Saturday, January 26, 2013

organize now challenge: post the third


Well, not exactly a taking down of, more of a sorting out. But I'll get to that in a minute.

Background info about my house:
  1. half of my house was built in the 1860's. ish. 
  2. the other half-ish of my house was built in the early-mid 1900's.
  3. people back in those days did not believe in closets.
When I stand in the doorway of my bedroom closet, I can extend my arm and touch the back of the closet. Without leaning. When I stand just inside my bedroom closet, I can extend my right arm, lean ever-so-slightly, and touch the far wall of the closet. Also, standing just inside my closet, I can stick my left elbow out and touch the left wall of the closet. 

Summary: There is not enough room in my closet to do the Hokey-Pokey. 

Additionally: About a third of my closet is taken up by a rather large box containing my wedding dress. I'm not ready to part with it just yet, and there is literally nowhere else to store it in my house. 

So there's that.  

In the closet, there's one bar on which garments can be hung, and a shelf above the bar. I keep my jeans folded nicely in a pile on the shelf, and a stack of bulky sweaters that are not well-suited for hanging in another pile. That's as useful as I can make the space.

sweaters, jeans, and my corset and chemise.
what, you don't keep your corset in the closet?
Fortunately, Jen's first tip for organizing a bedroom closet is to begin by pitching things, starting with the mess. Anything you haven't worn in over a year, things that are out of style, wrecked by your offspring, and that God-awful sweater your grandma gave you for Christmas this year.  

I had a Truly Horrific Pile on the floor of my closet, comprised mostly of random things I didn't want to put away. So I picked up the pile, checked to make sure my superty nice woolen socks were not hiding in it, and I pitched the whole thing. I stuffed the lot of it into a contractor bag and took it out to the curb. I didn't recycle it, I didn't give it away, I didn't box it up for the Salvation Army Thrift Store. I am not so good with sorting through things, it takes me forever, I look at every last item and think about it, and I have done this since childhood. In the future, when I'm not swamped with an ugly mess, I will take the time and use the brain power to divide and conquer, but that was just

Let me tell you: giving myself permission to let go of the stuff, and just straight-up purge it out of my world was really freeing. Really, really, wonderfully freeing. 

inside the closet door: double hook holding the bathrobe
and a hangar with my many scarves

Most of the tips about organizing the clothing inside the closet after emptying it out don't really apply to us.  I can count on one hand the number of button-down shirts owned by The Mister, and I have a small, but versatile Grown-Up Clothes wardrobe. For the majority of the year, my uniform consists of a long-sleeved t-shirt, layered with various sweaters or knee-length dresses. 

three jackets, six cardigans, two shirts
I think it is very clever of Jen to suggest hanging similar items together by color. I have included a photo of this despite the fact that most of my clothes are black, brown and grey, and the lighting is wretched and everything looks black. Very not exciting. Another tip is to purchase a battery-powered light and stick it to the wall of the closet, and I am seriously considering that.  She also recommends using a shoe rack or over-the-door shoe organizer, and I do that, except mine is in the kitchen, near the front door. If I had to go up to my room to put my shoes away every time I came in the house, my shoes would never end up in my bedroom closet. 

At the end of every weekly assignment in Organize Now! is a short checklist of things to keep the area organized. There's a once a month list, a 3-6 month list, and a once a year list. Maybe "list" is not the best word to use, it's more like a couple of bullet points for each time frame. I appreciate this kind of instruction, because it's the staying organized once I've got my act together that I'm really worried about.  

It's just about February, which means I've stuck to my guns for a month already. Now how long do you have to do something before it becomes a habit? Am I close? Are we there yet? Bueller?

Visit the other bloggers taking the Organize Now! Challenge:
Tapas Lifestyle
Mother Thyme
House of Grace
Michelle Murphy

Monday, January 21, 2013

organize now challenge: week 2

This week for the Organize Now Challenge, the focus was on sorting out the kitchen cabinets.

The assignment was to get rid of stuff we don't use, clear out broken tools and dishes, and toss the clutter. Jennifer Ford Berry, author of Organize Now, suggests keeping only a few of your favourite coffee mugs, ditching the mismatched plastic containers and giving the boot to appliances that are only collecting dust.

I was feeling a bit like an organizing smarty-pants because I had my dishes, glasses and silverware right between the sink and dishwasher, and my pots, cooking utensils and spices are all located near the stove where I do most of the cooking. (Even better? NO JUNK DRAWER.)

That's where the smarty-pants-ness ends, though. I have the opposite problem that most people face in a kitchen. I have SO.SO.SO MUCH COUNTERSPACE, and way too many cupboards. My downfall is letting the counters get piled up, "flat surface syndrome", if you will. Even before the challenge began, I have been vigilant about keeping my countertops in order. I feel so much more relaxed in my kitchen when I'm not surrounded by piles. The only appliances on the counter are my toaster oven, my Senseo coffee maker, and the microwave. The microwave and I are not pals, but I keep it around to heat up my Hotsy-Coldsy bags.  I have an enormous stainless steel bowl for making bread and pizza dough, and that lives on top of the toaster oven because I use it three or four times a week.

To keep my kitchen tools and pans contained to only a few cupboards, I store some of my home-canned jars of food in more than half of the cupboards. I find that we eat more home-canned foods when they are within arm's reach, rather than taking a trip to the basement every time we need some pickles or applesauce. When I'm running low on home-canned goodness upstairs, I get a box, grab a little bit of everything, and restock the kitchen cupboards.

I do have a handful of photos to document my efforts, but I'm having trouble getting Flickr and Instagram and Blogger to play nicely together, so I'm just going to hit the publish button and figure it out later. Some days are just like that, you know? I'll also post links to Jennifer's blog and the blogs of the other ladies who are participating.

Monday, January 14, 2013

the gift of silver

I left my house the other night without children. WITHOUT CHILDREN. If I'm being honest with me, I say I am getting really bad about doing things for me; or, if I'm feeling like a pity party, I tell myself it's a season, and they will  soon go away and I can go to the movies any time I please.

Which will likely be thrice weekly, supposing there's anything interesting playing.

So I went to see Les Miserables with a friend. I had extra napkins, I was ready. Because really, when you are going to see a musical where everybody dies, you need to be prepared. I was ready for The Epic Crying.

I was not ready for The Epic Cry to begin when the bishop gave Valjean the candlesticks. 

I should back up. Not everybody has read the novel by Victor Hugo (you really should), nor has everyone seen the musical, even though every professional, semi-professional, amateur, and high school theatre group in the nation has performed it in the last 15 years. 

Here's a little summary: Valjean was in prison for 19 years, 5 of those for stealing bread to feed his sister's dying child, and 14 more for trying to escape. He gets paroled, and wanders around trying without success to find work, because nobody will hire a dangerous! man! A bishop shows Valjean kindness, offers him food and a place to sleep, and Valjean repays him by stealing most of the silver on the premises. Naturally, Valjean is caught by the local gendarmes, and is brought back to the bishop's residence. The police tell the bishop that they have recovered his stolen silver, and that Valjean will return to prison, despite his claims that the bishop gave him the silver. Without missing a beat, the bishop tells Valjean that he left in such a rush he must have forgotten the silver candlesticks, how terrible that he forgot the best silver of the collection. The police are terribly confused, but go about their business, and leave Valjean with the bishop.

Valjean stole the silver. His guilt is not debatable. And yet the bishop corroborated Valjean's story.

Hugo used the character of the bishop to speak the voice of God to Valjean. Hugo got God right. I know I have done some serious silver stealing in my time, not actual silver stealing, of course. I have spoken and behaved in ways that have caused other people grief and hurt, sometimes by accident, sometimes not so accidentally. Sometimes it happens by accident, but the result makes my inner mean girl grin a bit. It's a really horrible thing to live with, knowing exactly what it feels like to be on the receiving end and at the same time being the person who is handing it out.

I have been given the candlesticks, and not just once. I can see clearly so.many.times. when I have screwed up royally and have been shown beautiful, undeserved mercy. In the same moment, I see so many more times when I have been utterly merciless and it fills me with horrified embarrassment. I don't understand why I choose unkindness and unforgiveness and mercilessness when I know how it makes me feel to do that, but even more importantly, how it feels to be treated that way. It's dreadful.

I am meditating on Micah 6:8 this year:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Intentional mercy. Intentional forgiveness. Intentional kindness. Intentionally training myself upward.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

organize now challenge. post the first.

Confession: I'm not a super organized person. (that snickering you hear is the laughter of every person who has met me in real life.)

Confession: Most of my disorganization has to do with some not-charming experiences I have, umm, experienced, and no, I'm not going to talk about that here.

Confession: The rest of my disorganization comes from apathy and laziness and the whole I'd-rather-be-spending-my-time-on-something-else. And let me tell you, that last item is powerful. 

BUT. I'm a grown-up, and I am actually in possession of Big Girl Pants, so I'm going to put them on. I'm participating in the 12 week Organize Now Challenge with local author and organized life expert Jennifer Ford Berry and also Spring Cleaning 365

Because WHY DO ANYTHING IN MODERATION. (famous last words)

I'm not actually blogging about Spring Cleaning 365, I just wanted to mention it because if you're a crappy housekeeper with undiagnosed attention issues, and a bipolar relationship to cleaning (meaning you either never clean, or you ARE CLEANING ALL THE THINGS!!!! until you are passed out and crippled), this could be just the thing for you. Each task has been manageable except for my manic CLEANING ALL THE THINGS!!!, but I am getting better about doing the one assignment and backing away slowly.

I *am* officially blogging about the 12 week Organize Now Challenge. This week I'm working on my schedule. As I mentioned, I'm not really organized, so starting with planning my schedule makes a lot of sense.

Here are some of the weekly goals I found to be really useful:

1. Buy one planner and use it for everything. 
now my planner looks like me.
well, supposing i had green button eyes.
I spent some time looking at planners at Target. There were a ton that had a monthly calendar page, and then a 2 page spread for each week, plus an address book, plus stickers, plus who knows what else. That is just too much information and cross-referencing for my little brain. I need simpler. Maybe someday when I'm an official Organized Grown-Up I will be able to handle writing things down in 2 places, and possibly leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but for now, that's just more than I want to manage.

I am thrilled with what I found. There is a two-page monthly calendar, one for each month, and the rest of the book is a notebook. That's it. In the past I have tried to keep a calendar and a notebook (I really love these little guys... the 3 1/2" x 5" ones with graph paper), and it never worked. I need my lists and I need my calendar. I can keep a list going for the grocery store, for the library, business orders, and I can also (hopefully) stop standing up our dentist.

2. Plan the month with the whole family.
This was a pretty easy task. The Mister works a non-conventional job with non-conventional hours, so pretty much all of the errand-running falls to me. I penciled in our weekly trip to the library, church on Saturday night, grocery store (if needed), homeschool group dates until the end of the year, dentist appointments, birthdays, the big group camping trip, Lego club, camp...everything I could think of.

here's january. and yes, i did see les mis last wednesday.

3. Use a page of the planner for long-term to-do lists.
The last page of the planner? It's the long-term list.  Things like EMPTY THE GARAGE SO I CAN PARK THERE NEXT WINTER. Nothing major. Heh.

In the "Once A Year" section, Jennifer recommends choosing a planner that you really love the look and feel of, that fits your style, so that you actually use it. I really like the size of my planner, and what is on the inside, but the outside was sort of blah, and since I make pretty useful things for other people, I decided to pretty up this useful item for me. 

the valley inn, for every occasion

Here is a list of the other four bloggers participating in the Organize Now Challenge. And here is my disclosure: I have received a copy of Organize Now in exchange for sharing my experience with the Organize Now Challenge. All views and opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

let's try this again. maybe.

it's been about a year, and i've been mostly quiet.
sometimes that happens.
sometimes it has to happen.

i could say that 2012 offered an endless stream of hassle.
it's true.
but it was full of learning about myself, about my people.
it was full of learning about the people around me, that 
opinions are formed about you (me) independent of 
fact and truth.

i learned that my child would do better if he was able to do better.
i learned that behaviours are often unrelated to attitudes.
i learned that sometimes the things that hold you (me) back are 
held firmly in place by the rubble of things that happened long ago.

sorting through piles of destruction is hard work.

i learned open hearth cooking, and how to bake in a brick oven.
whilst wearing proper underpinnings for a woman in the 1850's.
including a corset.

i learned that making pretty, useful things for people is 
terrifically satisfying.
i love sitting in my work space, sewing away,
while my people do their schoolwork.
i learned that the unorthodox sometimes is the best fit.

also in the very satisfying category:
drinking a guinness after setting up our enormous
10-person tent, after driving 5 hours, after packing for a camping trip,
ALONE (plus the short people).
i learned that i can do all the things.

well, many of the things.
there is always more to master.