Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nothing OTD, only ITD

So, no big news to report. I haven't made any donation runs, or sorted out much to get rid of (well, one bag of toys from cleaning the living room the other night...seemed a HUGE task, but actually only took forty-five minutes, and we got all the toys back with their mates, and that aforementioned bag of items to go away). Let's see, where was I before that long parenthetical interrupted? Oh, right, nothing happening.

Well, things have come in the door (ITD). Necessary things, like groceries. We've been grilling a lot since we bought our gas grill. Love the gas grill! It's so quick and easy and I don't want to hear about charcoal tasting better! Because, I'd rather actually have grilled tasty burgers than the same old pasta and sauce. I usually keep a bag of Costco chicken breasts in the freezer, and some salmon burgers too, but we've used up everything. I've been buying new each day (a dangerous thing, because the grocery store is a field of temptation). It is lovely to choose what we'll grill, and since the grill is so quick, it's ok that I am not planning too far ahead.

So, groceries, ok, but what else? Well, I really wanted to find the perfect skort to wear when Rollerblading. Yes, I like to Rollerblade, I do it a couple of times a week for my main exercise. And, it's getting hot here in the Northwest, in case you haven't noticed or live someplace where it's still chilly. I have tried three so far with little luck. So, shopping for those turned into anti-shopping.

What else? Basic boring things--baby wipes, hand soap...cling wrap...granola bars for the kids' lunches, juice boxes (we've tried thermoses...they work until your kid forgets to empty their lunch bag when they get home. Then, you get nasty moldy icky old apple juice slime). Thank you notes and gifts for the Little one's preschool teachers. Invitations for an upcoming birthday party. The first stab at favours for same. Yes, of course, I could make invitations. I have before. But my printer is picky about paper, and tends to get stuck when the manual feed is used. So, I end up having to go to Kinko's or some such place. And let me tell you, that is just no fun with a three-year old in tow.

I really truly have been trying to keep the input down. Avoid the stores, buy only what I really need for the family, don't shop on impulse. Mostly, it works. But frankly, it's hard because I am the primary "consumer" for the household. I'm responsible for keeping us in Cheerios and laundry soap, socks and cat food. It's a challenge. And this week, it felt like I was just slip slip slipping down that slippery slope.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Trunk Full of Donations: OTD!

Well, I finally did it! I got those donations (pictured below) taken to the thrift shop today. And, I found a few more bags of items to add to the pile, filling my entire trunk! Feels good to have those burdens out the door!

Goals for Today

Today is Memorial Day, the day on which we remember and mourn those who died during wartime. The flag is flying outside the house.

I recently learned that my great-grandfather served in the Spanish American War.

* * *

I have a few mild goals today. The other day (that day some unknown number of days before today), I took two bins of kids clothing and consolidated them into one, sorting out the "too small for the younger" from the "too big for the younger" and setting aside a bag of items that might have some resale value for my friend who actually does indeed list things on ebay. Whatever she doesn't want will be donated. Today, I need to move the now-empty bin to the garage with the other empties. Also, I plan to purge the toys. The children have toys in too many parts of the house--living room, bedroom, basement. If there are so many toys that each of those three areas can be hazardous for walking, well, that means we have too many toys.

It is very hard for me to purge toys. Yes, it's hard for the kids also, but for me, well, I look at each item and think "this is a nice toy! The kids like it, it's interesting, I've seen them play with it many times". Yeah, and so on and so on and before you know it, your house is overrun with toys! Sometimes, I'll just bundle everything willy-nilly into a bin and let is sit, marinate if you will. Then, after a month or so, it seems to be easier to sort it all out.

It's worse now that my mom has died. There won't be any more packages from her, gifts at Christmas or birthdays or just because. What we have is all there is. Can I bear to let any of it go? I don't really know. I suppose it'll depend on the children--I want to let them lead, but also, I want to make sure they have physical memories from their Grandma. The Little One mentioned her this morning, her habit of writing a message on her hand. I'm so happy that the Little One has so many memories, strong memories of her Grandma.

Since the weather is nice, not too hot, but not raining, it may be time for some outdoor clutter control. The lawn is out of control, the parking strip needs to be mowed, and the flowers outside the fence desperately need water. I have soaker hoses to install in the front garden.

We'll see how much I am able to accomplish.

OT: Yes, Another Off Topic Post

I'm sure many of you have noticed the "blog to book" phenomenon--a perky new voice blogs away and lo and behold, New York notices and a book deal appears. It does happen-witness "Julie and Julia" a blog about a New York office worker who, in her spare time, decided to cook every recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One. I've read her resulting book: Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen--it was mildly entertaining, with a good dose of navel gazing. It's in trade paperback now, and worth a read if you like food writing.

What brings me to write this today, however, is indeed yet another blog to book. Local author Shauna James Ahern's book Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too is due out this fall. A recent article in the Seattle Times discussed her book as well as another blog to book phenom Clotilde Dusoulier, whose book Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen is available now. Shauna Ahern's story resonates: after years of ill health with no diagnosis, she finally learned that she has celiac disease, in which the body cannot tolerate gluten. Gluten is the main protein in most grains, wheat, rye, triticale (not quadro), and perhaps oats. I went to her blog to take a look and got sucked in by her vivid writing, and the poignant emotion of her first few months' posts. I don't have celiac, but I will definately be reading her book when it appears this fall.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Books are Gone, Gone, Gone, OTD!

Finally, I was able to take those three boxes of books to my local used book shop. They took them all, and I have a nice chunk of store credit to use at my leisure. Whew! I did miss the deadline set by Clutter Buddy, but she let me slide due to little Jack's illness (and the resulting lack of schedule flexibility).

I do still have that pile of donations pictured below. I've been adding to it, and will drop it off today or tomorrow at my local thrift store.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Little Jack is Doing Better

Jack is doing better! We are so happy...he purred yesterday, and sniffed at food. Today, he actually took a bite of real food and has been shaking his head, unhappy with the bandage from the tube feeder--that's a real change from even the day before, when he didn't even seem to notice it.

thanks for all the well wishes...we are guardedly hopeful.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

OT: Our Little Cat Jack

Our sweet little cat Jack is very ill. He was diagnosed with pneumonia late last week. Early this week, he stopped eating and drinking. On our vet's recommendation, we agreed to put in a feeding tube. He's taking in his food and water that way, but he's not really perking up and the antibiotics don't seem to be helping, meaning he may have something worse than pneumonia wrong with him.

He's eight, and the sweetest little guy. So friendly and dear, he's a snuggler. He's tightly bonded to his best buddy, Tiki, who is also eight. They've been together since Jack was 8 months and Tiki was 4 months old.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Two Stacks of Stuff: OTD!

Today, I am taking the last three boxes of books to sell up to the lovely Third Place Books. What they don't take will go to my local used bookshop, Balderdash Books and Art, and what she can't use, goes to Friends of the Library for their annual book sale (which I did NOT attend this year).

CB gave me a month to get those boxes out the door. I am beating her deadline by three days. Note the date on the boxes!

Also headed out the door, but, of necessity due the lack of space in my car's trunk, on another trip, is this stack of donations. Clothes, magazines, kitchen items, knick knacks, etc. I did another purge of my spare closet (located in the guest room) and managed to let go of a sweater, a dress and a skirt.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Kitchen Clean Up

I was talking with a friend yesterday (you know who you are) about kitchen organization. She'd recently swapped out all her mixed-up containers and bags for matching glass jars from IKEA. More, we talked about how long pantry items last. I have a bad habit of overbuying ("it was on sale!") and having things go stale, rancid, you name it.

For some reason, this morning, I got a bug about the kitchen. It's on my mind because we are planning a face-lift for it this summer, and need to pare things down. I browsed my cupboards and tossed things that either smelled stale or that had been sitting around for longer than I could remember. Here are some fun photos.
This is the 'after' cupboard. You'll be able to tell how much I purged by taking a look below at the sink full of empties.

I dumped all the stale & mystery stuff into my compost bucket. It's for the worms now!

Sink full of empties!

I also purged my baking pan & food storage cupboard; here's the full bag of donations!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Guest Post: Decluttering an Estate

My dear MIL, a longtime member of the women's organization AAUW (American Association of University Women), recently spent a great deal of time decluttering the estates of two members of AAUW who had passed away and left the bulk of their estates to the organization. Both women had amassed vast collections, and as both had lived through the Great Depression, that influenced their homes as well.

Here are MIL's tips and thoughts on this crucial issue:
"Hoarders and savers come in all intelligence abilities, income levels and academic achievement. My ldil (loving daughter-in-law) has asked me, as a member of a group that has inherited 2 houses from members who had no other heirs, what we had learned from the experience of preparing the homes for sale. In each case, we walked into a home that had been lovingly and clutteringly occupied by an elderly single woman who in her younger days had traveled, been active in the community, her profession, and left copious legacies both subjectively and objectively. Both college educated, one was a local university professor and the other a life-long Rosy-the Riveter employee at Boeing.

This advice should be useful for all family members (meaning adult children) as they attempt to organize their parents’ life-long collections and clutter.

1. Collections of magazines, such as Life or Look, usually have no value as libraries have copies in their archives. National Geographic and The New Yorker, for instance, are available on CD-ROM. Professional journals are usually available on-line these days. Newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals collect moisture, become mildewy and/or moldy and attract other unhealthy pathogens. A better decision is to routinely recycle magazines and catalogues (after removing identification) to the local laundromat, VA hospital, medical clinic, or library if you don’t want to put them in the recycle container immediately (as I don’t).

2. Collectibles being saved for later inheritance can be given away sooner to the intended recipient, along with the story behind the item. A digital story (using old photos of the item and the donor, with music) could also be made to accompany the item.

3. Identification of keys: all keys need to be fully identified as to what locks they open. Try to dispose of unused or unknown keys as you encounter them. Safe deposit keys need bank, branch, and box number identification. Finding a box of unlabeled keys motivates me (somewhat obsessive) to try them all, in all the locks.

4. AARP offers classes and systems for recording financial information if one has not been created. A trusted family member should be provided a list of credit cards, insurance policies, car registrations, etc.

5. Unidentifiable photographs stored in shoe boxes (or anywhere else) usually get thrown out.

6. Identification of garden plants, especially exceptional trees, bushes, and perennials, would be nice if the home is going to be placed on the market.

7. When the tools don’t work, discard them to an appropriate agency such as Goodwill if they can be repaired. Otherwise, scrap metal has some value, and handles could be used for plant stakes, firewood, or new handles.

8. Now that LP records are making a comeback, I would suggest (as my mother did) having the inheritors go through the collections and pick what they want now.

9. Circuit breakers and fuse boxes: Clear identification of house circuitry is good to know, especially when house inspection reveals that heat doesn’t work, and outside lights don’t work.

10. Water-turn-off: If possible, mark the water-turn off site in big letters, or make a sign identifying where turn-off is. (I learned this the hard way when pipes froze.)"

Remember, what you don't deal with now your heirs will have to cope with after you move on to the next level of existence (you know, Heaven, Hell, Nirvana, just plain dust). Take the time now, so that their memories can be of you, not your stuff.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What You Can Accomplish in 15 Minutes

Anyone who is a fan of the Flylady knows all about 15 minutes. She believes one can do ANYTHING in 15 minutes. Well, you might not finish writing that novel, but you can certainly make a start. And those 15 minutes all add up.

This morning, I took 15 minutes and transformed my living room. Here's the before:

And here's the after:

The timer went off just as I was finishing vacuuming the rug. Here's what helped: I listened to St Germain's album Tourist to get the energy flowing! I didn't just toss things into baskets or boxes, I put them away. Game pieces back in their box, clothing either back in a dresser drawer or in the laundry basket, shoes to their spot, garbage into the trash can, dishes into the sink.

Just think, if you took a focused 15 minutes several times a day, what could you accomplish?