that I can wear it to a funeral? I think this coat would be much happier with someone who needs it, so I’m going to donate it. If you’re unsure about an item, then move it to the front of your closet and see whether you actually wear it once it’s in front of your face. Or, do what I do, and put it in a bag of stuff to take to Goodwill and see if you miss it even for a second. Just because something is nice or was expensive doesn’t mean you need to keep it. Keep what you actually use.

Get rid of stuff that represents failure. This means the pants that are two sizes too small, the paint brushes and canvas that were going to start your career as an artist, the three boxes of Christmas cards you never sent out, the journals you were going to fill, and the books you planned to read to impress that person. I know that getting rid of this stuff feels like actually admitting to the failure--of really giving up--but it’s already happened and it’s time to let go. Maybe you will take up painting one day, but not because you looked at those unused paint brushes and were shamed into picking them up. Forgive yourself and move on.

Get rid of stuff that someone else could appreciate more than you. People often get the grand idea to sell the things they don’t use, and then they put them in a box labeled “Stuff To Sell” and never touch the box again. Don’t do this. Either start the process of selling that same week or give it all away. Some stuff is hard to just donate because it was expensive or has some sentimental value. Give these things away to people in your life who value them. It’s actually a really great feeling to part with stuff you don’t want and to know it’s going to someone who can really appreciate it.

Think about the kind of life you want to live. As you go through your things, think about whether you can see them as part of your life in this new space. What does that new space look like in your mind? Is the bookshelf that leans to the left there? Is the Justin Timblerlake poster prominently featured? This is a new part of your life you’re starting, so give some thought to what you want it to look like.

Don’t be in a hurry to fill your new place with stuff. Take your time and select pieces you really like. It doesn’t matter that much if you go several weeks without a kitchen table or a desk lamp. Your couch probably looks fine without a bunch of throw pillows. If you buy stuff just to buy it, then you’re going to end up with a bunch of stuff later that you just have to give away. Your parents will still love you even if the first meal they eat at your new place is served on the floor. Take time creating your new space; you may find that you need less than you think.

Continue to go through your stuff regularly. Don’t wait until you move again to get rid of stuff. Clean things out every season or once a year or every time you buy new stuff--whatever works for you! There will be things like that funeral coat I own that you will keep holding onto until you finally convince yourself that you’re never going to wear it. If you go through things regularly, then you’re aware of everything you own and what actually matters to you. That makes it easier to get rid of the stuff you don’t need.

If this seems overwhelming to you, then remember that you don’t have to do it all at once. Even if you just take one of these steps, you will be further along than you were. Simplifying your life isn’t done overnight; it’s a process by which you teach yourself to live with less. Go slowly.


So I bought a house

The title, in ways, says it all. And, in other ways, it says absolutely nothing.

A week ago I went house hunting with my realtor. The first place we saw was in a small city just west of where I am now called Oakville. It's a popular area, but generally expensive. The townhouse was just on the edge of what I could afford but, in a word, beautiful. The pictures online had not done it justice. The complex was nice, it was steps from a bustling, well-kept plaza with everything I could ever want (short of an Apple Store, perhaps) and the inside was far more spacious than I had thought. The kitchen had a beautiful built in wood table, the living room was bright in the midday light, the floors were a beautiful hardwood. The basement was unfinished, but clean and full of potential. The two bedrooms, each with their own ensuite bathroom, were bigger than any room I'd ever lived in.

We left and saw two more places. Nothing was as bright, spacious or nice. Some were dirty, far away from everything, and cramped. Cheaper, but, I decided, not worth it.

Later that Sunday night, feeling bad that I was keeping my realtor from a big football game (though he didn't seem to mind) I signed an offer on the house.

They signed it back to me at a bit more. I agreed to that offer.

The last week has been a whirlwind of lawyers, mortgage brokers, realtors, faxes, a home inspection and my phone ringing off the hook.

But at 12:30am on Friday night I got the email from my realtor. The conditions had been met. The deal was, as they called it, "firm." I had a house.

I take possession on the 20th of December. Those of you following along at home will notice this is a short closing, but it's what worked best for all parties, so that's okay. There is still much to do, much to prepare. I'm starting to think about how I will lay out my house. Canvassing relatives for any spare furniture that may be wasting away in their basements. Scouring IKEA and Craigslist for good deals and nice pieces. Sharing joy with friends, and having trouble sleeping, worrying a bit about the finances. I believe I've factored in everything, and even assuming I haven't, I should be okay, but it's still scary.

But, you've gotta dive in sometime, right? 27's as good an age as any.

In the coming weeks I'll be talking about the moving process, and there's a lot on my mind. I'd like to share the whole process for those who've never done it, cause I think it was kind of neat (and freaky). I'd like to talk about moving to a new city (even if it is only 20 minutes away from where I am now), setting up utilities and taxes, the process of deciding which room to take, of how to lay out my life. The sharing of joys with friends. 

And, of course, there will be pictures. Lots of pictures. For now, I just have one to share. The table will be there, still. The chairs will, too. That blue will change. But this, my friends, is my house. My home.

I hope you can drop by some day.


p.s. So I have more pictures, but they're all tied to the realtor listing, and I'm not really wanting to post my new address all over my blog. ;) Drop me a line if you want to see it!


I’m bad with money

The title kind of says it all, but I'll go into detail.

I'm bad with money in general. I'm bad at keeping track of things and bad at controlling habits. Lack of self control is a theme in my life that I'm working on, as a lot of my problems in terms of weight and finances can all be traced back to that. I use food and retail therapy as a way of fixing my problems. I buy something that I think will encourage me to turn my life around, or cause I've had a bad day. I eat something sweet because it will just be this last time, or cause I've had a bad day.

This isn't some post to declare I've done those things for the last time. That would be silly; I'll do both of those things occasionally, and probably will right until I die (or am uploaded into a new collective consciousness when the Singularity occurs). The idea, however, is to recognize patterns and say "I'll do that later." Not never. But later. Cause all it takes sometimes is just saying "tomorrow" for one more day.

Anyway, I'm over dramatizing a bit here. 

Today I also did something to help with that. I moved some money around and paid things off. I was hesitant to, because it was money I had held as a little bit sacred. I was cursing myself for my financial mistakes, and thinking I deserved to pay it off slowly and painfully, instead of taking some of my own money, paying it off, and paying myself back.

It was stupid. Honestly, it was. I get why I did it, but it was childish. It was me saying "no, this is my fault, and I'll do it without touching that, cause they were my stupid decisions." It was ingrained in me from a young age that you should be ashamed of financial mistakes, and never touch any savings under any circumstances.

So yeah. I fucked up. But I'm done beating myself up over that, and I'm done sticking to a principle that makes no sense. I'd rather pay myself back, with interest, than someone else.

I'm tempted to say "of course, the worry is I won't," but I will. That's the adult thing to do, and I'm trying to do the adult thing these days.

You know, while playing video games.

(Ed. note; this came out more angry sounding than I had intended, but I think it works. I'm a little proud of myself for doing this and making my own decisions, hence the sharing, but the decisions that got me into this mess are something that make me angry at myself, more than anything else. But it's important to remember I made those mistakes out of the urge to better myself, and I'm learning now how to do that a better way. I'm getting help. So that maybe, this time will be different.)

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Tom Takes Toronto: TTC Living

For most of July, I'll be living in the city of Toronto, and sharing my impressions and thoughts under the heading Tom Takes Toronto. Click here to see the posts under this category. Though, at this time, this is the first post, so that's all you see. I realize these italicized explanations are supposed to carry over to all the posts. Oh well.

I've lived in the suburbs for most of my life. While I spent a few years in Guelph, a small college town in Ontario, the majority of my years were spent in the very picture of suburbia, Mississauga. Big box stores, huge parking lots and vast subdivisions and residential neighbourhoods were the order of the day.

I hated it.

When I was younger, and couldn't drive, I hated being tied to an unreliable transit system (not to mention, when I was very young, parents who feared I would be abducted or otherwise accosted every time I stepped on a city bus). I didn't really get how buses worked, truthfully. I still remember trying to take my first bus, and stepping back, nervously, as it swung toward me, and then watching my friend, on that bus, looking at me incredulously as the bus driver, assuming I didn't want to board, drove off.

When I passed my driver's test and was finally able to drive on my own, I was ecstatic. My parents were relatively liberal with the car (well, minivan) and so I was able to drive around a fair bit. When I moved to Guelph, the city was small enough that the majority of my world was within walking distance. The parts that weren't were accessible by a few key bus routes I learned, so that was easy.

When I moved back to Mississauga, I managed to get my own car. The freedom was exhilarating at first. To this day I still marvel at the fact that I own a car sometimes. The idea that this beautiful, wonderful machine is full of my crap, my dirt. It sounds odd, but I still find it so weird. I still think of myself as a kid, in ways, and I feel incredibly lucky to own it. Plus it is kind of a cool car. Dodge Caliber, bright red. Pretty snazzy.

However, as I started working downtown, and looking at moving into the city, it felt like an albatross around my neck. Trying to find a place with a parking space, that I could afford and was, you know, larger than a bread box, proved near impossible, unless I went so far out of the city that I practically needed the car anyway.

I started to think about giving it up. I wouldn't need it for work, I didn't think I was going to be anywhere but in the city, and public transit would be totally fine for me. 

Yeah, not so much.

Living in the city the past week or so I've been entirely reliant on public transit, more specifically the Toronto Transit Commission or TTC. Mostly, I've been pretty happy. It gets me to and from work in a reasonable time and has allowed me to stumble home after I've had a few drinks in safety.

Today, I ventured out to do some errands. I needed to drop off some dry cleaning, visit a local yoga studio and sign up for a pass, buy some coffee, and get some groceries. These places are all in relatively opposite directions, but I did the best I could to do things in some kind of organized fashion. As I stepped out, I noticed there were clouds on the horizon, but I hadn't seen any rain on the little icon on my phone, so I figured I was fine.

After the dry cleaning was dropped off and I had filled out a form for a surprisingly unfriendly yoga studio employee, I stopped at a small patio for some lunch. As I sat, it started to rain. Hard. Like, insane, monsoon, WTF-is-this-Canada-or-the-jungle hard. I was far enough back I was covered, but I figured I could wait it out. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

When it didn't clear, I eventually said "screw it" and ran for the nearest station. No worries, I figured, as I waited in the hot subway tunnel, I can get to the coffee shop via TTC. And I'm sure the rain will have cleared up by the time I get to the station I need to get to.

Nope, still pouring half an hour later.

Well, I'm sure I can take a street car to get there.

Nope, streetcar isn't running because of construction.

So I walked. I don't think I've ever been more soaked in my life, but I did it, ducking into a covered area whenever I had a moment, but by the time I reached the coffee shop I was legitimately concerned I was going to make a wet mess merely by stepping into the shop.

Thankfully, the worker did not throw me out, gave me my locally-roasted, organic, fair trade beans (I know, but they make damn good coffee) and let me sit for a while, assuring me his plastic chairs could handle my wet ass. After drying off a bit, and the rain finally letting up a bit, I decided to try and catch a street car going back to the subway on another street, so I walk down and see several street cars going the wrong direction. "At last!" I say to myself, "I've found a running street car line! I will make note of this, and wait by this sign for one coming my way." So I waited. And waited. And waited. And watched street car after street car go the wrong direction, with none in sight going the way I wanted. You know, towards that subway system that connects much of the city together. I'm sure there just aren't many people wanting to get to that subway system.

I walked it, eventually. I crammed myself into a subway car, squeezing my body as small as possible as someone sat down just a little too close to me, and tried to focus on my book (this one, which by the way, you should definitely be reading), and watch for my own subway station.

Getting back to the apartment felt like a minor victory unto itself and, to be clear, I'm not trying to pretend this is some horrible ordeal. It's not, and the fact that I can get between these areas with relative ease is a triumph of modern urban planning. Trying to do construction and run a system for a giant city on a budget is hard, I get that.

But holy crap, am I keeping my car. And, this is making me feel like, probably not living in the city. That may be my clothes, still drying from several hours ago, talking, though.

(Editor's note: This post is long, rambley and a tad unwieldy, and makes you come off a little whiney. But, it's your blog, and this "editor" is really just a device you stole from other books, namely the one you mention earlier, to hang a lampshade on that fact. Which is a phrase you learned in the excellent Stargate episode 200. And this is getting off topic. Basically, I know I'm whiney, but I still think it makes for an entertaining story. Ah, just post it.)


Wine and Love: 10

So today I'm doing Wine and Love again, hosted by Suki! Here we talk about the things making us reach for the wine glass (or alcoholic beverage of choice) and the things we love this week!


  • While I'm enjoying living in the city, it's not totally ideal. I can't say I love the subway, though I am getting more reading done. I still feel a little bit out of sorts, living in a place that's not mine. Though, to be fair, this is a very minor w(h)ine. Though I am hot!
  • Haven't been sleeping well the past...few weeks, now. There are a variety of reasons for this, mostly based around eating habits, sleeping in a new bed, all that, but it just adds up to me feeling off and a bit worn down. And unable to get up early. Or, well, not unable. But really not feeling up to it.



  • I've been keeping up with blogs, and a little more with YouTube, and even doing some writing myself. I missed it, and I'm glad I'm getting back to it.
  • I went home for a little bit on Tuesday night, and being away, and living on my own, has made me really appreciate my Mom, and my house. Although it's not perfect, I will be glad to get back there for a little while.
  • I'm enjoying my time alone, but finding it is making me crave time out a bit more too. I've been out and about with people almost every day since Saturday, and I've actually enjoyed it, and not felt drained. I think this is because most nights I am coming home alone, and can shut myself off when I need to, which is great. But it's making me realize that I don't entirely hate social engagements, and they're not always super draining. So it's a nice realization, truthfully.

What are you loving, and not loving this week?