Lime Green Silk Heels

The year that I turned 40 I left my husband. My life savings were invested in his farm and I walked away from the money and most of my stuff. I left with the children ages 16, 5, 4, 1 years,  a weeks worth of clothing for us all, a couch and a few dishes.

I liked the sense of freedom that I felt without all the stuff weighing me down and determined to keep my possessions to a minimum. Thus the annual counting of stuff was begun. It has been a continual learning process.

Before I ever heard of the Pareto Principle and the 80/20 rule, I lived it with my clothing. I was figuring out how much clothing is enough, and noticed that I wore my favorite clothing most of the time, even though there were other items that I almost never wore. Usually the unworn items had some small flaw: they didn’t fit well, they didn’t go with anything else in the closet, they weren’t flattering. Money poorly spent, I told myself.

Overtime, I developed a simple system of clothing purchasing so there was little waste in the process. The rules were general: buy clothing that can be worn to work, when it starts to get a little worn, wear it for non-work days. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t go with at least two other items in the closet. Buy only black shoes and black socks. This system worked pretty well, still does.

Several years ago, I did something silly and inexplicable. I bought a pair of lime green silk heels. They had an open toe (so I couldn’t wear them to work,) about a 3 1/2 inch heel (so I was not likely to wear them to the grocery store,) and they did not match any clothes that I had at the time (so I wasn’t going to wear them to a parent-teacher conference.) Mostly they sat in my closet on a shelf at eye level and I saw them every time I opened the closet door. They made me happy.

At that time my life was little besides work and parent responsibilities. My children were fairly young and need help with baths, homework and the floor had to be wiped down after every meal. I took three-minute showers instead of soaks in the tub. I exercised during my lunch break. My library card languished. I had no practical use for “date shoes.” But they made me happy.

Those shoes were a colorful reminder that life was not all work, that I could choose a different path if I wanted to. All I had to do was put them on and I would become an impractical girly girl. It was as if I had an open-ended ticket to Europe and could leave anytime I wanted.

Those years were filled with hard work and not enough rest. The bright green shoes were a nourishment for my spirit, a reminder that I was more than just a mom. Single parents have to take care of themselves as well as the kids. We need good food, sleep, exercise for the body. We need fun, beauty and connection to others for the soul.

Don’t forget the fun.

Fawn’s 2012 Count

Here is the 2012 count of my things. Technically I share the laptop with the kids, or more correctly, they share it with me….but I would replace if before most other items, so I count it.

Miscellaneous Items (18)


If you squint, you will see in this photo (back to front): shredder, coffee pot, briefcase, towel, book, with bird figurine resting on blank page, laptop, calendar, sunglasses/plain glasses/case, watch, cell phone/charger, keys (I don’t count the keys separate from the things they go to–house & car, but they were in my purse, purse, wallet. The bird figurine was carved and painted by a former patient and after he died, his family gifted it to me. I think it is beautiful.

iron, ironing board and laundry basket

Bed: includes pillow, sheets and one blanket. No photo of the car this year, but it looks pretty much the same as last year.

Clothes (58 items)

5 work outfits (here’s 4 of them, one in the wash)

The little black dress combo. Here you see the items separately. Black dress alone in summer or w/ sweater in colder months.

two non-work day outfits (third one in the wash)

Jeans, fleece top and winter coat

oh, and a cat, that couldn’t resist being in the photo.

Here is the swim suit and the only sweater to survive last winter.

Here is a table piled with: jewelry (bracelet, ring and 3 pair of earings) 3 sets of exercise clothes, in the basket: 5 pair socks, 3 bras, 6 panties, slip and pantyhose. On the table an ear warmer and pair of gloves, 2 t-shirts. There are 10 hangers pictured with the hanging clothes.

Three of those are for work. Too many for someone who works part-time. And I’ll have to buy boots, come winter.

And here is what it looks like with all that stuff in the closet:

Then Personal Care items (12) all in one photo:

In this photo, you can see: hair conditioner, razor, soap, nail clippers, toothpaste/toothbrush/floss, grooming scissors, face powder, lip balm, mascara, retainer and a basket to hold things in the cabinet. Missing: lotion.

There you have it–88 personal items. Over the summer, I will count things that I share with the kids and post room by room photos.

Enough Rest

I swam competitively from the ages of five to twelve years. The ease of my natural swimming abilities made it easy for me to win races against other six-year olds. But by the time I was eleven, the hard work of my peers eclipsed my natural talents and swimming in circles lost its appeal.

But the burning sensation at the back of the throat, of a desperate intake of over-chlorinated muggy air has never left me. I actually get pretty excited when I feel it again, resting on the couch or driving between errands. This sensation is usually the first clear signal my body gives me when it is on the mend, when it is rested. Why this is my body’s “Yes” signal is still a mystery to me, but I have had it often enough to know what it is. Relief. A sign of healing. Comfort.

I’ve been part-time for a month now, have spent my days off paid employment working on the house and yard, attending the abundance of end-of-the-school year events for the kids.

Yesterday should have been more of the same. I had a long list of things to do in the yard: weeding, trimming the dead branch out of the ornamental pear tree, moving the Japanese Iris to a place they are more likely to bloom, planting the Clematis I bought Wednesday.

I began the weeding, but it started to rain about 9am so I came inside to read the wonderful library book I had started the night before. I fixed the kids lunch and did the dishes and went back to my book. I lay on the couch, under a blanket with the windows open and a cool breeze blowing.

About the time I started the last chapter of my book, I felt that particular burning sensation that I know means I am going to be OK.

It took a month.