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This long Memorial Day weekend has been mostly about food. Well, okay, food and "Due South." And massive life changes.

My nephew and I made ice cream yesterday for his 12th birthday party. He couldn't decide on a flavor, so we made all three: chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.

In the past few days I've cooked several other things that I would never have thought of as "homemade": pork jiaozi (a huge production number, but fun); steamed baozi with sweet red bean paste (I still haven't got them quite right--they're tough instead of cloud-like); pita bread (not a PITA at all to make) and hummus.

I mention all this because it's part of a change in my life, and today, in talking with roseambr, I became conscious of just how massive that change has been.

At the end of 2007 I was driving my car to work at least twice a week. I was eating two or three meals a day from commercial food establishments. I was putting mountains of trash out on the curb every week. I was buying whatever the hell I felt like buying, and my house was a pile of clutter.

I was using huge, indulgent amounts of electricity, gas, and water.

My biggest concern in life, after my general mental health, was the agony I was experiencing over my weight and my irresistible appetite.

Less than six months later, I'm making everything I eat in my kitchen from scratch. I'm eating a very steady 1960 or so calories a day and all my cravings have vanished. I rarely think about my weight--which, incidentally, is slowly climbing back down the scale.

I'm composting and recycling so much that my actual trash fits in one grocery bag a month. Not that I have grocery bags anymore.

I never drive to work. I rarely drive anywhere. I'm down to a tank of gas every six or seven weeks, and at this rate am seriously considering giving up my car altogether.

I have a clothesline now and have basically stopped using my dryer. I can go days and days with no cash in my wallet and not even notice. I water my plants with used kitchen graywater. I have plants--plants that will be food one day.

I take extremely short, frugal showers. It's amazing how perfectly clean a person can get with only two or three gallons of water.

My house is neat and spare all the time. My panic attacks have stopped. My skin is clear, my sinuses are clear, my blood sugar never plummets, the browbeating voices in my head are largely silent, and I spend many more moments per day feeling calm, happy, grounded, centered, and focused than I spend feeling insane.

This weekend I realized that the journey that began with clearing a shelf in my living room has carried me into a whole new country. I barely know who the hell I am anymore.

But whoever I am, I'm in pretty good form, and I kick the ass of who I used to be, six ways to Sunday without breaking a sweat.

So, yay.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 27th, 2008 07:02 am (UTC)
It's absolutely inspiring reading these posts of yours. I've not done nearly as much clearing out as you have, but I'm already feeling benefits in terms of peace of mind and changes in appetite. I want and intend to open up more space.
May. 27th, 2008 07:05 am (UTC)
It does my heart good--so much good--to know that this project of mine has been some inspiration to you.

And it's even more gratifying to have someone corroborate the power I've experienced in the simple act of clearing a bit of space. It's exciting to know it's not just me--that maybe there really is some kind of principle at work.

Very exciting. Thank you.
May. 27th, 2008 09:25 am (UTC)
Inspiring is exactly the right word.

Last night I couldn't sleep and I thought 'what must I do to stop feeling this way'. Now this morning I read this, and it makes me think.
May. 27th, 2008 10:33 am (UTC)
I've not been clearing out to anything like the same extent, but what I have done has brought a lot of lightness of mind.
May. 27th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't know that decluttering is a panacea, but...

Wait, yes I do. It's not the cure for cancer or anything, but it does seem to be a very simple and effective tool for cutting into the cycle of our current societal malaise, and starting to break that cycle up. Perhaps not a panacea, but a surprisingly multi-purpose tool.

I hope you feel more the thing soon.
May. 27th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC)
I can't believe how much your life has changed-it's really incredible! All this sprang from clearing a shelf. *admires*
May. 27th, 2008 07:26 am (UTC)
Thank you, ma'am. It has been quite a surprising journey, and today I realized that I'd better start being fully conscious of the change itself--the degree of it. Otherwise, I think it'd be pretty stressful.
May. 27th, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy that you're in such a good place now. Good for you!
May. 27th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Q!
May. 27th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
Whenever I need some inspiration or reinforcement I'll either crack open an Eckhart Tolle book or look at your LJ - both give me just the nourishment I need at the time. I'm fangirling you so hard right now! I'm still planning on doing a watercolor for you when I'm feeling more confident. I'll let you decide what picture you want me to use. Okay? *squeezes you and twirls*
May. 27th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
Oooh! Really?

The first thing that pops into mind when I think of you is your beautiful garden and the pretty flowers--those orange ones with the black centers that vine everywhere, that we can't grow up here on the 45th parallel.

So...flowers, maybe? *hopes*

Blogging all this stuff does me a world of good, and that's why I do it, but big bonus for me if what I write is valuable to you. I'm so glad to know that.

Thank you!
May. 27th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC)
Congrats on all the positive change. What a great way to stretch Project Empty into other areas.
May. 27th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I thought of you as my nephew and I were making our own ice cream. We went to Whole Foods together in search of ingredients, and when he saw the price of a vanilla bean he became very concerned. I assured him that if we were going to bother at all, we had to do it right. So we got our $4.50 vanilla bean home, split it open, scraped the pulp and seeds into the pot, added the hull--you know, the whole wonderful, aromatic thing.

It was great to spend time with a child, making something so basic from scratch. I think it helped him realize that real food is precious, slow, quite a lot of work, and worth the effort.
May. 27th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
You've just cemented yourself in his memory. And I'm sure this isn't the first time. What a wonderful experience.
Did you dry out the hull, cut it into smallish pieces and store it in a small bottle of sugar? The sugar can pull even more flavor out even after the pod has been "used".
One more little trooper for the cause!
May. 27th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
Dang! That bean is already in the compost, I'm sorry to say. Next time, I will re-use it for vanilla sugar. There is nothing to compare to a cup of hot cocoa made with vanilla sugar, Scharffen-Berger cocoa powder, and milk steamed in the cappuccino steamer.

All of avventura1234's kids have an appreciation of real food, and I'm glad to think I'm helping them further it. What more is there in life, really? Food, family, ice cream... :D
May. 28th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
Your project has been a real inspiration to me. I have a spreadsheet of things I want to accomplish now, along the lines of purging, de-cluttering, and generally simplifying our lives. Especially with a small person in the house, I want less "stuff". I want her to realize the value of simplicity. Thank you for sharing your progress and all you've learned!
May. 28th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to have been an inspiration! Your daughter is lucky to have parents who care about her real wellbeing, and not just her material stock of stuff.

I can't emphasize highly enough how important it has been to take the decluttering in thin slices. I still have several areas to declutter, and I'm realizing that I haven't gotten to them yet partly because they seem too big, and need to be sliced down finer.

Good luck--and go, spreadsheet! Spreadsheets rule.
May. 28th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
I'm so proud of you and you make me want to change too. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
May. 29th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! This journey takes place on a fairly untraveled road--plenty of room for anyone who wants to come along!
Jun. 16th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful, and so inspiring.

I hope you are proud of all you've done! (And continue to do!)
Jun. 16th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Yeah, sometimes I am--then I meet someone who is so much farther along this path, and I realize that it's a long journey.

Of course, "how you get there's the worthier part."
May. 1st, 2010 05:54 am (UTC)
I need to go on this journey too. My house is so cluttered it's f--ng ridiculous. Lack of time, lack of organization...

I'm 2 yrs later than these posts! but was interested in yr topic and yr lifestyle.
May. 1st, 2010 06:00 am (UTC)
As I'm sure I said several dozen times in these Project Empty posts, no other single aspect of the project was as important as Thin Slices. Most clutterers are perfectionists in some odd way, and have a hard time breaking things down into their component parts: we like the Whole Picture. With this project, I finally understood the power of tackling a big problem incrementally.

One cluttered room is way too big. One cluttered corner may be too big. One cluttered shelf in that corner may be too big. Half a shelf may be all you can deal with. If that's too big, then a quarter of a shelf.

It's one of the most interesting and rewarding journeys I ever took, and the results have proven to be quite lasting. The clutter has remained mostly at bay, and easily dispersed again where it has accumulated.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )



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