Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Olympics of Organizing

It's hard to keep the kitchen clean when the Olympics are on. We're doing a half-hearted attempt...but we tend to be downstairs watching in the evening instead of cleaning up the dinner dishes.

Both regular exercising (Wii Fit Plus) and regular cleaning are on hold for now. Only a week to go and we'll be back into our usual routines.

In the meantime, I'm spending the time in front of the TV organizing our many photographs. We don't have many printed out after 2003 (when we got a digital camera), but we have boxes and boxes of photo albums and loose photos from both our childhoods up through 2003. I took TONS of photos during the three years we lived in Japan.

So far I've filled a grocery bag with photos that will be recycled. I've decided to forgo the traditional photo albums and instead use photo storage boxes. I still have about eight brand-new photo albums, and I'm not sure what to do with those. I'm thinking that it's unlikely that we would sit and go through photo albums, and I'm finding it very difficult to keep photos organized in albums (not to mention all the space they take up!). I will often pull photos out of a particular album, and then they rarely find their way back into the correct album. With a photo-organizing box, I'm hoping it will be easier to keep track of them.

Right now I'm pulling the photos out and organizing them in Ziploc bags with dates. It's fun to see some of the old shots, but I'm amazed at how many duplicates or similar shots I have, or photos of people whose names I can no longer remember or have since lost contact with.

Mike's using the Olympics time to keep up with the laundry. We so rarely watch TV, but we're using the time with multitasking!

Recycling Jewelry and Books

After my trip to Powell's last weekend, I filled a bag with the best of Powell's rejects, my jewelry castoffs, and other odds and ends, and took them off to my local consignment store. I received $56 for the haul. They took all of the cookbooks and much of the jewelry. I found a couple of brand-new Abercrombie shirts for Chris, and a summery top for myself, and I still have money left over.

I put the remainder of the cookbooks on, and I've already posted off about six or seven of them.

Last night I made fresh crab cakes out of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and it was so wonderful to be able to reach our cookbooks easily and find the one I wanted!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Recycling

I took two enormous bags of cookbooks to Powell's on Saturday to see how much they would buy. They ended up taking about 20 of them, for a grand total of $40 in trade. Pathetic!

I selected the best of the bunch to take to my favorite resale store to see how many they would be interested in, and I posted the rest to It is always nice to get Powell's credit; however, in some ways, Paperbackswap is the best way to go. I've been able to get some really great and sometimes rare books that way, by putting books I want on a wish list. You pay postage for your posted books requested by others, and they pay postage to send the books you request. I tend to post mostly lighter-weight books as much as I can. Children's books are especially great to post.

Already, I've posted four of my cookbooks, and two more have been requested. Someone had requested the original Moosewood Cookbook, but we decided to keep that when we discovered that I had given it to Mike and had Mollie Katzen inscribe it to him! So it's a sentimental keeper.

My friend Shelia in Boise picks up free books at library or garage sales and posts them. It's a great way to get inexpensive books, many of them in great condition. The only down side is that you have to keep the books in storage somewhere. In our case, they are in boxes in the basement.

Olympic Scrapbooking

Since my husband was an adolescent, he's been painstakingly compiling a scrapbook containing news clippings about EVERY SINGLE OLYMPICS. Winter and summer. We have a couple of boxes of them somewhere in the attic. I'm not sure where his pre-Japan Olympic scrapbooks are...perhaps my mother-in-law has them (or junked them).

Mike prides himself on the fact that he can still shock me occasionally. He has announced that this Olympics, for the first time ever, he is not going to do an Olympics scrapbook. (Another time he shocked me was when he announced, on his 40th birthday, after 13 years of marriage, that he wanted to hyphenate our names.)

He realized that so much is on the internet nowadays, and asked himself how often he actually looks back at them. Both excellent points.

During previous Olympics, we tend to accumulate piles of newspaper and magazines, sitting around for him to clip and paste. He tends to get behind, sometimes not even getting the scrapbooking done until the next Olympics comes round.

I applaud his decision and have to ask myself whether the One Year to an Organized Life approach might have influenced him to give up this tradition. Or maybe he just wanted to shock me again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Intimates and Apparel

For February and March, I am working on finishing the kitchen (still need to do the kitchen nook and clean the drawers) and also cleaning and reorganizing the bathroom and bedroom. Then I will be back on track with One Year to an Organized Life.

Today I went through all of my jewelry and intimates. I threw out several pairs of underwear and bras, and relegated the following jewelry for resale or donation:
  • 1 necklace & earring set
  • 7 necklaces
  • 5 earrings
  • 9 pins
  • 7 bracelets
This took a great deal longer than one would think! I also downsized from two jewelry boxes (which I have had for YEARS!) to one.

I polished my new dresser and filled its drawers, and did more cleanup on the bedroom. I'll try to post a photo of the new dresser this weekend--I love having more space for my clothes. And it's a beautiful old art deco dresser with inlaid wood. (Thanks, Nadine and David!) I was able to move my pajamas into the dresser and will be able to move my sweatshirts down to the bottom of the closet, so Mike's shoes will not fall on me each time I try to get a shirt down. (Currently they are way up above me, so I have to jump to get at them.)

Then I went for a massage this afternoon (!). In the evening, Mike took Kieran to fencing and went swimming with Chris, while I continued cleaning while 3-year-old Nicholas serenaded me with Broadway hits.

I also cleaned the living room and am continuing to move things around into the new dining room cabinet.

This weekend is mostly designated for fun, but I do want to take a few trips to the resale store and Powell's!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another day off to clean (am I crazy or what?)

Yesterday the house looked like a tornado had hit it. I was planning to take another day off today to keep up my organizing and cleaning, but so far it's mostly been cleaning!

We got some new (hand-me-down) furniture this week, so we need to move some things around. Mike and I have been tremendously lucky to have received so much of our furniture secondhand! When we were getting married, my cousin's widow gave us all sorts of furniture when she decided to downscale. We've had my grandparents' bed and grandmother's dresser. We have bought furniture for the kiddos and office and family room furniture. But we have some dining room cabinets from my parents and a beautiful cabinet my sister's brother-in-law made. Now my sister and her husband have given us a dresser (that belonged to David's mother) and a beautiful buffet handcrafted by David's grandfather. More places to put things! Yay!

This is what I accomplished today:

  • Cleaned the kitchen (we're back to Day One on keeping the kitchen clean, because of a late-night concert last night)
  • Sorted through Kieran's art cabinet and discarded all dry felt pens and junk--it's now being moved up to the kids' room (and out of the living room)
  • Cleaned the dining room table (which had been piled high with art supplies and other crap)
  • Organized paperbackswap books and other items to post
  • Did various cleaning around the house
  • Got my hair cut (!)
  • Made dinner and cleaned up afterward
  • Found Kieran's valentines by searching the house high and low and no one else could find them
  • Gave the younger boys baths and put all three to bed

Drat! That's not very much, when I write it all down. But at least I have the weekend ahead of me! More to come...

Monday, February 8, 2010

More on what to do with unused medications and other unrecylable items

After disposing of our unused vitamins by melting, blending, and depositing them in a Ziplog bag with coffee grounds, today I happened across two additional articles on about disposing of unwanted medication and items:

"Should you be flushing your old prescription drugs down the toilet?"


"What to do when you forget whether something can be recyled"

For those of us committed to do what we can to preserve the environment, these articles give some helpful tips about how to do the right thing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Clearly, a cookbookaholic

Now last year when I organized the kitchen, somehow I neglected to purge all the cookbooks in the hall closet. I know that I reorganized the bottom half of the closet, which has pans, a rice cooker, and other cooking stuff, but I must have neglected to get to the cookbooks.

Either that or I just reorganized them and didn't get rid of any.

When I purged and reorganized the books in the study, I got rid of hordes of cookbooks--but that was not my main stash. The study only contained a handful of cookbooks until this afternoon.

The first thing I did was dump them all onto the hallway floor and organize them into categories:

The hall closet is also where we keep our hard liquor, and it was actually in front of a full shelf of cookbooks, so consequently we rarely used any on that shelf unless we needed a specific one.

I made piles for healthy cooking, newish, kids, vegetarian, Asian, and specialty cookbooks.

Pile left is the Asian, and pile right is the vegetarian (we are not vegetarian but like vegetarian cookbooks, clearly...).
I went through each and every one trying to decide which to keep. The newer, healthier cookbooks had an edge over the older ones. Also, many of the specialty cookbooks got designated for consignment or donation. It's so easy to find recipes on the internet nowadays--why do we need so many cookbooks? We had so many that we couldn't even see all of our cookbooks, so we tend to use the same ones over and over again.

If an older cookbook had one or two recipes that we used frequently, I put those aside so I could copy the recipes and get rid of it.

Number of cookbooks this morning: 127
To donate: 23
To take to Powell's and/or consignment: 42
To post on 14
Number of cookbooks we now own: 45 plus 3 Christmas ones

I successfully shed 62% of our cookbooks today!! I had Mike's enthusiastic support, although I was not allowed to touch his beloved Delia Smith collection...which cracks me up! Even the ancient one--he claims it ties him to his childhood, although I pointed out that I got rid of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and the Joy of Cooking! (I prefer the more modern versions, such as Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.)

When Mike's mum was visiting last Thanksgiving, we were joking that he should start his own "Mike and Delia" blog in the "Julie and Julia" vein!
I feel such a great sense of accomplishment! And now off to Powell's to get some great credit for all of our rejects!

After my afternoon of organization, this is what the hall cabinet looked like, with 45 cookbooks (still a lot, I know...):

Now let's hope we actually use these cookbooks on more of a regular basis, now that they are more accessible! (And look at all that empty space in the cupboard, too!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New technique to keep the kitchen clean

Tonight we finished cleaning the kitchen nook (which tends to attract piles of junk) and the kitchen counters (while we were watching two extra kids, I might add--but fortunately all five children were entertaining themselves quite well).

Knowing the motivation I feel by using Wii Fit Plus on a regular basis and realizing how nice it is to compete against my previous scores, I have designed a new challenge for us.

I've written on the memo board posted on the fridge:

Days kitchen has stayed clean: _____________

Mike is a competitive soul, who also likes a good challenge, so I think this will help both of us stay motivated.

The goal is to keep the kitchen nook table and kitchen counters cleared by the end of the day (and ideally, the sink cleaned out as well).

We'll see how effective it is!

Freezer cleaning for dummies...

Rule #1: After cleaning your freezer, do not forget to turn the freezer back on again.

Last night I went out for a drink with my long-lost cousin, and while I was gone Mike and the boys treated themselves to some ice cream.

The only problem: the ice cream was mush.

Our refrigerator went on the blink earlier this year, and it had something to do with an ice block forming in the back of the freezer, blocking the vent, causing the whole fridge to stop working.

So he cleaned out all the contents of the freezer, and he also noted that the refridgerator temp was rather high.

He could not figure out the source of the problem, and he was about to call me on my cell phone to ask me if I knew what could have happened, when he noticed that the freezer wasn't turned on.

Yes. Stupid me. Thankfully, the frozen foods kept the temperature low enough that no food was ruined. (I had taken out a package of chicken breasts earlier that night, and they were frozen.)

Fortunately, tragedy was averted. What an idiot I am.

How to Dispose of Old Vitamins and Medication

Yesterday I cleaned the top of the refrigerator and its surrounds (including washing the very dusty wall up high above the fridge), as well as pushing it out from the wall and vacuuming the dust bunnies and cleaning the floor underneath it.

I had gone through this exercise last January, and the fridge was completely clear and clean at the time. However, Mike tends to use the fridge top as a place to put things he wants out of sight of the children for one reason or another, or other things he just wants to put away. I found all sorts of junk up there!

Yet again, I went through all the various vitamins and medications that are stored up there (I tend to keep my medications and such in the bathroom, but Mike prefers the top of the fridge for accessibility). I found all sorts of vitamins and various things (echinacea and iron, for example) that had not been used and actually had expired. Knowing that I couldn't flush them down the toilet, I searched on the internet for a disposal solution and found one.

It advised me to put the unwanted vitamins in a glass of lukewarm water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes until they dissolve. Given that I had several containers full, instead I put them in a bowl with warm water. However. They did not dissolve. So I finally put them all in the blender and ended up with a horrible-smelling, brown mush. I put the liquid in a Ziploc bag and added coffee grounds (cat litter is another option), sealed it, and put it in the garbage. The coffee grounds or cat litter are meant to deter animals from eating it.

I also disposed of some chocolate calcium chews I'd had up there for years, gathering dust.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Took this afternoon off to deep-clean my kitchen

I'm already behind on my One Year to an Organized Life, Part 2. I had intended to reorganize and clean the kitchen in January. Guess what? It's the first week of February!

Life has been so crazy lately, both at work and at home (and hello? three kids!), so this has not gotten done.

I decided I needed a mental health break from work and intended to take the whole day off, but forces conspired against me and I ended up working at home in the morning. Today I worked for about 4 or 5 hours on the kitchen. Tomorrow I'm hoping to work another 1/2 day and get more done.

Earlier this week I did get some purging and cleaning done in the kitchen. I cleaned two of our cabinets, which hold oils, sauces, spices and herbs, pasta, rice, and baking supplies. I junked a bunch of stuff, such as croutons (how did we end up with croutons?), some sauces with high-fructose corn syrup that have been in our cabinets for years, and some obscure herbs that we never use. I also took out some jams, chutneys, and sauces that rarely get used and moved them down to the basement to make room for more canned goods in the kitchen.

Today, I have:
  • Cleaned out and loaded the dishwasher (first things first!)
  • Cleaned out and reorganized the snack and cereal shelves (why do we still have any wheat-based snacks that the kids don't eat, if Mike and I avoid wheat?)
  • Moved the coffee up to the top shelf because it's not used very often, and the snacks to a lower shelf
  • Reorganized the mugs and the tea shelf--we continue to have an abundance of tea!!
  • Deep-cleaned the stove--inside, top, sides, burners, back, and underneath (including vacuuming and cleaning up the grunge on the floor under it)
  • Cleaned the microwave and toaster oven (including under the microwave cabinet)
  • Cleaned out the microwave cabinet and discovered the source of a seriously fishy smell we've had lingering around the house for several days! (a rotten potato!)
  • Cleaned and reorganized the freezer

That's enough for now! Tomorrow I'll get more done--and hopefully move on to another room!