The Adventures of Anastasiya Didok

Life and faith in a nutshell.

Category: Organizing and Minimizing

Finding Motivation

This morning Dave Ramsey posted “Figure out what motivates you” on Facebook. I’ve never considered what motivates me, but after thinking for a few minutes, jotting things down, and consulting with my husband, I’ve figured out quite a list for myself:

1. Taking a walk or going for a run outside
2. Interaction with energetic, successful people who encourage and believe in me
3. The energy of a big city (like NYC)
4. Getting rid of clutter both in thought and in my physical surroundings
5. Being able and knowledgeable about how to help people
6. The smell of freshly brewed coffee
7. Feeling well-rested
8. Accomplishing goals and knocking out to-do lists
9. Bright colors
10. Feeling pretty
11. Having an outlet for speaking my mind/expressing my thoughts openly and without fear or reservation
12. Being able to dance to good music


What motivates you?


Psychology of a Purchase

Today I went to the store and then online, and got my baby some homeopathic gripe water, Weleda diaper rash cream that my doctor recommended, and an organic cloth diaper. I’ve wrestled with myself about buying those items pretty much since he was born, so about 5 months now. I had many reasons to stop myself from purchasing, one of which was our debt. The total purchase cost me about $50.00, and after I finally pressed “Confirm Order,” it felt like a huge weight fell of my shoulders.

This feeling was surprising, since the purchases did not constitute anything that was absolutely necessary for me to buy. We definitely have enough cloth diapers, albeit they are not the organic one I ordered and do not fit him too well at this point. I literally have a basket of Desitin and other ointments in his room. Oh, and that basket also has some tummy drops in it. Since technically I already had everything that I ordered, I expected to feel guilty for spending the $50.00, since instead I could have paid at least two bills. But I didn’t. I just felt like what I was wrestling with for 5 months didn’t have to take up space in my already busy mind any longer.

I am no psychologist, but I do think that there was a reason why it felt good to finally make those purchases.

#1. Since we just paid off our debt, $50.00 is a really small price to pay for peace of mind. I didn’t realize just how much of my energy the effort to convince myself not to buy those items took!

#2. It was empowering to make a decision. The thing is that the basket of Desitins and Colic drops were not what I decided for my child. They were gifts from well-meaning family and friends who decided that these products were right for THEIR children. And I just went along with it. Well, actually, I didn’t go along with it, because I wasn’t using those products. I just knew I should. But I didn’t want to. It was a passive aggressive thing to do (something that I am currently working on as part of my continuous character development). I kept telling myself that those were o.k., while holding myself back from admitting the truth that NO, they were NOT ok and they were NOT what I wanted to use for my baby!

#3. It felt good to give myself wiggle room to change my mind. Along the Desitins in that baby product basket was a can of Burt’s Bees Balm that I did select and received for my shower. This was probably the biggest obstacle to making my purchase, since I actually chose it and it was cloth diaper safe. But after using it a few times I really disliked how it smelled and how it felt. Besides, it didn’t seem to make things better for my baby boy. But since I already had it, I couldn’t allow myself to venture out and get something else. Having the courage to finally do it felt great!

#4. I can now declutter all the other balms and drops. I think I will pay it forward and give some away to my family and friends with babies, if they want them. I will use the basket that currently holds them for storage in my closet, which can use a cleaner looking top shelf.

I can’t believe this purchase had so much significance behind it. Extremely glad to finally get this off my mind!

Corners to Declutter

I’m going to make a checklist of corners/spaces I want to declutter, which will hopefully help me get it done, one corner at a time. I’ve found that thinking about doing it all at once has been overwhelming. Maybe this checklist will help someone with ideas of places they also want to declutter.

1. Side of the couch

2. Bin under the TV

3. On the top of the computer desk

4. Inside computer desk drawer

5. Desk shelves

6. The little clutter holder by the door

7. Book shelf

8. Top of the pack-and-play

9. Bottom of the pack-and-play

10. Built in china cabinet — inside

11. Built in china cabinet — outside

12. Under the built-in china

13. Corner of the countertop

14. Drawer with the Tupperware

15. Drawer with the coffee

16. Under the sink

17. Drinks drawer

18. Utensil drawer

19. Spices drawer

20. Flour/Sugar drawer

21. Cleaning supply drawer

22. Tea drawer

23. Pasta drawer

24. Canned food drawer

25. Pots and Pans

26. Bakeware

27. Baby’s closet

28. Baby’s shelf

29. Baby’s changing table

30. Shelf under baby’s crib

31. Balloons in baby’s room

32. Drawers in the vanity

33. Under the vanity

34. Bedroom closet top shelf

35. Bedroom closet hanging rack

36. Paintings in the basement

37. Books

38. Baby’s toys basket

39. Baby’s accessory basket

40. Baby’s medical items basket


Ok, I think that about covers all of the corners that have been accumulating stuff! We also had things in the medicine cabinet, in our bedside tables, and in our dishes drawer, but I’ve already gone through those  and gotten rid of stuff. Although everything ended up simply migrating into the pack and play after this decluttering disaster. Stay tuned for how each corner works out! I might get inspired enough to post some pics!

How I started on my Minimalist tendencies

It all began when I was 10. We were moving from Latvia to the U.S. for a year, and I had very limited space allocated to my belongings in the family luggage. So I had to decide which toys to bring and which toys not to bring. I used to hate cleaning my room as a kid, and my preferred method was to stuff a cabinet that stood in my room full of toys until nothing more fit.  I think that when it was time to go I was just too lazy to sort through everything inside. My parents used to get together with their friends on a weekly basis, and all the kids would play in my room. So I let my childhood friends raid it. The joy that my possessions brought to my  friends was contagious. They practically devoured that cabinet. Each week prior to departure I would stuff more and more things laying around the house in the cabinet in order to see their reaction on the weekend when they came over. I let them know that everything inside was up for grabs, and boy did they grab! I guess I got addicted to how it felt to give things away, because by the time it was time to go I was left with only one stuffed animal and a couple Barbies and accessories.

After working in the U.S. for a year my family had to fly to Moscow in order to interview for permanent residency with a U.S. Ambassador there. Assuming that the process should only take a few weeks (after all, my parents were already working in the U.S. at that time), we packed 1 small suitcase for the three of us.  Well, in exchange for permanent residency, the Ambassador annulled our temporary Visas, so we were left stranded back in Latvia for an indefinite period of time while all the papers were processed. The indefinite period of time ended up being 2 years, in which time I learned that the items I packed for myself for 3 weeks were more than plenty to hold me over for 2 years! During that time our house sold, and we spent a few months bunking with relatives and then moving from place to place until it was time to go back to the U.S. Needless to say, there was no way to bring along loads and loads of stuff. I think that’s when I learned that it’s not the things you own or the place  you live that matters, but rather family, being involved in causes you love, and spending time with friends.

Although we didn’t have a permanent home or a lot of possessions, I remember those two years as a one of the best times of my life. My family had nothing but each other at that point, so through that I developed a pretty close-knit relationship with my parents. I didn’t go to school for a year, which gave me a new appreciation for it once I got back to the U.S. My parents got involved with camps held for orphans and street children in Latvia, and I got to experience first hand what it was like to be involved in ministry. Because we’ve already spent a year in the U.S., I was also frequently asked to translate at camps and other church functions. During that time I made a lot of life-long friends and memories.

Since our return to the U.S., we’ve moved several more times, including a cross-country move from the East Coast to the West Coast. Since then I’ve also moved out of my parents place and switched several apartments. The house that we bought was my husband and mine 5th move since getting married. It was the 20th move of my life. Every move was accompanied by a massive decluttering session, so only the minimum was brought along. It’s amazing how much stuff makes its way into our homes even within a couple months! I’ve moved enough to know for sure that I don’t miss a single piece of what I’ve given or thrown away. But now I face a new challange of keeping a permanent residence clutter-free. Read about my battle with clutter here.

The battle with clutter: why clutter won

As you know from my previous post, my last decluttering session went horribly wrong because I did not plan well. All I knew is that I wanted clutter gone. I did not prepare for actually getting rid of it. Here is a list of reasons why clutter won:

1. I didn’t figure out what I’m going to do with the things I don’t want anymore.
I should have thought ahead of time about whether I was planning on selling things, keeping them in the basement until the yard sale I aspire to hold in the summer, donating, or throwing them out.

2. I didn’t have proper containers to hold the clutter.
When we were moving, it was easy to get rid of things because we had boxes. While packing what we would keep, I also packed what we would take to Goodwill. This time around I didn’t have boxes. Or containers. Or grocery bags. Or anything at all to put things in. That’s how it all ended up on the dining table.

3. I didn’t plan enough time.
The amount of clutter was an eye-opener. It was simply impossible to tackle in one day! I kept putting off dealing with corners until I had a big chunk of time to deal with everything at once. When that time came, it became clear that it’s not chunky enough. Perhaps dealing with one corner at a time is a better idea.

4. I didn’t pace myself.
To be honest, before I ran out of time, I ran out of steam. The pile that formed on the table was so overwhelming that I didn’t have the energy to decide what to do with it, much less to actually do it.

Next time I plan to be better prepared! Stay tuned for how well I get ready for another decluttering session.

The battle with clutter: How clutter won.

Those who know me, know that I don’t like clutter. I don’t like it on surfaces, and I don’t like it in drawers. I like for each thing to have its own place. When I lived on my own, this was relatively easy to accomplish, since I had limited resources for acquiring stuff in the first place, as well as nobody to answer to when it came to getting rid of things I didn’t want to hang on to any longer. If I wasn’t sure about something, I would just bring it back to my parents’ house and store it in my old room or their garage. Fast forward to this year, where I find myself in a permanent home as a married woman and a mother. Oh boy have things changed! Not only does stuff come from multiple sources now, but I am also unable to instantly decide what to get rid of, because now everything is OURS rather than just MINE.

We moved into our new home in July.  It hasn’t even been 6 months, but during the weeks leading to the holidays I suddenly caught myself getting annoyed with various “cluttered” corners of my home. Places like the mantle, the book shelf, the built-in china cabinet, and the pack-and-play that our child has never used (amongst other items), were full of miscellaneous items of mysterious origin. Putting all hopes into the two days off during the holiday week, I looked forward to getting rid of it all prior to New Years. But it was not to be. My first day off was spent sleeping and recovering. I had a few serious inspections at work prior to that and went several weeks with “alternative” days off, which pretty much means one-day weekends. My body didn’t take that well and actually came down with a fever right before Christmas. But I did not despair, knowing that I had one more day off to tackle the clutter. That day finally came on December 30th and I scavenged drawers, counter tops, closets, and the mantel for the stuff I didn’t think we needed any longer (did we ever need it?).

Very soon the mantel became a lot calmer to look at, and the drawers a joy to open. But I found myself out of steam and looking at a pile on our dining room table — the location I chose to put everything on in order to deal with it later — way before every corner that bothered me was done with. I figured since it’s a central space in our home, I will surely deal with it sooner rather than later. Big mistake. New years eve came, and very predictably, our family wanted to celebrate together. But since none of us made plans in advance, the party ended up at our house. I didn’t mind at all, but frantically called my husband to let him know that when I get home from work I’d like to quickly sort through the dining room table. “I’m on it! Almost done!” While I felt thankful for such a thoughtful man in my life (at least he didn’t think it’s ok for everyone to come over WITH the clutter on the dining room table), I also felt defeat. When I got home, the dining room table was clear and ready for the evening. My mantel was also still clear. But the piles of clutter simply reshuffled their content and migrated to OTHER locations in our home! So basically I spent my day uncluttering for nothing. Looking back at it, I realize that I was not properly prepared to wage this war. I was eager to unclutter, but I didn’t have a plan. So I lost the battle this time around. My next post will be about what went wrong.  Next time I am planning to be better prepared!

Benefits of a Small Wardrobe

As promised in my post about uncluttering my closet following my list of ideal wardrobe items for a working mom, here are the benefits of having a small wardrobe:

1. ALWAYS having something to wear
This may seem counter-intuitive, but more items in a wardrobe does not necessarily mean an easier time picking out what to wear. That is not the case for a carefully constructed minimalist wardrobe — the one where each item is loved and fits well. Because of limited choices, the decision-making process becomes easier with fewer items. Instead of scratching your head about which top looks better with which bottom, you just grab whatever item is CLEAN. Ideally, every top should match every bottom. Since uncluttering my wardrobe, I had very few “nothing to wear” moments. Getting ready in the morning has been a breeze.

2. Faster access to clothes
Since you will not have a stuffed closet, you will not have to squeeze through hangers to get to whatever you are trying to wear, wasting time scavenging through hundreds of items, looking for that one that you think you may still own but you aren’t sure because the last time you saw it was a couple of years ago.

3. Better maintained clothes
A closet that’s not stuffed also better agrees with maintaining clothes exactly in the state you put them into the closet in. It’s such a waste to iron shirts and dresses only to pull them out all wrinkled because they were squeezed into the nonexistent space!

4. Less home repairs
This one comes from a property management perspective. A stuffed closet is actually the number one reason for a service request of closet doors being off track!

5. Better health
Along the lines of the reason above, I am going to guess that if you live in an apartment, your water heater is in the closet. If that thing leaks, you probably will not notice if your closet is stuffed, unless management has an alarm installed by the water heater that detects leaks. Even then, sometimes it drips at such a slow pace that the carpet nearby will absorb the water, which, in turn, will form mold. And mold is hazardous to your health. Therefore a stuffed closet is hazardous to your health.

6. Easier to pack
I’ve pulled a couple “the plane leaves in 3 hours, you have 5 minutes to grab what you need and get on the taxi to the airport!” in my life. Which makes for unforgettable experiences! If my closet was stuffed, I would have never ever been able to pack so fast and leave with what I actually need for the trip rather than a set of random items that may or may not be useful at my destination. Emptier closet gives you flexibility to live life to the fullest and catch that last-minute plane.

7. Easier to move
We’ve moved 5 times in the past year and a half. We did not take any time off to move and I was pregnant for 3 out of those 5 times. I cannot fathom scavenging through boxes and boxes of clothes to get to what I needed for work at that time! Or packing and unpacking that much stuff.

8. Saves you money
Speaking of moving. It costs a lot to move if you hire a company. The less stuff you own, the less you will pay for moving. Also the less stuff you own, the more money you have saved from not buying it.

9. Saves you time
If you were in fact to hire a moving company, they normally would require an inventory of what you own for insurance purposes. As in a spreadsheet of each and every item you own. Good luck listing all of those clothing items you haven’t worn since high school!

10. Gives you a mental break
Clutter doesn’t feel good. I smile every time I look at my tiny organized closet side. It gives out a relaxing vibe. Especially since my husband has more clothes than I on his side, which means I own less stuff than a guy. That just makes me feel cool.

How uncluttering my closet went.

Inspired by Miss Minimalist, as well as my own post on the ideal amount of things a working mom should have in her wardrobe, I have ruthlessly uncluttered my already not that large wardrobe. (Ok, so I uncluttered everything to the basement, which I know doesn’t really count, but I have found in the past that things that I put in my giant “box of stuff I don’t want” don’t tend to return upstairs, and transition to Goodwill quite well after a few months.) Below is what I have left, and I am pretty happy with it!

1. 3 pairs of jeans. (One is a maternity pair. I could probably do with just one regular pair, but my husband really loves both on me, so I’m keeping one for home and one for going out).
2. 3 t-shirts. They are my three favorites!
3. 2 medium length sleeve shirts
4. 1 long sleeve shirt
5. 4 dresses
6. 2 blazers
7. 2 pairs of black slacks (1 maternity pair)
8. 1 pair of brown slacks
9. 2 skirts (1 I wear, the other one I made and wear very rarely but can’t get myself to part with since it’s the only thing I’ve ever sewn in my life!)
10.1 blouse
11.2 tank tops
12.3 white camis
13.1 black cami
14.A pair of sweats
15.A “jackhammer” shirt I lounge around the house in
16.A hoodie

Of those 30 items, 15 are maternity, and 6 of the maternity items are not currently residing in my closet but are either borrowed or stored in the basement.

As a result of the purge, I got rid of ten items, consisting of:
1. A turtleneck that was too short
2. A dress with a zipper that was semi-broken
3. One white cami
4. A black tank top
5. Two pairs of jeans
6. A hoodie
7. 2 t-shirts that I don’t love
8. A long-sleeve shirt in a color that doesn’t flatter my skin tone

I’ve always been good at keeping the contents of my closet down to a minimum and have reaped the benefits all throughout my life. In my next post, I will outline the benefits of keeping your wardrobe small.

Why I decided not to read. My 2014 New Years Resolution.

My 2014 New Years resolution is not to read books for a year. That’s right. I am planning to not read a single page of printed literature in 2014. The bible will be an exception, as well as any books that my husband suggests we read together. (Articles and blogs are ok). That may seem like an unusual resolution, but as always, I have my reasons:

1. I need to honor my husband. My husband doesn’t like when I read. This probably sounds like a controlling statement, but there are no such intentions behind his reaction and he actually has a point. I can “get lost” in a printed book in a matter of seconds. Although that doesn’t seem like a big deal, I tend to shut him out because I don’t typically share what I’m reading about, and much less how I feel about what I just read. In his words, my reading makes him feel “left out.” Although novels don’t typically bring much harm, it gets pretty bad when I decide to read a self-help marriage book. I can suddenly find myself identifying with a paragraph, and he can walk in on me sobbing and mad at him when he hasn’t done anything and I was his normal happy wife five minutes ago. So it only makes sense that my reading would annoy him. In addition, I nag him about reading the same books. And who likes to be nagged? Needless to say, if he does pick up the volume that impacted me, he already has negative associations with it, and doesn’t receive the information in it objectively. It’s time I allowed him to lead me in this aspect of my life that takes up such a huge chunk of my time.

2. I need the time I spend reading to write. To make it an even sweeter deal for hubby, I am going to dedicate this year to writing about books, so he can find out what I think about them (I hear he reads my blog posts. Hi honey!) In my recent find on the Becoming Minimalist blog, I found a great article about uncluttering books! The author advises to assess how each book makes you feel and to write about it. Then decide whether to get rid of it or to keep it. I decided to take that advice, and instead of spending the time reading, to write about the books I’ve already read. I am going to call it the 52 Books series, and am going to commit, for the first time in my blogging career, to write one post each week about one book. I hear consistency is key to having a successful blog, but to date all I’ve promised my readers is to be inconsistent. And I think I delivered on that promise pretty well, since this is my fifth blog, and the gap between the first two posts on it is a year wide. This is going to be my attempt to be consistent. So I pick (what’s today?) Thursdays for my 52 book series. Currently all my books are in the basement. We just got a bookshelf, so instead of moving all the books upstairs right away, I am planning to do it one at a time.

3. I need to reassess the value of books in my life and why I hang on to them. I grew up in a household where there were hundreds of books, and other households’ “intelligence” level would be measured by the amount of books they owned. I now realize that that’s not necessarily a good indicator of anything. However, I still have a fear that if I don’t display hundreds of volumes at my house, people will think less of me. I think it’s time to let go of that fear, as well as judging others by the amount of books they own. Besides, it’s not quite applicable in this day and age of Kindles and reading apps.

4. I need to clear my mind. I realized that I am quite easily influenced by what I read. The result is confusion and clutter inside my brain! I rush from one extreme to the other, either determining that I need to achieve what the author has, or become like a character I’m reading about. Because I read so much though, it is practically impossible to achieve that many things and become like that many people in one lifetime. I think at this point I’m confused about who the heck I’m supposed to be and what I need to focus on achieving in my life. For the first time ever yesterday, I took a bath without a book. I just relaxed and processed my thoughts. And what I discovered was surprising. I got a lot more clarity, and realized that I need to learn to identify what I am thinking about and to process my thoughts and emotions in moments of solitude instead of filling them with more information. This resolution will be a sort of uncluttering of the mind.

5. I like the feeling of accomplishment. The only resolution I’ve ever not kept was to read through a massive volume on shoes. I did not care for the feeling, and since then have kept my resolutions accomplishable. While everyone else will be slaving on their reading lists, I will sit back, relax, and feel great at the end of the year when I accomplish my resolution once again!

Happy 2014!

A Working Mom’s Ideal Wardrobe

Between writing my previous post and this one I came across Miss Minimalist blog and realized that I don’t qualify to bear the “Minimalist” title. She has only 10 items in her wardrobe! I won’t even try to get to that, although back when I was single I had moments when that was the case. Those were the days… But back to the topic. Below is a list of items I believe are a comfortable amount for a mom who works in a professional setting that requires a lot of walking around.

1. 2 pairs of jeans
2. 2 t-shirts
3. 3 long sleeve tops that can go under a suit or with jeans
4. 1 pant suit
5. 1 skirt that can be paired with the jacket from the pant suit
6. 2 dresses
7. 1 pair of flats
8. 1 pair of low heel boots
9. 1 purse
10. 1 hoodie or light sweater
11. sweats/pajamas to lounge around the house
12. a mid-waist wool coat (goes well with both jeans and office attire!)

Above is my ideal checklist of things to own. I’m going to pare down in the next days and see if I can get close to that. One thing I’ve found is that well-made maternity shirts actually are also a great fit for hiding belly flab when you aren’t pregnant. Therefore, most of my shirts are actually maternity wear. And although people told me that I will get SO tired of it that I won’t want to ever put it on again postpartum, that’s actually not the case at all, as my husband has graciously agreed to spend our previous year’s tax return entirely on maternity wear for me, and the clothes are some of the nicest I’ve ever owned! In my next post, I will compare what I have previously owned to my uncluttered wardrobe. I might even get some new hangers to celebrate!