Tuesday, April 10, 2018


The title of this post works on more than one level, as you’ll see below, though I didn’t mean it as a pun when I wrote it…

- On a whim, I decided to take a free online course at the University of Alberta titled Indigenous Canada, after reading about it here. It’s supposed to be a 12-week course requiring 3 to 5 hours a week, and I honestly don’t know where I’m going to find the time, but technically I’ve got 180 days to complete it and I really wanted to learn more about Canada’s First Nations, so there we are.

- I’ve had my genetic profile done on 23andMe.com. Most of it confirms what I already know, though I had more British/Irish DNA than I thought. I also have some Iberian DNA I did not know about (a chromosome 12, basically). What I particularly enjoy are the comparisons between my DNA relatives and the average 23andMe customer. For example, I am 67% less likely to drink instant coffee and 49% less likely to drink espresso drinks (I don’t drink coffee at all), but 23% more likely to think that cilantro tastes like soap (not true, I actually love cilantro). I am 50% less likely to be a vegetarian – technically true, though this doesn’t say anything about flexitarianism. I am 22% more likely to own a dog (I did have one and will probably have another eventually), and 21% more likely to have hair that becomes frizzy in humid weather (so true).

Another cool thing about 23andMe is that it can put you in touch with distant relatives. I found one who, after some digging, I identified as my third cousin twice removed (which means that he and my grandmother share a set of great-great-grandparents).

- Another thing that I really wanted was a digital way to create my family tree and preserve it online. I had pieces of paper with various branches of my family tree, but I wanted it all in one place, organized in a uniform manner, and viewable online. My friend Jen, who’s a bit of an expert at these things (see Jenealogy), recommended FamilySearch.Org, and I LOVE it! It’s a free service, which is important to those of us who are just dabbling in genealogy to begin with. There’s an option to add photos of ancestors if you have them, and you can write life sketches, add important dates and alternate names and job titles, etc. The really awesome thing, though, is that if one of your deceased ancestors is already in the database, you can just add him/her to your tree and then all their data, including *their* ancestors, gets added automatically! I was able to go back to the 1100s on one branch and the 1300s on another, and if that’s not amazing I don’t know what is. Granted, I have an advantage in that the Catholic Church in Quebec was very good about keeping records (birth, marriage, death), and Canada has enough census data to fill in some gaps. Plus, my ancestors were mostly from France and Great Britain/Ireland, whose records are usually searchable.

- I’ve been on a decluttering kick lately. The Engineer and I finally whittled down our CD collection so that we could get rid of his CD tower and put all of our CDs in my bookcase (a short three-shelf Billy bookcase from Ikea with their CD inserts, which are now discontinued), thereby saving a bit of space. It made me think of people who are so minimalist that they own only 100 things. I had linked to this article several years ago (it explores the correlation between minimalism and happiness), though I think the process as it is mainstreamed today (the 100 things challenge) was popularized by David Bruno. Let me tell you right now: I don’t believe this is achievable for me. Maybe millennials have an easier time if they haven’t come of age at a time when people bought physical copies of media items like music, movies and books, if they only ever had digitals copies of those to begin with. Maybe if the Engineer and I were childless and lived in a small studio apartment in New York City where we never entertain, we could do 100 things each, but even then it would be a struggle. Add the fact that we live in a suburban house with a yard and two-car garage, that we have kids, that I’m sentimental about (too) many things… It’s just not realistic. What *would* be realistic, though, would be GETTING RID of 100 things. I figured I could get rid of 100 things in the first 100 days of the year.

Except, as I said, I had already started decluttering my music collection, and I had a bunch of CDs in my “maybe” pile (as in, “maybe I’ll be able to let it go once I make a digital copy of it” or “maybe if I listen to it again I’ll realize I don’t like it that much anymore” – only a handful of those made it back into my collection). I hadn’t counted how many items were in that pile, but I knew that given those, it wouldn’t be a big challenge getting rid of 100 things (I ended up getting rid of an even 60 CDs and cassette tapes). So I’m now trying to get rid of 365 things this year. It’s more of a goal than a resolution, and I’m hoping not to make myself crazy with the exact number when it comes down to it. (Some people do recommend doing the challenge without counting.)

I’ve decided that I am not counting food items, toiletries, anything meant to be single-use/disposable, digital files, or monthly magazines from subscriptions. I am also not counting things that I am replacing. (So, for example, if I get rid of a sweater because I’m decluttering, then I’ll count it, but if I buy a new sweater and end up getting rid of an old sweater to make room for it, I won’t count it. Fair?) There are some things I’m not sure how I’ll count – like if I get rid of a bunch of papers I’d been holding on to for years, is each sheet of paper one item? Or is a collection of papers a single item, regardless of how much I whittle it down? I’ll figure it out when I get there, I guess. I am counting sets as single items, though. I’m also not sure how to count baby clothes. In theory, those are baby items, not mine, but I’m sure you’ll agree that my baby doesn’t yet feel any sense of ownership over onesies he’s outgrown! Those are really my responsibility, so it seems like they should count. But a single onesie being one item makes it too easy – I might make sets to sell or donate and count each set as a single item.

So anyway, without counting any of the baby clothes, on this 100th day of the year, I have gotten rid of 124 items (though some are on eBay, Nextdoor, or Vinted and haven’t sold yet, or are in a bag that I have yet to take to my chosen donation center). This fall I’ll tackle my books (because the Engineer wants me to make room for more of his in the bookcase, as more than half of the titles there are mine – he says it isn’t fair, I say he knew what he was getting into when he married me, but I can compromise because that’s what partners do). I’ll also do another big clean out of my closet, because by then I’ll be out of the maternity clothes for good, and I have to say I’m really looking forward to getting my “real” clothes back. I’ll report back on my progress later in the year.

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