Found: One Passport Photo

“So what other places do I have to clean out?” I asked myself.  I have been on a mission to pare down my belongings and I try to do something towards that goal each day.  I opened a cabinet.  Besides being the storage space for my pajamas (which I wasn’t interested in paring down at the moment) I knew the other things in there needed to be sorted through. And that’s when I spotted it.  The burgundy photo box I thought was stored somewhere in my parents barn.  Turns out, it was in my house all along.

Why is this photo box so important?  Yes, it holds all sorts of moments captured on film.  But memories are not what I’ve been seeking.  I was on the hunt for a passport-sized photo.  You know how you only need one for your passport, but when you go to have the picture taken they give you at least four?  I hung onto those extras figuring I’d need them at some point.  And I was right.  To apply for the list of Italian farms that are looking for volunteers, I need to send a passport-sized photo.  On my long list of steps to get to Italy was to apply for that list.   But to get any task accomplished, one must break it down into its individual steps.  So my first step was to find that burgundy photo box.

Upon finding it, it took me no time at all to apply for the list.  I filled out the on-line application, paid the membership fee, and then scanned and sent my photo.  Isn’t wonderful we can do all of this electronically?

So there it is.  Another in a long list of steps checked off.  Within four days I will have access to a list of over 200 Italian farms looking for volunteers.  The next task?  To figure out on what kind of farm I’d like to work.  Do I want there to be animals?  Or just vegetables?  Or olives?  Or grapes? What other tasks do I want to be a part of?  And the bigger question – the one I still have no answer to:  In which part of Italy would I like to spend March and April, 2012?  (Suggestions welcome.)

Farming & Facebook

Today, I found a good use for Facebook.  I know, I know – there are lots of you out there who can’t imagine living without it.  I’m not one of them.  I’ve often wondered what I’d miss if I closed my facebook account.  I can’t say the list was too long.

I would not miss Farmville for sure.  I couldn’t care less about the crops on your fictional farm.  Probably because when I have an interest in farming, I go volunteer on an actual real-live one. I know plenty of you don’t care to do that, or don’t think you could.  To each her own.  But a fictional farm just doesn’t do it for me.  That’s why I’m feeding my farm fix by WWOOFing in Italy next spring.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m getting rid of most of what I own and living “on the road” for a year as of 7/7/11.  Part of my year will be spent in Italy working on organic farms in exchange for room and board.  That’s why I spent a week at Sisters Hill Farm this past summer – to see if I could hack farm work. Well, turns out I can.

Here’s the first dilemma: where in Italy do I want to farm?  The country has over 200 farms that take WWOOFers.  By joining WWOOF Italy, I get a list of these places with a short description of the farm, the work, and the accommodations.  But how much can you really know about a place just on a short description?  You don’t pick a surgeon by his bio on the internet.  Nor do you pick a farm this way.  In both cases, you want personal recommendations.  But how do I get those when most everyone in my life never heard of WWOOFing until I told them about it?

This is where facebook comes in.  Today I found a page for those of us that are planning to WWOOF in Italy! On this page, I can say when I’m going and what I’d like to do, and other WWOOFers can recommend farms I might like.  Here I thought I’d have to spend hours searching the internet for people’s WWOOFing experiences, but with facebook I now have access to over 500 people who can help me find just what I’m looking for.  Thank you, facebook.  I’ll be keeping my account.

On My Way!

I had a purely joyful day cleaning out a closet yesterday.  I know this is not normal.  But neither am I.

As many of you know, I love to declutter.  What do I love more than decluttering my own life?  Helping other people declutter theirs.  But yesterday it was on my home turf.

It all started with a mistake: buying my Christmas tree from Home Depot instead of cutting it down myself.  That poor tree drank hardly any water from the day I brought it home.  So though I usually leave the tree up until the Epiphany, this one was so brittle it just had to come down.  My sister was up the road having breakfast with a friend, and when she offered that I should meet this new guy I said, “Sure – you guys can come over and help me get my tree out of my apartment.”  Men like showing off their manliness.  I like giving them opportunities to do so.  This guy was no exception.  And they’re still in the early dating stages, so of course he would say yes.

The tree was gone, but now I was left with a large pile of needles where the tree once stood and a trail of them out the door and down the stairs.  I lived with the needles for a couple days – cleaning is not my favorite thing.  But yesterday I finally lugged my vacuum out of the closet – only to find it had hardly any suction.  It picked up the needles when I moved it forward, but when I pulled it back it dropped them all down again.  It was one of those temperamental days of mine so this nearly put me over the edge.  Here I was, ready to clean, and my vacuum was useless.  Ugh.  I wished I had a husband or boyfriend who could fix it or run out and buy a new one, but I’m on my own.  I allowed myself a few tears over my inability to attract a mate and then got down to business: I called Grandma.  (Mom and Dad weren’t home – they’re usually my first call for help.)

I got dressed and went to Gram’s to borrow her vacuum.  Then, I came back home and pulled most everything out of the living room so I could vacuum.  And it was then that I decided to deal with the pile of crap I had hidden in the corner behind my recliner chair.  It was crap that had seeped out of the corner closet, so I decided to deal with that too.

This closet is not one I frequent and in helping people declutter I often recommend we start in a place where they don’t have a lot of things they use often as those are easier to recognize as no longer needed and therefore easier to get rid of.

What was in this closet of mine?  Mostly yarn, candles, gift bags, and tissue paper.  I dealt with the yarn first. It was overflowing out of its cardboard box so my first thought was: it needs a bigger box.  Then I thought better of it.  If I’m going to sell or get rid of all my stuff by 7/7/11, I need to get hopping.  How many times had I moved all this yarn from place to place?  Was I really ever going to use it?

So I sorted.  I was easily able to part with most of it – with the exception of a small shopping bag of expensive yarn that I just felt I needed to hang onto for a little longer.   But what to do with it all?  My knitting and crochet group at the library had loved my idea of a yarn swap in January, but now I realized I didn’t want to swap.  I wanted to be rid of this stuff!  So I bundled most of it up and called my schoolteacher friend.  “Oh, the teachers would love it!” she said.  I have found that schools will take a lot of things.  Not just books and arts and crafts supplies, but bookshelves, small furniture, remnant carpets.  Got something you no longer use but not sure where it should go?  Call a local school.

My front hall had become my staging area for items ready to leave my apartment.  Usually it was just a can or bottle to deposit in the recycling bin downstairs.  But today you could hardly get through the space.  When I undecorated, I had also managed to get my Christmas decorations down from five boxes to just two, so I had a couple empty plastic bins to return to Mom and Dad’s.  I won’t get into all the other outgoing stuff.  But let’s just say I wanted that yarn out of there! So I decided to drive the half hour to my schoolteacher friend’s house to give her the yarn.   I also put all my tissue paper and gift bags together and decided I don’t need most of that either. I was going to bring the tissue paper to the new consignment shop – they said they would use it to wrap breakables.  But I told my schoolteacher friend about it and she said the art teachers would love that too.  And the gift bags.

So I’m well on my way to minimizing my belongings.  Appropriately enough, I was listening to Nina Yau’s free e-book Minimalist Freedom while doing some of this work.  Very apropos and inspirational.

Next?  Well, I loved my living room when it had hardly any furniture in it.  So though I’m still six months away from moving out, I think it might be time to get rid of most of it.  Most of it belongs to my mother, so that shouldn’t be so difficult.  Didn’t sell my couch yet – posted it on craigslist, but no real takers.  But am ready to put my favorite recliner chair on there next!