That might come in handy

Let me start by saying this: I like the Japanese decluttering book. I haven’t even read it yet (#25 on the hold list!) but a few months ago I started asking if particular items brought me joy when deciding whether to keep them and it was SO helpful. I’ve now progressed to the point where I regularly find myself using an item and realize unpromped this doesn’t bring me joy. This item has always annoyed me. The freedom of realizing I can just get rid of it is amazing.

All that said, the ‘always be prepared’ mindset of this article is me to a T. You know what else brings me joy? Fishing something out of the donate box because, independently of putting it there, you’ve just found the situation for which you really do need it. Not ‘well I found this, so it’s like free shopping and I can enjoy the thrill of a new thing,’ but actual ‘ugh, I need something for this situation. If only I had…oh wait! I do! And I very nearly didn’t have it anymore!’

I’m addicted to this high.

This is a multi-layered anectode, so bear with me: somehow, between garage sales and Christmases and birthdays, Paul ended up with a massive amount of 4T pants. So many that I only put half in his drawer, storing the other half in his closet. A big no-no for declutterers, but you know what? He’s a three-year-old boy. A few weeks ago, almost every pair of pants in his drawer spontaneously tore right across the knees. 4 pairs gave out in the same week. Instead of bemoaning his lack of pants, I gleefully threw the old ones into the ‘Goodwill recycling’ box and got out a whole new set. Free pants!

But that’s not even the win – as referenced, I keep a box in the basement of torn or stained clothes. When the box is full it goes to Goodwill, who will take such fabrics for recycling. The pants have been in there for about a month. They really should have left my house by now. But they haven’t. And we’re going to family camp this weekend. Family camp, also known as mud, dirt, and torn pants weekend. But Paul already has torn pants. I don’t have to sacrifice new pants. I can just dig these out of the box! Which I did!

I’ve had to be very stern with myself for a very long time now: you don’t need to keep ripped or stained clothes “just in case.” When has just in case actually happened? Did you really wear those old t-shirts to the gym? Or did you go to Old Navy and buy pretty workout clothes? (Which you also didn’t wear to the gym, because you don’t go there, but whatever.)

Are you really going to know that today is the day the kids are going to devise new levels of clothes-destroying games while playing outside? Or is that day going to blindside you while the old clothes you saved for them ‘just in case’ sit in their closets?

So out the door all the stained clothing goes. I don’t need this, you say! I can live without it! I want to have less stuff! And then ‘just in case’ comes to pass and the high of having exactly what you need exactly when you need it causes you to want to keep everything you’ve ever had forever.

I hope that book comes in soon.

Day 2: Spain

Spain/Germany 2015:

Day 1: Berlin

We landed in Spain late on Day 1. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see someone as I was to see my sister at the airport to rescue us after 30 hours of travel. She rented the car in advance for us, met us at baggage claim, and loaded us up to drive to her apartment. After being ‘on’ for 30 hours I felt like I could finally exhale. We made it!

She went above and beyond to get ready for us – not only renting the car, but borrowing bunk beds for the kids and a futon mattress for Thomas and me from a co-worker. Plus she went grocery shopping! I’ve decided the only way to see Europe is with family who lives there. You can’t beat a free place to stay and a fridge stocked with kid-friendly food. We got everyone into bed and thought we’d nailed this whole time-change thing. It was only 2 pm at home, but we were ready to sleep…and sleep we did until noon the next day (Spain time). Oops.

The intention of our first full day in Spain was to figure out what Aunt Katie does all day. I wanted the kids to be able to picture her life even after we got home – to have an actual idea of what “she’s in Spain” is like beyond “she’s not here.” Luckily, there was still time for that even though we started at noon.

Picking dandelions outside Katie’s office


Our first stop was her office to look around and meet her coworkers, who are missionaries also and from several different parts of the world. We visited the house of one of them to meet his wife and children, whose toys Paul thought were pretty darn cool.

Ready for war

We had a tapas-style lunch back at Katie’s apartment, wine included, and everyone agreed that maybe we should move to Spain. That feeling intensified after dinner at her favorite restaurant where the kids and I split a huge pan of seafood paella. Paul ate everything we threw at him – mussels, shrimp, calamari – and even 10-month-old Eleanor couldn’t get enough. Neither could I. Margaret was freaked out by the shrimp heads, but gave the rice two thumbs up.

Before dinner, we went to one of the places I was most excited for: the grocery store. I love seeing what looks the same, what’s packaged differently, and what interesting things are staples. The kids were…not as impressed as I’d hoped they’d be. They thought it was fine, but it honestly did look a lot like home. When we got all the way to the back we found a fish counter with all sorts of whole fish for sale and they perked up a little. Other than that, they were disappointed there were no free samples. We might go to Trader Joe’s a little too much. I was excited to find some Spanish smoked paprika to bring home and Kinder eggs – which we promptly forgot about and never opened. At least my paprika made it home!

Day 3: Barcelona