I wrote a few weeks ago that when my head is a mess, I am compelled to order my environment. In practical application, this means three things: cleaning. purging. painting.
and I guess decorating. If you count framing stuff I’ve been meaning to frame for…ever. and putting new flooring in downstairs. and getting rid of useless decorative items that just take up space in my house.
Like a bowl of rocks.
at one point in my life, I PAID for a bowl of rocks and put them on a flat surface in my house. To hold candles. Candles that are – to this day – still wrapped in plastic.
purging. This particular purge isn’t so bad. The biggest purge I’ve done was after my hysterectomy in 2009. That was bad. My house and it’s contents suffered nearly two years of female neglect because of chronic anemia and limited activity, followed by another 6 months of recovery after the surgery.
This purge is deeper.
A stripping down to basics purge.
On May 31st, I said I wanted “I want every superfluous thing in my house gone. GONE.” I’m looking at EVERYTHING in my house as if I were moving. Would I want to pack it? or get rid of it?
I’ve thrown away and shredded so. much. paper. We’ve already made one trip to the dump. I’ve completely emptied every bathroom cabinet and only put back the things we need. I’ve gotten rid of pointless dust collecting decorations, including the bowl of rocks. I’ve even gotten rid of over 100 books.
I’ve been posting some of my progress on my public facebook page. You don’t even need to have a facebook account to see it.
Yesterday’s facebook post:
An entire pick-up truck load of furniture and multiple boxes of books, clothing, appliances, and pointless decorative dust collectors – all now in the FUMCO Whale of a Sale storage POD. I have zero dining room chairs and I do not care. I didn’t love them and they took up too much space, so they had to go. Based on that criteria, all members of my family will be staying. I suppose the cats can stay too. Tomorrow? The linen closet purge. I have to make room for the single tablecloth and the single set of placemats I’m keeping after giving away my buffet. #pruning #purging
Today’s facebook posts:
11:57am – Can’t decide what to do today. So I’m going to do everything. 5 minutes at a time. & fb/tweet my progress for accountability & motivation.
12:15pm – 1st micro-action of the day: Weeding the rose bed. Took 10 minutes. Love it when a huge bunch of weeds turns out to be a lot of runners.
12:23pm – How many fridge shelves can I clean in 5 minutes? Three. & I cooled off enough to go back outside. I’m gonna need shoes. #microactions
1:15pm – Prune long neglected roses-10 minutes, put roses in vase, download & learn photo editing app-15 min. #microactions (click any of the photos to enlarge)
3:06pm – An hour deep cleaning the kitchen, including the window, the front of the cabinets, the wall, the prints and my cobalt. More dust collecting decorations to get rid of. #microactions
3:13pm – This is going to be hideous. & hot. But tomorrow is yard waste day. Any guesses how long it will take? #microactions
4:06pm – If you do it fast enough, weeding is cardio. (posted “before” pic earlier) #microactions
4:56pm – 20 minutes to make this mess. But my view is much clearer. Gotta bind all this up after I pick PinkGirl up.#microactions
9:28pm – Got on a roll. FavoriteSon and I mowed and he whacked weeds while I bound up what seemed to equate to a small forest. I ran out of daylight. And I may have discovered a new smell. A cross between sunscreen, bug spray, gasoline and sweat. #pruning #purging
I took an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory. Hopefully, I’ll be good to go tomorrow. I never did get to that linen closet today.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
My husband is scared right now.
happy. but scared.
Happy because of all the stuff I’m getting rid of. And I’m getting rid of a LOT of stuff. a LOT of stuff.
Scared because of the honey-do list that goes along with ordering my environment.
I’m so thankful to God for him. He is my density.
In the middle (and at the bottom) of stirring this mess in my head, he said: “You really need to work through this. I don’t recognize you. It’s like you’ve given up. I don’t know whether to encourage you or give you a swift kick in the butt. You’ve lost your mojo.”
mojo. is that another word for faith?
It was bad. I couldn’t even pray.
What does faith look like when you can’t even pray?
it’s not pretty.
I needed to think. I need to think.
And so I clean my house. I paint my house. I purge my house. of books even. over 100 so far. I want every superfluous thing in my house gone. GONE.
GONE I tell you!
physically and metaphorically.
But in the middle of all the thinking I’m reading two books right now.
I know. But yes. These two are thick.
and not in a benchpress them kind of way.
FirstHusband suggested I re-read these books. Smart guy.
I’ve read both of them before. But I was younger then. Not that much younger. But still.
They were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.
In all my thinking and purging, I need to go back to bones of what I believe and why.
Messy deep digging blog posts ahead.
Even so, if you know me IRL (in real life), don’t weird out when you see me in person. If you’re at a loss about what to say, we can talk about the little blond girl’s face at the end of this commercial. cracks me up every time.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
oh, you get to see the ugly now. My last few 5 minute posts have been in line with my goal to spring/deep clean my kitchen, but today’s post is about a DAILY struggle.
I have to believe that my kitchen counter is not the only one with magical magnetic properties. Magical in that it attracts all materials, not just metal.
We’ve got paper, plastic, wood, glass, medicine, vitamins, food items, cleaning supplies, a doorknob (don’t ask), even flat out GARBAGE. Maybe if I put the garbage can ON the counter…
But I digress.
I decided to find out if I could clear it in 5 minutes. If so, maybe it won’t seem like such a daunting task in the future. Maybe if I SEE that I can do it in 5 minutes, I’ll be more likely to do it every day.
Bwahahaha! (in our house, that would be referred to the Zack and Cody laugh. a statement, followed by a brief pause, and then a burst of mocking laughter.)
Did I make it within 5 minutes?
I’ll admit right now that this was challenging, simply due to the distance I had to travel to put some of this stuff where it actually goes. Which is probably WHY it got dumped on the counter in the first place.
Nobody wanted to go the distance.
I did cheat a little bit and put the items that were supposed to go upstairs ON the stairs to carry up the next time I go.
You watch, the next 5 minute post will start with a picture of my cluttered staircase.
What can YOU clean in 5 minutes?
And I just want to state right now, that I am confident that I can not clear my minivan of CARbage in 5 minutes.
UPDATE @ 2:34pm: Right now, there’s only one thing on my kitchen counter. A crock pot full of Cream Cheese Chicken
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.
Still applying my long time practice of microactions to tackle deep cleaning my kitchen. Today, I had 5 minutes, so I completely emptied and cleaned out the knife drawer.
If THAT photo doesn’t show how bad it really was, THIS one surely does:
I followed the same steps as yesterday’s 5 minute drawer cleanup: emptied the drawer, cleaned the bottom, scrubbed and dried the drawer organizers and put everything back. This time, I didn’t get rid of anything. It may have been dirty, but it’s stayed organized like this since we had the kitchen redone in November of 2000.
2000. I wonder if that’s when I last cleaned the bottom of this drawer. no . . . NO. I’ve definitely cleaned it since then. That’s my story and I’m stickin to it.
What can YOU clean in 5 minutes?
But that was only the knife DRAWER. My favorite knives live in my Kapoosh (Amazon link) And I know I clean THAT multiple times per year. because it’s fun. and easy. and it takes less than FIVE MINUTES to clean it.
1. “crud.” That’s what our dishwasher is leaving behind. It is also what I am saying about the fact that our dishwasher is not washing our dishes.
Crud is NOT the word I used when I Googled my Kenmore model and found a forum with over 750 entries by owners who have problems with this dishwasher. Instead, I said, “ARRGG!” What? I love that word. Try it. “ARRGG!”
2. “EWWW!” That’s what I said when I sat down at the piano to help PinkGirl with her scales and smelled cat urine. EWWW is also the word I used when I saw the output tank of my SpotBot after cleaning the source of the stanky smell. I will spare you a photo.
3. “Dang It!” That’s what I said when I saw cat foot prints on the SpotBot track marks the next day. I need to get some Enzyme cleaner. Fast.
4. “Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.” That’s what I said over and over again the day after using my SpotBot on said carpet stain. On my hands and knees for 15 minutes moving my arm back and forth while holding the SpotBot wand and my abs are KILLING me. I thought it would be okay, it’s six weeks post-op for cryin out loud. Ow.
5. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!” That’s what I said to FavoriteSon this week! 14 years old! When did THAT happen?
6. “Bummer.” That’s what I thought when FirstHusband sent me a text message on Wednesday night that read:
“On the ground in Birmingham. Wasn’t planning to be in Birmingham today. Always a risk flying into Atlanta.” and then “Finally . . . 4 hours late.”
He sat ON the plane, ON the runway in Birmingham for THREE HOURS waiting to fly into Atlanta on Wednesday night.
Then I said “Bummer” again on Thursday night, when I got this text:
“Plane late out of Atlanta. Currently scheduled to land in Orlando at midnight. Be home around 1am.”
And no, he wasn’t sitting in the Atlanta airport that entire time. He flew from Atlanta to somewhere else and back between Wednesday and Thursday evening. He got home around 1:45 this morning and was already at work before we got up this morning. BUM. MER.
7. “YES!” That’s what I said when I
got rid of graciously mailed out FOUR, count em’ FOUR free books to other paperbackswap.com members. Let the purging continue! Want a free book? Join paperbackswap.com, list some of your unwanted books, PICK ONE from my list and I’ll send it to you FREE!
The Saturday before last, we learned we had critters invading our back porch. Little critters. And not cute critters like squirrels or chipmunks or hamsters. Bigger than hamsters. We had foolishly left birdseed on the porch in their original bags. First, we vacuumed up LOTS of sunflower seed shells. Then, after blocking up all the possible entrances to the porch and laying out a few appetizing cubes of poison, we discovered that critters were not INVADING our porch. They were LIVING IN IT.
So, Sunday afternoon was spent COMPLETELY purging the porch of critters and their warm cozy home – which happened to be underneath an old portable hot tub. The hot tub was buried under a mountain of junk and clutter. These photos are from August of last year, so add about 2 feet to the height of the junk and clutter:
Amazingly, after a only a few hours of digging through the pile, it was clear. I went inside like a total girl, and watched as FirstHusband tipped the hot tub on its side. The critters immediately ran out and scurried around the porch before finding the open door. FirstHusband and FavoriteSon rolled the hot tub out right behind them and it sat in the back yard for a week.
The NEXT Sunday afternoon, FirstHusband hauled the hot tub to the dump. My porch is so CLEAR!
Now I need to clean and organize the shelving unit behind the teak screen – but the screen has been pushed back more than 4 FEET! I was finally able to move my chair under the ceiling fan! It has been very peaceful sitting out there this last week.
The evacuated little critters have been munching on poison cubes every night for the past week. We’re pretty sure they ran into a shed on the side of the house, so unless they politely go off somewhere in the forest to die, finding their remains in the shed should be fairly easy. FirstHusband bought some stackable bins for the bird seed, so hopefully, the temptation to invade our porch is gone.
2. Speaking of birdseed. FirstHusband is still working on his raccoon learning curve. He has once again modified bird feeders with zip ties in an effort to thwart the raccoons and squirrels. I’ll let this photo serve as his notice that we’re down to three zip ties on this bird feeder.
And we did buy a new bird feeder for thistle. The label said “Squirrel Proof.” Shhhhh. I think I just heard a bunch of squirrels laughing. Yes. I’m sure of it.
We did figure out a way of preventing the raccoons from dragging the suet feeders up into the tree. We hung a big ol’ wooden birdhouse to the bottom of the suet feeders. Raccoons may be smart, and they may be persistent and they may have some chewing capacity – but they cannot lift this bird house unless they join paws and pull together.
Short of taking down all the bird feeders – which I REALLY enjoy having, due to all the BIRDS they attract, we’re not going to get rid of the other visitors to our yard. We back up to a small pond and beyond an embankment, a RIVER. There is a forest behind our house. At night, we get deer, raccoons – and last night, for the first time, we saw a possum. Unless we leave cheap feed out on the ground – AWAY from the house and easier to get to than the bird feeders – these visitors vandalize the bird feeders. If they don’t find any food out in the yard, the deer will come right up to my porch and eat my rosebushes down to stumps. Very rude.
So, we usually buy a 50 pound bag of cracked corn for $6.75 and leave the corn in bowls under the tree – again – AWAY from the house. We’ve learned that when we are diligent about that, the bird feeders stay intact, the more expensive seed remains in the feeders for the birds and I have roses in vases in my kitchen window (for the cats to eat, of course).
That would be our weekend.
I came out of it understanding how and why some parents do their children’s homework FOR them. It would have been so. much. easier.
These children are SO ready for summer. Homework is actually painful. For all of us. In addition to regular homework, this weekend FavoriteSon was working on an outline for a research paper on McCarthyism and PinkGirl was working on a “shoebox book report” on killer whales.
In the end, PinkGirl typed EVERY word of her own book report – WITH her fingers on the “home” keys, thank you very much. (use your left middle finger for the “c” key, use your left middle finger for the “e” key. – repeat.) She also cut all her own (ocean looking and seaweed looking scrapbook) paper, stuck all her own double sided stickers on all her cut paper, stuck her own paper to her shoebox and decorated the box all by herself. I say this because the finished project looked too good for a second grader. But I SWEAR all I did was cut out waves from the lines SHE drew with a wave stencil and put glue on a few pieces of paper for her. She did all the sticking. She’s the crafty one in the family. Regular readers know that crafting makes me break out in hives.
After a weekend that included a Friday night high school district track meet (he’s in middle school) where he placed 6th in the 400 meter dash, (got home after 11:30 p.m), a Saturday morning basketball game, math homework, science homework and yearbook homework (puh leezz), I cut FavoriteSon a break on the research paper outline and typed for him, with him sitting next to me, dictating every word. When he got stuck, FirstHusband or I would ask him a leading question and he would be jump started again. Turns out, the kid knows a heck of a lot more about Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism than I do, he just had trouble organizing all his information.
Domestically? The weekend was largely unproductive. By Sunday evening, our house was trashed. Only patches of carpet visible in places. The contents of both kid’s backpacks strewn from one room to another. The kitchen counter 4 inches thick, the kitchen table covered with craft paraphernalia, library books all over the living room floor, the dryer full of dry clothes, the washer full of wet clothes, the sink full of dirty dishes . . .
FirstHusband and I left it all and fell into bed, exhausted. I got up this morning and, after going to take care of a friend’s cats while she’s out of town, spent more than 2 hours “finding” my house. The kitchen counter is clear, the floors are clear, the washer AND dryer are empty, the sink is empty, the dishwasher is full and running. ahhh. I HATE it when my week starts “in the red” like that. I was finished by 10:45 a.m., just in time for a little coffee/Bible study/prayer journal time before my trainer arrived at 11:30. Then I walked two miles, sauna, shower, lunch and after school pickup.
After school today was intentionally orchestrated. First thing in the door, everyone got a snack and the kids unloaded the dishwasher. Then exactly 15 minutes to do anything they wanted, 15 minutes of homework at the (clear) kitchen table. We rotated that 4 times and all homework was done except for FavoriteSon’s rough draft (due Wednesday). We ate dinner together at the table, all four of us folded the dry laundry together, and we sat back down at the kitchen table, PinkGirl, to show her dad her math, FavoriteSon to work on his rough draft, me to read a book while keeping FavoriteSon on task. Both kids went to bed on time.
I’m ready for summer too.
Now, in all fairness, I have to admit that I bought FirstHusband a tape backup drive one year for Valentine’s Day. And he bought me printer memory one year. But we were newly married. And broke. And we couldn’t print anything but text.
I LOVE it. Again. LOVE it.
This video is really great – completely worth the 4 minutes, 45 seconds to watch it! I love subtle, smart humor. The folding, the recorded message in the background, the lunch menu.
You’ve heard it. Older people (older than ME, of course), talking about how undisciplined kids are today.
In case you don’t feel like zooming in on the first photo, the 1953 library book plate reads:
“PUPILS MUST NOT WRITE ON OR MARK ANY PAGE OF THIS TEXTBOOK.“
And THIS is why it takes me so long to purge excess stuff from my house. I get a little distracted.
Years ago, I bought old books for decorating purposes. I didn’t really care about the title or author, I just wanted vintage books on the shelf. I’m over it. I’m purging. I kept the titles and authors which interest me, but this is one that didn’t. Well, it doesn’t NOW. I’m finished looking at it, so I’ll pass it on to someone else now. Along with all this stuff:
Except the cat. I’m keeping the cat.
No wonder it takes longer to dust a piano when you’re a kid.
FavoriteSon was camping with friends last weekend, so it was just me, PinkGirl and her dad. What to do? What to do?
We ended up in PinkGirl’s room. We were pretty sure it was her room. It was pink. After three play dates, one followed by a sleepover – each with a different pair of sisters, this is what it looked like on Sunday afternoon.
Now, I know these 6 other girls don’t have a clue what the Underwear Principle is, but PinkGirl totally gets the concept. And the organization of her room was NOT working for her. The two air mattresses aside, her toys, books, and costumes weren’t stored well. We could have just helped her clean everything up and put everything away, but the fact is, it would have turned out this way again. (I know this from experience.) Let me explain:
Let’s start with books. PinkGirl is her mother’s daughter. She loves books. If you see the pile of books over to the right side of the photo, you can see some cubbies at the head of her bed. (Click the photo to see a larger image.) They went all the way up to the ceiling. The lower cubbies faced outward, the upper cubbies were reversed to provide easy access when she was in bed. Not working for two reasons. See that pink box sticking out of the lower cubbie? We tried to store books in those bins, inside the cubbies. She would take books out (that would be plural) to get to the one she wanted and NEVER put them back. Also, she would bring books (that would be plural) from the lower cubbies into bed with her and NEVER put them back. Not working. She needed access to her books from her favorite place to read. Her bed. She also needed to be able to pull the exact book she wanted without sifting through lots of others. So. Book storage in Pinkgirl’s Room? Not working.
Next, the toys. Little toys. Kid meal size toys. Lots of them. Everywhere. FavoriteSon had a box for each. Tarzan toys? In the box with a picture of Tarzan on it. Toy Story toys? In a box with Buzz and Woody on it. Bugs Life toys? You get the idea. FavoriteSon liked everything separated because he played in a very structured world. PinkGirl, on the other hand, can have Buzz Lightyear marrying Cinderella with Tarzan as the best man, fighting off Zurg while the entire cast of every Disney movie ever made attends the wedding. So. PinkGirl does not store her toys by “like kind.” She likes to dump a box, pick today’s cast of characters, shove everyone else out of the way and play. When she’s done, she like to dump everyone a box. Any box. It doesn’t matter. (Kinda freaks FavoriteSon out a little, but he’ll be okay.)
In addition, PinkGirl has an elevated bed and she LOVES to hang her comforter over the side and make a tent to play in. Santa brought her a Barbie Hotel last Christmas (she calls it “The Tipton“) and she has it tucked under there. (It’s pretty cool, I saw one just like it a few years ago at a garage sale for $25.00. That would have been a great deal! ) Anyway, she needs a place for Barbie storage too.
So. We bought 4 more cubbie units. One 3 x 3 unit and three 2 x 4 units. Each unit was $39.99 at Target. Each cubbie is 1 square foot. In all, we added 33 cubic feet of additional storage space to PinkGirl’s room. FirstHusband is a MASTER at putting these babies together these days, but this time he had some help.
AMAZING difference. We lined the wall with them, floor to ceiling. Somehow the height of the bed was just perfect. It didn’t block ANY cubbies completely. Check it out four days later. Still straight. (hey. four days is major in this house.)
PinkGirl’s entire library is right within reach when she is in bed. She’s got all her books completely organized. Chapter books together, one cubby for paperback storybooks and another for hardback, one cubby for large Christian books and another for small. Dr. Seuss has his own cubby, Disney has two and “learning” books are all grouped together. She put nearly every one of the books on her new shelves all by herself.
Under the bed, she’s got all her toys in bins, Barbies in the top cubbies, everything within easy reach. And again – SHE put everything in the cubbie bins.
Just a note here, the white, plastic bins were from Walmart. At a $1.83, they are a great option for these cubbies. Target does sell canvas boxes in different colors but I HATE them. They are thin and cheap and they don’t hold their shape. I got the dark pink canvas bins (shown below) at Big Lots for less than half the price -and they are heavy, strong and hold their shape. They don’t go all the way up to the top of the cubbie, but we like that because we can see inside without pulling them out. I would have gotten more instead of using the white plastic bins, but Big Lots didn’t have the colors we wanted right now. Maybe later. For now, all but one these bins (in the photo below) are EMPTY!!! So we have the flexibility to rearrange some things as we figure out what works and doesn’t work about our latest organization of PinkGirl’s stuff. Most of the stuff in the photo below is for playing school and for creating art (With everything except paint. No painting in the bedroom.)
We also have some completely empty cubbies at the head of the bed. (she was eating a snack at her table – we don’t usually store ketchup in her room)
So. In less than a day, for less than $200, this room went from a pink explosion to pinkalicious. So far. So good.
We even manage to box up over 50 books, lots of toys, outgrown costumes and an old, giant Fisher Price doll house for charity donation. I’ve already entered it into It’s Deductible! Now if I can just get it all moved from the hallway to my van. And then to the charity drop off. Baby steps. Baby steps.
This is my freakish “junk drawer.” You know the drawer. At my house, it’s in the kitchen. It used to be a mess. The place you put something when you don’t know where it goes. So full of stuff it sometimes gets jammed because something is sticking up inside.
Today it looks like this: (click to see a larger and more detailed image.)
But the BEST part is that it has looked this good for YEARS. Seriously. YEARS. How? By applying the Underwear Principle and answering the question “Where Does it Go?”
The drawer went through more than a few changes before it finally ended up in this particular configuration. The key to its long term organization was to pay attention to what happened inside the drawer after I organized it the first time. One glance and I could tell what was and was not working for my family. What were they stuffing in there? Was it consistent enough to make a “home” for it in this drawer? For all the things currently stored in that drawer today, the answer was yes. For all the other stuff they were tossing in there? I found a “home” for it someplace else. (like receipts, cough drops, business cards, cell phone chargers . . . you name it. It all has to have a home or it will end up in the junk drawer. Or worse. On my kitchen counter.)
In case you can’t tell what’s in here, let me give you a little tour. In the top back left, we store extra tape and staples. Along the back, from left to right, we keep lip balm, rubber bands, safety pins and paper clips. Back to the left, in the white rectangular bin we keep tools (screwdrivers, a little hammer, usually an emery board and often a Tide pen). Next, in the tan rectangular bin we keep highlighters and a staple remover. In the large black drawer organizer, we have pencils and markers (I love my Sharpies). Below that are pens and mechanical pencils, separated by a small plastic bin holding pencil lead. Below that, in the bottom left corner, it’s pretty easy to see what’s there: Tape dispenser, stapler, sorted change and calculator. Then over to the right, we have colored ink pens, a stamp dispenser and extra stamps, and in the front, we have scissors and hole punch. You can probably see the rulers we tuck along the right side of the drawer.
Notice that everything is in containers and none of the containers are round. I hate round containers. They waste space.
I’m a freak.
or in this case, “many legs make light work” or “many tails make light work.” Either way, I need some friends like these today.
I used to be all cranky about doing housework, until I started doing two things:
1. Timing myself. (I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many tasks took less than five minutes.)
2. Practicing a concept I’ve used with my kids for years – breaking big jobs into smaller jobs.
For instance, instead of “cleaning the kitchen,” just clean the countertops, or the stovetop or . . . just load the dishwasher. (click on a photo to see a larger image and check out the little red clock)
Since I’m not only freakishly organized, but freakishly competitive with myself, I can get so much more done – so much faster! microactions, gotta love ‘em
Check out more great ideas at Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by Tammy’s Recipes!