Post-Thanksgiving Pre-Christmas Nesting

Home is where the Heart is
Home is where the heart is” by Linda Yvonne on Flickr

It’s a weird time of year for me. Exhausting and exciting. Tiring and titillating. Wearisome and whimsical.

Lately, the condition of my home has really been rubbing me wrong. Every room in the house has a mess in it of varying size and degree. Some parts of the house don’t smell great. Walking through the house is somewhat of an adventure as you’re likely to either run into or step on something if not do both.

Cleaning out for the garage sale was a big help but it wasn’t the complete answer. So I’ve kept at it.

Sometimes, it’s been a very frustrating thing for me. When you have children especially, housekeeping is truly a Sisyphean task. And there have been moments where this sort of realization has smashed into me and left me frustrated and even depressed.

It’s something like I’m moving the fifth load of laundry into the dryer and am suddenly horribly coldly aware I’ve done this four times in one weekend already and I will likely do it again in another day or two. Horrible. Why. Am. I. Doing. This.

And yet there are moments of redemption too. Brief ones. But you have to clutch to those because the other ones will drive you mad.

Moments like this past weekend where I was busting my ass to get my kitchen beautiful again. I mean, I went to bed at 3 in the morning on Sunday, from cleaning the house ok? It’s still not done, not even close, but that’s not the point of the story.

The point is I was working on the kitchen and I was taking things down from the window sill to wipe it down and at first I thought, Why am I even bothering with the window sill? No one cares about the window sill. And then I suddenly sort of changed moods and switched gears. Suddenly I was doing something to give my loved ones a nice home, one similar to what I had growing up.

And that felt good. And that felt like a good motivator. And I rode it till 3 in the morning. And I’m still riding it because I know it’ll (most likely) eventually evaporate.

But I think to counter the eventual feel good vibe evaporation (quite the scientific term, believe you me) I need to ride it long enough to devise a system. Or maybe not even devise but re-implement.

Like (practically) every good female on the internet, I have been seduced by the FLYlady. I’ve toyed with her process and have had varying degrees of success. Mostly I have two big problems with it– it’s not compatible for a single full time working mother of three children and I really just can’t ever finally love housework. I know she says it’s about finally loving yourself but I beg to differ. I just won’t go into it all right now.

The thing is, whether I like her or not, whether I have the time and patience to put her system into effect completely at my house or not, there is one basic part of FLYlady’s system that works– routine maintenance.

My mom is a domestic diva. She is of the old school lineage that truly takes pride in a home’s appearance. I remember the house always being clean, or at least smelling that way. To this day, when my mom brings something she’s laundered at her house, it always smells a million times better than my laundry and it lasts way longer too. My mom has told me, in a million ways, that essentially FLYlady is right. Cleaning your house is something that has to be done every single day. Like brushing your teeth.

You know how you wouldn’t leave your house in the morning without brushing your teeth? My mom believes you shouldn’t go to bed at night without cleaning something in your house, preferably a lot of somethings.

Even though it’s still hard for me to admit it, Mom’s right. And that’s where the program comes into place. I actually had a house I was proud of a while ago. Which is funny because it was also the time I had a body I was proud of and lots of people out there would say it’s not a coincidence.

And the crazy part is this actually happened during a time in my life where I was a single mom.

I’m unhappy with my home and my body these days. They both feel dumpy and frumpy and neglected. But this post isn’t about my body, it’s about the house. So I’m going to start making up my lists of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. And I’m just going to keep riding the wave into a more standard program of routine maintenance. It worked so well for me once before, I know it can work again. And the kids are older and can join in more ways than they were able  to two years ago.

So that’s where my mind’s been these days. With my home and putting some heart into it. What about you?

By the way, random question but when should I open up Tinsel my Christmas Pig?

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Garage Sale Recap

It's TRUE!

There are so many ways to say it, and so many things to apply the concept to but you really have to clear the old to make room for the new. Change is such an inherent aspect of being human.

It seems having a garage sale is, for me, a great way to flush out my life and invigorate it with newness.

I don’t have garage sales often. And honestly, I strongly dislike prepping for them and actually doing them is a major strain on me as well for a number of reasons in a number of ways. But it just so happens both times I’ve done a garage sale have resulted in so much good coming out of them, they’ve been deemed Totally Worth It.

My first garage sale I did the year before last. And maybe a garage sale every other year is a good thing for me. Just enough time to accumulate enough stuff to make it worth the agony perhaps.

Yesterday was my second garage sale. I’ve been working on it for days. I’m pretty detail-oriented when it comes to garage sales and I always feel like I just don’t have enough time. This time, I felt way more prepared than the last time but it was still pretty taxing.

We cut the string and opened just after 9:00 AM. In my city, there’s a regulation that forbids beginning the garage sale earlier. But we had a ton of stuff and so we roped off the driveway while we set up. Some people were not amused and a couple were extremely pushy but thankfully I had a couple of friends who made awesome bouncers too. When we were (mostly) ready, we got going. The vast majority of the little to mid-size things went really fast, probably in the first couple of hours.

Those are the most tedious to deal with but my friend, The FacePainter, was on-hand and she was awesome. She loves garage sales and just knew what to do and how to make it work really smooth. I think most of the transactions that included the small things were handled by her.

The bigger items, furniture, went in the afternoon. And it almost all went.

Best part of the day, maybe even week?

A woman pulled up and was eying my dining room set. “How much for the dining table?” she asked. “Twenty bucks,” I said, “with the chairs.” She started crying and hugged me. She thanked me and told me I had no idea what I was doing for her. She then spotted a sofa I had in the back. “How much is the sofa?” she asked. “Also twenty bucks,” I said. The smile on her face was SO bright. I told her she could have both for $35 but she said no way and paid the full amount.

She ended up telling me the super brief version of her story. It was something along the lines of her being sick for a very long time, being unable to work consistently for years, and everything in her house becoming severely neglected as a result. The stuff she was buying from me was stuff that was her taste and that she could actually afford. She was so happy. She also ended up buying a nightstand for $5 and some clothes we were selling at a quarter each. She bought a couple of items for her granddaughter who was with her too and some of the avocados I had picked that day.

That’s the thing I like about garage sales. I was glad things I was letting go of were able to help her, to make her feel better. It’s amazing when you see the ripple of effect of charity or good deeds.

There’s a reason I was selling my dining set and for as cheap as $20.

On Saturday, I got a phone call from my Aunt. I had told her I was having the garage sale because in purging my closet to the bare bones, I found a bunch of clothes that I had barely worn which were way too small for me but would likely fit my goddaughter (who funny enough had just donated a bunch of shoes to me not that long ago). She was super excited about my having a garage sale because she was de-cluttering as well. She wanted to donate the items to me but she wanted to know if I was allowed to sell furniture at my garage sale. Of course I was.

Well, in that case, she wanted to know if we could think of a way to get her dining set to me because they wanted to change. They’d had it for years and they hardly ever used it because they had it set as the formal dining room and was too out of the way.

I told my aunt that yes my garage sale allowed furniture to be sold but if she was just going to give it to me to sell so I could have the money, I was going to keep it for myself. I told her to send me a picture because I wanted to be sure I was thinking of the right dining set and that I hadn’t confused it with something I had seen somewhere else. Sure enough, this is the picture that arrived in my inbox. Note: This is the dining room in her house, not mine!

It includes the table, the chairs, and the buffet. I love it. It’s so beautiful. And there’s no way I could afford a set like that any time soon. Just no way. The set I had was a $150 bargain from IKEA that I built all by myself. It was nice and modern looking but it was showing signs of wear. And that was fine, because I have kids and I know that’s just what they do, but this was too wonderful to pass up on. My uncle decided since I was going to keep it, he’d arrange one of his delivery guys to bring it to the house for me some time this week.

And that’s the way I ended up being able to sell my dining set to this woman who was so very grateful for the chance to improve her situation as well. Ironically, the sofa she bought was the same sofa my Aunt had donated to my Grandmother who then donated to me when I was between couches a couple of years ago. Good deeds lead to more good deeds somehow some way.

Clearing out the old summons in the new.

A new (to me) dining set isn’t the only stuff I received in the course of the garage sale. Funny enough, I cleaned out two closets: Eldest’s and my own. My friend brought a bunch of clothes to the garage sale– clothes from her sister and clothes from her boyfriend’s co-worker. The sister has a son slightly older than Eldest so I found heaps of clothes in Eldest’s size and a lot of it perfect for a Miami winter. I couldn’t believe it! And her boyfriend’s co-worker is a shopaholic who apparently runs the gamut in sizes because there was everything in there from size 0 to size 8. I’m in the size 6 to 8 part of the spectrum these days which was my closet was empty and depressed.

Not anymore! I got a gorgeous wool coat, some beautifully tailored suit jackets, a couple of great dresses, a beautiful top that is perfect for New Year’s, and sweaters (which I had purged very rigorously).

And I was able to keep the good vibes going forward. I found an absolutely stunning 100% silk blouse that I just knew was my grandmother’s style. I had her try it on and she loved it. She was so excited about her little garage sale gift.

We also got a free TV from the Boyfriend who moved in this week. It just became too difficult for him to continue paying rent and child support and car insurance and other bills on unemployment. So he’s with us until his situation improves. The TV is in the kids’ newly cleaned out and reorganized play room. They’re going to flip out when they see it today.

When everything was done, I counted out the money. I made $334.75. I dumped the $1.75 that was in quarters into Tinsel the Christmas Pig, put $4 into the Worlds Finest Chocolate envelope since we sold some of those, put $24 aside for field trip money, and was left with $305.

I promptly found a Christmas themed container and dumped it in there properly jump-starting my Christmas shopping fund.

I don’t think of myself as a Garage Sale Guru but I will tell you the Top Three things that worked for me:

  1. Price everything clearly. I found a pack of neon color dots at Walgreen’s that, paired with a black Sharpie, worked wonderfully.
  2. Price everything at your lowest price point. Remember, if you have an item for sale in a garage sale it is because you have made the decision this item no longer belongs in your life. The ultimate goal is to get rid of it. I don’t give items that don’t sell a second chance and I don’t think you should either. If it doesn’t sell, I pack my car and immediately deliver it to Goodwill. I immediately post the large items on Craigslist’s Free Section and put them on the curb. When I say, “Everything must go” I mean it, and you should too. It’s better to get the quarter for it at the garage sale than the zero you get for it at Goodwill. Besides, it also goes much faster when it’s priced super cheap. The less time you’re out there, the better. I actually didn’t do this for my furniture items and wish I did because I don’t think I would’ve been out there as long!
  3. Price things as uniformly as possible. For instance, you can have clothing split into four categories– 25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents, and a dollar. Put all of the 25 cents stuff together and label it clearly. Do the same for each bin and put some separation between them so things don’t get mixed together too much. Maybe do the bin of 25 cent clothing, a bin of kid shoes, a bin of 50 cent clothing, a bin of purses, a bin of 75 cent clothing, a bin of adult shoes, a bin of dollar clothing, and a bin of belts, ties, and hats.

I know the rest of the United States is entering the unfriendly weather season but tell me about your past garage sale experiences or plans for future ones! I really want to become a garage sale shopper. I said it last time I had a garage sale and never did it. This time really reminded me how much I should at least try it, especially when I got the chance to shop my friend’s goods! What turned you on or off to garage sales?

Many Different Thoughts & 18/52: Wet

It’s been raining pretty aggressively here all night and all day. I think it’s beautiful when it’s so gray, misty, and muted outside. I’d rather be in bed but then again, I don’t have a window with this view in bed so you win some you lose some.

Did you notice the figurines? My daughter was here with me last Thursday and apparently she thought the little guys would much rather look out the window and enjoy that view than stare at my back all day. Smart girl.

Do you know what this is?

Pardon my French but there’s just no other way to describe that. She’s standing still in this shot because it’s the only way I could get any sort of clear shot. The rest of time I saw her she was out there pounding away at the pavement.

She’s not even tuned into a music player and I know there was not a single break in the rain this morning so this girl laced up and went out there in the pouring rain because she can and because she wanted to and because I needed to see something awesome like that this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, part of me wanted to hate her with her perfect body and blonde hair and youthful carefree life that allows for running in the rain but that was such a tiny part and it stood no chance against just how awesome I think she is really.

You know how the phrase, “You go, girl” got way overdone? Well this is the kind of situation that no other phrase more adequately describes. Girl power, indeed.

I’m trying a couple of things this month. I’m not necessarily challenging myself because I feel sort of beat up and need a break but my brain doesn’t do well when it has nothing to toy with.

I’m talking to my kids in Spanish all month. I didn’t make an announcement to them, I just stopped talking in English on Monday. I’m trying to make it exclusively in Spanish but it is really hard to do and sometimes completely ineffective.

Eldest has turned into a surprisingly accurate translator for Daughter who’s decided she doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish and believes the best approach to my current language of choice is a completely blank dumbfounded stare more suited to a thirteen year old who’s just heard you admit you have no clue who this Justin Bieber person is they keep going on about.

It seems Baby understands as much Spanish as English so that’s working ok. I figured I won’t press them to speak back to me in Spanish. What I’m hoping is that I can keep this going and that at the very least they absorb Spanish vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.

The next step would be that they sometimes respond to my Spanish with their own Spanish as an experiment (Do I have this right?) and then after that they respond to my Spanish with Spanish naturally.

Besides, I need to keep practicing my Spanish. My job requires a pretty high level of fluency and I don’t feel as comfortable as I’d like with my conversational Spanish.

Financially, I’m trying something else too. I’m sort of toying with a weekly budget but this is already turning into a challenge and I don’t know that I have the mental energy to stick to it.

I thought I had it pretty figured out this week until my son came home last night and informed me he needs a mouth guard and cup for his Karate tournament Saturday. The same tournament that had a $50 registration fee I just paid because it was budgeted for.

So, I’m not really sure it’s worth it to me to make the switch from what I had going and really the problem with the budget system I have in place isn’t my budget skills it’s the unpredictable income stream.

This month with the tax refund, it should be a bit more stable. Besides, that court-ordered income deduction will go into effect this month. It will, I know it. I believe in the system.

Oh, I had my annual check-up with my doctor yesterday. She’s changed my birth control to a more inexpensive option. I’m happy to be paying $45 less a month but not thrilled I’ll be back on daily pills. She’s urging me to explore the possibility of an IUD. She thinks I’m an excellent candidate for it if the insurance covers it at a reasonable rate.

Other than that, the doctor thinks everything’s good. She says, even though I disagree, my weight is perfectly fine where it is. She does want me to drink more water and milk. She let me know women store calcium until the age of 35 so I’ve got a few years left and she wants me to make the most of them. She’s asked me to aim for about 1500mg of calcium a day.

I took a deep breath with the craft projects I’m working on and decided to stop stressing the stupid deadline and just enjoy working on them. I haven’t picked up the knitting one since I started the crochet one, but I’ll be getting back to it soon enough.

Tomorrow I’ll have to take a break to go and do a merchandising job. I signed up with a company to do merchandising and mystery shops. I like it because the jobs are quick and relatively easy. They get me out of the house and out of my routines. I try and do them when I don’t have the kids but this one was way too good to pass up and gives me the opportunity to earn up to $30 every two weeks to the end of June. They cut my first check for last month for $40 and they’re still pending a couple of assignments.

It might sound really small and meaningless to you but it’s $40 I didn’t have before. The more work I take on for them, the more often they call me for assignments with bonuses on them and such things. If I averaged $40 a month from them, that’s almost $500 at the end of the year which would be a nice thing to throw at debt, don’t you think?

Oh, there’s one more financial change I’m making this month but this one has to wait until the very end to happen. On payday, I’m going to open one more account with ING. This will be my Wants fund and 5% of any money I’ve managed to save up will go into that account. The rest will be used as a debt snowball as I am confident the child support issue will at least stabilize this month, one way or another.

Ideally, the court-ordered income deduction goes into effect but at the very least, he’ll pay what he paid last month. Although it’s not the full amount, it’s more than I’ve gotten for many months now and it helps cover the essentials.

I figure if I reward myself with 5% of my savings, it could motivate me to keep expenses low and put off the little things for something larger. Plus it gives me an outlet to enjoy the money. I can use that Wants fund for anything from haircuts to a family trip to books to new clothes to a really nice birthday dinner. Last month, it would’ve only been $4.55 but I’ve had some months with great success, especially when I was receiving child support and not having the burden of kiddie expenses on me and me alone. It would’ve been nice to have a piece of my hard work for something “indulgent”. And budgeting, saving money, and tracking expenses is hard work.

By the way, here’s some cute Budgeting humor from last Sunday’s paper. I love the comics section and always want to share at least one piece with everyone I know.

One more thing I’m doing this month is taking on household projects in very small bites. I’m telling you, I feel sort of bowled over with a bit of depression and you can tell when you walk into my house. This is always a problem for me because the worse it gets, the less happy I get and the less happy I get, the less I want to do anything which leads to a further decay of things. So last night I told myself I’d clear the dining table and nothing else but the dining table. It took me a while and I had to sit every now and then or take a drink break or something but I did it. And I made sure everything I cleared was put away, not just moved to another place.

This approach works very well for me when I’m in this state. It gives me small rewards and small challenges. It forces my focus on one thing and stops my mind from going everywhere else. Plus the actual task of sorting, trashing, filing, etc keeps my mind preoccupied and that means it doesn’t sit there and talk trash at me.

If you’re having problems like this, I strongly suggest you try this approach. For more benefit, choose a pretty small thing in an area you see a lot through the course of your day. Say, the end table in the living room or a particular chair or one side counter or something like that. I think this is why FlyLady loves the kitchen sink so much.

My problem is the kitchen sink gets disgusting fast and that’s really hard for me to overcome so I have to work my way over to it before I’m ready. Not sure I’m ready but my kitchen is starting to smell yucky and that turns my smile upside down.

When my Mother’s Day presents are all done, do you know what I’m going to do?

This.

And not necessarily in that order.

Monday- Week Begin

I had a lovely and delicious weekend, I really did. On Friday I made some ice cream with Thin Mints (good but too much vanilla) when I got home from work. And then that night, I drank two glasses of wine (which I never do) and fell asleep on the couch with the kids strewn across and next to me in random positions while they watched Castle in the Sky (we are huge Miyazaki fans). I just knew the moment I settled into the couch and they climbed on me I didn’t stand a chance. I leaned over and was asleep before I hit the sofa. I was woken up with the usual “Mom the movie’s over can we watch another one!?” It being almost eleven I shoved all of us into bed instead.

Saturday morning I went to the Farmer’s Market which was celebrating the last day of the 2011 season. I met up with a friend, his girlfriend, her son, and their wee baby. We wandered, shopped fruits and veggies, Eldest bought a cactus (he loves them), and then wandered around the area checking out the restaurants and stores. I took her son home with me as he and Eldest get along fabulously and we played outside the rest of the day. I think their favorite part of the day was when I filled the plastic pool and slipped it under the slide. Oh yeah baby, summer’s here! I finished sewing up my little doll (wait until you see her I’m in love with her) when his mom and my friend came back to pick him up and we chatted while they played some more. It was just idyllic and I have a really pretty (but itchy) tan to show for it.

Yesterday we were slow to wake up and I made a big breakfast featuring chocolate chip pancakes and bacon pancakes (and chocolate chip bacon pancakes for Eldest, weirdo) and scrambled eggs. I made myself start cleaning and picking up and doing laundry but my back got mad at me and started hurting really bad so I had to shift a bit to doing things like folding laundry sitting down. I also made some vanilla blackberry ice cream (again too much vanilla, not enough blackberries). Oh and a friend came by for a quick visit. She was in town for Ultra Music Festival and wanted to see me quickly before she headed off for the last day of shows. I always love out-of-towners enjoying my town. It was such a nice weekend, I really didn’t want it to end and resisted sleep a bit too much so I’m quite sleepy and lethargic today despite one cup of coffee and one chai latte. But I’m overall calm and content today in a very Comme Ci, Comme Ça sort of mood about the house and the finances and all of it.

Of course, financially speaking, this is super dangerous. My restrictions on spending tend to come undone and I’m generally very open to temptation when I’m like this because I feel very generous. Does that make sense to anyone? I don’t really want to spend on myself, just everyone else. Ok fine maybe a little on myself. I blame spring. The change in weather just makes me want to shake out the old stuff and bring in the new stuff. I also feel very confident in the future and am far more susceptible to the thinking that tomorrow will bring enough money and more security so why worry today? It’s hard to shift the mentality (maybe even impossible for some of us). Also hard to do is shake off this weekend sleepiness. Mondays should be half-days.

Like money, like home

climbing
“Climbing” by tcnikki on Flickr

I wish every day was like these days right now. These days when there is nothing but major confidence coursing through my veins and I know, with every fiber in my freaking body, things are going to be ok. I just know that my kids and I—we’re going to get through this not just alright but on top of the world. These are the days when everything just seems to be click, click, clicking as one thing after another falls into place. These are the days where my climb uphill is steady, sure, and brisk. These are the days where progress doesn’t feel like a figment of my imagination, it’s obvious and clear. I’m happy and patient and able to find just a little more energy to get this done, and then that too. The thing is these days are numbered. In my case, these days are lasting about seven to ten days tops and then, it’s like the tide comes in and I’m just overwhelmed with a sea of dark thoughts, doubts, anger, impatience, frustration, ineptitude, betrayal, insecurity, and loneliness. And on those days, well it’s just an entirely different experience.

But right now? I’m making the most of it, trying to build on it in the hopes of pushing it out a bit farther, making it last a bit longer. I keep reading that one of the best things to do when depressed is to accomplish something, no matter how small. These feelings of accomplishment do a lot for us and it’s something I’ve personally felt and have even written about previously. The problem, of course, is finding the motivation to actually do something and then to believe you won’t go screw it up in a massive way. So, they suggest you do something really small. And then build on that and do something just a bit larger. And so on and so forth with the end result hopefully being you’ve dug yourself out of the rut. Sometimes it works, sometimes the dark is too deep.

Of course, just because you’re feeling good doesn’t mean you don’t have to go out of your way to accomplish things because there’s no rut to climb out of. For me, I see this as a major opportunity to really get ahead and put some major distance between me and the things that really tend to pull me down when the positivity starts evaporating from my system—like money, my parenting, and my house. So, while I am quite effective of getting rid of things when the days are dark (“All of this crap is useless. Life is useless. Moan. Whine. Etc.”), I’m more effective at actually putting a nice shine on things when I’m feeling good.

For instance, last night I was up late again clearing some more surfaces and then, why not, filing away some papers, polishing the dining table and chairs (in full view of my Abuela’s lit kitchen window because I want her to see that I actually do clean, dammit), and wiping the glass tables, and doing a quick little vacuuming of the area rug, and so on and so forth. My living room, dining room, home office, and kitchen are as glorious as they can get cleanliness-wise and it feels good. The space actually feels breathable, calm, and open. While I don’t necessarily believe, or disbelieve, in feng shui, I most definitely acknowledge there is a change in energy, feeling, ambiance, whatever you want to call it, in those spaces now. MutantDaughter walked through it this morning and then walked all around it, taking it all in without my having said a word about any of it and finally sort of swooned, “This is all so clean.” It makes my heart pang because, obviously, this is something she appreciates and I can give it to her, and her siblings, with just a little bit of work. Not just that, but there’s encouragement to be found because even though these rooms are absolutely gorgeous right now in their cleanliness, it really didn’t take much work or even time from me to get them that way. I think I probably spent a couple of hours, max, cleaning and picking up last night. And yet while a few months ago I would have told you that I could spend ten hours cleaning in my house and not have anything to show for it, this is the farthest thing from the truth right now. The reasons, I’m guessing, are because I’m eliminating and working at it a little bit every single day.

I know there are lots and lots of money analogies out there, like a healthy wallet and a healthy body, for instance. However, maintaining your house in order is much like, if not exactly like, maintaining your money in order which is probably just like maintaining your body in order because really it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s all the same—maintaining order. And this is why I think everything click, click, clicks when you start working hard at one. This is why there’s domino effect on top of domino effect. Because the habits you learn while working hard at one thing, inevitably have something at the core that transfers to something else.

I have been eliminating things from my house since Ex moved out almost two years ago. Everything unnecessary and not loved has been slowly moving out and the more stuff goes out, the more clearly I evaluate the things that remain behind making it even easier to then go and move them on out too. It works with money too. Debt is, depending on the guru you talk to, either mostly or completely unnecessary. Like clutter, it is just too easy to accumulate and it easily overwhelms you taking its toll on all kinds of unexpected things like your marriage, your career, your education, and your health. The more debt you eliminate, the better you feel, and you are able to look at the debt that remains in a clearer way—and most likely determine you don’t really need that debt either. Like clutter, what takes a long time to build up can easily take just as long, if not longer, to clear out. But if you just keep at it, and get rid of it by the handful or truckload, it’ll be gone one way or another and you’ll be feeling so much lighter, freer, and better.

That’s not all there is in common between my house and my wallet. Every day, I look at my money. Most days, it’s just a couple minutes as I open up my spreadsheet and enter any transactions from the day before and simultaneously check my ING account for any surprises. Some days, it takes a bit more time—especially on the last day of the calendar month/first day of my fiscal month. This is the day I can put in up to an hour, scheduling my bills, double-checking my budget for discretionary expenses vs. “fixed” expenses, etc. There are also the planning days where I spend some time thinking about what is coming the next month, and later this year, that I need to have money ready for and just how much I’ll need to have and all of that. The point is, every day, I dedicate some time to my money matters. Most days, it’s pretty minor and some days, it’s not.

The same approach works in my home. Every day, I do some kind of work in the house. Some days, I do more, some days I do less, and some days I do the housekeeping equivalent of full marathons. But, even those big days in both the financial and housekeeping arenas, get easier and easier as the weeks and months go by. Because every day that I put some work into either thing, I’m reducing the amount of work that needs to go in on the bigger days. And as the days and weeks go by, not only do I make the Big Days a bit smaller, I also get so good at doing the daily tasks that they take less and less time and effort. Sometimes I have found myself almost disappointed at how easy it was to schedule bills or loosely plan my budget and go back and triple-check I really, truly, definitely didn’t miss anything. It even becomes easier to delay spending and one by one, “things” start to lose their magic hold.

Last night, I had finished scrubbing up two pots from dinner that night and was halfway working through the pan when I realized I was almost done scrubbing the pots and pans from dinner that night and it hadn’t even occurred to me how unpleasant this task was. I’m not saying I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t mentally whining about it. Why? Because I’m getting used to it. And that magical scary ick factor it had on me is slowly starting to slip away because every day I do it, and they’re sitting there shiny and dry it’s like they’re softly telling me, “See? It wasn’t so bad.”

My most unusual weekend

لاتتوقع ان تعيش كما حكت لك امك صغيرا حكاوي ماقبل النوم  فالاجدر ان ترى مسلسل الحكايات فقط باحلام النوم لتصحى كبيرا بواقع اكبر ..
Photo by Reham on Flickr

Here’s Monday, again! I have to say, this was a very odd weekend for me, full of things out of the usual for me. Like what?

  • I went to a (night)club (disco for the much older folks) for a friend’s birthday. I lasted an hour. Mostly, I sat at the VIP table and watched the music videos. The one time I got up and danced with my friend some very large, drunk man put his arm around my waist. I said, “Hi. No.” I didn’t dance again after that.
  • I sat on a sofa and watched TV for hours and hours on end, and I wasn’t even hung over (because I didn’t have even one single drink the night before). Specifically, I watched hours and hours of a show on TLC (there we go with my favorite channel again) called 48 Hours Hard Evidence. I couldn’t stop watching except for the time when…
  • I made brownies and icing from scratch. I know Maytina (where are you, woman?)would be so proud, but I was so into the show I didn’t take photos—not one. I kept running from the kitchen to the living room and asking my friend important questions like “What’d he say?” “What happened?” “Who did that?” “Why’s he in jail? He totally did it. Look how they’re trying to hide that he’s in jail! Isn’t that a jail?” After my question(s) were more or less answered, I’d dash back to the kitchen. Surprisingly then, the brownies were very yummy and used up most of the few baking ingredients I had on hand. The icing was fun to make too and so super sweet even though it was made with dark chocolate cocoa powder. I don’t know what got into me to do this crazy thing except that I really wanted brownies and didn’t have even one box of brownie mix left.
  • Later that night, I played Rock Band 3 with friends until a ridiculous hour (not ridiculous for a single mom of three like Friday night, but a truly ridiculous hour like 5 in the morning ridiculous). I was so proud of myself. I think it’s because I slept so much that day and then didn’t expend any energy except for the brownie-making thing.
  • Sunday, I stayed in bed until almost two in the afternoon. Oh my God yes, this was the most amazing thing ever. Bliss. I read some of Outlander, dozed off, read some more, dozed off, etc. And get this, later that day, do you know what I did?
  • I watched hours of more TLC! This time, I sat on the sofa and experimented with an idea of a crocheted bracelet I have while watching a Cake Boss marathon. After the Cake Boss marathon ended at 11 at night, and only then, I finally decided it would be ok to go and clean my house. So I did. I went to bed after two in the morning and slept horribly and I don’t even care one tiny little bit. My kitchen is clean, my desk area is gorgeous, my floors are mopped, the kids’ bathroom is glistening, sheets are changed on one bed, and I had three bags for the VVA to pick up this morning.

So, that was the weekend and now it’s back to business I suppose. Oh I wish I could stay in bed until two every day. I just find I am infinitely more productive as the ends than when it’s just getting started. But, I have kids so that’s impossible. Maybe when they’re teenagers, we’ll all sleep in until two together. Oh, divine. And don’t you dare and try to ruin my fantasy by telling me I’ll have long outgrown this silly stay-in-bed-until-two-in-the-afternoon thing by then. There are many things I refuse to outgrow and staying in bed until two in the afternoon is very high up on that list. The only acceptable alternative would be a return to my high school ways of going to bed at one or two in the morning, waking up at six, going to school, coming home, napping until about 7 at night, and then get in a few hours of high-octane productivity before resigning to bed again.

By the way, I’ve decided to go ahead and join in on the wonderful habit of collecting links to one’s favorite posts from any given week and then releasing them onto the blogosphere in one fantastic explosion of amazing links. But, I haven’t made the habit of remembering these things so your first experience of this, and therefore the inner workings of my mutated mind, will have to be this weekend. Don’t be sad! Instead, sharpen your blogging fingertips and put some good stuff out there because I’ll be judging.

Lessons from the kitchen that have zero to do with cooking

104/365 : What? You don't clean like this? *psssht*

“What? You don’t clean like this?” by TurboSpaz

It’s often strange where one’s best ideas come from or where one truly understands life’s important lessons. The concept of hatching your best ideas on the toilet, for instance, is seemingly oxymoronic. But, it happens universally. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve learned a lot the past several weeks while purging my house. Or maybe, on the surface it should be, but everyone can relate so, not really.

This week, I’ve really been putting my kitchen to the test dirtying it up quite reasonably, bringing things into it, etc. And, I’ve enjoyed the experience of watching it recover every single time. I have never been a neat person. My middle school math grades were deplorable more because of the condition I kept my binder in than my actual grades (my teacher was insane, but that’s another post for another day). My mother constantly lamented the condition of my room. I have always been messy. It’s the truth. I used to be a major packrat too, developing major connections to absolutely everything that came into my possession. I hated parting with things.

In the past, I’ve decided enough is enough and have gotten down and dirty and thrown some stuff away, donated some more stuff, cleaned everything up so it looked very nice… and watched it all fall back into disarray in a matter of days. This isn’t happening in the kitchen and I’m trying to understand why as I continue with this month’s de-cluttering project in the hall closet and home office.

What I’ve come up with is mostly lessons I’ve heard about a billion times but have never really experienced, grasped, or understood. We all know this experience as well—that moment when this one thing you’ve struggled to accept finally clicks for you. For me personally, when something isn’t working for me personally even though it’s generally a universally accepted truth, I sort of disregard it as not for me, imperfect, and vastly exaggerated on its merits. Oh, to be proven wrong can be so liberating!

I think the main point I’ve really come to witness and experience the past few weeks is this:

“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” –Ben Franklin

So simple, on the surface. The trick, though, is making sure everything has its place and that’s the difference between a cluttered place and the opposite. I think this is where so many of us messy people trip up and why this is probably the most important de-cluttering mantra to have. How does it go wrong? In so many ways!

Let’s start with the moment the Item enters your front door- and lands on your dining room table. You have a nicely sized dining table to accommodate for the frequent-enough family gatherings but is double the size you use on a daily basis. So, you’ve crafted this ingenious habit of saving half for dining and the other half for holding things. Here, your Item sits while you set your other things down, take off your shoes, and go about your day. Now, let’s say a few days later the holding half of the dining table has taken over too much of the dining half and you must do something about the things on the table. You go through it and pick out the easy stuff—trash, things that clearly belong in some other rooms, etc. But this Item, well it doesn’t really belong anywhere specifically. Or, more likely, it does belong somewhere specific and that somewhere is so packed already, you can’t fit your new Item there. Now, let’s say a few weeks later you’ve come up with a great place for your Item and you place it there. A couple of days later, you use your Item and get interrupted by something, let’s say Life, and you are so tired by the time you’re done, you say you’ll take care of the item tomorrow. And tomorrow, you come home with a New Item with no home. See how it goes?

In the case of my kitchen, I cleared out enough stuff so I actually had space in my kitchen—practical, functional, easy to access space. I even did one better and changed what I viewed as “easy to access” by dragging out a step-ladder from the overwhelmed hall closet and put it in a now bare corner of my kitchen. This opened up a bunch more of shelves for me to use to store things I actually use instead of things that collect dust. Yes, I’m short. I know exactly where everything in my kitchen is. Nothing gets too full to make me have to re-think where a New Item should go. And the only New Items I’m adding are replacements to depleted stock (easy to do in a kitchen, right?). And because after use, everything is returned to its place (cleaned, of course) there is never an overwhelming and smelly backlog of things needing my attention. My kitchen is my calm space because of this. I don’t walk into my kitchen and think “Shoot, I still haven’t taken care of that!” It is instantly obvious if something is out of the ordinary in my kitchen making it insanely simple to keep it clean and clutter-free. It’s a lot easier for clutter to hide when there’s other camo clutter around it.

Obviously, this takes work and because this is relatively new to me, it takes conscious work. I was exhausted last night but I forced myself to clean the slow cooker pot and make the kids’ lunches (something I too easily ditch for some ridiculous reason or another). This, of course, leads to the other de-cluttering mantra:

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” –Thomas Jefferson (these founding fathers were totally smart)

This is one of those stark realities. More often than not, tomorrow does come, and usually with its own set of craptastic dealings. Why the heck add to it? For me, this is a tough lesson learned and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s the murdering of our optimist selves thinking tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe, but most likely it’s going to be a lot like today in all of its mundaneness. Yes, there are most definitely life-changing moments (good and bad) but those are pretty rare in the 365 days of a year. Let’s say you have five major days in a year, you still have 360 mundane ones to deal with. So why make tomorrow harder on yourself than it’s most likely going to be? This is my hardest one to deal with but I know it’s true. And so I sit and argue with myself and whine to myself and eventually I just grumble another popular saying, “Just do it.” And usually, I do, but not always. It’s also not lost on me how this applies to finances and spending habits, by the way, but you all know that so let’s not go into that.

So, what my rational brain has suggested to me is the secret to having a neat house is not being anal retentive (I could’ve sworn this was the secret), it’s about not having a bunch more stuff than you’re willing to deal with. I hate picking up, cleaning, etc. It’s not something I get a lot of fulfillment from but because there’s so much stuff in my house, I have to do a lot of it. For now.

I’ve been playing with a sort of de-cluttering schedule where instead of just steamrolling through my house to burnout, I tackle one area a month. If I get done faster than a month, awesome. I cannot, however, take over a month because that’s just plain procrastinating. My house might be cluttered and messy but I’m definitely not a hoarder and am not dealing with mountains of things to go through neither do I have the emotional strings to things I once used to. Deciding to get rid of things is, for me, quite easy especially when I think of all the free time I’ll have since I won’t be picking up and putting away all this crap anymore. The only real emotional moments I get are the feelings of pure bliss when I dump something tied to Ex. The most time-consuming step is simply sitting there and actually sorting. There is no part in my house that should require more than 30 days to do. For right now, I’m focused on the Hall Closet and Home Office. Upcoming projects include:

March: Playroom

April: Front Porch/Garden

May: Boys’ Room

June: Daughter’s Room

July: My Room

This is a tentative schedule and I’m not sure if I’ll have to add the Living Room or Dining Room because, if everything has its place, and is in its place, there should be nothing in the living or dining rooms that doesn’t belong there and these rooms have been pretty much reduced to things that belong there until Foreigners invade.

I’m curious if I’ll make it through all of these rooms. I wonder if Life will swing at me and bring a few things to derail me or if it’ll bring me a wave of support and motivation to push through faster. I wonder if these musings I have will show themselves to be true, really, or if these so-called truisms are just plain false for me after all.