Chicago in Winter

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Appetite for Reduction

If you know me, you know that I’ve moved A LOT. By my count, I’ve received mail at 19 addresses since I moved out of my parents’ house in 1997.  Given that I’ve moved at least once a year for most of my 20s and 30s, it really is shocking the amount of stuff I have.

Over the last few months, I’ve been starting the process of downsizing in anticipation of yet another (in town) move, this time with someone with a significantly more minimalist lifestyle. I’ve identified things of value that I can sell, many of which I’ve been moving around with me for up to 10 years despite less than annual use. I’ve been setting aside books for his neighborhood’s Little Free Library, and have been mending, donating, or tossing clothes that no longer work for me. Today I gave my roommate my vintage find of 2012: several boxes of mint condition nylons from the 40s that were incredibly cheap, but could only fit me if I removed several inches of my femurs. No point in keeping pretty things in a box.

Inspired by 10 Excuses We Make To Keep Our Clutter, I’ve decided to take on my biggest challenge: nostalgia. Since moving out, I’ve hauled with me several boxes of letters, photos, and other memorabilia.  As a lifelong letter-writer and creature of extreme sentimentality, I have a hard time tossing anything of emotional value, and have never figured out a good way to decide what stays and what goes. Every so often, I’ll figure out a way to weed some of the stuff, but that doesn’t stop the flow of stuff INTO the boxes.

After recycling a few things last night, I sorted out a small shopping bag full of letters for scanning. The particularly precious letters – like those from my grandparents – will go back into storage, but many will likely be recycled. I’m not sure what my process will look like exactly, but I’ve been using that as an excuse for years, and so decided to start with the less precious items while I figure out a sustainable and durable process for the rest.

This post about Digitizing Old Letters suggests a potentially useful workflow: scanning letters into Evernote, using OCR to translate as much as possible to searchable text, and transcribing the rest. I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate Flickr into my process, particularly for friends who send mail art. I’m limited by what I can do on the cheap – using the scanners we make available to patrons at work – but that’s better than nothing.

I would love your advice if you’ve tackled this challenge for yourself – or if you’re a pro who digitizes and stores things for a living. And I will report back here as I figure out a process that works for me now, and for a future sentimental me who wants to revisit the correspondence of her youth.

2013 Resolutions in Review

Now that it’s firmly 2014, let’s look back on last year’s resolutions:

1. No pants in public.
DONE. For a while, I took daily photos of my tights to prove that I was toughing it out through the Chicago winter. Then I got bored with that, and then the weather got nice, and not wearing pants didn’t seem like that much of a challenge. Then it got effing cold again, and I resumed the countdown to the end of the #yearofnopants. There were days when I desperately just wanted to throw on jeans, and there was at least one occasion of layering yoga pants over tights under a dress because I was freezing and didn’t have any other clothes available to me (thanks, unseasonably cold and rainy May weather), and there were several times when I ran errands immediately after a workout and so didn’t change out of my running kit, but I made it from Jan 1 – Jan 1 without leaving the house in pants of any non-workout type. I suspect that I will wear pants every day for the next week, and then I’ll go back to wearing skirts most of the time.

2. One really big race: either the Chicago Marathon or a triathlon.
NOPE. But I did do 7 half marathons and a 5K, and destroyed my PR at both distances, and did my first true destination race. I also plateaued halfway through the year, making each subsequent race an exercise in discomfort and frustration. I wish I’d done better, but have accepted that I didn’t.

3. Ride a goddamned motorcycle.
NOPE. No matter how often I ask the internet, no one wants to give me a motorcycle ride. Maybe this year I’ll just man up and take my colleague’s motorcycle class.

4. Get out of debt.
NOPE. But I did make progress, and committed to monthly financial accountability, and feel good about the progress that I’ve made.

5. Leave the country at least once.
DONE. Karen and I went to the Bahamas in February, and Nicolas and I went to Canada for the afternoon in May.

6. Run 1,000 miles and bike 2,000 miles.
NOPE. I ran 783.66 miles and biked 1030.84 miles. The running distance wasn’t unreasonable considering the number of races I did, but between sickness and injury, I had to cut way back in the last 3 months of the year. Had I biked as much all year as I did in the last 3 months of the year, I would have made the distance in spades, but I didn’t, and so am happy with the distances I did log. In 2014, I’d like to do more of both, but I’ll be happy with whatever ‘more’ ends up meaning.

7. Figure out this career stuff.
DONE. Well, sort of. I spent a lot of the year wracked with work/life balance angst, a lot of which resulted from a loathsome commute. I made and continue to make my peace with it, and am resolved to stay where I am for at least another year or two – which is further out than I’ve ever felt like I’ve been ready to commit to any job in a while.

8. Keep living with my heart wide open.
ONGOING. Much of the year required trusting my gut and doing my best to say yes to whatever the universe decided to send my way. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the work.

9. Be more like Leslie. Always.
ONGOING. Forever.