Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stumbling Through Junk

The basement. I had it tidy-ish. I had things in place. What happened??

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I notice I've gotten several comments on my post about choice. I'm going to mention a book here, one that I think is worth a read by anyone pondering the issue of choice in our society.
My main take-away from this book is the concept of "maximizers" and "satisficers". A maximizer will go to great lengths to get just the right item or experience. If a maximizer wants to go to a restaurant, reviews will be read, friends consulted, the Internet scoured. And still, the maximizer may not actually enjoy the experience. Why? Because what if, after all that a-do, the wrong restaurant had been chosen? The angst, the pain, the frustration, the paralysis.

The satisficer, on the other hand, decides to eat out. He or she perhaps asks their spouse what they prefer, Mexican or Chinese. There's a Mexican place down the street, they go there. They have a good meal, maybe not the best ever, but it's just fine.

Can you guess which type I am? Ha ha! I can't tell you how many times I have gotten so hungry that I'm no longer hungry trying to decide where to eat. I have put off purchases by researching, browsing, shopping 'til exhaustion (but not buying anything, oh no, that's too much of a committment) and not ending up with the item. I choose the stores I actually do shop at based on their liberal return policies, because, gosh, what if I change my mind?

Here's the funny thing. When I do make a purchase or decision that I can't take back, I'm most often happier. I committ more fully to the decision, BECAUSE it's not one I can easily undo.

So that's my personal take on choice. For me, for my happiness less=more. So, I minimize the stores I shop at to just a few, get the bulk of my books from the library (hey, I HAVE to take them back!), and try not to want too much. Because that wanting leads to research, which leads to a whole mess of decisions that I just can't make.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Paradox (and Pain) of Choice

I had just been thinking about choice, as it affects our living spaces and our life dreams, when I got an email from my sister with a link to an amazing essay that spells out the pain of choice. Do read it: Too Much Choice is Pure Hell.

It's true. Too much choice IS pure hell. And today, we are faced with more choices and options than ever before. We know about the choices, thanks to the media. Advertising is designed to make us want...everything! Choose...HD-DVD or Blu-Ray (well, that choice has been made for us now!), Starbucks or Tully's, and the list goes on.

Every step in life is a choice. But I know that I am happier when I have fewer choices. This is why I shop at Costco for most of our groceries. I can choose from Tillamook shredded cheddar or from Tillamook shredded cheddar. No angst over store band versus Kraft versus Tillamook versus Horizon. I have one choice if I want shredded cheddar, and, yes, it's a good one! All through the store, little to no choice. It's great! I can't even choose if I want four bananas or six, the only choice is a four pound bag!

Choice can paralyze you. Have you ever decided with your sweetie to go out for dinner and spend an hour trying to choose a restaurant? Indian or Italian? Mexican or McDonald's? Chain or independant? It's why the happiest people who dine out are the regulars. Their server knows them, they know the menu, it's like being at home but with someone else to do the dishes. I always envied the regulars that feeling...but I have this craving for new, for different that I strive to keep in check.

Choice. Think about it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Temporarly Chaos

We just had my sister-in-law and her son visit for a couple of days. Oh, and their dog. Let me just say that the house is quiet for the first time in over 48 hours. There's dog hair on the living room carpet. The floors aren't too covered in crumbs, thanks to said dog (a quite civilized beast). I see dust and hair balls everywhere, and you can't move without knocking over a LEGO brick or stepping on a rubber boot! The kids had a blast playing together, and we had a good visit. SIL is easy going and pitches in--she actually vacuumed and helped pick up the day they arrived.

My precious little fur babies, though, were very happy to see the tail end of the dog! (finally able to relax)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Little at a Time Really Makes Progress

So I've told you about my counter cleaning ritual, right? Well, once you've been doing that for a couple of weeks, you've gotten up the grime, and since you're doing it every day, nothing builds up and gets all crusty and icky. So it takes less time to do it. What do you do? You expand your area, and you find yourself spritzing and swiping more and more of the kitchen. I've moved on to bits of wall, stove hood, front of the cabinets. It's looking good.

So good, that I may actually do my kitchen update this year. I found out that you can have countertops refinished, which would be cheaper and faster than new ones. I'd paint the walls and cabinets, refinish the countertops and maybe sink, and refinish the floor. It would cost around $2000 (as compared with the last quote I got for a remodel--$20,000!).

Here's a picture of how my counters looked last night:
This was just as I was making dinner; that stack of Zip-Loc boxes contains leftovers that are ready to be heated up. The purple mug is waiting to be handwashed (and it was, later that evening). The fruit plate holds our current fruit for breakfasts and lunches.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


A brief interlude to note that today was my state's caucus day. We also have a primary, but for my party, that won't make a difference. I'm an elected official, the very bottom-most tier elected official, and so I got to run my precinct's caucus. Good times, folks, truly good times. A great bunch of people turned out and we had a great time electing our delegates.

On the decluttering front, here's the load I dropped off at the Goodwill today. No, that doesn't break my Lenten intention, because I didn't go into the thrift store, I merely handed bags to the nice gentleman outside and got a receipt.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Oprah's Interventions

Oprah and organizing guru Peter Walsh worked together for two shows on hoarding. I didn't watch them when they first aired (I don't watch much TV), but last night, I watched the video available on Oprah's website.

These are painful to watch. I feel grateful that I got my wake-up call because it's clearly a case of 'there but for the grace...'. In one situation, the hoarder clearly is trying to fill the space left after her children left the home. What's really sad is how the husband simply let it happen. He lost his home to the clutter and hoarding disease.

I worry that the fix won't stick. Removing the stuff helps, providing that the hoarder is on the path to recovery and wants assistance, but it will just pile up again unless the underlying psychological issues are dealt with. I hope the show is providing counseling because without it, the house will just fill up again.
* * *
Today, inspired by the folks featured on those two shows, I dug out some junk. I have a coat rack in our basement hallway (we leave the house most often by the back door, since I park in the car port and my sweetie parks in the garage--yes, we can get a car into our garage!). Under the coat rack are these bins:

Until just now, they were full of all this stuff:

To make it easier, I dumped all three bins out into a laundry basket. Next, I grabbed another empty basket, a garbage can and a recycling can and went at it. Above, in the basket on the left, is what I have yet to sort. The bin on the right is the keeper stuff. The garbage is full of just plain trash that was in those poor bins. Old napkins and Kleenex, bits of this and that. It'll be at least another hour's worth of work to finish the sorting.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


No, you haven't accidentally been switched to Confessions of a Catholic, but yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season. Lent is the 40 days preceding Easter (not counting Sundays). Lent is a time of reflection, and to participate in the custom of forming an intention for the season. Often, people choose to give something up for their intention, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, sugar. I prefer to think of the intention as either adding something to your life or not doing something with the goal of moving closer to God (as you conceive of God). Sometimes giving something up will do that, you'll perhaps move closer to the spirit of creation and life if you're not eating chocolate. Or, perhaps you'll add a daily walk or 10 minutes of meditation. Or maybe you'll choose to give to the local food bank every week, instead of once a year when the Postal Carrier leaves that handy bag.

Whether one is Christian or not, adopting a practice that brings one closer to...well, spirit of creation and life and energy for want of a better word can be a powerful time of personal growth.

Wondering what I chose to add or give up? Going to thrift stores and shopping at Target. I had pretty much already given up the thrift stores, I think the last time I went to one was over a month ago. But, still, the intention will solidify that aim. And Target? Well, it's just a pit of temptation. I go in for kitchen cleaner and come out will all sorts of wonderful things that, yes, will "enhance" our life, but that we don't actually "need". Since other stores that stock the items I usually buy at Target have higher prices, I'll be more able to stick to my list.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday or Fat Tuesday?

Today is Super Tuesday, the day 22 states hold presidential primaries. This year, today is also Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the start of Lent. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, day 1 of the Lenten Season.

Lent is a time of reflection. Usually, those who celebrate Lent will give something up for the 40 days. I prefer to think of it as either giving something up or adding something to your life that will enhance your spiritual life. That could be adding regular exercise, which can be a time for reflection. Or giving up a habit (smoking, biting your fingernails) that interferes with the full celebration of a healthy life.

I haven't yet decided what I will add or give up for Lent. I don't always figure it out before the season begins, but it's the spirit, the intention, not the exactness that really matters.

Friday, February 01, 2008

How To Clean A Bathroom in 15 Minutes

Thanks to the Flylady, my bathroom is cleaned regularly. I do it quickly, and some may say well, it's not perfect, you missed that bit of grout there! But do you know what I say? Ha! That's what I say. (I also add...well, sure I missed a few spots, I did it in 15 minutes. But can you really say that it looks 8 times better when it takes you two hours? No? I didn't think so!).

Here's how I do it. You need some tools. I use: Swiffer dry mop with a fresh cloth on it, Windex, two paper towels, one baby wipe, a HandiVac, and the toilet brush.

To prepare, I grab the old rug, bathmat and hand towel and put them in the laundry basket. Then I move the plunger, toilet brush in its stand, bath toy bin, and kid potty into the tub so they're out of the way. I give the toilet a quick scrub with the toilet brush. If it's extra icky, I'll spray some Windex in there and let it soak while I do the next step. I spray the mirrors and the bathroom sink top with Windex. I let it soak in for a moment, then wipe it off, doing the mirrors first and then the sink faucet, then finally the sink itself. We have a wall-mounted sink with old-fashioned chrome legs, so I run the towel over the legs too for extra shine.

I use that same paper towel to clean the tub faucets and spout, adding a little more Windex as necessary. Then, I swipe the rim of the tub, the top of the toilet tank and that spot behind the seat that accumulates dust, and the window sill. Toss that towel now, it's done!

Time to Swiffer. I swiffer the floor, and then use the HandiVac to vacuum up the dust. Empty the vac into the garbage. Time to use the baby wipe to scrub up any dirty spots on the floor or the base of the toilet. OK, done with that. Now, I put back the items that were in the tub, put out a fresh rug, clean bathmat and hand towel, and dump the garbage. Done, in fifteen minutes!

You'll notice I say little about the tub. Well, I don't like to use harsh chemicals in the tub since our cats often hop in there and lick up the water at the drain. So, while I'm in the shower, I'll take a minute and use the scrubbie I keep on the tub rim to give the tub a quick scrub.