Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Been Too Busy Cleaning to Blog Much...

But (countdown please...) TA-DA!!! The study is actually done.

Seven months later.

Blog followers will remember that I started on the study back in April, as I was trying to follow Regina Leeds' One Year to an Organized Life. I did pretty well for the first three months, but then I got stalled by the massive, humongous mess that was our study...the black hole of the house.

My mother-in-law arrived last week for her annual visit, and Mike and I were both bound and determined to finally get that damn room clean!!! And not only did we get the study cleaned out and organized--with wide open spaces and empty floors!!!--but I also tackled the utility room and what we call "Chai's room" (a storage room off the utility room). I would like to spend a bit more time organizing the cabinets in the utility room, but it's vastly improved. In addition to that, we cleaned the rest of the house from top to bottom in preparation for her visit.

Chai's room (so called because our cat used to sleep, poop, and eat in there) was full of old toys, cassette tapes, art supplies, seasonal decorations, tools, batteries, chairs, wrapping paper, baskets, etc. Now it's neat and clean and organized (and you can see the floor in there too!). I've been told I'm not to purchase any more baskets!

With all the organizing we are doing, we have a plethora of those clear plastic boxes, because we've emptied out so much stuff that was in them. We have so many of them that we've taken a lot of them out to the garage.

Next on the room organizing list, after my mother-in-law leaves and our 13-year-old can move back to his bedroom, is the family room.

I will post some before-and-after photos of the study when I have enough courage. I even have a cleaned desk to work at now!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Oh, the Guilt!!

In the past week I've been working on cleaning out our storage room in the basement. Even though our cat, Chai, died about 5 years ago, we still call it "Chai's room," because she slept there.

It is one of our home graveyards--with boxes of Asian masks, vases, and statues (some that we haven't unpacked in the 10 years we have lived here!); seasonal items; empty cardboard boxes for things we've bought (in case they need to go back to the store); batteries and tools; boots; old baby things; art supplies; and other various items.

In the past few evenings, I've consigned to recycling, trash, or giveaways the following things:
  • Cardboard, paper, and other junk
  • Stacks of children's drawings, homework, and schoolwork
  • Old cassette and VCR tapes
  • Christmas cards and decorations we've never used
  • Styrofoam pieces and pellets
  • Toys, toys, and more bits of toys
  • Old pens, crayons, and paints
  • A brand-new "cookbook holder" and a juicer my dad gave us that I couldn't figure out how to put together
I've posted dozens of old children's books on Paperbackswap, had Mike take some good-condition floor puzzle pieces and a few other toys to donate to Nick's preschool, and put some things away to take to the resale shop.

As I've been cleaning out the storage area, I've found dozens of baskets and cleared out bunches of plastic boxes--we have more than we will ever need, given all the decluttering I've been doing.

The guilt is mostly because of the hundreds of little pieces of children just do not do very well with toys that have many pieces. They get lost and spread all over the house and become useless. Because they are so spread out, it's not even worth the effort to try to reassemble the toy to be able to give it away. So I have been filling bag after bag, not only to donate, but for the dump.

I know it must be done. Our house actually has a lot of storage areas--if only we were better organized, we would have plenty of space for our stuff--and it will be great to have this storage room organized. But I'm feeling massively guilty about the quantity of things I have to throw away. We are good environmentalists--I do not like to have things end up in the landfill!

I asked Mike if he is feeling guilty, too, and he said no. He's just feeling relief. Granted, his major role has been carting the bags off to charity and the dump--he's not really seeing what's going into the bags.

This year I am going to try to give the children experiences for Christmas instead of toys. And do everything I can to encourage other people to give them experiences or if they must buy toys or other items, avoid the small pieces! :) We do not tend to be very acquisitive--and I realize that the things I'm throwing away and donating are from years and years of buildup--but I want to do what I can to minimize more clutter and unused items coming into our house.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Do not be impatient...

Do not be impatient with your seemingly slow progress. Do not try to run faster than you presently can. If you are studying, reflecting and trying, you are making progress whether you are aware of it or not. A traveler walking the road in the darkness of night is still going forward. Someday, some way, everything will break open, like the natural unfolding of a rosebud.
--Vernon Howard, 1918-1992
I just saw this quote and thought about how it was applicable to my life. The first thing that came to mind was my organization, decluttering, cleaning, and renovation efforts.
I had set myself a goal in early September to clear half of the study floor, and I'm making slow and steady progress toward that goal. Mike still has his own little area for his writing stuff, and he is also slowly and steadily making his way through his piles.
More work on the study this weekend resulted in my announcing to Mike: "We have so much crap!" But I am seeing progress. Just have to remind myself that slow progress is better than no progress! In so many areas of my life...including mandolin playing and knitting!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bye Bye, Cross-Stitch Quilt I Never Finished...

Poor, neglected blog. I haven't shown you any love for the past 2 months.

Here are a few things from my organized life lately:

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a beautiful leather bench/coffee table from Costco, and I reorganized (and purged) Nicholas' toys in the living room. Most of them are now contained in the bench (when they are properly stowed), except the train table and big fire trucks and fire station. The corner of the living room looks vastly improved.

I've also continued to work on the study. On my other blog, I set myself some homework at the beginning of the school year:

Clean the study so that I can see and walk around on at least half the floor space (and not trip over anything!) (this is only the first task of the great study-cleaning project, which is the first essential step to getting back into my organized life year)
The other night I accomplished a lot in the study...but the work continues. I was able to sweep out the last remaining cupboard space and put more stuff away off the floor (primarily boxes of frames and artwork, which need to be dealt with later, and more endless art supplies).
I also organized all of our greeting cards, stationery, and thank you cards. When I was young, I collected stationery and was up to 110 different varieties at one time. Although I no longer have that much, I still have a weakness for pretty paper and cards. I also organized our thank you and blank card stash, since my husband is a thank you card NUT! (Sorry, honey--I say that in the most affectionate way.) I've been trying to get him to stop buying thank you cards because we have so many blank cards. Now I've put all suitable thank you cards in ONE box, so they should be easy for him to find.
Most difficult of all, I packed away a cross-stitch baby quilt that I had 1/3 finished. I believe I was working on the quilt before I got pregnant with Chris, or maybe when I was pregnant with him--I can't really remember. The idea was that it would be for my baby someday. Ha! Three babies later, and no quilt. I haven't done cross-stitch for years, and now I've taken up knitting (sort of). It was time to cut the cord.
It was still stretched out over the big wooden embroidery hoop. I finally decided that I need to give both--unfinished quilt, pattern, and supplies--and hoop to Goodwill. I'm hoping that someone will think it's a find. (I wonder if my mother-in-law wants it--Olga? It's a Daisy Kingdom pattern...)
I had a hard time designating it to the Goodwill bag (dark and opaque so my children cannot see what's in it), but it had to be done.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bounty in the Garden!

I'm posting this in my organizing blog because it's the first year in eons that we have really been organized about our vegetable garden. Years ago, we actually dug out a patch of grass to put in a garden, but ever since that peak year, it's never been quite what we intended.

This year Mike built raised beds and purchased high-quality soil and compost, and it has made a tremendous difference in our harvest. We also planted a wide variety of organic vegetable starts and seeds. In addition, Kieran has been engaged and helped to put in a number of the plants and scatter seeds. It's been fun to see how well our plants have done this year. Take a look:

We planted TONS of tomatoes, since that's my favorite garden-fresh vegetable. So far, only the cherry tomatoes are riping...but I see a lot of tomatoes in our future!

The corn "hatching," as Kieran put it...
Lovely lettuce! We won't have to buy lettuce for quite some time at the rate it's growing...
Mint and rosemary contained in a pot between the two raised beds
An eggplant with blossoms
Mike and I laugh about the fact that we've NEVER been able to grow zucchini! Well, this year we did it, at last!

And some nice yellow squash coming in as well...
Tabbouleh, anyone?

A little cucumber coming in...

A baby green pepper:

We've never tried to grow corn before, so we'll see how it turns sure looks pretty though!


Kieran's scarecrow keeping away the crows?

While I was finishing up the boys' room today, Mike was outside in the glaring heat fixing the back gate. The gate had been falling apart because of rotting wood, and a winter storm really whipped the bejeesus out of it. There was basically nothing left of it. Mike took the scraps and used some new hardware and wood to reinforce the gate. My handy husband! (He was not taught how to do this kind of thing when growing up, so these are wonderful accomplishments for him!)

Finally Finished with the Kids' Rooms!

I know I have been neglecting this poor blog and my organizing activities...although even though out of sight, it hasn't been out of mind!

Since I do my organizing and cleaning in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed (mostly), I find myself cleaning the kitchen OVER AND OVER AGAIN instead of getting back to the study reorganization project...which is still not done.

But instead of returning to the study, which is truly out of sight out of mind (it's the room I'm least likely to go into each day), this weekend I decided to finish the younger boys' bedroom first. I worked up there for hours yesterday and finished it off today, and I must say, IT FEELS GOOD!!!

I posted the "before" photos on this post--take a look. Pretty bad. And those photos were taken back in May--you can imagine how bad it got before I plowed into the mess. Each night, as I was putting the boys to bed, I got so tired of looking at the mess, I had to finally finish off the job.

The "job" not only involved going through boxes of junk, toys, and clothes, but also tackling our major children's book problem. We have myriads of plastic bins full of children's books--they spilled over into the attic crawl space. No more. (I also organized the attic crawl space a few months ago--I don't think I blogged about that. This was desperately needed!)

After I cleaned and organized Son #1's room, I noticed that in spite of the fact that I organized all of his books neatly into a bookcase, he pulled them out and stacked them on the floor in the order he wanted to read them. He also is not very good about putting them away--he likes to see the piles. So I asked him if he would prefer to just have plastic bins for his books in his room. They don't look very nice, but they would be easier to deal with--he could just toss the books into the bins. He agreed, so I moved the nice bookcase into the little boys' room.

Sorting through the books and dividing them into Paperbackswap, Goodwill, and "keep," I was able to get the remaining ones on the bookcases with some room to spare. It helps that the bunk bed set has some room for books, too.

Another big chore to tackle was the clothes issue. With three growing boys, it's quite a chore to manage the clothes they outgrow--so we can pass them on to the next boy. I spent a lot of time organizing clothing yesterday. I also had Son #2 go through all his shirts and choose which ones he liked, because he is quite picky and I had noticed that he never wore a lot of his shirts.

Then there was the toy and puzzle sorting, charity donation assigning, and garbage collecting. I finished most of the dirty work yesterday and returned today for the finishing touches (hanging up some pictures and vacuuming). We'll see how long they can keep it clean! At bedtime, Nick told me that he didn't like it all picked up! I think my children like chaos and mess. Lucky me.

Here are some photos of the finished product:

Kieran considers the desk "his" even though he shares the room with his younger brother. It's all arranged by him and adorned with his treasures (including the radish and tomatoes from our garden, which he helped plant):
Portland is in the midst of a heatwave, and this room is the only room in the house with an air conditioning unit!

Chris perusing all the chapter books that used to be his...

The closet, which needs a bit more work but is WAY cleaner than before! You can see the remnants of my clothing organization efforts.

So I'm completely out of order with One Year to an Organized Life, but now that I have the kids' room sorted out, it's time to return to the study. One day, I resolve to have it done!!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kids Bedrooms

The One Year to an Organized Life book covers kids' rooms in September, so I continue to be out of sequence here. I must be driving my husband and my friend Shelia batty. I still haven't finished the study--no. I will be lucky if I finish it by the end of June at this rate!

In the meantime, I've been focusing on other things. We did the big bedroom swap here a few weeks ago. We have a three-bedroom house with three children. The kids' rooms are upstairs, and one of them is bigger than the other. Chris, the oldest, has been in the larger bedroom since he was 3. We've told him that if he wants to have his own room, he would need to move to the smaller room.

We bought bunk beds for the younger boys, and Kieran (the middle son) was also not crazy about moving into the other room.

But once we finally made the move (and stopped just talking about it), they've all made the adjustment nicely.

I'm still working on cleaning the younger boys' room (including the annual swap-out-the-winter-and-outgrown-clothes routine, which can be time consuming with three and out of storage, organizing sizes, etc.). But I tackled Chris' bedroom last week. I convinced him to go through his books and put some aside to give away. The ones that were in good shape we took to Powell's (and he earned $24 in credit for them), and the others we donated or posted on
I know that I should be engaging the children more in cleaning out their rooms, but honestly, it is easier to do the initial cleaning myself because I can declutter while I am doing it. I do wish my children were excited about decluttering and moving their seldom-used stuff along, but they are not (understatement of the year). I would have a very difficult time getting rid of anything if they were helping me. So I declutter and clean, and I will expect them to keep it clean, or at least reasonably clean.
Here is Chris' new bedroom:

And this what I have yet to tackle in the other room! (Leftovers from when Chris occupied it, in addition to various clothes, toys, etc.) Plus, I need to sort out the closets in both rooms. So much to do!!

We're very happy with our purchase of the bunk beds and dresser--we got the whole set for $750 via Craigslist, and they are solid wood. We're using the toddler bed for Nicholas for now instead of the usual twin bed because the toddler bed has rails.
Aye, aye, aye! Just looking at these photos is overwhelming! But I think I must tackle the rest of this mess before I get back to the study!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Drowning in Paper!

Yes, I'm still working on that darned study! I found the kitchen and bedroom easier because I could compartmentalize the tasks. The study is one of the largest rooms in our house. I also find that when I declutter and organize, I tend to create more of a mess than I had before...just in the organizing process. So even though I'm actually making progress, it's not very easy to see it.

Last night when I was getting ready for bed, Mike asked what I had been working on that night, and it was hard to give him a specific answer. I've just been working through the stuff.

My usual habit is to have a dark garbage bag for "giveaways," a white plastic bag for garbage, and a brown paper sack for paper to recycle. This weekend is the school rummage sale, so a number of bags have been donated there. (And note: I am not planning to attend! Mike will be at a writer's conference this weekend, and the only way I might hit the rummage sale is without kids in tow. But with the kids along, all we would end up with would be RUMMAGE! So it's going only one way and not coming back.)

It's really astonishing how much time all this organizing can take when you've never had a sense of good organization in a room. For example, I've looked through old greeting cards and have a bag of them to keep--I've recycled a whole lot of them as well. I pile the children's best artwork in a pile. I stack photos in a pile (yes, they've been strewn all over the place!); same with bookmarks. Anything that belongs to Mike or that needs to be filed, I put in his corner of stuff. He's been gradually going through it, but the piles continue to expand.

I've organized most of my art supplies, the fairly large supply of gifts to keep on hand, the cards, the books, the office supplies, the photo frames, the stuff to hang on the walls, the gift bags and wrapping paper, the CDs (well, the ones we are keeping--are in a bag), and the supply of stationery. I've put toys into a bin for the family room. I have another bin for Kieran's art supplies. (We have several bins around the house--this, too, needs organization!)

One of the things I discovered last night is that we have a plethora of greeting cards and stationery. Plus one of my favorite things to do is to make cards, but I don't often take the time to do so. (I'm hoping that by organizing my art supplies into the plastic-drawer bins, it will make this easier in the future.)

I also love to make gifts--such as these margarita candles I made for Mother's Day.

When I listed one of eight things I would like to do (in my other blog), I listed "making more of my own gifts" as one of my things. I would love to do more of this kind of thing.

Gift giving and card writing is important to both Mike and me. (When I was a young girl, I collected stationery--each box was numbered, and at one point I have more than 100 varieties...but how often do I write letters any more? I still have some legacy stationery, though I got rid of a bunch last night.)

We tend to overpurchase when it comes to both gifts and cards. Mike is positively addicted to thank you cards! I've suggested that he use some of the other cards we have in plentiful supply, but he likes them to be small so he doesn't have to write as much! (My husband is King of the Thank You Cards. And the Queen, by the way, lives in Boise, Idaho.) I'm determined to, one day, make him a stack of 100!

We have enough other types of greeting cards to last us at least a year, and as I've written previously, I have a box of gifts for kids and another for adults. I am a perennial bargain hunter, so I see things that would be good for gifts on sale--and then they stack up. Of course, that doesn't stop me from going out and buying the perfect gift for someone if I feel the whim or the need!

So that's all for now. One of these days I really will finish cleaning and organizing the study and get back to Regina Leeds' book! I'm determined!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Poor, Neglected Blog...

I continue to plow on in my study-organizing efforts, but it's such a big project, it's hard to quantify the progress I've made.

In the past week, I've been organizing my art supplies into plastic cabinets, and today I stacked them one on top of the other in one of the cupboards. I still have more supplies in boxes to organize and sift through, but I've definitely made progress.

I found a couple of packs of FIMO clay that I think I've owned for 15 years--I bought them thinking I'd make FIMO beads for jewelry! Off to Goodwill they go.

I've also started stacking excess office and school supplies in one plastic box, in addition to sorting through memorabilia, etc.

Today I went through a bag of greeting cards and discarded a number of them. Regina Leeds advises that you chuck the Christmas photo cards (and presumably old greeting cards as well). However, I ended up keeping more than half of them--the ones from relatives and close friends, especially if they'd written something meaningful in the card. Yes, someday my children might hate me for it...but I do like to look back over those cards (especially the heartfelt ones).

I'm stacking lots of papers and other things in a corner for Mike to sort through.

It's a very gradual process and will most likely NOT be done by the end of April...thwarting my plans to get back on schedule in May...

I worked a bit on the study today but then decided to cook a nice dinner while Mike was working outside making raised beds for our garden. Mike does the cooking during the week, so when I cook on the weekends I tend to be overambitious!

I made a carrot-parsnip custard, mostly for Mike because he loves parsnips...and then I also made a broccoli dal for dinner, along with homemade mac and cheese for the kids. The broccoli dal turned out wonderfully! Mike and I liked the custard (although it was odd to have it for dessert), but the kids declared it a dud! No surprise there.

So a bit of a distraction this afternoon...but I am making slow, steady progress. Maybe I'll be done by mid-May? :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gift Boxes and Gift Bags

Over the weekend, I continued to chip away on the huge mess that is our study. (When hubby was out in the yard planting flowers, I was working in the basement study--poor me!)

I began on the second cupboard after finishing the frame and artwork organization...and organized our supply of gifts.

Buying (or making) gifts for people has always been one of my favorite things to do. In fact, I could see myself making a career out of it...but then I probably wouldn't enjoy it so much then. I also like to plan ahead for Christmas or other holidays, so I tend to buy a lot of things that would be good for gifts...ahead of time. However, I then end up with a lot of stuff in storage. Which needs to be organized, and reorganized, and organized again.

And I have to confess that I do not always use items in my gift boxes as a first resort, because (1) I sometimes forget what I have, and (2) it doesn't suit the person or the occasion. Some of the items in my gift boxes have been there for awhile. This weekend I relegated some of those items into my elementary school rummage sale or Goodwill piles.

The other thing I had to tackle was excess Christmas items (I swear we have several Christmas boxes all over the house--Christmas takes so much STUFF!!) and gift bags. Gift bags were a wonderful invention. However, I find them very difficult to throw away. But they do get ropey after a few uses. I keep them, and then I don't use them--either because I like wrapping gifts (and I have gift wrap) or they are not in good enough condition to use for gifts.

So I divided them into three piles: (1) honestly good enough to reuse, (2) still sturdy but wrinkled and unsuitable for giving--to be used for other items around the house or when I could use a bag, and (3) recycling or trash.

Beyond these two organizing projects, I continued to chip away at the piles. The next project will be to organize my art and beading supplies, of which there are MANY.

Making slow but steady progress...this is the biggest project of the year, I suspect...

Friday, April 3, 2009

March, Week Three: Create a Plan

In Week Three, Leeds recommends "speed elimination" again. I'm definitely a fan of this technique, and I have used it off and on through this program. In the study, I've used this technique more on a group basis: for example, speed elimination of books, or of children's CD-ROMs, or junk on the floor.

Specifically, Leeds recommends focusing on the following in speed elimination:
  • Old magazines and newspapers. Mike has a habit of collecting old magazine and newspaper articles...I have to grant it to him that he is quite good about filing them away in three-ring binders. But I do wonder how often he goes back to refer to them? I'm more likely to clip recipes or home improvement ideas.
  • Flyers and catalogs for sales that have expired. Not a problem for us. We are fervent, regular recyclers of that kind of thing.
  • Old bank statements and bills. We could probably weed out more of these--Mike generally keeps track of our household files and stays on top of these.
  • Invitations for events that have passed, expired coupons, warranties for items long gone, junk mail...
  • Photo holiday cards. Now this is an area for consideration. Not just photo holiday cards, but cards in general. We are a card-giving family, both in our nuclear family and extended family, and we tend to keep most of the cards we receive. They are piled up in bags and bags. We don't keep every single card...but we keep many. Perhaps we need to develop some kind of rules to determine which ones to discard.
Then she moves onto paper organizing tools...Leeds says that file systems need to be cleaned out periodically, for example every one to three years. Here are some of the specific recommendations she makes that we can apply to our lives in this household:
  • Get a paper tray to hold the open package of printer paper (will look neater)...
  • Use plastic boxes to store files (roaches and rats love cardboard)...believe me, if we have rats, my paper files will be the least of my concerns!! But we do love those plastic storage boxes and use them for lots of things.
  • Use a label maker to label files--makes them more readable and they look neater.
  • Use drawer liners and organizers in the office as well as the kitchen.
  • Assess the furniture and supplies in your home office--is your desk adequate and big enough? Is the chair comfortable? For us, we have two desks--one for the computer, and one for the other CRAP!! Honestly, my goal is to clear off the second desk and organize things so it could actually be used for writing! :) And to keep it clean.

Leeds also includes a text box about identity theft and recommends several useful steps to prevent this:

  • Protect your accounts with passwords that would be difficult to guess. Change your passwords every 6 months. (I'm very guilty of not doing this!!! I have to change my password regularly for work use--I should use that as a prompter to change my internet passwords as well!)
  • Never carry your social security card with you, give it to strangers over the phone, or have it printed on your checks. If a company wants to use the SSN for identification, ask to use another form of identification. (We just had to give copies of our SSNs for our refinancing...made me nervous to do even that!)
  • Get your free credit report each year to check your credit. (
  • If you are a victim of identity theft, write to each credit bureau and freeze your accounts. Include a copy of your police report, and alert all your credit card companies and financial institutions.
  • Do not sign the back of your credit card. Instead, write photo ID required.
  • Check the activity on your credit card accounts every week.
  • Make liberal use of a shredder.
We have not been victims of identity theft, but twice in the past five years we have had close calls. The first was when JC Penney called us to tell us that a former employee had used our credit card # to purchase a $500 gift card. (We had used our credit card at the JC Penney photo studio.) By the time JC Penney contacted us, they had dealt with the issue (and fired the employee).

Then a few months ago we gave a check to a charity that provides cleaning drinking water in Africa. The person who was going to deposit the checks left them in his car, and they were stolen. We called our credit union to ask them to hold the check, and they informed us that the safe procedure was to close out our checking account. What a pain in the neck it was, and very distressing considering the fact that it resulted from a charitable donation. What was this person thinking? (Or not...)

We pay so many of our bills by automatic withdrawal, plus my paycheck and expense checks are deposited directly into our account, so there was no end to the number of companies and organizations we had to contact, on top of opening a new account, getting new checks, and getting new debit cards (with a new pin #, after we'd had our same one for over 10 years!). I can only imagine the pain and distress that identity theft causes, after we had this small taste of the hassles involved.

Frames and Artwork

I'm not exactly following the book this month (or shall we say LAST MONTH?)...if I were my husband, I just might be having a nervous breakdown right now. (As I've posted before, he is much more of a role follower than I am.)

The other night I worked on excavating through one of the cupbards in our study that contained frames and artwork. True confession time: much of the artwork had been stored in there SINCE WE MOVED INTO THIS HOUSE IN 1999!! Some of the other pieces, many of which we have collected on our travels, have never been framed or displayed. Beautiful batik paintings from Indonesia, woodblock prints from Japan, and folk art from Mexico. These could be eye-catching works of art if they were adequately framed and displayed, yet they've been stuck in a cupboard.

I also inventoried all of the frames we have--insane! Of course most of the frames are photo frames and not suitable for the artwork! But again, we have photos that have never been framed, along with quite large collage frames that I believe we've had for many, many years...blank. (Of course most of the photos I take nowadays are all in my computer, which I suppose is one way of reducing the clutter [not getting them printed out]...)

After clearing out the cupboard, I went in with a dust buster. Our basement is somewhat finished--we have carpeting and walls up, but some of it is still unfinished, including the cupboards and storage areas. The cement and plaster had crumbled away into dust in areas, and I just about asphyxiated myself with the dust buster! I had to stop and go upstairs because I could barely breathe. (Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly, but I knew it wasn't the right way to proceed.) I have yet to go back in--I think next time I will attempt to sweep out the plaster dust first.

Next I need to make a list of the sizes of frames we need for our artwork, and actually do something about getting these pieces framed. And of course, use the photo frames as well. What a waste they all are, sitting in the cupboard!

Monday, March 30, 2009

March, Week Two: Save Time

Oh yes, I know I am WAY past Week Two. I have fallen behind, I confess. But as I posted a few weeks ago, I knew this month was going to be difficult. We returned yesterday from nine days on vacation, and before that I was working a lot of overtime in the evenings and weekends (my organizing time).

I expect to be working on my study until well into April, because it's the biggest project in the house at the moment.

So...Week Two focuses on how to save time.


First, Regina Leeds discusses multitasking and offers suggestions on how to multitask effectively. I'm a major multitasker already; in face, I am one of those who should probably multitask LESS. For example, I'm known for reading while I'm walking. (Yes, it's true. I've only fallen once--and I ripped a hole in the knee of my trousers! Did I stop? Well, no...) Leeds talks about the art of multitasking...and the healthy way to multitask. (She would probably frown on my reading-while-walking many safety-conscious people would!)


Could someone else do the mundane tasks that I do? I definitely could delegate more effectively, and that includes engaging my children more in the cleaning and organization of our house. As for the initial organization and decluttering, however, I do feel that I need to do this alone. My children are notoriously horrible at getting rid of things. Our oldest son cried when we had a new roof put on and the roofers carted away the old roofing materials! (This was many years ago, but it illustrates his sentimental attachment to things.) So my strategy is to do the decluttering and organizing myself and set up systems and processes so that they will be engaged in future cleaning efforts. I wish I could engage them in the decluttering, too, but trust me...that would not be an effective strategy. It would take me five years instead of the one.

In a total turnaround in our personalities, years ago Mike thought we should engage the kids in identifying things to donate to charity. I wanted to do it behind their backs. (This is a turnaround because I'm much more likely to be the one who wants to be up front and honest with the kids on a variety of topics.) He has now recognized that it's much more effective and quick to do it behind their backs. Most of the items we get rid of they never miss. Occasionally they do, and if they ask us "where did my N-Gamer magazine from May 2003 go?" I can blithely say "I have no earthly idea." It's not a lie, as I've explained to Mike.

Leeds talks about a woman she knows who is more caretaker than parent for her children, who never clean, do laundry, wash a dish, or have to pick up after themselves. Personally, I know we could improve in this area...I would like to engage my children in choosing menus and helping prepare the food in our house, for example. But we haven't gotten ourselves organized enough to do so. Perhaps that's on the list for next year, after we get our house organized. I do not want to raise sons who are incapable of doing laundry or cooking. I do not want their future partners to curse us! We have only 6 years left to get Chris trained in these areas, so we'd better get cracking!! He does clean, when prompted, but he could do could Kieran. They are not the type of fantasy children who are dying to clean things (like one of my nephews), so it's really up to us to engage them more in this area.

Saying No

I've become much better at this...for example, I rarely commit to things that involve evening or weekend meetings. I have to spend a lot of time at work in meetings, and I have realized that I have a low tolerance for meetings after hours. I am trying to only engage in activities after work that enrich my life, are fun, or add value in some way.

Saying No to Electronic Pests

Leeds reminds us that we don't have to reply to every voice mail or e-mail that comes our way. And that we don't have to answer the phone each time it rings. Caller ID has been a huge godsend in our household. We never answer the phone unless we recognize the name AND want to talk to that person right at that time.

Have you ever phoned someone who picks up the phone and announces that it's a really bad time to talk? WHY DID THEY ANSWER THE PHONE??? It's beyond me. I think some people have a very difficult time just letting it ring. Just say no to answering the phone when you are busy!

Leeds also recommends using e-mail versus a phone call to communicate with people who are notoriously chatty. This can be a big time saver. She also reminds us that we don't have to be polite with telephone solicitors. That's why I don't answer the phone unless I know the person who is calling. I am polite to people who are soliciting for organizations I support, but for other purposes, I ask to be taken off their call list.

Visualizing Our Goals

Leeds advises that we take a few minutes and visualize what we want to see in our lives. This advice dovetails nicely with an article I read recently, in the "Everyday Cheapskate" newsletter. Author Mary Hunt talks about how many Americans feel poor right now, and advises ways to feel richer. One of these recommendations is curbing clutter. "If you have clutter, it's pulling you down." Amen, sister!

I need to continue to visualize a clean, organized house. Visualization works for me--it helped me to keep my hope alive when I gave birth to a 24-weeker, 1-pound, 6-ounce baby who had to stay in the NICU for 117 days, and it will propel me to keep decluttering and organizing.

What Really Matters?

Leeds suggests that we set a short-term goal and a long-term goal. So here goes:

Short term (to accomplish in the next year): Finish organizing each room in my house according to the One Year to an Organized Life book.

Long term (to accomplish in the next 5 years): Teach my children how to cook and do laundry.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slow-down in My Organizing!

I have to confess that I've hit a bit of a wall in my organizing efforts. I've been extra busy at work and have been working at home in the evenings and on the weekend, preventing me from tackling my study!

Combined with the fact that we will be gone for 9 days for spring break, I think it's nigh impossible that I will finish the study during March. I might have to spend 2 months on the study, which would be okay considering the fact that April is "bathrooms," and I already did a lot of cleaning and organizing in our bathrooms last winter. (Although painting the bathrooms is another project altogether!) I know that this would not suit my husband or my friend Shelia, who are serious rule followers. But this is my blog and my year of organizing, so there! ;)

On Friday we are leaving for spring break--we are going up to Vancouver Island, BC, for a week...with one night in the Seattle area sandwiched on either side. We have a house on the water, about 40 minutes outside of Victoria. I can't wait!!

Tonight was another evening of working on the laptop, keeping me from cleaning and organizing. I am hoping that I can get in at least a few more evenings this week before we are off on our adventures.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I can't post any photos yet because the room is still a mess...but the bookshelves are highly organized! We now have two bookcases for fiction, and two for nonfiction. They are roughly arranged into the following categories:
  • writing
  • spirituality
  • women's issues
  • home improvement
  • gardening
  • crafts
  • travel
  • parenting
  • cooking
  • politics
  • fiction
  • memoir and biography
  • general nonfiction
  • library books
We've offloaded so many of our books (they are in bags and boxes ready to be sent off via, taken to the church library, or donated), we actually have quite a bit of empty space on our bookcases. A miracle!!! Maybe we will move more of our cookbooks downstairs. I really could get rid of more of our cookbooks!

I love cookbooks, but the reality is we often use the same ones over and over again. And nowadays I also look recipes up online--sometimes that's faster than poring through cookbooks. Maybe when the study is clean, I will be more likely to look in cookbooks I haven't used much before, because they will be easier to access!

I notice that I tend to prefer cookbooks with pictures in them. I told my mom that the other day, and she said that she prefers cookbooks without photos, because they can fit in more recipes. But I guess I'm a highly visual person. I always prefer visuals!

Well, enough time on the computer--I'd better get downstairs and put in some organizing time tonight...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Continuing Thesaurus Saga...

Okay, I misspoke. Apparently we have NO LESS THAN THREE thesauruses!! And I have to give my dear hubby a huge round of applause, because he has decided that the one I hadn't noticed, the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, is the best of them all and has everything he one book! Glory hallelujah!!

He has also agreed to shed ALL of our Japanese language books plus quite a few of his many writers' books too. This is fun!! Now we will have two fiction bookcases and two nonfiction bookcases...very roughly organized into categories, when it makes sense.

These are just for adult books, of course...then we have the children's books upstairs in their rooms!

How Many Complete Book of the Olympics Does One Man Need

This is the question of the day! One of the results of my book organizing is that amongst the 5 million Olympics books the love of my life owns, I've discovered two editions of this book, one from 1992 and one from you think he will let me get rid of the 1992 version? I'm taking bets...

Okay, I Guess that One House Cannot Have Too Many Thesauruses!

Apparently hubby likes both of them and uses them for different purposes. He informed me that one of them has all kinds of lists in it, such as a list of all kinds of horses! Haha! Don't ask. Never take away a thesaurus from a writer! (Although I too am a writer, so I guess that doesn't make much sense...)

Now I'm trying to organize our books into some semblance of order...we already have two shelves of writing books, and now I'm trying to group other genres together--such as poetry and collections, religion and spirituality, classics, etc. We'll see how far I get before I get fed up. We have A LOT of books, even though we are constantly cycling through them.

When I first met Mike and proposed to him the idea of turning in our books to used bookstores (we have Powell's here in Portland), he was horrified. But true to male form, I have discovered over the years that I must plant the seed and wait for it to grow. When it finally sank in that he could get MORE books if he turned in the ones he'd already read, he finally got with the program. Then he took tons of his old English books to Blackwell's in Oxford, and we got more money.

I have relegated some of our hefty Japanese dictionaries--there's one particularly enormous one that Mike got when he was doing some editing and translation for a Japanese kanji book--to a box for Mike to go through and consider whether we can move them along. Maybe I will leave it as my "seed" in the middle of the study and wait for it to grow on him! :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How Many Thesauruses Does One House Need?

I mean, really! Especially now that you can look just about anything up online. Until yesterday we had two. No more! I kept one...but maybe we don't really need it since we have the you've got me thinking...

An appraiser is coming tomorrow to take a look at our house--we are in the midst of the refinancing process, getting all our ducks in a row in case the interest rates fall. I wish all of our house was cleaned and organized, but alas, it is not. I hope it doesn't horrify her. But I'm sure she's used to appraising the bones and potential of the house and overlooking the mess...I hope! At least the kitchen and our bedroom are still clean!!! Hooray!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just Wading through the Muck

Last night I came up with a big bag of spiritual-related books to donate to the church library. Even though we haven't read all of them, now we know where to find them if we do want to read them...and other people can benefit from them as well.

I continued wading through the much this evening, disposing of stuff and trying to put what's left into some semblance of organization. We seem to have an excess of Christmas gift bags! Funny, because I often tend to wrap our presents. I will have to commit to using them this year instead.

Some of the treasures that are destined for Goodwill are a version of Our Bodies Ourselves, updated for the 90s!! Think I'll be consulting that if I have a health problem?? And a Personal Finance for Dummies published in 1997. Surely things have changed since then! I also earmarked for donation a bunch of old three-ring binders. We have an excess of gardening books which probably need to be weeded (ha!) out too!

Wonder if my lovely husband will agree to get rid of any of his many Olympics books? His writing books occupy two shelves of the bookcase, but I trust that he actually looks at them occasionally and doesn't just collect them for memorabilia. His corner of paperwork and articles, etc., is growing.

One result of all my decluttering is that I have over $50 in trade at my favorite resale store! With more to come, I'm sure. I'm brutally discarding toys that haven't been played with much, and last December I already tore through the game closet, giving away or discarding much of the games. The reality is that oldest son loves the Wii, books, and music; middle son loves art, dress-up, and producing plays; and young son has the biggest burst of testosterone, loving cars, trucks, and balls--oh, and Cinderella--so much for the testosterone burst! :)

I can see the floor in parts of the study, at least, which is an improvement.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

CD ROMs, Books, and Piles of Crap

My 12-year-old son told me that he was giving me permission to swear in my blog, but he suggested that I not use the "F" word. He doesn't read this blog (thank God--otherwise he would learn how much of our possessions I'm disposing of!!), only the other one, so I'm going to feel free to let rip (as much as I do, which is not much). Granted, my mother-in-law does read this blog, but I'm hoping she will forgive me for my foul language!


Today I spent several hours filling Goodwill, garbage, and recycling bags, and making a small dent in the office clutter. Before we got a Wii, Chris enjoyed playing CD-ROMs on the computer. However, he hardly ever does any more, and we had boxes of them. Kieran, the 5-year-old, likes to watch movies but has expressed very little interest in the computer himself. So I went through the boxes of CD-ROMs and also quite a few CDs and kept very few. We'll see if Chris notices!

I've been going wild posting books on, too, which is a slow way to move our books along, but I already have around 13 credits amassed...and have been using very few of them, since I'm loath to accumulate more books. The site is good to use for gifts though (I ordered quite a few family Christmas gifts from there), and I do occasionally order novels or other books that are nice to have.

I have four big bags for Mike to take to Goodwill this week, and a bag of CD-ROMs to take to the resale shop (in case they want any of them), with more to come!

The major areas in our study that need to be organized, in addition to the general CRAP, follow:
  • My art supplies--paper, pens, beading, and other craft supplies
  • Gifts--I collect gifts ahead of time and they tend to spill out of our gift boxes
  • Holiday and wrapping stuff
  • Frames and artwork
  • Mike's writing stuff
  • Filing and paperwork
  • Books
  • Cards, photos, and memorabilia
  • Office supplies
I think that covers most of the items that don't fit into the CRAP category.

March, Week One: Home Office Questions

Leeds begins this chapter by asking the reader to answer "yes" or "no" to these questions:

1. I have the money in my account but I forget to pay my bills on time.
No: if it were up to me, I might pay my bills late. But as I said previously, Mike is on top of this.
2. The minute I see a legal paper of any kind, I become immobilized. I just don't deal with it.
Not exactly: I don't become immobilized, but I don't generally have a lot of patience for minutae.
3. I could be more productive at work if I didn't have a million voice mail messages, e-mails, and faxes to respond to.
Yes: I seriously have to get my work life organized too. I keep on top of my voice messages and e-mails, generally, but I do not do an adequate job of filing my e-mails and deleting unnecessary ones. And I get A LOT of e-mails. Regina also has a book about One Year to an Organized Work Life, which I plan to get my hands on!
4. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Good help is hard to find.
Yes: isn't that the mantra of the oldest child? Mike and I are both oldest children, so we are really sunk.
5. I'm too busy with other things to file my papers.
Yes: Given that we do have a paper problem, I suppose the answer to this question, honestly, would be yes.

Leeds says that each one of these statements is based on fear, and she poses several questions to flesh out these fears. Here are some of them:

What do you remember about your childhood in terms of the work lives of your parents? Did they enjoy what they did?

Yes, I believe they did. Both of my parents earned their bachelor's degrees in education but then later in life went back for master's degrees, in social work and counseling. So I did get the sense that they pursued their gifts and their interests in finding careers.

How did your parents relate to paper?

I don't remember my parents struggling quite as much with paper as we do, but I think when I was a child we just didn't have as much PAPER! (in the dark ages...) Seriously, though, we didn't have the excesses of everything that we do now.

Did you pick up after yourself as a child or did someone do that for you?

Certainly no one picked up after me! Even as a child, I was a "piler." Early in my life, I developed the habit of accumulating clutter, and then occasionally going on a clean sweep and cleaning the whole lot, feeling a great sense of satisfaction. I was certainly never a neatnik, but I also was never a complete slob.

Were you a good student with effective study habits?

I've always been the type of person who spends more time doing what I really enjoy. I guess I'm lazy! The result was I got to high school and had never really had to study much before, so I didn't do very well in Algebra 2 or Physics...and my grade point average really suffered. I was able to turn it around my senior year and college. But I have seen this tendency in my oldest son, who definitely prefers literature, history, and language arts over math and science! The way it manifests itself in my life is that I spend my time doing things I enjoy, while less enjoyable tasks do not always get done (hence my disorganized house).

Are you married? Yes. Are you the one who handles the day-to-day business? No. Do you feel that you are appreciated? Yes. Would you be happy if you could turn the reins over to someone else, whether that's your spouse, an assistant, a CPA, or a bookkeeper? As I've said, Mike handles many of the house details already. I struggle with guilt about paying someone to clean our house or do other tasks I should be capable of doing myself. It's not so much fear as guilt! And I do know a number of people (my sister included) who have had house cleaner I guess there is a certain amount of mistrust as well.

Are you on top of your paperwork? If not, has it always been an issue? Or did something derail you? For the most part, we are on top of it, but there is definitely room for improvement!

Leeds then tells three stories about her clients and their individual struggles with paper in their lives. One question she asks is whether our distribution of labor regarding home paperwork benefits both of us. This is a question Mike and I should discuss. I'm curious to know whether he feels the paperwork responsibility is a burden, and whether it's something we should be sharing. He describes himself as "obsessive" about these types of details, so I suspect that he wouldn't want to share it with me. (Similar to how he feels about driving the car: he prefers to be in control, which is fine with me, because I'd rather be reading!)

The goal of this first week is to "uncover your personal relationship with the business of life." My goal of this first week is to make a healthy headway in the mess that is our office.

March: Organizing the Business of Life

March is the month to tackle the home office. It's a good thing that March is a long month, because we are going to need every possible opportunity to clean and organize the messiest and least-organized room in our house. It's become a trash heap. We have an enormous paper and book problem.

I used the remaining days of February to make some headway in clearing out the kids' bedrooms, and I have only made a dent in that project. But since today is the first day of March, I could no longer put off beginning to tackle the study.

In the introduction to March, Regina Leeds talks about the need to conquer "the paper bogeyman." She says that many adults fear tackling the piles of paper for fear that they will throw away something important. In our house, I describe Mike as the "household manager," which is far more all-encompassing than "stay-at-home dad." I earn the income, but he does our taxes and pays the bills--in addition to taking care of the kids and organizing their lives and commitments. (I think I have the easier job!) He also organizes our paperwork and files, and usually does a very good job of it. (We've already received our tax refund!) However, with the demands of three children, combined with the fact that both of us are heavy readers, we seem to have accumulated lots of piles of paper!

Leeds recommends asking the experts in the field (financial advisors, tax preparers, real estate agents) if we wonder how long to keep a particular document. In many cases, this information can be obtained on the internet. She also gives some general guidelines of how long to keep certain records such as credit card receipts, warranties, insurance policies, tax records, and mortgage information). She also advises keeping the most important papers in a fireproof safe or box. (NOTE TO MIKE: We need to buy a fireproof box!)

She also makes the point that many of the papers and articles we feel we have to hold onto can be now found on the internet. Mike has a tendency to collect writing articles, which pile up and don't get filed away. (I'm not sure whether he actually reads them later on or not.) For now, I'm piling all of his papers in one corner of the study, in the hopes that he will be brutal in weeding through them. Leeds says that "our goal is to fly free, taking with us only what we truly need. Think lean and mean. Well, okay, lean and organized!"

The big event the book covers this month is learning how to set up a file system. Since we already have a reasonably okay filing system, for me the task will be organizing and cleaning the study so that it can be a nice place to sit in (and so we don't have to close the door when guests come over!). If I have time left over, perhaps we can revamp our filing system.

The habit of the month: Leeds suggests that when we open our mail, we toss away extraneous matter. This, I'm happy to say, we already do. Mike leaves the mail out for me to look over when I come home, and then we immediately recycle as much as we can. At least this is one extra habit I will not need to add to my list...since I'll have my hands full with the office cleaning!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February, Week Four: Creating a Bedroom You Love

I haven't exactly followed Leeds' program for the bedroom--instead, I've created my own. The closet was the first thing I tackled, ahead of when it was scheduled in the book. And I ended up finishing the bedroom this weekend, without reading Week Four.

However, I haven't quite created "a bedroom I love." That will have to wait until I finish the rest of my organizing. I have committed to decluttering and organizing before I settle into home improvement, which is what the bedroom ultimately needs: new paint and a new floor, at the very least.

In Week Four, Leeds gives more guidance on organizing one's closet. She suggests organizing clothing by color (which I have been doing, more or less, for years now--got one thing right!). She also suggests using clear shoe racks and organizing one's purses.

Here are some other closet suggestions: having everything face the same direction (check), using one type of hangers (haven't quite achieved that, but I did get rid of the wire hangers), throwing away plastic covers from the cleaners, keeping specific types of clothing together (N/A), arranging everything in color order (check), and keeping shoes off the floor (check).

Leeds also makes recommendations for reorganizing one's purse. This is one area where I don't have too many clutter issues: I've always been a light packer, whether I'm traveling or just going out and about, and I don't carry too many unnecessary things in my purse...and I regularly clean it out. Leeds looks in her purse every evening and pulls out the things she's added that day (e.g., receipts). I'm not quite that methodical, but in general this is an area that I seem to have control over.

Leeds does not like metal hangers that hold multiple pairs of pants or skirts and recommends that the reader "ditch" them. I bought a couple of such hangers a few years ago, and I actually like them--with a small closet, I find that they help me keep my pants accessible. They are kind of a pain sometimes...but they are a space saver and I'm keeping them. She also dislikes sweater hangers, and as I mentioned earlier in the month, I did get rid of one of those, in addition to a shoe hanger. I'm going to put them in my kids' closets, where there is a lot more room (oddly, both of the kids' bedrooms have walk-in closets, unlike the master bedroom).

Finally, Leeds discusses ways to create your own bedroom sanctuary. I'm not quite at that place yet...but I hope to return to that task after I get the rest of my life organized. At least, for now, we have some peace and order in our bedroom!

My mother-in-law has been asking to see our before and after photos, so here they are in all their decrepit glory. And I just have to clarify to her that we HAVE dusted in the past 2 years!

Because our bedroom is on our main floor, it tends to be the room where everything gets dumped, and the kids gather (in our bed). Therefore, the bed and room seem to attract a lot of kid clutter on a regular basis!

These photos are really embarassing!! Look at those horrible dressers! Can you believe we were living in that chaos and going to sleep every night looking at that?

Buried in all the clutter was a beautiful ceramic blessing bowl a dear friend gave me. I have NEVER used it. But now that I can see it, at last, I intend to fill the bowl with written blessings. I would also like to find a way to hang more of our photos so that we clear off even more dresser space.

The basket on the side of my bed has been there for at least 2 years, if not longer, ever since I was on maternity leave. It was full of books, journals, and other stuff. I cleaned out my bedside table so that I could keep some of the books in the bedside table...and voila, a clean floor!

Look at that eyesore! Previously I posted photos of our clean closet (still clean).

I have to give full credit to my lovely husband, who very willingly purged his clothing, cleaned out his bedside table (inside and top), and cleaned out and off his dresser...and vacuumed when we were all done! He's also been helping to keep the kitchen clean since January!
Now that I'm done with the bedroom, I'm going to use the remainder of February to keep purging items from the kids' bedrooms and the study (which will be the focus for March).
Given that the study is the worst room in the house (with possible exception of our former cat's room in the basement, filled with stuff), it is going to take me all month to tackle it! I know my mother-in-law is waiting with bated breath, and will be completely shocked if we actually plow our way through the mess! (Hi, Olga!)
Onward and upward!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Our Family Is Drowning in Books!!

This afternoon, I dragged myself up (still being sick) to one of the upstairs bedrooms to start burying my way through the crap. We have two bedrooms for three boys, and right now the two older ones are in the larger bedroom, but it's all temporary. Eventually...when the 2-year-old starts sleeping through the night (when hell freezes over?)...the two younger ones will share the larger room. Chris (the 12-year-old) is not too keen on that idea, because it involves giving up the bedroom he's had since he was three. But for now, he's putting up with having a 5-year-old camp in his room.

At any rate, both rooms are trash heaps, for two reasons: (1) the temporary nature of the sleeping arrangements, such as the crib set up in one room that is no longer used because the 2-year-old was jumping out of it, and (2) as my mom once said, our kids seem to love messes. I really do believe that's true.

What's worsening the situation is that Nicholas (2) is going through another phase where he loves to pull everything out of drawers, cupboards, purses, you name it. He has gone through these phases before and then passed out of it, so we can only hope.

I went upstairs today to start tackling one of the bedrooms. I've only made a small dent in it, alas, but at least it's a dent. At one point last year I had made quite a bit of headway in the room and even cleaned out the walk-in closet, but one evening we had friends over and all the kids trashed the place. The closet hasn't been cleaned up since then.

I'm coming to the conclusion that our children use only about 20 to 25 % of what they own...if that. So I'm trying to be somewhat brutal in discarding things. We have a huge quantity of stuffed animals, but they hardly ever play with them. (They seem to prefer the little plastic characters!) We are overloaded with books, books, and more books! Plus we are constant users of not one, but two, libraries!, so do we really need to own so many books?

Much of what I was doing today involved going through books and designating piles for, the consignment store, and Goodwill. While at the consignment store this afternoon, I heard one woman say that Goodwill will no longer take a lot of toys because of the new lead rules. So now I'm going to feel even more guilty getting rid of the toys, but it can't be helped.

The owner of the shop told me that she heard recently that keys have lead in them. I just looked it up--sure enough. How many parents have let their babies play with their keys? Good God! What will we discover next?

I forgot to take a before-and-after photo of the bedroom. It's still a mess, but not as bad as it was. I'll have to remember to take a photo of the other one, once I get brave enough to go in there.

My goal is to clean and organize the rooms reasonably well so that when it's time to do the bedroom shift, it will be much easier.

I haven't finished our bedroom yet, but I figured that while I had time during the day (and the kids were out of the house, with Mike at the children's museum), I should take advantage of it.

More on "Not Buying It"

My organizing activities have slowed down quite a bit this week because I caught my 2-year-old's cold/flu bug! However, I took the day off today so I'm hoping I can drag myself upstairs to start on the kids' bedrooms, even though I'm still feeling great.

This morning I finished Judith Levine's Not Buying It. Levine and her partner Paul decided to go for a year without buying anything beyond food, personal care items, and bare essentials (such as the New York Times). You can read my full review on, if you're interested. But here are some random points related to the topic of this blog:
  • Levine points out the irony of Real Simple magazine: Mike gave me a copy of Real Simple featuring organizing lists for Epiphany...and although I enjoyed reading it and got some ideas out of it, in general it does promote shopping! Although it does promote some positive, simplifying ideas, it also encourages the reader to buy new, expensive, shiny and simple-looking products. The title of the magazine is somewhat deceptive, I agree.
  • Because she's not buying books, she becomes a big library patron (as am I). Where we differ is that I live in the beautiful, book-loving city of Portland, Oregon, where we always pass library bonds and fund our libraries adequately. She talks about the distressing state of most of our public libraries, and her difficulty in finding good reference books for such simple things as making silk flowers. I feel very lucky that I do not have to deal with that, and I am a huge believer in library funding!!
  • I am dismayed at Levine's refusal to pay more than $0.25 per visit when she goes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The "suggested donation" was $12 at the time of writing the book. She's chagrined at the cashiers' consistent lack of thank yous for her paltry donation. She believes that the Met is so wealthy that it doesn't need her money. This is not because of her year of not buying it, but simply because she is being a skinflint. In fact, she saves $8,000 that year. Couldn't she have given a little of it to the museum? Even $5 or 6?
  • Levine goes to visit a man named Richard, who lives far off the grid. He explains why he keeps his small amount of money out of the bank, because it's "more likely than not your money will be financing some venture that is unfair to people, unfriendly to the earth, or both. In a bank or stocks, money gets up to no good. It's filthy lucre." Very good point. In our daily lives, we constantly make compromises, in our purchases and our investments. Levine does, too, when she has to buy clothing for her elderly father who is in stages of advanced dementia. She opts for the inexpensive, sweatshop variety of clothing for him--not only because it is cheap, but also because he wouldn't care what it looked like. Another compromise, as she realizes all too well.
  • Again, another reason to be grateful for Portland, Oregon: Levine and her partner save their hazardous wastes and take them to a disposal site and pay $23 to get rid of them. In Portland, our METRO government has regular hazardous waste collection days. As she says, "in America, saving the earth is something of a bourgeois consumer privilege." This is indeed true. The same can be said for eating healthy.
  • Levine does cave in a couple of times to buy items of clothing. On one occasion, she describes the appeal of going shopping and buying something fun and flirty. I have to confess that I have experienced that rush as well...usually for me it's finding something delightful at a great bargain. If I pay too much for something, I usually feel guilty about it. Lately, I've been trying to stay out of the stores unless I have a specific purpose, and focus on organizing and offloading instead.
  • As partner Paul is preparing to install a "closet system," Levine mulls over the whole concept of household organization, including closet systems. Just think: The Container Store, Hold Everything, Linens and Things, and other storage stores hardly existed 20 years ago, and now they are everywhere. We have more CRAP, and we need more places to store it. That's not even considering the preponderance of self-storage units out there. Apparently Americans spend about $100 million per year on closet systems. (I am not criticizing all closet system purchases, but just marveling at the fact that we spend so much money organizing all of our stuff!!)

    (Google Facts: The self-storage industry grew from about 289 million square feet in 1984 to nearly 2.2 billion square feet by the end of 2007, according to the Self Storage Association. The average American home has grown from 1,400 square feet in 1970 to 2,300 square feet today, but the average size of the household has shrunk from 3.1 to 2.5.)
  • Levine rants about Bush quite a lot (after all, the year of not buying was 2004, during election season). I was reminded of his great idea to have Americans open private investment accounts for Social Security--remember that grand plan? Where would we all be now if he had been successful? In the toilet even more than we already are. Interesting that Republicans don't talk about that idea any more...further, Levine's observations about American's shopping habits and corporate greed are very timely given today's economic crisis.

I like books like this that make me think about my own habits and lifestyle. I am thinking more carefully about what I am purchasing and how much good I will get out of my purchases. I'm already quite thrifty, but my concern about how many possessions we have (that we don't use much!) is making me think much more carefully about every purchase.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gee, Thanks!

My knitting friend Katy (our sons have been friends since preschool) nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award. (I'm not entirely sure what this award is or why it's spelled wrong...but I'm all for spreading the word about blogs!) I gather that it's for blogs about creativity...

Here are the rules:
1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.
4. Link to those on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

And here are the blogs that I think you should check out.

1. The Year of Living Obsessively, by Jennifer in Arizona. Jennifer found me a via a web search on One Year to an Organized Life. It turns out that we both found the book and had the same idea to blog about our adventures. I especially appreciated the fact that she too has three kids and a disorganized life. It's been really fun to have a blog friend on my journey. Jennifer also has another blog, Broken Bananas, in which she chronicles her own adventures with three kids.

2. Another new blogger friend lives in Arizona and blogs at Life According to Lizzi. I "met" Lizzi via Goodreads--we have similar taste in books--and I love her well-designed and creative blog. She just posted photos of her new house, and it's easy to see that she's an artist at heart.

3. I think I discovered Collage Diva via Lizzi's blog. She is blogging her way through the 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, a book I own but have never read! Maybe that will come

4. Lelo in Nopo blogs about Portland living, food, and creative pursuits. I don't her know personally, but she appears to be a highly creative person, and I always enjoy reading her blog.

5. Posie Gets Cozy is another blog about creative pursuits, crafts, cooking, and Portland life. I especially enjoyed her recent post about Portland hill walks.

6. Susan Beal writes West Coast Crafty. She is another Portland blogger who writes about crafts and has recently published a book, Bead Simple.

7. Another crafty blogger who has written a book (Bend-the-Rules Sewing), Amy Karol blogs about her crafting and creativity at Angry Chicken--love that name!

8. And one final nomination, since every single one of these bloggers is a woman. Chris Bohjalian is one of the few novelists I know who regularly blogs. It helps that he writes a column for a local newspaper and can just use his columns...but I always enjoy reading his writing (as well as his novels).

Okay--so I bent the rules a little and tagged eight blogs instead of seven. I hope the blogging gods will forgive me!

Not Buying It

I'm reading Judith Levine's book, Not Buying It, at the moment. The reviews of the book are mixed, but so far I'm enjoying it. She wrote it in 2003, and it's fascinating to note that after 9/11, the Bush administration exhorted and urged people to BUY MORE!!! And look at the mess we are in now.

Here are some interesting points she makes:
  • The average new American home grew 150 to 200 square feet every few years, from 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,400 square feet in 2004, with many measuring four times that size.
  • "Interest rates or currency supply want a little nudging by central bankers now and then, and prices and wages may ask for a little bullying by legislators and regulators. But these are just adjustments around the edges. For the most part, Adam Smith's Invisible Hand guides itself." No longer is this the case, as all know too well!
  • There is a business to be made in providing crisis intervention services for people suffering from "disposaphobia." And Ron Alford of Disaster Masters, Inc., has capitalized on this need! I like this term, disposaphobia! It's what my children have...and it's what I fight against every day!! Check out these before and after photos ...they make me feel so much better about my own clutter!

My organizing year is already forcing me to think twice about buying things, and this book comes at a perfect time. Do we really need a new bedroom set, or should we refinish the one we have?

February, Week 3: Take Time for Your Space

I have not been going as great guns this month as I did in January, partly because my kitchen organizing was such a huge project! We have been making headway in our bedroom, but we're not done yet (with the dressers) I haven't posted the photos yet.

Last weekend I went through the bin on our floor that was full of all sorts of odd items (!), cleaned out and reorganized my bedside table, got rid of all the stuff by the bed in a basket that has been there since I was on maternity leave, and began working on the top of my dresser. My hubby also cleaned out his bedside table and part of the closet as well.

The lovely thing about cleaning out the bedside table is that I now have room for some of the items (books, etc.) that were in the basket on the floor...such as my One Year to an Organized Life book!

I'm hoping to finish the dresser in a few soon as I recover from the nasty cold/flu that I got from my 2-year-old. I don't feel up to much cleaning today...but blogging is fairly low effort.

February, Week 3 concentrates on creating a shopping list for any tools, further examining how we spend our time, and considering how to maximize closet space.

I guess I should have read this chapter before finishing my closet! Oh well. Someday perhaps I will want to invest in one of those really expensive, fancy closet systems...but for now, we have the basics of one and that's just fine with me.

What's It All About?

Q: Leeds asks how to get your my personal and work environments to support you. Why are you embarking on this organizational process, and what are you seeking? How will this work change your life for the better?

A: I anticipate that a more organized, cleaner space will decrease the stress in my life and improve my overall mood when I am at home. I seek to be able to find things easily, without having to fight through clutter. (Sunday a friend called to ask if they could borrow our DVD of the Lion King. I knew we had it, and Kieran and I found the case...but could we find the DVD itself? No. This is what I want to prevent or at least minimize in the future.)

Q: Has there ever been a time when you knew exactly what you wanted to do with your life? Did you stick to those goals, or did something else force you to take an unexpected direction?

A: I always admired my sister, who knew she wanted to be a doctor at an early age. I have been more likely to just follow the path in front of me, taking detours when they looked interesting or challenging! I knew I wanted to be a mom--I guess that's one thing that I did apply myself to. I never imagined that I would be a publications manager at an engineering firm, though!

Q: Are you in the middle of life changes?

A: Not really. Unless you count the impending teenagerhood of my first child!

Q: What do you do well? Is there any way you could make money using your gifts?

A: Coming up with ideas. Finding creative ways to think about things. Helping people. Buying or making people gifts. Being a friend. Supporting others when they are going through tough times. Planning events. Writing. Leading projects or teams. Networking. Fortunately, my job seems to use many of those talents...I guess I'm lucky!

Q: If you could do anything you wanted in life, what would that be? Dream big.

A: I think I'd be a full-time writer and travel the world. If I were to attempt that, I'd have to take a big pay at this stage in my life that's not really an option.

Organizing Tools

Leeds then suggests that the reader make a list of organizing tools I need for the bedroom.

Hangers: She likes wooden hangers--I do too, but I'm sticking with the plastic to save $. I did get rid of the old wire ones though.

Shelf Dividers and Stackable Drawers: Check--already have enough of these. Same with acrylic boxes.

Shoe Racks: I used the stackable drawers for my shoes after I got rid of the hanging shoe rack. If I had a bigger cloest, I'd definitely go for shoe racks.

Jewelry Organizers: I have an earring and necklace hanger on the wall (which needs to be dusted) and two jewelry boxes. I like jewelry! None of it is expensive though. I suppose I could try to get down to one jewelry box, but it would probably be hard.

Drawer Organizers: I could probably invest in a few dividers for my sock and underwear drawers.

Belt and Tie Organizers: I don't really wear belts. I put all my scarves (which I also don't wear that often) in a bag on the closet floor. My husband seldom wears ties, but he has a tie hanger.

Leeds suggests that the reader have a closet organizer come out and give a professional design (there is no charge for the design itself). Because I'm trying to do my organizing year inexpensively (especially in this economy), I've elected to work with what I have for the most part.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In the Drawers

I've been having problems with Blogger lately, so I haven't posted for a few days.

Last weekend I tackled my sock and underwear drawers. Similar to many other orifices in my home, I don't think they'd been cleaned out for years! I took the opportunity to get rid of some of the shabbier articles of clothing and voila, much cleaner drawers! Here are the befores and afters (it's not every day that I show people my underwear drawer!!!):

Tonight Mike and I both cleaned out the drawers of our bedside tables. I found THREE smelly eye mask thingies, two gel eye masks, along with various journals and other things I never use. (I did not buy the eye masks for myself!! They, along with tons of bath products, have been given to me by family members and friends who clearly think I need to do a better job of relaxing!) I also cleared out the basket of books and other stuff that's been on the floor by the side of my bed ever since I was on maternity leave 2 years ago!!! (The contents have changed, but the basket has been there ever since!)
This weekend I'm tackling the top of my dresser...the WORST part of my bedroom.
Good night!