50 Days Happier: Day 5 – Pre-Vacation Clear Out

For the next eight or nine days I’ll be “off the grid.”  I’ll be spending Friday and Saturday on the road because of an unexpected death in my stepson’s family.  On Sunday, the family leaves  for a camping vacation that will have me traipsing around the  woods, under rocks, and through lakes until Friday morning.  On Friday afternoon, I head directly from the campsite to Chapel Hill, NC to attend the retirement party of a dear friend and mentor.  With everything that is in the works, all the packing and preparations still in front of me, I have decided to give myself a bit of a break with regard to the challenge.  Thus, I’ve resolved to keep my eye out for any impromptu opportunities to organize or dump some trash while I sift through closets and the basement to collect all our camping gear, but no major new projects.

While I did manage to do a little clearing out while I was packing, an entirely different, and far more difficult, challenge dropped into my lap.  Most of my efforts in this challenge have been focused on my physical environment, but today I was confronted with the need to do a bit of emotional purging, prioritizing, and simplifying.

I’ve always believed that “toxic relationships” were a product of bad or mean or broken people.  I realized today that this isn’t necessarily true.  Good people with good intentions, who (at least in theory) genuinely like each other, can simply be ill-suited to maintain a healthy and functioning friendship.  The ironic part is that such friendships are in some ways even more dysfunctional than those with known assholes.  After all, you can generally tell when an asshole is going to strike.  People with bad intentions throw up warning signals like beacons.  But people who genuinely care for you, who have no intention of inflicting harm, who are good people, seem to be the ones with the ability to cut the deepest.  And when those woundings aren’t isolated incidents, but come over and over, maintaining such a friendship is like a roller coaster ride–simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.  Perhaps when I was younger, I was able to manage these kinds of relationship.  Who I am I kidding, I was actually attracted to these kinds of relationships.  They are exciting, intoxicating.  But now, I am just too old for roller coasters and if I ask myself the question, mantra, I have adopted for these 50 days–Does this relationship make me happy?–my most honest self does not want to say ‘no’, and cannot, no matter which way I spin it, say ‘yes’.

Such is life, I suppose.

I am relieved that I’ll have a few days in the wilderness to process these first five days of the challenge–this last one especially.  Though in some ways, I feel like I haven’t really done that much, in others I feel like the ground underneath my feet has shifted just enough to make me a little disoriented.  When I return, I hope to be recharged and ready to rock!


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50 Days Happier: Day 4 – Wardrobe Accomplished

So excited.

I’ve finished my wardrobe reduction.  While I wasn’t keeping count, I am pretty positive that my wardrobe is about 30% – 40% of what it used to be.  More importantly, it’s better organized and composed only of things I will actually wear.  After getting started and setting some clear rules and guidelines, this really wasn’t difficult at all.  I’m glad I started the challenge with something so “doable”.  Now I have some momentum for what comes next.

Here’s what I learned from going through this process.

Now if something falls off the hanger, it’ll hit the floor.
  • I still have a lot of clothing. When I look at the huge piles of clothes I will be throwing away and donating, I feel as though my drawers and closet should be nearly empty.  This isn’t really the case.  I still have plenty of clothes. Obviously, I didn’t really have a sense of just how much weathered and unworn fabric was cluttering my dresser and closet.
  • I now have room to maneuver.   You are going to think I am a little nutty, but after the clear out, I just kept pushing my clothes back and forth on the rack…because I could.  I opened and closed my drawers over and over to see neatly folded piles with space around them.  Being able to actually SEE and reach my clothes is more satisfying than I realized it would be.
  • I gained some storage. A wonderful bi-product of going through this process has been the opening up of some storage space.  I’m now able to store my hand weights, foam roller, and resistance bands in the closet.  Previously they were conspicuously propped up in the corner of the living room.  Both spaces are happier now.
  • I might make a little money.  During my sorting, I found that I was able to add a fourth pile to the throw away, thrift, and gift piles. The added sell pile, while small, ended up being a larger than I expected.  Making even a few bucks would be some sweet icing on this cake.
  • I’ll have to change my laundry habits.  One thing a big wardrobe lets you do is put off doing laundry.  I’ve only been at this for a couple of days, but it’s clear that I am going to have wash my laundry more often to keep things in rotation. The upside is that I wont be doing as much laundry at a time.
  • I may keep going. Though I am really happy with the results of the clear out, there are still a number of things I kept because I was unable to make a decision.  Once I live with my newly trim wardrobe for a while, I will reassess and see if it makes sense to hold on to those things.
  • It’s one-in one-out from here on.  I plan to run my closet and dresser like a packed bar from this day forward. If something new comes in, something old’s gotta leave.


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50 Days Happier: Day 3 – Back to the Wardrobe

Today I made some headway on the things I started on Day 1 (the wardrobe reduction) and Day 2 (the doggy sofa).

With my t-shirts and hoodies done, I moved onto my loungewear.  This, I am told, is the fancy term for “drawer full of sweatpants and athletic shorts”.  If you read the Day 1 post, then you know I have a bit of a problem with holding on to grubby stuff.  The problem was twice as bad when it came to my sweats and shorts.  Using essentially the same set of rules, I virtually emptied the drawer in just a minute or two.

Since I had already undertaken the project of throwing away partnerless socks, sad undies, and bras whose unwires succumbed to the mighty bulk of my breasts a few weeks ago, the dresser was complete!

I was time to tackle THE CLOSET.

I really wanted to post a “before” picture of my closet. I really, really did. But I could not.  Because it was THAT embarrassing.  I will paint a mental picture for you though.  The floor of the closet is covered by two duffle bags and some old boots.  The duffles are stuffed with clothing, though I honestly have no clue what’s in there.  There is a shelf in the top of the closet where I store my luggage and all of my pants.  The pants are “folded” and look something like a cresting wave, frozen in time right before it crashes.  When I open the door, I gently push the pile back so stave off the avalanche for one more day. Hanging on the left side are two of those hanging canvas shoe racks.  These appear to be full of shoes, though I do not really remember the last time I put shoes in or took shoes out of these devices.  Finally, my clothes are tightly packed into the remaining space. I mean TIGHTLY.  As in, there are several garments that have come off of their hangers, but haven’t made any progress toward the floor.

I decided to tackle the pants and the hanging clothing today and leave the duffle bags and shoes for tomorrow. To be honest, this wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be and I even think I’ve found some things I can sell.  My wife, who has a side-business selling vintage clothing, tells me that 20 years old is the cut off for “vintage.”  I will just fess up and say that there are some vintage items I removed from my closest that were not vintage when they went in.

Three piles are growing. From front to back: throw away, thrift, give to someone you know.

After wrapping up the wardrobe work for the day, I got back to working on the doggy couch.  I was sure that I had some leftover cans of spray paint in some basic colors–maybe white or black or gray.  I did have leftover spray paint, but the only options were chalkboard, metallic copper, hammered metal copper, and a brushed metallic color called “champagne nouveau”.  Yeah…I don’t know what happened there either. I grabbed two colors that I thought might work, but ended up going with the copper.

Though the “champagne nouveau” sounded alluring, I went with the copper.

The sofa required a little bit of taping and masking.  Didn’t take too long.  I dragged it out to the front yard and hit it with a coat of paint.

Ready for paint.

With the copper done, I turned my attention to white accents.  I grabbed a big tube of white project paint and way too small of a brush and started on the back of the sofa and the trim long the tops of the arms and the front edges. This will definitely take some more time to finish, but things are getting close. Tomorrow, I’ll finish the painting, make the monster some blankets and cushions, and post some photos!


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