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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50 Days Happier: Day 2 – Reuse it Already!

I believe in the potential of materials. So much so that I commonly hold onto things–scraps of wood, broken furniture, discarded pallets–with the faith that I can and will make use of them. I honestly don’t find this tendency to be problematic in itself.  In fact, it’s a really enjoyable way to engage my creativity and my commitment to live more sustainably. The pile up of materials, however, is a problem. When I don’t get around to utilizing all the materials I collect, my house, basement, and back yard start looking like a workshop…or a junkyard.

Today, I tackled a project I have been meaning to work on with my stepson–a desk addition to the loft bed I built him a couple of years ago.  Miles has been slowly earning components for a custom built gaming PC (sort of a motherboard for good grades scheme).  All of these computer parts have just been siting in a pile. By building the desk, we’re not only getting rid of some back logged building materials, but also decluttering a corner of the house.

The desk plan (snuck a summer math lesson about right triangles in there)

Ever in search of educational opportunities, I had Miles help me to take measurements and draw up a plan for two triangular brackets and a custom fit desktop.  A couple hours, breaks, and snacks later, we finished.

We’ll be cleaning it up and adding some details, but the new computer desk is more or less complete.

After looking at the scraps from the desk project, I decided to start another project that I have been thinking about for a long time.

Scraps from the desk build.

I have an amazing dog who happens to be elderly and paralyzed from the middle of his back down. When he’s not in his cart or my lap, he spends a lot of time on the couch in the living room. This is non ideal for a couple of reasons. A fall off the couch would be really dangerous for him. Our family likes to use the couch and he takes up a remarkable amount of space for a 10lb dog. And, as you can imagine, he’s not the most “continent” animal in the world.  For whatever reason, sitting on the floor doesn’t work for my little guy either.  I suspect it’s something about lines of sight or fear of getting trampled. Whatever it is, the floor gives Kielo massive anxiety.

I have long had the idea to make Kielo a small little personal sofa  for the living room, and saved a piece of a old, broken knock off mid-century end table just for that purpose.

This used to be one of those two-tired end tables.
As you can see, it’s not the greatest condition.

I cut the scraps to size and added them to the side of the table as arms or guard rails for the little man and then headed down to the basement to find a piece of scrap to use as the back.  For all the random crap I had down there, there weren’t a ton of options.  I ended up grabbing a left over piece from when I build a triangular shaped corner cabinet for my computer.

Used this piece of scrap wood for the dog sofa back.

Everything went together pretty smoothly.  Tomorrow I am going to rummage through the spray paint in the basement.  Hopefully there’s something I can hit this with that will look nice with the living room (at least nicer than this scrap wood collage).

Now all it needs is a coat of paint and some blankets and cushions.

Though the custom doggy sofa is far from done, I couldn’t resist giving it a little trial run.

It looks like a throne because it is.



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50 Days Happier: Day 1 – Baby Steps

Day 1 of my challenge is all about getting organized and avoiding pitfalls.  The biggest pitfall  I can anticipate is my tendency to charge out of the gate and try to do too much too fast.  So I set myself the very manageable first task of reducing my wardrobe (I’m thinking by 50% or more) and giving myself a couple of days to finish.

T-Shirts and Hoodies: Where I am Most Prone to Excess

I started with the easiest target, my t-shirts (long and short sleeve) and hoodies.  If these garments don’t make up the majority of my wardrobe, they certainly make up the portion of my wardrobe that is most encumbered by needless crap.

Step 1: Laundry

I started by pulling all my long and short sleeve t-shirts out of my drawers. At first I was pretty proud of myself, thinking. Wow, J.  This really isn’t too bad! Then I realized that a significant number of my t-shirts were probably in some stage of being laundered. Chagrinned, I completed a couple of loads.

Starting to lay out the t-shirts.

Step 2: Rules

Once I got all of my laundry cleaned and dried, I decided to identify some “problem areas” and establish some ground rules for the big purge.

Problem 1: My Grubby Lifestyle – I do a lot of things that require grubby clothes.  I work on my own cars. I use power tools. I garden. I craft. I have a ton of old, stained, ripped clothing that keep around in order to wear for these kinds of activities.  But after only a few moments of thought, I realized that I don’t really need “options” in terms of this kind of clothing.  One grubby shirt will do the job,

Problem 2: Team Apparel – I have a lot of VT and UNC stuff (and a growing collection of Randolph College stuff too) and parting with my team apparel is a MUCH more difficult decision to make.  I wrestled with how to address this excess and ultimately decided to go back to “the ultimate question” – Does this make you happy?  In most cases, the answer is: yes.  So I am going to be kind to myself and not bring the axe down too heavy here.

Problem 3: The “Skinny” Wardrobe.  Like lots of folks my age, I struggle with my weight. I have gained and lost and regained more weight than you can imagine in the last decade.  And for at least a decade, I have held a “skinny wardrobe” on reserve–clothing that I have justified keeping, though I can not wear it, because I convinced myself that I will want to wear these things “when I am skinny again.”  My justification game is STRONG here.  First, these clothes have taken on an immensely symbolic power. For a very long time, the thought of getting rid of them has been akin to giving up on my commitment to getting fit.  I have sincerely felt that throwing these things out would be to give up, to settle for being overweight and unhappy about that. Second, and based on the assumption that I will eventually win the fitness war with myself, I have believed that saving these clothes has practical value. I wont have to buy a whole new wardrobe when I lose the weight.  This is was honestly the worst of the problem areas.  After a lot of emotional unload, I just decide it was time to let it go. Did the decision make me happy? No. But neither does keeping this stuff around.  I might as well shoot to minimize.

After acknowledging these problems, these are the rules I came up with:

Rule 1: If it is ripped, stained, or otherwise mutilated, throw it out. Exception: Keep one “grubby” T-shirt to wear when you need it.

Rule 2: If it doesn’t fit, send it to the thrift store or give it to someone you know would want it.

Rule 3: Consider the gym.  At least one or two t-shirts should be things you can work out in.

Rule 4: Quality and versatility count.  Choose what will last and what you can comfortably wear in the most scenarios.

Rule 5: If you can’t remember the last time you put it on, send it to the thrift store or give it to someone you know would want it.

After the purge – Short sleeve t-shirts on the left, long sleeve on the right,

Heartened by the successful reduction in t-shirts, I decide to tackle my hoodies. Hoodies approach the status of uniform in my wardrobe.  I wear them all the time.  For this reason, I wasn’t nearly as aggressive about purging here.

My hoodies are 100% team apparel. From left to right: Randolph College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Virginia Tech

Ironically enough, the ease with which I thought I was going to breeze through my hoodies left me open to getting blindsided.  A garment that by more than one of the rules I established for myself clearly needed to be thrown out, reached up out of the bottom of my drawer and snatched my heart strings. Stained, ripped, faded and a little tighter than I can comfortably wear now, my very first piece of VT gear, bought when I was a student 20 years ago, tested every bit of resolve I had.  I waffled.  But, I finally realized that it wasn’t the hoodie. but the idea of the hoodie that I was attached to.  I took a picture so that I still had a connection to that idea, said goodbye, and kept moving.

My first VT hoodie. Goodbye old friend.
The keep pile of hoodies.

I wanted to keep on going after the T-shirts, but I decide that this was a great place to stop…baby steps and all.  Still I am unreasonably excited to have freed an entire drawer in my dresser.  The vision of a easily accessible clothes in a sparse and organize closet already has me excited to keep going!


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