Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Exercise I : Multiple sets

This is an exercise.  You do not have to take action yet. If you want to take action, I certainly won't stop you!  But I want you to basically tour your own kitchen. Open drawers, explore cabinets, make notes, either mentally or on paper.  Don't worry if you don't want to write it down.  What is more important is that you start your brain working on this, that you begin to get a little excited about this.

Copies.  Look for example in your drawer that houses can openers.  How many can openers do you have?  What do you use them for?  

Look at stemware, glassware, cups, china.  How many sets do you have?  Which are gathering dust?  Do any have chips?  Are there some sitting in there that you have not used at all?  Are some of them easy to access but you don't use them, whereas that cleaver you need daily is sitting behind them? 

Review all items in your kitchen. What performs the same function?  What are you consistently using and consistently not using.  What can you move back on the shelf for occasional use and what should you bring forward (once you have created space) so that you can access it daily.

Maybe your kitchen has very little room like mine.  It is important that it is functional. Once you kitchen is functional, you can enjoy it. Once you enjoy it, you will be more inventive there, and create healthier foods. 

If you do not want to part with something because your other set could wear out or break, could you put the lesser used set away in the attic or loftspace in a labeled bin?  That way it does not take up daily living space, but is accessible should you need it and you do not have to worry about spending the money again for something you've already purchased.

Ok, have you looked in every cabinet, every drawer?  I want you to familiarize yourself with what you have. Let your brain mull that over a bit then come back to it another day.  When you do you will be prepared.  Samuel T. Coleridge referred to his night-self as writing some of his poetry. Perhaps you will write poetry as you sleep, or, for the sake of our project, let your mind do some of the work for you before tackling any of the work you have ahead.   Did you ever come up with an answer seemingly instantaneously for a problem that vexed you for hours just the day before?  Perhaps your sleeping self did some of the work.   Basically what I am looking for in our kitchen tour is for you to gather a level of awareness, so that is why we will call this an exercise.  Once you begin to work on an area, we will label that an action plan.

As we age our tastes change.  For me, I've become more practical.  I want light weight plates that are small and fit in my sink and do not hurt my wrist when I pick up several at once. I want them to take up minimal space in my dishwasher, my closet and my sink, so they should not be too thick. I do not want my young child to easily break them, so they should be durable. When I first married I admired a thick plate.  I had them on my wedding registry and received them, and soon realized they were not practical for every day use.  I quickly purchased Corelle plates and bowls. Their cups were not made in the USA, the pattern was not attractive to me, and I worried about the paint on them, so I gave those to Goodwill rather than keep something I did not want just because it came in the set.  I instead bought some cups at a craft show and enjoyed the beautiful pottery of deep blues and greens and the textured surfaces. Others my parents did not want and let me choose some.  We soon had plenty of cups that I liked.  I've never needed everything to be new.    One thing I noticed if I find I consistently avoid using a cup or a glass for any reason, I try to let go of it after checking with my partner to make sure he does not want it. If I am not comfortable using something on a daily basis why keep it? 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Field Trip I

When you have time take a trip to your local Goodwill, or large thrift store. I don't want you to bring anything just yet.  I just want you to set aside some time and walk around the thrift store. I certainly don't want you to buy anything. Relax, walk through the aisles. I just want you to note all the things that people have let go, that sit on shelves, sometimes for a very long time.  I want you to look at these objects and think about how they belonged to someone, and how that person let the object go. I want you to look through the objects thoroughly with your eyes.  Listen to the people around you. Listen to what they are saying.  Just listen, observe the objects, move through the aisles. That's it. You're done.

Visualization I

VISUALIZE:  I just want you to imagine a simple home where functionality and art meet. Where light fills the room, and you can sit comfortably, perhaps look out a window, and read a favorite book. Maybe you play some music too. Maybe you have a cat on your lap. I just want you to imagine a room that makes you feel good. Does it have a few plants?  Is the light falling through the room gently filtered?  What is in that room? What isn't in that room.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

9-27-2012 Mail and Paper

“energy and persistence conquers all things”    --Benjamin Franklin

Paper as most would attest, seems like an itty bitty item, but it is not. It has a way of sneaking up on you, of turning into immense piles of unsifted terrain, mountainous and rugged, only for the sure-footed.

Let's start with mail.  First of all, if you have not done this already, scoot over to these websites and opt out of credit card offers and solicitations:
DMAchoice (Direct Marketing Association)

Ok now contact any catalogs you are getting and get them to stop sending junk to you as well. Change any bills you can to online only/email secure link while you are at it.  Once you have done all this, consider where your recycling bin is in your house. Is it near the door?  Easy to access?  Make sure that it is.    When you enter your front door put down whatever you are carrying, other than the mail, and immediately sort through your mail. Discard carefully any junk mail (be sure to tear up an offers with identifying information).  Discard any extra envelopes you don't need or repetitive inserts from mail you need to keep.  Only the bare essentials of the mail should make it past this point. And then for the mail survivors, make sure they are dealt with swiftly. Do not let your partner ignore the mail. It must be their first priority as well. If it is something to be filed after it is dealt with,  immediately move it to the filing bin or file it directly at that point.  There should NEVER EVER be a pile of mail that has been unsorted brought to and left on any surface of the house.  Please don't make me say it again. It makes me sad when I go into someone's house and I see piles of mail on the table, on the floor, on the kitchen counter.  Certainly it is worthy of some work to rid yourself of this burden. Certainly it is worthy of a small unintrusive system to keep it from happening again. Your happiness is surely worth taking the time to deal with this.

 If you are a coupon clipper, organize those coupons in one place and keep your file up to date. Immediately discard any outdated coupons or circulars.  Keep it to one corner please, and make it work. If you find you are not actively clipping, don't keep the paper garbage there as a guilty reminder.

Are you sentimental?  Do you keep every card, everything your child brings home from school?  It is impossible to appreciate cards and children's art work if it is crammed tightly into overstuffed boxes. It is time to sort through. Keep what moves you, what represents a person, what brings back a flood of memories. Recycle all the other cards. Quantity / possessions is not a life. It is your memories. And you cannot enjoy those memories stuffed in boxes. Whittle it down until you can put it into a scrap album,or several if you care to. If you cannot do that, you probably have too too much.   Reclaim your space from long abandoned boxes. There's no use keeping a bunch of paper you will never look at again. Letters are different. Think carefully of letters, and perhaps choose what you might like to have down the road.  This is after all, for your benefit.

Now for your other project. Many of you have a file drawer. Oh yes, the dreaded file drawer. Well before we get to that, do you have a pile of papers that are either not filed or not sorted? Please sit down, take an hour, a day, maybe two, even a week, watch your favorite tv shows etc, and split your pile into 3 categories.  1) Recycle  2) Shred (identifying info) 3)keep & file  Remember to remove the staples from anything you are planning to shred or recycle.  Make new file folders if necessary.

We'll look at your file drawer another day. You have enough to keep you busy for awhile.  Deal with the paper. You will feel so much better once you have.  You know, many of you will consider this process quite laborious, but if you can turn it around, and think of it as much easier than regular cleaning. Regular cleaning requires scrubbing, water, dusting, moving things etc. Paper is actually quite easy. It requires a fun movie on the tele, 3-4 bins in front of you for sorting, a staple remover, and results in much satisfaction in not only reclaimed space, but in knowing for sure where to find your important papers.  If you are using a surface of your house that is definitively meant for something else, but cannot be used for that something else because of mail squatting, you must take the time to do this step, and then put in place the stop-gaps so that the pile up does not happen again in the future. Please, do this for yourself.  You deserve it.

I recommend finding this book at your local library: Shed your Stuff, Change your Life  The author's style is very approachable, and helps one to gently develop some insight into the clutter.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

9-23-12: Shades

Remember all those layers. They are layers you are hiding under. They are physical layers. They might be layers of fat, layers of grime, layers of dust, layers of possessions.  Lets start simple. Lets unclutter your home. Let the light in. Stop worshipping objects. Let nature in, breathe fresh air. Open a window.  Did you ever watch HGTV?  I like watching those shows sometimes, but the real estate shopping bores me mostly. I do sometimes enjoy the home makeovers though. One thing I tend not to like are the heavy drapery treatments. I think dust. I think dirt. I think of all the dust those hanging drapes collect and all the light they block out. I look at the layers and layers of fabric people put on their windows and think how much nicer it would be to simply look outside. Well, depending on whether the window is street level, or whether or not you are in the country or in the city, and your budget, there are any number of simpler options than the layers and layers of dirty fabric in your window. And even if you do not like looking out a particular window, you certainly can simplify the window.  Peel back the layers.  A home made shade is a nice touch and you can use any fabric you like.  It is one simple flat layer and because you can use any fabric you like, it does not need a curtain it is a statement in itself.  Directions for this project can be found on any number of websites just type in DIY roller shade. You can use stiffening starch spray or an adhesive iron on stiffening fabric.  If you have a larger budget, buy solar shades. They really let the outdoors in.  That's the idea, let nature inform your surrounds. Let the light in. Remove the layers. That's it, your feeling lighter already.

Hey wait a second you're not done.  Go back to all the windows. Any of them grimy?  Fingerprints?  Take an empty spray bottle. Combine approximately 1 part white vinegar to 8 parts water.  Make it a touch stronger if you like. A drop or two of dishwash soap in there too if you need it.  Spray clean all your dirty windows. Clean with soft rags or paper towels.  Clean it until you can enjoy the view without thinking about the window (how dirty it is). That means you're done. Do it, especially if you tend to sit somewhere and look out at a view. Well worth it. There now we're done.

9-23-2012 Simple Repairs

Today's Job: Repairs.  Have a sweater that needs a button sewn on, a comforter that has the insides falling out. Pick them up, find your sewing kit, make the repair. Launder the item if you have not done so in a long time. In order to clear out, you need to determine if you still want things. It's easier to do that if they are in presentable condition. It also saves money. Repair a few things/don't buy a few things. Oh I can go on and on. This is the same with losing weight. It needn't cost money to lose weight, but that's another post.  Frugality and finding your lost self go hand in hand, but we will peel the layers back slowly. Don't go ANYWHERE.  WE'RE NOT DONE BY A LONG SHOT.

Introduction to the Clearing Home

I want this blog to be about my space. By my space, I mean my home and garden, but also my interior space as reflected in my home and garden. 

Have you ever read a story about someone who is dying and decides to give away everything before they die?  Well at the risk of sounding cliched we are all dying (we're all living too, so "imagine me sticking my tongue out here). By giving things away, unfortunately, I am not necessarily saying be charitable to anyone. I am saying be charitable to yourself. Clear space in your home to supply yourself with room to breathe. This, although meant figuratively, is literal as well for those of us suffering from asthma or other environmental allergies. For instance, tearing up the rug in your home and replacing it with reclaimed lumber (our current project) completely got rid of my asthma. I still have an inhaler, but I only have used it in the past year if I visited someone with pets, dust, mold etc.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a cat, just can't right now. I'm thinking of getting allergy tested for a dog, but I'm getting off subject. 

Ok this blog is going to be full of short little posts about cleaning up and clearing out things you don't need, setting aside little blocks of time to organize something you've forgotten about, finding space where you thought you had none, doing little things for yourself to make your life easier.  You'll get the hang of it. It's mostly a little system, selfish probably, to help motivate me to implement all these things by writing about them during or afterwards. Not sure why that is motivating to me, but it is. Appeals to my organizational sense perhaps?  I think I'm just really curious where this is going.

I've literally spent the last year hauling stuff to our local Goodwill store. If you do this, I recommend getting receipts from them to deduct donations from your taxes. Remember, do little good things for yourself, this will enable you to help others too down the road.  I sell stuff too on ebay, on amazon, etc, but we'll get to that later. Right now, it's all about clearing space, making room in that overstuffed head of yours, please, let me help you help yourself, help me.