Monday, December 29, 2008

We got a Roomba!

Yes, Santa brought us a lovely iRobot Roomba 400 this year. We've been playing with it, and figuring out what changes need to be made to accomodate its functionality. We had to tie up some electrical cords, and the rugs with tassles will need some adjustment--I may just swap them out for others. I do that seasonally anyway.

Here it is, resting after working hard!


Friday, December 26, 2008

Is it over yet?

It feels like Christmas has gone on forever. I'm feeling very "done" with the decorations, the wrapping paper, the newspaper ads and sales.

We had a lovely, low-key Christmas. The kids each got at least one gift they specifically asked Santa for and another gift as well. The Little one got a small Polly Pocket set and donuts (yes, she asked Santa for donuts!) and the Big one got some Pokemon card packs and donuts (again, the donuts were a specific Santa request!). I'd given the Big one ice skates a couple of months ago, and that was to be her big Christmas gift. She actually had asked Santa for a laptop, but that wasn't going to happen this year.

The adults got a couple of gifts. Both of us got new windshield wiper blades, something I asked for. We got a Roomba from Santa! I got a book, Interpreter of Maladies from one of the only literary fiction writers I like, Jhumpa Lahiri. My cat gave me some nice wool socks; he and his buddy both got catnip fleece toys in their stockings. I got the husband a sweater. Santa brought some new jammies.

Santa brought us some new Wii games--World of Goo, which I love and another one Amazing Maze? that I haven't tried yet.

And of course, everyone's stocking had a chocolate orange.

We've experienced snow and freezing temperatures for days now here, and we're all going a little stir crazy. Our street is still covered in snow and slush, my car hasn't left it's warm dry spot for over a week.

The Little one is sick--she didn't want to eat any of her Christmas candy yesterday and that's when you know she's sick. I'm not sure where she picked up the bug, but she's got a fever and is very grumpy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow!

We've had crazy weather here in the NW. Last night, a lovely blanket of snow fell upon our city. Here are some views from my little house.



Yes, that is Snow Falling on Potties above. Long story short, we had a catostrophic toilet failure a few weeks ago. The tank on our 30+ year old toilet cracked and water cascaded through the bathroom floor into the basement. Water everywhere. We tried to use a free toilet as a replacement, but the footer wasn't the right size for our rough in and we ended up buying a Toto Drake, one of the top-rated low-flow toilets. I have to say it's great and we'll surely save on water now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Media Round-up

Here are some of the books and movies I've enjoyed recently.



















Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making Mistakes

We all make mistakes. I know that. I try to accept it. Yet every time I err, I torture myself. I wish I could make time go backward to make the better choice, to do the right thing (whether I could have anticipated what the right thing is!).

I volunteered to watch a friend's kids for a couple of hours. Thing is, there was a snow warning. School was actually canceled, despite the fact that snow had yet to fall. I talked to the friend, and, when I learned that she had a couple of other options, accepted when she let me off the hook for the favor, due to my worries about the weather.

Turns out that there's no snow. And in fact, the roads are less hazardous than they have been due to warmer temperatures melting the black ice. I could have done the favour, no problem, and the kids would all have had a great time.

So I screwed up. I misjudged. I erred. And I can't let it go. I can't forgive myself. I guess my friend will forgive me. I hope she does. I'll owe her one or several. But I can't forgive myself.

It came to me just a few minutes ago that this inability to forgive is linked to hoarding. If I threw away something that I later wanted or needed or that turned out to be valuable, I'd feel this same crushing pain. It's awful. It's toxic. And I've felt it before, this same feeling, about things that were given away or thrown away or ruined by others or myself.

It's this same feeling that has kept me from fully using my law degree. What if I should err in a case, where not just things but people's lives or livelihoods are at stake? How could I go on from day to day knowing that mistakes will happen, that errors will be made?

The most successful people in life forgive themselves. When they err, they learn from it as best they can and they let it go. Churning these emotions is wasteful. It keeps me focused on something that can't be changed instead of moving forward.

I have no idea how to change. Imagine how that feels.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Confessions Holiday Gift Guide

It's time for a gift guide! Around the holidays, even for those of us in too much stuff recovery mode, the temptation to buy gifts for friends and family erupts. What to do? Here are some clean and simple gift ideas.


  • Donate to charity. Give a gift of cash to the local food bank, homeless shelter/mission or to an organization like Heifer International. Use Charity Navigator to check out charities before giving to make sure they use donations wisely.

  • Give what the recipient actually wants. Sure you might love that Lalique Crystal vase, but would your mother-in-law? If you must give a gift, at least give what is needed or wanted. Gift giving is a two-edged sword, a loaded gun (add your own cliche!)--it's full of peril. Save yourself by sticking to the known and respecting the values of the recipient.

  • Keep it simple. No child needs a dozen new toys at Christmas time. If a child is on your list, give a single, simple gift. One LEGO set, not six. One Barbie, not a dozen. More gifts overwhelm kids and they stop enjoying the occassion. I've seen over-gifted kids at holidays and birthday parties just go through the motions--ripping paper because they're told to by the adults in attendance.

  • Give edible gifts. But keep them simple. Teacher gifts this year are small bags of Lindt chocolate truffles. Inexpensive, yet tasty. We like to give a plate of homemade cookies to our neighbors. The kids enjoy the process, the neighbors get a sweet treat. Nothing fancy, no expensive ingredients, but a heartfelt sentiment.

  • Above all, if you can't afford it, don't buy it. Remember that o henry story, The Gift of the Magi? I hate that story! Neither of the main characters had money for a gift, so they sold treasures to buy unessential gifts that wound up being useless, because of the sale of the treasures. Such a waste. Remember that story, and keep your hair on your head and your watch in your pocket. A heartfelt hug or a bright smile and a "Happy Holidays" is much more powerful than a gift of futile sacrifice.


That's all! Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Teaching the kids right

The piles of little messes all over. The little one's habit of going into other people's private possessions. We're so very sick of it all. It has to stop. The trouble is, how? We try, but the follow-through is weak. Signs on the doors and walls? I don't know.

I do know that I am often tempted to simply box up most of their possessions. That Flylady story about the fed-up mom who boxed up all her son's toys except a few Matchbox cars and some crayons and papers comes to mind. He became a changed kid, thanks to fewer toys. Thanks to less chaos in his life.

The thinking cap is on.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Crock-Pot woes

I'm pretty sure split pea soup (with about 10 cups of liquid) shouldn't be at a rolling boil on the low setting in the Crock-Pot. Yeah. I've got an inquiry in to Rival, so we'll see.

Target has a basic slow cooker on sale for $19. Trouble is, it's available in red or black and I really prefer white.

Some good ideas in the comments, thanks. It wasn't a hugely expensive item, and no, I don't want to go back to keeping boxes for everything. It's just hard to make the switch, to being a person who tosses or donates vs. keeps every scrap of packaging to be ready for a return.

Heck, I don't even have the original receipt! I had to send it in to the company to get that $5 rebate I mentioned in an earlier post.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Now I wish I had the box!

I'm having problems with my new Crock-Pot--the low setting doesn't seem to be low enough. It's actually burned food twice, which should never happen in a slow cooker.

Without the box, I can't take it back to the store. I'll have to contact Crock-Pot, whoever makes them that is.

Argh! This is why hoarders keep everything!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Guest room chaos

The guest room is in chaos again. And I mean that literally, in the Flylady sense of: Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. I had to ask guests to stay elsewhere last night. Oh, I've got a rotten cold, too. Without the cold, I'd have been able to do a quick stash & dash. But feeling under the weather? It's a non-starter.

So my goal is to get the guest room back in order. It's full of Christmas stuff now, decorations and crafty things I've had to dig through recently.

Sometimes, I just want it all to go away...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Clearing the clutter for the season

It's that time of year. Yes, it's December. Time for end of the year business. Time for reflection.

Time for gifts of clutter.

This year, instead of giving a gift of clutter, give a gift of time, of knowledge, of sharing. Help your neighbor with a project. Give your child a trip to the movies. Let your family enjoy a season without any tschokes from you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Just for Fun

stolen shamelessly from Take life w/ a grain of chocolate...and Costumechick

The things I have done are in bold. Things I haven't aren't.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world many times!
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo at a try-out
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch taught myself to knit and crochet
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning even had to go to the ER
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France--the Louvre was closed when I was there because the guards were on strike
20. Slept on an overnight train Vienna to Venice...with our six month-old baby
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise--I get seasick
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors--been to Ireland & Italy
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Rode an elephant

Holidays

I love the winter holidays. The smells--cocoa, pine, fresh snow (yes, we do get some here once in a while), peppermint...The sounds of carols, Handel, happy children eager to speak to Santa. I love it all.

What I don't love? Stuff. Obligatory gift giving. Plastic toys. Crowds. Lines. Sales that aren't really (i.e. coupons that exclude the only things I want). Sad children. Angry shoppers.

Today, we usually go Downtown to see the holiday lights and catch a peek of Santa. We have hot cocoa at Starbucks, maybe browse a little at the big department stores and perhaps the book stores. See the giant star lit at Macy's. Watch the carousel go 'round.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Letting Go


of the Crock-Pot box.

I bought a new Crock-Pot a few weeks ago. I'd wanted a white one with more features and finally found a good price at a local store. With a 10% coupon, it was an even better deal. Oh, and there's a $5 rebate. Yay!

I keep boxes. And I kept this box for a few weeks. I wanted to make sure the Crock-Pot worked properly and that it fit on my counter.

In the past, I would have kept the box. Just in case, you know. Tucked it in the garage or basement.

Today, I broke it down and took it out to the recycling bin.

Can I get a "yay"?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Drugstore Game: Free Stuff!

I've been playing the Drugstore Game a bit lately. Today, since Walgreens had a special $5 off $20 coupon (good only yesterday and today), I made a couple of trips. They had deals on wrapping paper and other Christmas items--these I stocked up on for the girls' schools' holiday bazaar.

Also, due to a free after rebate item, some manufacturer's coupons and the above mentioned Walgreens coupon, I got all this for free: L'oreal moisturizer, two bags Hershey's kisses, two dozen eggs, and four cans of Progresso soup. I do have to wait for the rebate, but it's done online and is quite fast.

Whew!

Returned the Target pants

And I didn't buy anything else while I was in the store.

So there!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Crossword mania


A few years ago, I got into crosswords. I'd avoided them before that, but for some reason, I started working a Sunday New York Times puzzle and became entranced. Soon, I was doing the daily crossword and reading books about them.

Can you tell what's in the photo below? Yup, a whole stack of Sunday crosswords. Our paper has both the NY Times puzzle and the Merl Reagle (a very punny puzzle). I don't always have time on Sunday to do the puzzle, so I save them. And save them. And before you know it, there's a rather tall stack.

Should I recycle them? Continue to save them? Dear Reader, help!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This old box of junk


It's been hanging around for a long time. There are items in it I've owned since high school. Each time I go through it, though, I am able to let go of more items.

The pile on the left contains the things I was able to say farewell to today. Now, most of the contens of the box are travel toiletry items, such as shower caps, mending kits and shampoo/body lotion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Donations ready!

I've got five bags of donations in the trunk, ready to drop off at St. Vincent de Paul, my current fave. They have easy drop-off and a poor selection of women's clothing so I'm not tempted to go in.

Still haven't been to Target to return those pants, but I'll go this week and get it taken care of.

The major gift-giving holiday of the year is just around the corner...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

After all the Target fuss...

The pants don't fit. I had bought the next size up from the ones that are wearing out because they are too short. The new are the right length, but way too big in the waist. I considered taking them in, but the way they're constructed would make it awkward.

Oh well, now I have to go back to Target to return them!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Costuming: Sense and Sensibility patterns

This is off-topic in most ways, so do forgive me.

I love the Regency era. I love Jane Austen. I have participated in Regency dancing events and enjoyed them immensely.

Regency costumer Jennie Chancey, who has been perfecting her Regency gown and accessories patterns for years now, has just begun releasing them as e-patterns. E-patterns are essentially downloadable patterns. They take up physical space only when printed and can be scaled up or down as needed. Very clever!

I already own the Regency Gown pattern, but certainly would consider buying some of Jennie's other patterns as e-patterns rather than physical paper ones that must be shipped. Her pattern company, Sense and Sensibility, has also created patterns for dresses from other eras including Swing, Romantic, and Edwardian. She's also got an amazing looking pattern for a "Titanic"-inspired gown! (Yes, I hated the movie, but the costumes were great!)

If you enjoy costuming and the Regency era, I'd strongly recommend these patterns.

A Close Escape

Reader, I went to Target. I had coupons, they had Halloween stuff at 75% off. I was tempted. So tempted that I filled a hand-basket.

I'd gone there to get a pair of pants for the Big One. She's very specific about what she'll wear and what she won't. One of her favorite pairs of pants is wearing out; it came from Target's Circo line. Circo pants in that same style are on sale this week, so I wanted to buy her a replacement pair.

Circo stuff is so inexpensive new, I hate to buy it used, especially since it's often priced the same or more (!) at the thrift stores than new at Target.

I found a pair, and that's when I got in trouble. I looked at the Halloween stuff. Gosh, 75% off! And they had these cute little Barbie's little sister Kelly dolls dressed in Halloween costumes. Gosh, I could sell those on eBay. Golly, what a deal.

And those coupons. There's a special going for Glade holiday scent air fresheners and candles. I had coupons, yeah. But I don't need any. I really really don't.

So, I got smart, put down the basket, picked up the pants (what I had come in the store for), bought them. And left.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Old Floppy Discs

We have several boxes of old large floppy discs. These were DH's grandpa's, for his IBM PC. Grandpa was an early adopter and shifted all his letter writing and business to the IBM. We had the actual computer (I think?) for a while, but it's long gone. Still, what to do with the floppies?

I was all for tossing them, but DH hesitated, so we wait.

I'll post a picture when my camera battery recharges.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fresh Eyes

Every once in a while, it's important to look at your home with fresh eyes. I did that yesterday, and with the kids, did some decluttering, some vacuuming and just took a fresh look. There are now things on my list, a few that need a chunk of time, but some small changes I can make that will freshen our space and renew it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Drugstore Game

I've done a few Drugstore Game (see also, Money Saving Mom) trips recently, stocking up (yes, dangerous words for me) on items we use frequently. Hair conditioner and body lotion, various medicines (it's cold season), paper towels, facial cleanser. Boring stuff like that.

I use the tips from websites like those I link to above, and clip the coupons from the paper. It's easy. I have six bins for personal care supplies in my linen closet. They're labeled and I re-organize them every few months. They stay stocked, thanks to Drugstore Game trips.

Today, I got three packages of Theraflu for -$3.00. That's three dollars back. Once I receive my rebate check, Theraflu will have paid me for buying their product. Nice, eh?

Unfortunately, I'm stuffy and have a sinus headache. So, I do actually need to take some Theraful sinus.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Finding that which is lost

I kept my sewing tools in the big purge. My rotary cutter, my good scissors. I know I kept them. And yet, they are not to be found. I've gone through bin after bin, and box after box and have not found them.

I fear they may have been mixed in with items that were donated. That would be frustrating and painful. I need to sew accessories for the big one's Halloween costume. I want to make some simple scarves for the girls' school's holiday bazaar. I can't without my sewing tools.

The fear of every hoarder is that a needed, valuable item will be inadvertantly, accidentally donated. This is why it is so hard to accept help. Because we don't know if the helper will be as cautious as our fragile psyches need them to be.

Please send "rotary cutter come home" thoughts my way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reduce what comes in

into the house, that is. Take fewer trips to the store, bundle errands together. Shop at one store versus four.

Reduce the input, increase the output and soon balance is achieved. With balance comes peace and serenity.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Back from Vegas!

Well, I'm back from Fabulous Las Vegas. We had a great time, came out money ahead in our gambling. We saw three shows, visited many of the casinos, and my sweetie got to play BlackJack for the first time (he left the table up, good for him).

As I've mentioned before, I travel light. We both went carry-on only for the flights and I love doing that. It's so great to not have to get to the airport super early just to check your bags. It's great to get off the plane and go straight to the cab line, no waiting for baggage. We both have carry-on size rolling bags. Sweetie had to bring a laptop for work, so his computer bag was his "personal item" and I brought a small tote with book, iPod, and my Vegas purse tucked inside.

Our favourite thing? The Star Trek slot machines at New York-New York. We didn't sit down and play them 'til our last day, but we sure had a blast with them. The sound effects are amazing, and they save your progress if you create an ID, so you can play for a while and come back to the level you left off at.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gems from the Archive: Thinking about excess

Here's a post on parenting and clutter, a two-for-one bonus!

Thinking about excess

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gems from the Archive: The threat of Christmas

My post is short, but there are great, thoughtful comments to read.

The Threat of Christmas

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gems from the Archive: Trixie out of the arkd

An update to this post! Lately, my older daughter has been reading Trixie Belden books and enjoying them. Random House has republished the first 16 in the series, complete with the original illustrations.

Trixie out of the dark

Monday, October 06, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Sweetie and I are taking a little trip to celebrate our birthdays. We'll spend the next few days in fabulous Las Vegas.

For your reading pleasure, I'm going to post some of my earlier essays you may have missed. Something new each day. Enjoy!

A Very Special Post: The Wood Stove

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Rain Rain Rain

Here in the NW, you know autumn has truly begun when the rains begin. First the drizzling. Next the occasional shower. Then, full on downpours.

I actually love rain. I love the sound it makes on the roof or against the windows. I love the way it makes my skin feel fresh. I love how the humidity makes my hair puff up and curl.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Five

It's alliterative, ok? Here are five things you probably don't know about me.

1. I know how to play Pokemon
2. I drink my coffee black
3. I watched Iron Man four times in the theatre
4. I love Starbucks, but rarely go there
5. I chew my thumbnails

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Goodwill drop off!

I dropped off five bags and one box of donations at the Goodwill yesterday. I cleverly timed it so I had just enough time to drop off the donations and drive to school to pick up my kids--no time to browse!

Today is for mundane catch-up work. I've got dishes running, changed the dining room tablecloth, laundry is in progress. Bills need to be paid and I have a few phone calls I've been putting off.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wardrobe Infusion




Take a look at what I found the other day at Value Village.

I've written about Value Village. I don't usually like to shop there or donate there because their prices are high. $6.99 for a four-year old Gap t-shirt? I don't think so. However, they do have the best sale day of any local thrift store. Once a week, all clothes with a specific color tag are only $.99 each. On that day, I'm more than willing to see if I can find something to liven up my wardrobe.

I found jeans and a cute denim jacket by Jones New York. An Ann Taylor Loft striped dress shirt. A sweater and shirt by Hennes (an H&M brand). A jacket by Van Heusen. And that bright red square is a pareo for either pool lounging or dress up.

All for less than $8.00.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Keratosis

I heard from the dermatologist today. The spot on my back is a keratosis, which is not a skin cancer. It can, however, turn into one. Current plan to have it checked in about six weeks. We'll see then if it's wiser to remove it or keep watching it.

Whew!

I'm geting sucked into the school fundraising machine. I am a big fan of passive fundraisers, and am working to activate more of them for our school. I hate asking folks for money and I don't like being asked, so I strongly prefer fundraisers that ask only that I click a link before shopping online or clip a box-top.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another bag full of donations

I went through the kids clothes with them the other day. The little one is quite fickle, and frequently decides she doesn't like items of clothing. I pulled a huge armful of clothes out based on her vetos. I may keep them around for a week or so in case she changes her mind--some of them are really cute. Then, out the door, cuteness be darned.

The big girl didn't have as many things she didn't like, though she did pass most of her dresses to the little one. The big one hardly ever wears dresses, despite loving them a year or so ago. Her choice, though, so why keep what she won't wear?

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Friday!

Today, I took the kids to school and then went to see the dermatologist. I've been due for one of the body checks where they see if you have any odd moles or whatnot. But what drove me to make the appointment was an odd scabby thing on my back. Yes, seriously yuck. But it worried me.

The doc thinks it's a basal cell carcinoma. That's the not-so-bad type of skin cancer. He did a biopsy today and when we get the results it'll either be "keep an eye on it" or "let's remove it". It's not going to spread, it's not the scary kind. But still. Still.

The kids had a good week in school. I drove them to and from every day, since the bus is just not good this year. I'm lucky that I can do that, that I work from home, and that my sweetie is supportive.

In decluttering news, I found a few more items to toss into a donation bag. Yay me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back to Clutter

I've got two bags of donations ready to go. Just need to toss them in the car and drop them off today or tomorrow when I'm out and about. I prefer to donate to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul, so it'll depend on what my other errands are whether they go today or tomorrow. But go they will!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Less Suckage

The little one had a really hard time this morning. Apparently, last week was the honeymoon. She didn't want to take the bus, didn't want the lunch I'd fixed her. And on and on.

We'll see what her mood is this afternoon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A sucky morning

The suckage this morning was serious. And I am not turning into a "mommy blogger" I promise!

First, the little one had an argument with DH, which culminated in her getting angry (for no discernable reason) and mouthing off at him. He left for work, in a crappy mood.

Then, after I got the kids fed and the little one calmed down, the little one had another fit, this time about underwear. OK, got that settled, whew.

Out to the bus. We went out a few minutes early, just to give us a cushion. And we wait. And wait. And wait. Yes, it's garbage day and that can slow traffic a little bit. But not 20 minutes. The bus shouldn't be 20 minutes late. I made the judgment call to drive the kids (even though this was going to be my first day putting the kids on the bus and no other committments until time to pick them up--I was looking forward to this day!!). So, we go back home, the kids get in the car and just as I'm locking up the house, the bus comes. I did try to flag it down, but no luck.

Profanity ensued.

Back to the car, more profanity (I hate swearing in front of the kids and rarely do it, but man was I pissed). An easy quick drive to school. The kids would have been late had they gotten on that late bus, so it was the right call.

The little one didn't settle in well. I had to reassure her more than usual. But I did connect with the mom of a little girl she likes and we've got a tentative playdate set up. So, again, a good thing.

Set up a time to talk with the big one's teacher about math. That's a whole other issue I won't go into. Way too far off topic.

So here we are, it's 10:16 a.m. and I'm finally feeling less frustrated. Not yet relaxed. Still annoyed.

Someone, quick, make me laugh.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It's still strange

I put the kids on the bus again. The substitute driver was driving so I still haven't yet met their regular driver.

The little one dropped a bottle of salad dressing and it stained my new jeans. I am royally pissed and hoping I can get the stain out. It's soaking with stain remover now...

And, one of my contact lenses cracked this morning. I'm wearing my glasses and have to keep moving my head up and down to see properly. I am very nearsighted and chose small lenses to keep them light. Well, that means a small area of clear vision. Still waiting for the eye doc to call me back.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Even Stranger

I just put both my children on the school bus.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What a strange week

Another school day tomorrow. I've been driving the kids there and back, since the buses are always crazy and late the first week while they work out the kinks in the schedule.

The kids have both settled in well and are having a good time so far. The little one is really enjoying kindergarten; the big one has complained about how different things are with her new teacher, but I like her teacher and I think it'll be fine.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back to school tomorrow

Tomorrow, the kids start school. The little one is heading off to kindergarten, the big one to third grade.

Summer has slipped by so quickly. We had a relaxed summer, the kids attended a couple of day camps, and the little one got chicken pox.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Dump Run





I got a brilliant idea in the shower, where all good ideas descend upon one's wet brain. A dump run! Take away the old appliances and the pile-O-junk that's been ripening in the garage since the Spring.

We usually go to a city dump (aka "transfer station") but it's usually hell on a Saturday. So, after a little research, we learned that about another local dump, not closer but easier to get to, would take the appliances for recycling at a cost to us of $10 each. The whole family had to come along, since Sweetie needed my help to get that enormous range out of the truck. Took both of us, a ramp and levers to get it in! And the place was empty, so no waiting. Our new dump of choice!

After we got home, we loaded the truck again with the pile-O-junk, including the old kitchen sink and some 8' flourescent bulbs.

Sweetie is happy, since he can park in the garage again.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Farewell 1971 avocado green range




You served us well. You still work, range top and both ovens. But you are so large at 40" wide and your colour, well, let us say its' day has come and gone.

Farewell old Kenmore dishwasher. You came from a long-gone tech-employee classified's forum, and you were a bargain at $90. You served us well also, though you were so very noisy. Goodbye.



Friday, August 29, 2008

Donations

I dropped off a couple of bags of donations at the Goodwill yesterday. Then, we went into the Goodwill.

I had three items on my list and, amazingly enough, found all of them. Jeans, a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook and the latest version of Writer's Market. I did buy two extra items not on my list: a copy of the revised version of Stephen King's "The Gunslinger (Dark Tower I)" and a boxed presentation version of The Bible.

Older daughter really wanted to buy something. She has a chess set and backgammon set on her list. She found a magnetic combination set, with all the pieces. But, I vetoed it. The price was high, the quality low and the magnets would have fallen out soon. She was disappointed. But I'd rather she learn to save her money and look for quality than spend it on something that will break soon.

Younger daughter was happy to play with the toys and only uttered a token "wah" when told I wouldn't buy the electronic gizmo she wanted.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good old Costco

(Chief Family Officer has a guest post on the cost of buying items at a warehouse club versus doing the Drugstore Game)

I love Costco. Lots of reasons, but the main one is that there are so few choices. I've talked about choice before. I find having too many options to be stressful. At Costco, if I want powdered dishwasher detergent, I can choose Costco's Kirkland brand in a huge tub or a box of Cascade. That's it. No size options, just choose Kirkland or Cascade. It's easy.

Most items at Costco are like that. You can choose Foster Farms fresh chicken pieces or buy Kirkland Signature (via Foster Farms) frozen. Frozen vegetables? One size/brand package available, that's all. Milk? Kirkland Signature.

For someone like me who is easily overwhelmed by choices, Costco is perfect. I took the kids there this week. Thanks to the huge carts, if the kids get antsy, I can easily corral them. Plus, they get samples. And hot dogs.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reader, I went to Target

and I brought the kids.

It had been a few months since I went there. My list was the curious mix that Target is well-suited for. I'd been reading a lot of negative stories over at The Consumerist and didn't really want to go there. But I wanted to go to Fred Meyer or Wal-Mart even less.

It was a den of temptation. From all sides, products beckoned. And then we visited the school supplies section. Mecca and nirvana all in one. Pens, paper, pads, pencils, Post-It notes. All at reasonable prices. It took work to restrain myself. Heck, we weren't even there for school supplies--the kids' school hasn't sent a list!

It is a two-story Target and we had to visit both floors.

Here's what we bought. The list is from memory. That tells you something. The total came to about $56 and I had a couple dollars' worth of coupons. We got a lot, everything on the list with a couple of extras (the Bic pens, but I had a $1 off two coupon, final price about $.70 for both packs with the tax)

2 sets of 5 spiral notebooks @.50 each
1 package of notebook paper @.50
1 package Bic purple stick pens @.89
1 package Bic clear pens @.69
1 Ban deoderant 2.59
1 package of two rolls paper towels, Target brand @ 3.49
1 box of hair color, L'Oreal $7.89
1 package Fruit of the Loom kids undies @6.99 (but sign said $5.89, so I had to haul the kids all around the store to prove the price and then back to the cash register. Was it worth it for $1.42?)
2 packages juice boxes @4/$7
1 set of two kids belts @7.99
1 pair little kid chinos @7
3 boxes granola bars @2.18 each
1 geometry tool set @1.29
1 package index cards @.47
1 box colored pencils @.62
1 pencil box @.69

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nothing to see here

Nothing interesting to report. I have a couple of bags of donations near the door, ready to be dropped off. The living and dining rooms are relatively tidy and clutter-free.

Still working on the cookbook situation. Not sure why it's so difficult. A commenter wondered if there might be emotions hanging around the cookbooks and memories of cooking with my mom. Well, that's a good theory, but she didn't use cookbooks. We rarely cooked together. In fact, I didn't know how to cook until about my second or third year in college when all of a sudden I started experimenting and the concepts began to gel. Very cool feeling, I still remember it. The cookbooks from that era are keepers, there are only a couple of them.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Little towns full of stuff

I was in La Conner, WA yesterday. It's a quaint little town, founded over a century ago, right on the Swinomish Channel. It's one of those little towns that used to be fueled by industry and now mostly relies on tourists to survive.

My sweetie had been there before and thought I would like it. Perhaps I was just in a mood, but each little shop struck me as full of junk. Boutiques with unique clothing, art galleries with sculptures, paintings and jewelry, even a cookware shop all seemed...superfluous. Useless. The browsing crowds (and it was quite crowded, I had to circle the main block twice to find a place to park) felt avaricious, filled with the desire to acquire. Um, did I mention I might have been in a mood?

Despite browsing through several shops I bought nothing. Not even a book at the well-appointed book store. Not even a chocolate at the candy shoppe. We had lunch and that was that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stuff

What is stuff anyway? Why is there so much of it?

Sometimes, I'll have an almost out of body experience looking at a display of merchandise. The questions start to come...who designed that? why? what's the purpose? how did they feel when they created it? did they know it would break after only one use?

Stuff. Can we just heave it all into space?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to those cookbooks

I'm having a hard time letting go of the excess cookbooks. I'm not sure why, can't yet pinpoint it. I have the cupboard set up for them, and I just need to choose which to keep and put them in the cupboard. So what is the hold-up?

I suppose I could choose the ones I think I'll use most, put them in the cupboard and store the rest for a set amount of time, selling them if I haven't referred to them in that time. I could do that, couldn't I?

They're just books. They're not magic. They're just paper and ink, and who knows if the recipes are even any good? I sure don't, I haven't tried most of them. How could one? To cook every recipe in a cookbook could take years. Years. Remember that book I mentioned a while back, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, about a New Yorker who decided to give her life meaning by cooking every recipe in volume 1 of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One? It took her a year, and it was sometimes a miserable one, to cook every recipe in that admittedly large, book. I do not want to spend a year of my life doing that. In fact, most of what I cook is made up by me, as I'm doing the cooking. Why do I even have cookbooks?

Still, I'll move these books. I'll stow what fits upstairs. The rest will be tucked into a basement storage cupboard, to be reassessed in three months. Seasons change after all, and I do almost no baking in the summer. I might need those cookie books in a few months, when the fall holidays come.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Cupboard clutter


Our basement has a lot of built-in storage cupboards. There are six in the laundry room alone. I decided to tackle two of those, and I managed to cull a large laundry basket full of items I don't use now, never did use, or won't use in the future. I've found homes for a couple of the items; the others will go out to the street with a "Free" sign or perhaps Freecyle. I'm a little down on Freecycle just now, as it took a long time to dispose of the last item I offered.

I don't have a before shot of the cupboards but here's an after and below is the laundry basket-O-junk.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The bench is clear, the bench is clear!


That cluttered bench is clear! Guests actually sat on it today. I had a deadline of yesterday to clear it off, and I met it. Admitedly, the library books are still close by, but at least they're in a spot that really can't be used for another purpose. I suppose we could try some houseplants in that window, but the cats would chew on them and that would be bad.

The cubbies under the bench still need some work. I cleared and sorted one of them, the other two will have to wait for another day.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Reading Review

Here are some of the books I've read recently...

This book made me cry. Older daughter read it too and thought it was sad. Criminy.


This is a great read, funny and poignant.


Another page turner from prolific Nora Roberts. She follows the writer's rule (i.e. insert butt into chair, put hands on keyboard and write) and it works.


How did folks cook two hundred, one hundred years ago?




Very human memories from a still-active Catholic priest.


That's about it this time. Get 'em from your local library.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where are you on the hoarding scale?

Today, I found this online guide to compulsive hoarding and aquiring. There's a downloadable form you can use to rate your home.

What I found most interesting are the series of photos of living room, kitchen, and bedroom. You can click on the photos for a larger image.

What struck me is that on this scale, most of the rooms in my house are a 1 or a 2. The guest room is perhaps a 2.5 or 3 right now, as it's taken the brunt of some recent purging from other parts of the house. All of the rooms in my house are fully usable for their intended purpose. There is nothing on the beds other than bedding and pajamas. The kitchen counters have a few dirty dishes, but the sink is clear and the dishwasher is partially loaded. You can sit on the couch without moving anything, and the same for the living room chairs.

I no longer aquire things at the rate I did. It's rare for me to buy anything other than food. I guess maybe I'm getting better!

Monday, July 28, 2008

I love my new no clutter laundry room!


As I mentioned, I've been wanting to remove the console table from my laundry room and replace it with a couple of Shabby Chic style chairs I found on the side of the road, with a free sign. Today, I did it! Take a look.



Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good bye old refrigerator!


It served us well. It was in the house when we bought it. Other than one glitch some years ago (which sweetie was able to fix) it has worked great. Like the other appliances we replaced, there was nothing "wrong" with it. It just didn't fit the kitchen I envisioned.

When I was cleaning it in preparation for its departure, I noticed the model tag. It was made in 1987. It's 21 years old. Poor old fridge.

We disposed of it using a program our power service subscribes to. They'll take away and dismantle (or donate) your old appliance when you upgrade to a more energy efficient one. And you get a check for $30.

With the old fridge gone, we were able to reclaim our dining room and living room.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guest Post: We don't own our things, we rent them

In a message board discussion on clutter, "Crayfish" had this brilliant insight, which I've received permission to republish in this guest post. There are references to specific items; these refer to the original discussion. Substitute any item you're having trouble letting go of.
________________________________________________________
Would it help to think of it as renting stuff?

That is, very few things are bought because you're going to have them forever. Most things are bought because you have a use for them now. You're not buying the thing, you're buying the utility, the use of that thing for a specific purpose for a limited time. You're paying money for a limited period of utility. Therefore, you're essentially renting the thing.

So when you bought that eight-dollar toy, you bought a playing experience. When your mother bought you those clothes, she bought an upgrade to your interview experience.

Those experiences are past. Maybe the experience was good and the money was well spent. Maybe the experience was lousy and the money was wasted. But the experience is over, just as much as a movie or amusement park trip that you bought a ticket for is over. The physical thing left is just the "ticket". The empty shell. The remains of the experience.

A used movie ticket is not worth the sixteen dollars that you may have paid for admission and popcorn and Coke. If the experience was fabulous, the ticket isn't needed to allow you to remember it. If the experience was lousy, the ticket isn't going to enable you to get your money back. The ticket is an empty shell, the should-be-discarded "wrapper" for the experience.

The same is true of toys that aren't played with and clothes that aren't worn. Your mother loves you, and she demonstrated that love by buying you the clothes when you needed them for a specific purpose. The money was spent, for better or for worse, when that purpose was completed. You don't have to keep the "wrapper" that she once delivered her love in. Her love is just as real if you discard the wrapper. The clothes have served, or failed to serve, their purpose. They're empty now. It's time for them to go.

And, again, it's the _experience_ that matters. It's your life that matters. That means that a clean, pleasant serene home, a home where you can have happier experiences, is more important than a home full of empty shells. You can keep the memories, but keeping the shells, the wrappers, the skeletons of old experiences, will corrupt your new experiences.

You don't want to live in a museum or graveyard devoted to the past, giving up on happiness and on making good new memories because you're devoted to trying to squeeze new value out of old empty wrappers. That toy cost you eight dollars; if it and dozens others like it stay in your house, cluttering it up and making it less pleasant, then that toy is costing you more every single day.
__________________________________________________________________

Me again. I love this idea. It's a brilliant mental trick that can truly benefit those of us who hang onto things because...it was a gift, we paid "good money" for it, it belonged to a loved one who has passed away, it's an antique. You name the reason for letting it hang around, just by thinking of it as rented instead of owned can be the scissors that cut the thread.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Vestfrost started it all


It's funny, and I know it's not just me. One thing, one item, can cause a chain of events. For me, it was the Vestfrost. I saw it first at my pal Aaron's place. It was a thing of beauty--shining silver and such clean simple lines, so very elegant. When I got home, I started planning long-overdue kitchen remodel, because I too wanted a Vestfrost.

Can you think of a time when one item, on piece of art, one book, a phrase or a song, started you on a journey of discovery? It's like magic, a talisman, a stone cairn that leads the way.

Every day, I look at my lovely kitchen, and I thank my Vestfrost for starting it all.

The Financial Side of Clutter

As many of you know, I enjoy reading the personal finance blogs. My favorites are listed in the right sidebar, check them out if you're interested in personal finance.

Retail therapy is a common practice here in the U.S. It probably is in other countries as well. So many of us shop for the sake of shopping, buying new things to cheer us up or to give us a little thrill. I can attest to the reality of that thrill--it's literally like a high, a hit of endorphin to the system. Some people can become addicted to that high--see this recent story on The Consumerist for more.

Times are a bit harder these days, and still, retail therapy occurs. I read the paper, and every day there are articles about shopping habits and how little they've changed despite the slowing economy.

When I started my decluttering journey, I knew that retail therapy had to end. I was never profligate (although, yes, there were some incidents involving scrapbooking supplies--long story), but I bought items we as a family didn't actually need. Now need is an interesting word. What do we really need? Food, shelter, some would say love. Dozens of episodes of old TV shows on DVD? Kid clothes from anywhere but the thrift store? Books the library has? Barbie dolls? Not needs. Wants. Wishes. Hopes for a different life or a better tomorrow.

I don't shop anymore. I do sometimes browse, and I've found that when I walk into a shop not intending to buy anything and being clear to myself on that, I can browse and be inspired by the items that catch my eye. Perhaps there's a color that calls to me. I can examine why that is, remember it, and consider it for a home decorating idea in the future. It doesn't mean I need to own that item right now.

Books, ah books. Used to be I couldn't leave a bookstore without buying something. The other day, I explored a lovely used bookstore. Amazing stock, the place was a maze of shelves, all carefully labeled, with that wonderful smell of old books. Saw many books that, even two years ago, I would have bought. I left with the title of one book in my head so I could put it on hold at the library. Didn't buy a thing. It felt like a victory.

My home is on a journey that will likely never end. I try to enjoy the journey itself, for that is where the learning happens.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Too much stuff


I guess I just have too much stuff. Still, still, after actively working on it for over two years, I just have too much stuff. Clutter clutter everywhere. Surfaces covered. No flat expanse of space unfilled.

Just needed to gripe a little.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Friendly Amazon Reminder

Just a friendly reminder, if you shop at Amazon, go through the links on my blog. I get some credit, and folks think I'm big time. Can't hurt, eh?

Friday, July 11, 2008

I love my Vestfrost!


I have to tell you how much I am loving having a small fridge! I've wanted a freezer on the bottom style of fridge for a long time, and having the whole thing be so small is such a bonus.
Here's the width of the old fridge, for comparison.And here, the slender Vestfrost.
Here are some views of the interior. I like it when the fridge is not too full. I like being able to see most of what I have in it.




We're a family of four--two adults, an eight year old and a five year old. We have two cats. Do you think our fridge looks empty? Full? How does it compare to yours?

We don't drink soda. Sometimes when we're out or for a special treat at home we might have root beer floats. We don't drink cow's milk, though we do use it as an ingredient. We don't regularly drink juice. I don't like icy cold water, so I don't keep a Brita filter pitcher in the fridge.

We do have a separate upright freezer, in the basement. The Vestfrost actually has a lot of freezer space. It has three drawers in the freezer, and a narrow slot for ice cube trays (it came with three, they're shallower than standard American). Still, I like being able to use the upstairs freezer for frequently used items and the basement one for storage. I buy our meat in bulk at Costco and freeze it in meal-size portions.

Donations! More Clutter Gone!


I didn't intend a donation run, but somehow, the car is packed with eight bags of clutter for the charity shops. I'll take some to St. Vincent de Paul (a favourite charity of mine), some to the local, small, City of Hope cancer fund raising charity shop and perhaps some to Goodwill.

I also arranged to bring a baby carrier I've had no luck selling on Craigslist to a consignment shop. Don't know why I didn't think of that sooner.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tea Clutter


This is a box of tea. Mystery tea. Old tea. Newish tea. Good tea. Tea that no one likes. Tea.

I drink tea. Once in a while. I prefer coffee in the morning. Sweetie drinks tea every day, but he's quite particular about what he'll drink, and the teas that he likes are in his tea cupboard in the kitchen. This box of teas has been sitting in the basement since March, when I removed everything from the cupboards.

Some of the teas are ones I thought I should like (aspirational teas if you will), some just plain looked good but didn't taste as good as I had hoped.

Why do I keep them? Because I paid good money for them! Because they're perfectly good! Because because because!!!

They can go on Freecycle. Perhaps I'll list them today...

Book Clutter: It came from the library!


This bench is my next big target. It used to be half of the seating at our dining room table, prior to the kitchen remodel which necessitated moving the dining room table into the living room to make way for the fridge. Ahem.

I'm a stacker. I like nice flat surfaces because they are so good for stacking things. It's very hard in my house to keep a flat surface clear. The kitchen is easiest for some reason. The bathroom simply doesn't have many flat surfaces so it's never cluttered.

Those books are from the library. Underneath the bench are shoes. In the bench's cubbies...gee, I don't think you want to know. Scary stuff. I'll go through it soon, and show you the after, promise.

I'd like to keep that bench there even after we move the table back. If you're wondering what's holding us up in moving the table, the old fridge is still there! It's going away on the 23rd, to a local company that works with utilities to encourage folks to retire their old energy-guzzling appliances. They take the old, we get a check for $30.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Food Clutter: It came from the garage


We still have boxes of food in the garage. It's mostly clutter, in that it's not stuff we use or need. Some is stuff I wasn't sure what to do with. That big bottle of almond extract from Smart & Final...expired years ago, but still smelled good last time I checked. Well, it's gone now. I took a look out there and grabbed a box of bottles, mostly sauces and vinegars, and checked dates, did the sniff test and the look test.

Kahlua liquer from a trip to Mexico...in 1997. That bottle of almond extract went down the drain. I noticed that the plastic of the bottle had started to discolour. Old vinegars, bought who knows when, rarely used. A bottle of dry sherry--I didn't know if it was still good because I don't drink dry sherry, but it did not smell appetizing. A bottle of a favourite seasoning sauce that was out of date and just looked off. I suspect it had gotten lost in the cupboard, since there was a new bottle in another box of the garage.

Yes, it is wasteful. I know that. I like to cook and experiment, and that means trying new things. What I need to learn is that if we try a new seasoning and no one likes it, to toss it right away. Or offer it on Freecyle. Whatever, just get it out of the house. It's not going to get tastier sitting around in the cupboard. My new kitchen feels quite spare compared to the old, and I really like that feeling. I'm still cooking dinners every night, and the family is enjoying them. This is good. This is enough.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Repurposing: Partylite candle holder into ...


a fruit plate! I had this Partylite three-wick pillar holder on my mantle. I burned down the one three wick candle I still owned (sold/gave away the others long ago) and decided to give it a new use.

Cookbook Clutter: Update


I've been pondering the cookbook situation. As Clutter Buddy pointed out, most of us use only a few of our cookbooks. This is true for me, that's for sure. But, I like cookbooks as literature, as inspiration. I just don't want to have as many of them as I currently own.

Recall I did cull cookbooks a while ago. I sold about two dozen of them, ones I rarely even looked at for ideas. What I need to do next is to cull the remaining books, and be ruthless. I have designated ONE spot for cookbooks, and it's not huge.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Paperwork Sorting is Done!


Finally, after several years of staring at those clear bins, they're now empty. A lot of the contents went into recycling. I found some really odd things, including high school notes (about five pages, torn from a notebook), lots of old show & movie tickets, old address books, hundreds of letters, index cards with notes on furniture needed for our new house--those were from 1996 or so. Found the younger one's original Social Security card, my first passport, my law school student ID, and my temporary student ID from a summer at a law school program in Shanghai.

Here's the end result. One of the boxes is full of paperwork that needed to be kept--banking, mortgage-related, tax-related. The other is about 3/4 full of letters and cards.

So much of this clutter truly was the result of procrastination--I clearly remember building stacks of papers on my old desk and chucking them into boxes and bags, because I couldn't decide what to do with them. Clutter is unmade decisions. Clutter is indeciciveness. Clutter is the visible incarnation of the mind's inability to made a choice.