Friday, June 29, 2007

Being a Cat

Do you have a cat? I have two. One is eight, the other nine. Both are Siamese. Of course, they're the smartest, furriest, most precious little cats in the whole wide world.

Ahem, where was I? Ah, cats. Some have said that cats are the true Zen masters, proficient in letting go, resting on demand, keeping their ties to the world loose. What I envy is their lack of attachment to things. Sure, one of my cats has a few toys he enjoys to play with, but he could take 'em or leave 'em. He likes his dinner, they both do, but that's a bodily necessity rather than a mental attachment. They do love us, their people, but they're more attached to each other, their own kind.

Sometimes, I wish I could be like a cat. No books, no furniture, no collections. Just be. Just enjoy emotional attachment to other people, but not to things. Things ... are just things. They can't give back, the relationship isn't reciprocal. It's all one-sided love given to something that doesn't and can't care.

Monday, June 25, 2007

So, What Have I Been Doing?

You may ask that question. I guess I have, since I haven't updated for over a week now. Frankly, I just haven't had much to say about decluttering. I haven't made any huge strides, although today I did drop off a couple of bags of donations (only one bag was mine, the other was CB's). I had to organize a birthday party for my younger daughter (think lots of 3 and 4 year olds running around with a few older ones for big sister to play with...yup, that equals chaos. Luckily, not at my house!); drive to Portland and back; other surely important things. You know how it goes!

But I've had decluttering on the brain. I just haven't felt ready to write about what I've been mulling over. And I'm not quite, yet. Soon.

I do have plans for the kitchen, to continue the decluttering and actually do some renovation. I did a bit with the pantry, moving things to more appropriate containers, consolidating where possible, putting like with like. Basics, but easy to forget or just not get to when pressed for time unloading those sacks of groceries.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dropping the Burden

On Thursday, a great power whirled into my garage and set free many burdens. Well, her name's Clutter Buddy and her positive energy and support allowed me to do what I've been preparing myself emotionally to do for a while now (how do we count 'a while'? all my life? since last July when I documenting started this journey? since last week when I dared my friend J to see who could let go of more treasures?).

We'd planned this attack on my garage. As I mentioned above, I'd been emailing my friend J, who also has an eBay dream and a plethora of possessions, about working together to let go. He's been actually listing items for sale, something I haven't done for almost two years. So, in that sense, he's ahead. For me, the victory is in realizing that I don't need to keep these things, that I don't need what they represent--a source of income--because I have more options than eBay. If I can let go, then I can free up space for other, more useful, more usable if you will, sources of money and power (that is, belief that I can achieve, that I have value in and of myself, without need for externals). As Karen Kingston describes so eloquently in her invaluable book, Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui, if your home is full, there is no room for anything else to come in. New thoughts, new money, new people, all are kept out because there is no room for them. Clearing out the old, the stuck, the stale, is the only way to let fresh energy into your life.

Well, you've seen the photos. The stacks actually grew after these pictures were taken. I emptied eleven (see above photo) 18 gallon Rubbermaid bins of their contents, all of it originally supposed to be sold on eBay, and donated the lot to Goodwill. Yes, I made my usual itemized list for tax purposes. CB had backed her van up to the garage and we filled the back of it with bags and boxes of items. I won't go into detail (oh, maybe I will, we'll see if I'm up to reliving it) about the items themselves. Suffice to say for now, that they would have been a challenge to list and package and that I hope they find good new homes via the local Goodwill store.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mental Clutter

Sunday morning, we went to our usual once a month pagan spirituality service. One of the opening activities if you will is to ground ourselves in the present--"Be here now!" Gather up those parts of you that are in tomorrow or back in yesterday or a decade ago and focus on the moment. Thoughts will drift in "what should I make for dinner? how will I ever finish my book? why is the little one fidgeting?" but they just pass on by. It's a good reminder of how our minds are a buzz of activity, yet we can quiet those wayward thoughts, tame them simply by noticing them and then letting them float away.

Mental clutter can bring you to a stand-still. Regret, what if, why, those can run your little neurons ragged if you let them. Rather than circling and circling, let those thoughts that keep you stuck run away, like wild horses on the plains. You'll find that they just keep running, and before you know it, your mind is on other things.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Deep Freeze

Back in 1999, when we were expecting our first child, we decided to buy a stand-alone freezer. I can't quite remember why, but it probably was inspired by pregnancy-induced nesting. I know I did do a lot of pre-baby cooking for the freezer, soups, casseroles, etc, and we never have enough space in our refridgerator's freezer compartment. We got a good deal on an upright one, and it lives in our basement.

I've meant to clean it out. Really I have. But, it's hard. You all know how hard it is for me to toss anything. Well, how can I toss food that I myself prepared? Is it the food's fault that it got pushed to the rear and hasn't yet been eaten, even though it was made five years ago? How can I toss those plums that I pitted myself?

Well, I have to. I MUST. No one is going to eat them. I can let them stay there, getting more and more freezer burned, or I can do the right thing, and put them in our compost bin where they will at least have a chance to move on their way in the food chain. Isn't that the right thing to do? I know it is, and yet I hesitate.

Today, while searching for some fruit to make into a crisp, I looked, really looked at these plums. They were frozen in 2000 or possibly 2001. We had friends with a plum tree and they always had more than they, their friends and their neighbors could ever use. I froze several bags of halved plums, intending to make, oh, gosh, jam, or just fruit crisps (I used to make them about once a week, so not unreasonable). And some of them did really get used. But there were so many. I got a little plummed out and the rest of the family never liked them even as much as I did.

Just for fun, here are some of the other items that will be heading to the compost later today.

Garlic Bread...still good after five years?

Some sliced rhubard. All the moisture has come out of it--it's just fiber anymore

This was cooked pumpkin that I was saving for a pie or to fill pasta.

Bananas, unpeeled and frozen to use for banana bread. Now, ice crystals baby!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Notes from the Pantry

Yes, that's a regular size grocery bag. Yes, it is mostly full of flour. Yes, the flour was undoubtably rancid. Yes, I bought too much. Yes, it was terribly wasteful. Yes, I really feel awful about it.

After so recently extolling the virtues of Costco, I now find myself compelled to rail against bulk purchasing. Here's the thing: it only makes sense to buy in bulk if you will actually use the item(s) in question up before they go bad. Don't let your eyes (and your desire for a bargain) get bigger than your family's appetite. You see, for some reason, I am able to use Costco successfully. We very rarely have anything bulk-purchased there go bad on us. I mean, really truly. Would I lie to you? No, of course not! Where I do go wrong, however, is with certain pantry items. I'll tell you right now, if my Costco carried huge bags of brown rice, I would be mightily tempted. It's good they don't! See, rice, flour, other grains, I tend to buy a big bag or two or three if they're on sale. I wonder if it's a comfort thing, as baking certainly creates a hominess and especially flours and rolled grains I associate with baking. Whatever. Does it matter? Suffice to say I am changing this habit. No longer will I buy a ten pound bag of flour. No more than five, and even better, two.

This morning, I stopped at the farmer's market. After that, I planned a quick stop at the local grocery store; I had a few things on my list, including cake flour. Imagine my surprise to see a stall featuring locally grown and milled grains at the farmer's market! They even had cake flour, in a perfect size: two little pounds. Just right for the amount of baking I (actually) do.

So, today, after mostly recovering from a lactose attack (I've been wondering if I suffer from lactose intolerance....well, if having extreme discomfort and other, um, symptoms within an hour after having a tall latte is lactose intolerance, guess I do have it. No more lattes for me, not worth the pain. Oh, and someday, if y'all are really lucky, I'll tell you all about my food allergies!)....let's see, where was I before that parenthetical? Oh, yes, flour. I've been working on the pantry for a while, in preparation for the kitchen update and just general feng shui reasons. Stale food is really extra bad feng shui, don't you know? At first, I did some Googling to learn about rancidity and how long flour can be stored. Um, three months on average before whole wheat flour goes rancid. And, nope, I have no idea when I purchased the flours seen above. Years, not months. So, with that to start with, and using my nose and tastebuds, I proceed to test the flours. The first bin, oh, my. Icky smell. Truly icky. Bitter and stale, flat, not like wheat at all. One other was easy too, but the last flour bin, well, I couldn't quite tell. So, I decided to open up the bag from the farmer's market as a control. I opened it up and oh, it smelled so good! Fresh, clean, wheaty, light. I tasted a bit and again, wheaty and fresh, like the sun on a field of wheat. Lovely. That sure made the comparison easy! After that, I tossed a couple of smaller bins that I knew, just knew, were ancient.

Before starting on the flour adventure, I made up a quick fruit crisp as a post-tossing treat. It's out of the oven now, peach and blueberry with an oatmeal-cinnamon-whole wheat pastry flour (not rancid!)-butter topping. Smells so good! And, in honour of my current favourite blog, here's a photo for you to drool over.

I'll tell you about the freezer later...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sometimes it does all come down to Time

I've been ready to take another look at my eBay bins that are stacked so high in the garage. Going into the garage is painful since I have to walk past some of my mother's things to get to the rear, where the bins are. However, I have felt that perhaps, now, maybe, I can let some of those things go. Simply let them go, away, to the Goodwill or the Thriftko or even the Salvation Army. Away from my house, from my life.

I fear that once I actually look at the items, that I will not be able to do it. Now, good ole CB would say "well, then, just give 'em the whole bin!". Right. Like that's ever going to happen. I'm sure she's rolling her eyes right now reading this, but I can't do it. She knows I can't, but, with my permission, she pushes. I ask her to, and she does. It's painful for us both at times, but for a hoarder who is ready to take steps, a bit of pushing, prodding, and nagging can actually help. We want to let go, but we need more support than a, forgive me, "normal" person.

I'll update you all on the status of my eBay bins.

But back to time. You see, I have been swamped. I am behind at work, I have a sleeping girl on my lap as I type, and dinner will most likely be frozen burritos from Costco with some refried beans on the side, salsa too if I can dig any up. So, tell me when I'm supposed to go out to the garage and do my dirty work? Yes, do tell.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More Pantry Clutter

I'll upload some photos later, but for now, just trust me that my kitchen has needed an update for oh, several decades now. Avocado green double oven range, avocado green cupboards, unfinished floor covered with glue reside from the time I pulled up the adhesive tiles but didn't do anything else. Yeah, you get the picture.

I have a friend who is a whiz at updates, especially kitchens. She came over, and gave me a no-holds-barred critique of my kitchen and helped me make some preliminary decisions. Colours, paint options, flooring choices, you name it, she's got opinions. Since I've seen her current kitchen, and photos of her previous one, I know that I can trust her judgment--she's created lovely spaces, workable and attractive as well as purely practical.

My goal is to have this update (I am not calling it a remodel because no walls or plumbing will move and frankly I want to keep the budget nice and low) done by the end of the summer. It's grilling season, so outdoor cooking can take up the slack for the range once it's moved out the door. I hate to let it go in a way. It's a workhorse with its two ovens, two drawers for pots and pans, and a nice space that one can use as extra counter. There's a timer, three-prong outlet (perfect for the KitchenAid or Crockpot), and the burner controls are on the rear of the range, so safe for little ones. Finding a gas range with rear controls may be difficult.

So, in preparation for this project, I need to clear out my entire pantry. We plan to make some structural changes in the pantry that'll require new drywall, and removing a window to replace it with a wall. Every bit of food needs a new home. This task intimidates me. I suppose I should just gather some boxes and move everything out.'s the real truth: most of my pantry should probably just be tossed in the compost. Flours, beans, grains, they don't stay good forever. And since I never got into the habit of dating my purchases, well, let's just say that the items in the pantry could be anywhere from a month to a decade old. Perhaps I need my friend Wabash Cannonball to drop by. I've heard she's pretty darn draconian when it comes to food freshness.

Has anyone been through a kitchen remodel or update and lived to cook again? Cooking is very much on my mind since I've been indulging my obsession with the Gluten Free Girl's lovely blog. Every entry makes me itch to run to the Farmer's Market and find something fresh to cook. So, the thought of being without a kitchen, well, let's just say a tiny weensy bit of panic might be setting in.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday Monday

Here we are and it's Monday, already! It's June, already! Life just moves along, and we can move along with the Earth or let ourselves get stuck, in pain and regret or fear.

So, what's my point? That I don't want to live for the rest of my life with a garage full of crapola. That I don't want to trip over toys day after day. I want peace, clarity, openness...and the mental restfulness that comes from a clutter-free space.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Nation of Consumers

I've discussed this before, but it hit me again today. I made the Costco run today. I love Costco, for many reasons, none of which I'll get into now. It's my task, always, as DH can't stand going in there--too crowded, too big, too much chaos. It's just the opposite for me, so I get to do it.

Here's what struck me today. I spent $146.00 there. I roughly add up what I'm buying as I go through the store to avoid sticker shock at the end, and I knew that's what I was spending. Slight gulp, but just slight. Now, here's the thing: if I spent that much at the regular grocery store, I would faint. Would certainly put some things back. But at Costco, no problem. So that reminded me of something I read in a personal finance book about how people (that is, folks in general) will drive out of their way to save $50 on a $100 item, but wouldn't even bother to go across the street to save $50 on a $10,000 item (say, a car). It's all about the same amount of money, but because it's smaller as a percentage, it doesn't worry us as much. Does that make sense? Sure, maybe. Maybe. I suppose if you've already decided to spend $10,000, another $50 isn't going to break the bank.

I'm guilty of it myself--I'll go back into the store if they've overcharged me by a dollar on a $20 purchase, but on a $200 purchase? Not so much.

But back to the issue of us being a nation of consumers. Think about it--we hear about consumer opinion polls, consumer research, the business section talks about 'the consumer', is that all we are? Don't we produce anything? Add value to the world? Do we only take?

This is a particularly important issue for hoarders to be aware of. One reason hoarders hold onto things is to 'save them'. This involves those items we keep but don't actually use because they are 'too good to use'. Huh, too good to use? What does that mean? If they're too good to use, why were they made? Why do we own them? What purpose do they serve if they are 'too good to use'? Isn't the purpose of things to be used? Think about a gas grill, say. This comes to mind because I recently purchased one. It was so shiny right out of the box--the grill surface was clean and bright, the side table areas spic & span. Well, after the first use it was covered in gunk. I'd marinated the food we were cooking and it dripped all over. Now, you couldn't tell if this thing was bought last week or last year. And that's good. That's what is supposed to happen. Things get used.

Another aspect of the consumer issue involves the 'great deal' or the 'sale'. Oh, why did I buy half a dozen bottles of hand soap? Because it was on sale! It was a great deal, so cheap! many sinks are there in my house? Three. So, how many bottles of hand soap could I possibly use at one time? Three. So, why do I need to keep a whole bunch of them around? I don't. I just don't. And the same goes for a zillion different items--office supplies, cereal, crackers, meat, canned goods, clothing, you name it. You only need what you will actually use. Nothing more, nothing less. Repeat after me, buy only what you actually NEED and will USE within a reasonable amount of time.

Now, I'm sure some of you are saying 'hey, she just went to Costco! Why's she lecturing us about this when her trunk is probably full to the brim of food?'. Here's the thing: I buy at Costco only what we will actually use within about a month. A bag of chicken breasts lasts us about that long. I bought sausages for the grill today; those will go in about the same amount of time (some are in the fridge, most in the deep freeze). I buy only what we'll actually use. And here's the thing: since every item at Costco is huge and pricey, I can't impulse buy. I just can't--it's too expensive. I have to consider carefully each purchase. And, to be frank, they don't have sales, so that avoids one tempation. And, they have only about 400 items, compared to the 4000 in a typical supermarket. That's about one tenth of the items, a mere fraction. So, literally fewer temptations. Yes, those packages can be huge (a true temptation for some types of hoarders). But luckily, that stock piling huge amounts of goods bug never hit me like that. One huge bag of toilet tissue is all I need to have around. When it's down to three or four rolls, well, that's when to buy another. So, for those of us for whom CHOICE is a bigger problem than QUANTITY, well, Costco might not be a bad option.

What do you think?