The Gift Giving Question

Written by Irina Gallagher

Non-permanentIt’s Thanksgiving week here in the States, the official beginning to the holiday season. Finally, the weather has chilled delivering a festive feeling. Like every year, we’ll be celebrating all that we have to be thankful for by spending time with family. And then, if the biggest retailers have their way, we will be rushing out to spend all the money we have (or don’t have) on tons of useless clutter that we don’t really need on Black Friday. This afternoon I heard an advertisement on the radio that Toys R Us – which on a regular day is basically a sensory overload command station – will be opening their doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. So make sure you shove that turkey in your mouth very quickly so you don’t miss the deals. I would rather pay someone not to take part in any of this Black Friday shenanigans, especially at Toys R Us. But it’s all in the name of showing the people that we care about them with loads of stuff, right? The more stuff the better, they tell us.


1999 Boxes – Forage Your Storage

Mission to Minimize: Action Phase III
Written by Irina Gallagher

Forage1999 as in the year or the number of boxes? Yes and yes. Both.

In our Mission to Minimize our possessions, one of our most arduous household tasks was to go through the dozens of storage boxes in our garage which haven’t been opened in years (literally, we had been hoarding some since 1999). In these boxes, we found a ridiculous amount of stuff. Boxes that we previously deemed to keep “forever until the end of time” caused us, now, to seriously question our adolescent judgement. Our garage was absolutely full of containers housing too many “sentimental” objects to number, too many things that we will never use, and taking up entirely too much space.

Trust me, I’m a complete sucker for sentiment, but some of the things we found were knickknacks for which we couldn’t even remember the source. A bunch of pennies strewn about a box classified as “important to keep” really could be put to better use in the kids’ piggy banks. (Were these, perhaps, magic pennies?). Apologies to whoever it was that gave us a rainbow terra cotta elephant plate a decade ago which didn’t make the cut. Thank you for the wishes that accompanied said plate. The good news is that the plate will soon find its way into the hands of its rightful owner who is looking for just such a purchase at Goodwill. (And so will the hundreds, if not thousands, of miscellaneous items that made their way to the Goodwill Express near us. I’m actually embarrassed at this point at the frequency of our visits to the donation center. I always imagine the employees rolling their eyes when they see our car – I know, it’s ridiculously egotistical to think they remember us so well. The poor souls probably just remember our crap. [For the record, we’re aware the Goodwill is not the most socially conscious enterprise of its kind, but when you have an intense need to purge your possessions immediately, we convince ourselves that the lavish car driven by the CEO matters less than someone walking into the store and being able to excitedly purchase a $50 doodad for $2.]).


The Toy-Free Family Room

Mission to Minimize: Action Phase II
Written by Irina Gallagher


Insanity. Absolute insanity. Every day. I can’t fathom how we lived before with every toy housed in the open family room space. Sure, there were bins for organization. The musical instruments here, the blocks there, stuffed animals over here. Everything was in reach. Everything was on the floor. It took about 30 minutes every night to put all this stuff in order. At the end of the day, every single toy in the house was strewn about the room. Yes, yes, we tried to abide by the “put this away first before you get a new toy out.” Lets just say that it wasn’t hugely successful. It was maddening.

We decided to minimize. Instead of keeping 8 bins of toys in accessible cabinets, we would only leave 2 bins out containing assorted objects. It was definitely a step in the right direction, but how was it that at the end of the day, there were toys still all over the floor despite the fact that they had only been played with for a grand total of 5 minutes collectively? It was still too much. Somehow, even this reduction wasn’t enough.


Mission to Minimize

Written by Irina Gallagher


There was really no precipice. All of a sudden, the contents of our house just went from being desirable to being an absolute nuisance. Up until a couple of years ago, our familial mentality was basically, “Yes, we’ll take these bizilbigs, blumtoopas, and wums. We might need them someday.” We stored these random objects in an assortment of boxes, which until very recently were filled to capacity. It may have been the arrival of our second child a year and a half ago that spawned this need to purge our possessions. Adding one little person to our living space may have been the breaking point in not being able to functionally fit in our space.

I liken humans to an organic substance that grows to fit into absolutely any volume. No matter what size your space is, you will grow into it. If you take a family of four living comfortably in a 1,000 sq. foot house and transplant the same people into a 2,500 sq. foot house, there is little doubt that those same four people will magically inhabit the entirety of the larger house to the same capacity as they had their smaller dwelling. We do have friends and family that are able to maintain an amazing amount of order in their homes regardless of square footage. Their beautiful living rooms are always immaculate and airy. I have an aunt whose house has not changed in literally decades. Every tea cup can be found in the exact spot in which it was housed circa 1976. Bless your pristine organization techniques and being able to maintain such structure. We, on the other hand, are the people that return from vacation and walk around a still-packed suitcase for a month before realizing that we’re missing a shoe. Even if we are getting a bit better about this, maintaining our 1,000 sq. feet of living space is really the maximum of our capabilities.


How Does that Pirate Shirt Make You Feel?

Mission to Minimize: Action Phase I
Written by Irina Gallagher

Let’s just face it, as much as it pains me to say this, unless that puffy-sleeved pirate shirt makes you feel fabulous, you probably won’t wear it. The same goes for all the other clothing you’re hoarding. I venture to say that this is true for most people. I know for certain that it’s the case for me. When I open my closet, each article of clothing gives me a certain feeling. If it gives me an uncomfortable feeling just looking at it, I’ll never wear it.

There are select items which I reach for most because they fit perfectly and make me feel happy when I wear them. These pieces have no “tight in awkward places,” “should be worn very carefully,” “do not sit or bend in an awkward angle,” “requires special accessory amendment,” “do not wear while attempting to chase a toddler” moments. I simply know that when I wear anything in this category, I will be comfortable and happy and I won’t be concerned about some kind of unfortunate wardrobe malfunction.

Conversely, there are (or were) things in my closet that made me grimace every time I came across them – and that’s before even putting these things on. When I looked at these objects, I was reminded of tight sleeves, pull-inducing waistline, too much transparency, etc. In short – these articles of clothing just didn’t make me feel good. Here is what I have come to realize: if I feel this way just by looking at this stuff, there is about a 1% chance that it will end up on my body and an even slimmer chance that if it ends up on me, that I will leave the house wearing that particular item. So why then are these things living in my closet? Why are they compromising the airiness of my wardrobe? Why are they mocking me with their high maintenance demands on a daily basis?


Mortality Check and the Realization of Happiness

Written by Irina Gallagher


mortality check – an experience when, upon being confronted with a massively life changing event, one begins to question what is actually important in life.

When you visualize happiness, what do you picture? Is it a feeling of warmth and security? Are you making it rain with hundreds in a Scarface-type mansion (hopefully without the weaponry) or is your idea of happiness something simple?

My impression is that happiness is a very similar thing for most people no matter their background. After we wade through the nonsense that we think makes us happy – the stuff that we are tirelessly working for that just clutters our lives, I think most people come to a pretty similar conclusion. We want peace. We want to be with the people we love. We want everyone to be healthy and happy. It’s relatively simple. Think back to a few cherished memories. Are you remembering people, places, and experiences or are you remembering material things? The memories that come to mind for me are incredibly simple times with close friends and family; watching the news in the evenings with my grandparents, enjoying ice cream bars with my dad, snuggling with my babies, laughing with siblings after the kids are asleep during family vacations. My happiest memories come from moments of heartwarming nostalgia. Happiness is a very simple endeavor, but if we don’t look back on our happiest memories with an air of striving for a new generation of such simple happiness, we are in jeopardy of being caught up in the daily minutia of excess, of thinking that instead of our relationships and experiences bringing happiness, unneeded indulgences will.


Creatures of Magic

Written by Irina Gallagher

magic_girlThere are two creatures that live in this house who possess an element of magic. Their luminous energies are brighter than the sun. Their essence belongs somewhere in the land of unicorns and griffins, not in the human world. They are much too fascinating to be mere mortals.

One comes from distant lands. She is a sorcerer, a wanderer, an enchanted being akin to a chameleon who transforms herself as quickly as a light flickers. Just as quickly, new worlds appear and new languages are created in her presence. She is a warrior, constantly battling for the good of mankind. She is inquisitive, tenacious, and passionate. Her zeal in all the endeavors which she creates for herself could fuel the world.

He is light. He holds in his hands an unadulterated spirit. He is but a wee explorer in our scope, but his spirit says that he has existed for infinitely longer than we realize, for when he sees photographs of his ancestors, there is a clear familiarity in his eyes. He carries a mystical power to erase all your woes with a single all-encompassing embrace. His embrace is the strongest, most accurate portrayal of the boundless love and kindness which live in his heart.

They have but one vulnerability; they are growing amongst us humans. In order for their enchanted magic to survive as long as possible, their imaginations must not be stifled. They must not be tarnished by the complexities of the pedestrian human world. Their spirits should not be dimmed by accounts of modern calamities. These magical creatures must not be overwhelmed by the excess of superfluous material objects which has come to be a human habit. They simply need less of our world to preserve more of theirs. And their world is not material.

6 Tips for Alleviating Phone Information Overload

Our Addiction to Mass Information
Written by Irina Gallagher

The biggest instigators of mass information overload these days are smartphones. I thought I would share a few tips that I use to minimize my unintentional phone usage – the kind you get sucked into when you check one of your notifications and end up in the web of somehow looking at a stranger’s Facebook profile for no reason.

1. Turn your text and email notifications to silent. For the last few weeks, unless I’m expecting a particular text or email, I try to remember to keep everything except for my call volume on silent. My most contacted people know that if they need me to answer immediately they can call me and if it’s not an emergency, I’m pretty good at viewing my messages regularly at my down times throughout the day – I still do this too frequently, so I will be utilizing the remainder of these tips more in the future.