The Bad with the Good

My resolve to look on the bright side and to remember that there is always something to be thankful for is being put to the test this weekend leading into the Thanksgiving festivities.

I finished the Thanksgiving shopping with the exception of some some perishables that I’ll need to buy early in the week.  Almost everything was purchased on sale and safely tucked into the pantry, fridge and freezer.

And…the freezer goes out.  Yesterday I opened it up and discovered the stuff on the top was thawing out.  I shut it quickly hoping it would hold the cold until I could deal with it today.  I’ve managed to get almost everything situated someplace where it will stay frozen or cold until it’s needed.  Didn’t actually lose too much.  Some of it probably needed to go anyway.  You know, that stuff in the bottom that you neither remember buying or even what it was in the first place.  Label, label, label.  New resolve.  No more mystery leftovers!

Hubby and son cleared off the deck and took a load of metal to the recycling place yesterday.  Those items will be in the count later.  It was a full pick-up load.  We figured the extra cash would come in handy.  Nope.  Metal prices are at an all-time low.  Eighteen cents a pound.  That’s six dollars for a load.

That’s okay.  The stuff is gone.  Except for the screw that the tire picked up on the way out of the salvage yard.  The scrap metal cash didn’t even cover the cost of fixing the flat.

Still, the deck is clear.  The food is stored.  Menus are finalized and all is ready for the fun.

Except for the house.  Can’t really say that’s its clean.  But, you know what?  I’m not going to stress about it.  I’ll get the big stuff done.  The trash will go out.  The laundry will get put up.  The dishes will be done.  The dusting and sweeping and pretty touches – probably not.

I’m not going to push myself and get sick.  I’m not going to get stressed and yell at everybody (including myself).  I’m just going to do the best I can and get done what I can.

The holiday, my family, my guests and I  are of more importance than the condition of the house.

If I can pull it off, this will be a first for me.  I’ve pulled all-nighters getting everyone just right.  I’ve thrown tantrums about not having enough help.  I’ve totally “lost it” in an effort to have the perfect holiday.  I make these lists in my head about what needs to be done for everything to be ready.  I place expectations on myself and then feel like a failure when it all doesn’t work out.  Not this time.  This time I’m going to stop the madness.  That’s not what the holiday is about.  I’m going to intentionally practice Thanksgiving and gratitude.

Decluttered Friday:

  1. a Halloween decoration – that was still hanging up
  2. 3 books from the school shelf
  3. binder clips and paper clips leftover from the big file declutter
  4. a lampshade
  5. a storage box (empty)


  1. a dead dryer
  2. a dead stove
  3. a broken baker’s rack
  4. a headboard
  5.  misc. metal scraps


  1. a small trash bag of thawed mystery food from the freezer
  2. small bag of misc. craft supplies to be shared with my students
  3. a broom that continually sheds pieces as you are sweeping – sort of counterproductive
  4. a birdcage
  5. plastic storage containers and lids that have no matches

Now, I’m going to go sit and rest – watching an episode of Midsomer Murders.  There is work to be done and I’ll get to it (or at least some it it) tomorrow.




The Ready Guest Room

I have to leave in just a few minutes to go clean an office.  It’s more that a bit ironic that someone pays me to clean someplace especially when that someone knows me all too well and has seen my house at its worst.  Life is funny sometimes.

Anyway…today’s accomplishment – the guest room is no longer a storage room.  The boxes of business documents are stored away.  The room has been dusted and the floor vacuumed.  Fresh sheets are on the bed and extra blankets and pillows are freshly washed and ready for company next week.

There is still some stuff “stored” in there but it is tidy and presentable and welcoming.  Many in our family are in a transitional stage of life.  Preparing to graduate college.  Making decisions about the next step.  Making plans to move out late next summer.  Living here off and on between jobs that take her on the road.  Their stuff is living here while they move about and get ready for the next stage in their lives.  Stuff is being saved until we know if it will be needed.  Stuff is waiting here for a more permanent home.  Stuff is here for their next stop in.

And that’s how it should be, I think.  Home is more than the place that you grow up in.  It’s also the nest that you can return to when its needed.  That safe place that is waiting for you when and if…

At least that’s what I want this home to be.  I left home right after high school graduation.  I never really went back.There is some regret in that for me, but in reality it was the best choice.  I can pretend that it could have been different and that I should have acted otherwise, but I did what seemed right at the time.  Even though distance can change our perceptions of what was – can soften painful realities and make us believe that things were better than they were – we need to be careful about rewriting our history.  My parents were good people in many ways.  Their marriage was challenging and we were never a strong family.  They had their own problems and times were different.  I think that they did the best they could, but it was never good.  At times it was downright horrible.

I always wanted to have a family.  A good family that loved each other and cared about each other.  I was pretty much an only child as my two sisters were much older than I.  Having four children – siblings – was an awakening for me.  The love that siblings have for each other when they are growing up looks different that I expected.  It’s often yelling, screaming, ignoring each other and beating the crap out of each other.  Who knew?  Certainly not I.

But of all the things that I’ve done wrong, I think that creating a family was something that I did an okay job of.  It certainly wasn’t just me.  I married a good man who is patient, loving, strong, and did I mention patient.  He is also one of four children.  That helped.  I wasn’t and am not a perfect mom, but I love my kids and somehow we have stuck together through good times and bad.

So, the guest room is ready for guests of the family, friend and stranger variety.  A lot of decluttering went on in there this last couple of days.   All the hard work and the stress of decision making was worth it.

As I head out the door here is today’s declutter list:

  1. some votive candles that have been hanging around so long that they no longer have their scent.  I have saved back just enough for a short power outage which happens fairly frequently around here.
  2. three books that tell you how to organize belongings.  You can’t organize clutter – you can only get rid of it.  Why are they still here?
  3. a gift bag that we might be able to reuse if we could find it when it was time to put a gift in it.
  4. another batch of socks without mates.
  5. a plastic “organizing” bucket from my daughter’s room

And I’m outta here!


Lightening the Load

Donated today:

  1. a shoe.  just one.  It was under the desk in the guest room.  My daughter says it’s mine.  I say I gave it to her.  The other shoe is missing.  I’m going to claim it so I can take credit for decluttering it today.  One shoe gone.  (If I find the other one I won’t count it).
  2. a beautiful white duvet cover with blue flowers.  It’s white.  That about says it all.  It looks beautiful on the bed.  For ten minutes.  Until a dog jumps on it. Then it needs to go back in the wash.
  3. six more bags of shredded paper.  It is done.  All of the outdated business papers are shredded and at the recycling center.  The remaining boxes that need to be kept are neatly stored in the back of the guest room closet.
  4.  almost two full file boxes of youngest daughter’s art work and school projects from years past.  She has always been such of “keeper” of things, but lately she’s changing. She went through the two boxes of art and only kept enough to fit in an accordion file folder. It was much easier for her than for me.  So many memories.  I even heard myself ask her if she was sure about getting rid of it all.  I went through her discards and kept a couple of pieces that triggered good memories for me.  The rest I pitched and I’ll admit I shed a few tears.
  5. two of hubby’s shirts that don’t fit well enough to take up space in his closet.

I’m feeling a bit of excitement this round of decluttering.  A little anxiety, but not in a necessarily negative way.  It sort of feels like we a preparing for a trip of some kind.  Getting ready. Making plans.

It is, I suppose a journey.  I am on a journey to a more intentional life.  I’ve been decluttering for a long time.  Fumbling around with periodic fits of frantic decluttering followed by rounds of shopping to fill things back up.  This time seems different.  I’ve been to the store many times in the past few weeks – even the thrift store.  The shopping is more intentional.  There is less feeling of doing without when I can’t afford something.  The purchases are planned and practical – not spontaneous.  There has been no guilt afterwards.

I wrote about my frustration as the holidays approached last year.  The desperate effort to get things cleared and cleaned up, and my determination to change for this holiday season.  And I have been working on the house since, but it’s only in the last month or two that I’ve felt a change – a real change.  It’s as if something inside my head clicked.  I can’t get rid of things and bring more things in.  The things aren’t the problem.  I’ve been trying to self-medicate (for lack of a better phrase) and fill the emptiness inside me and soothe the insecurities that I feel with possessions.

No more.  I need to work on the problems and find real solutions.  I know that I will tend to “back-slide”.  Old habits die hard.  The decluttering will never be completely done.   There will always be things that can go as interests change and my journey continues.

I’m just excited to have arrived at the spot I’m at now.  To be here with my declutter done for the day and with 4 empty cabinets in my house.  There is a clear floor in my guest room.  And I have days left until Thanksgiving and the end of my declutter challenge.

What next?  Where I am I heading?  Time will tell.  All I know is that my baggage is lighter – my load is lessened.

Real Life Home

Leaving this very real home today:

  1. a glasses case that came with my new glasses.  If I’m awake my glasses are on my face – sometimes even in the shower.  I’m just that blind.  The only time I take them off is to sleep.  Then they sit on my bedside tabletop.  I don’t need a case.
  2. 3 bags of shredded paper – old, out-of-date business papers.  There’s more to shred.  The guest room is no longer looking as much like a storage room!
  3. a book already read and unlikely to be read again.  It wasn’t that great.
  4. another throw pillow that was on the floor for the second time today
  5. the dust ruffle that I took off of my bed to wash two months ago and have never put back on.

I should get credit for a lot more today.  I’ve been helping my oldest daughter clean up, sort and declutter the guest room (which is her room when she’s not working.)  She keeps trying to give me things and I keep saying “no”.  That should count, right?  She says no.  I’m proud of her.  She’s gotten rid of 3 bags of stuff and one of trash.  That’s what growing as a person looks like. Letting go of the old to make space for the new!

One category of “declutter” that I’ve identified is what I’m going to call the magazine syndrome.  It’s born out of my desire to live in a beautiful home that looks like all the ones in the decorating magazines.  I saw a room that I loved once – it had a birdcage in it.  I’ve ended up with five birdcages!  Two have left so far.  I’m a work in progress.

About those magazines – they aren’t real rooms.  They’ve been staged and accessorized and professionally cleaned.  Those photos are a moment in time – literally a snapshot of someone’s life.  The photo doesn’t catch the shedding dog or the spilled juice, the remnants of a game night or the aftermath of an illness running through a family.

I live a real life – in a real home. I’ve been looking at that dust ruffle for several days trying to decide whether to give it away or not.  It looks nice on the bed.  It isn’t on the bed.  I’ve never once walked into that room and thought, “Gosh, I wish I had a dust ruffle on that bed.”  What I’ve wished, when I walked into that room, was that there wasn’t a pile of laundry on the chest at the end of the bed spilling out onto the floor.  That dust ruffle has been crumpled in that pile.  Now it’s in a bag.  Going to the thrift store.

I’m not willing to spend my time taking a dust ruffle off of the bed to wash it and pulling the mattress off to put it back on.  I don’t want to move a million things in order to dust.  I don’t want a closet full of clothes that I might wear someday.  I don’t want a bunch of books on the shelve that make me look smart and interesting.

I don’t want appearances.  I want real.  I want stuff that I need.  Put away.  Tidy. Relatively clean.  I want to quit sorting out stuff.  I want to quit rearranging things in an effort to make it all look better.

I don’t live in a magazine.  I live in a very real home with very real people that I love all the time – and like a lot of the time.

I’m off to shred some more paper!


Double Declutter Day

Today’s Declutter List:

  1. a pair of shoes that aren’t very comfortable
  2. a sugar bowl – as my daughter would say, “Mom, are we really sugar bowl people.”  Since I drink unsweet iced tea and use honey, if anything, in hot tea I would say the answer is no.  If you visit our home and want sweet tea you’ll need to go into the pantry and get it out of the canister (big plastic tub).  Sorry, but that’s as fancy as its going to get around here.  One less thing on the counter.
  3. a green basket that hasn’t settled into a permanent home in the last round of declutter.  I don’t want to just find a use for it.  There are plenty of baskets in the world if I suddenly develop an overwhelming need for one – or I could just get rid of whatever I was going to store in it.
  4. an empty binder and two folders.  The paper they held is gone.  Don’t need to hold onto them.
  5. a stapler.  I staple (maybe) 3 things a year.  We have a small stapler available for school use.  I don’t need the big office-style one also.  I also don’t need three boxes of 5000 count staples.  What was I thinking or where did they come from?
  6. a sweater that I love the look of but never wear because it’s scratchy and not comfortable.  Life is too short to wear clothes that you can’t really live in.
  7. a glass jar that held a lot of matches – the kind that you need the box to light.  The box got wet and was pitched.  I would imagine the matches did too.  In any case, I can’t use them.  Matches are gone too.  I’ll buy one box of matches to replace the damaged ones. A small box.  I don’t need a whole jar of matches.  In case of an end of the world scenario, this will not be the house to come to in order to obtain matches.  Sorry.
  8. matches  (see above)
  9. a skirt that technically “fits” but I’ll probably never wear it because it’s a little shorter than I’d like.
  10. a blanket that smells a bit “doggy”.  We have two for the dog that sleeps on the floor – one for the floor and one for the wash.  Don’t need three – just more laundry.

Why ten items today instead of five you might be asking?  I was really discouraged yesterday and today.  Instead of giving in and feeling like giving up, I decided to tackle the problem head on.  I’ve begun my cleaning up for Thanksgiving company (I’m actually dusting!) and I’m dealing with the piles of clutter that already exist and that seem to pop up as I tidy closets and drawers.

Does emptying the canister on the vacuum count as an item if I had to do it twice in the bedroom?  I swear our dogs should be bald at the rate they shed hair.  If I vacuum again tomorrow it will be almost as bad.

It’s getting harder to find things to pitch or donate.  That’s a good sign, right?



I didn’t quite make it through all the paper yesterday, but at least it’s in two neat stacks instead of haphazard piles.  I did sort out a bag to recycle.  All the bills are in one place along with receipts ready to log into the budget.  There is also a much smaller stack of scrapbook paper to use for art cards.  Most of it went into the give-away box and some to my students.

What left last night:

  1. a bag full of paper recycle
  2. a stack of scrapbook paper for the thrift store
  3. a storage box that was emptied
  4. a stack of magazines
  5. two shirts from my winter box that I sorted out and put up

Today is a new day.  I’m looking around and seeing the big picture or the big mess.  Not in the best of moods.  Its seems like progress is infinitesimal or non-existent.  I think that I’m likely just in a down mood.

I took my husband to work and then stopped in Target to pick up a few things for my cleaning job tonight.  I also wandered a bit looking at the new displays.  I did see some stuff that I wanted (but didn’t need).  The “what-ifs” started up in my head.  You know – “if I had that I could….” – train of thought.  That thing would make everything all better.  I could use that for…

Then I thought of my new friend.  The guy with the Mary Poppins backpack.  The one that seemed to have everything he needed.  And I realized that nothing I could buy in that store would make anything any better.  I am the only one that can fix things.

It’s going to take more hard work and more decisions.  I’m going to need to keep working at it – one pile at a time, one item at a time, one mess at a time.  More things won’t fix anything.  More things are the problem.

So, I’m back home.  And I’ve found five things for today:

  1. a stuffed animal that was given to me out of love and I appreciate it very much.  The love is staying, but the stuffed animal is going.
  2. two T-shirts that aren’t worn
  3. two more magazines that I haven’t had time to read.  They may indeed contain information that might, maybe, change my life, but I know getting them out of here certainly will.
  4. another box of old business documents – the guest room isn’t totally a storage room anymore – there is bare floor in spots!
  5. an incomplete set of alphabet stencils.  I have a new set.  Why was I keeping the old ones?

Infinitesimal steps maybe.  Barely moving forward maybe.  But, at least moving.  And I know that the decisions that I’m making are changing for the better.  I didn’t buy anything today that I didn’t really need.  I didn’t bring anything home that will leave in a future declutter.  Things are getting better…slowly.

Bad moods happen and that’s okay.  It’s not the end of the world and I’m not going to give up.  I am going to give in a bit and rest and make some art cards.

I like life today.  I don’t love it, but there is always tomorrow.

The Importance of Being Intentional

I am weary today.  My head feels full and my heart, not so much.  I have accomplished what needs to be done today and a little bit more.

Youngest and I went to the grocery store and shopped the special deals, sales, and coupons.  We are having a crowd for Thanksgiving and I am trying to spread out the shopping so it comes from multiple paychecks.  Shopping only for our Thanksgiving meal, we spent $70.35 for 46 items.  We saved $45.80.  I’m going to count that as school for the day.  We’ll call it consumer science or home management, or “how to save a crap-ton of money and host an awesome Thanksgiving celebration without breaking the bank”.

I cleaned out the pantry and ditched the expired items and unhealthy food that creeps in somehow despite my best intentions to be careful about what we eat.

I tried on a bunch of clothes this morning in an effort to get dressed to go out in public.  I definitely have public clothes and home clothes – home involves art, painting, cleaning the chicken coop, and various other aspects of real life.  Home clothes don’t last very long.  I felt fat, nothing seemed to fit right, and I was just generally unhappy.  When I got home, I realized that all of those clothes ended up in a pile that the dogs knocked to the floor and made a comfy bed out of.  More laundry and more clutter. I guess it’s time to once again go through the wardrobe and get rid of the “if” clothes…if I were thinner, if I wasn’t walking around in a 50 year old body that birthed 4 kids, if I actually wore something that needed to be dry-cleaned, ironed or hand-washed…

When I lost a lot of weight, clothes shopping was hard.  I had worn “fat” clothes (oversize T-shirts, sweats, baggy jeans or anything else that helped me hide and ignore my weight) for so long that I didn’t know who I was – what I wanted to look like.  I did almost all my shopping at thrift stores so I could accommodate my changing size and try out different styles.  That means there’s stuff in my closet that just isn’t me.  Time for it to go.

But first, I’m going to pay attention to me.  I’m not going to underestimate or under-value the importance of taking care of myself – of noticing the symptoms that mean I’m overdoing it or pushing myself too hard. I’m going to intentionally rest and recharge.  I’m going to sit, make some art,  and watch a cozy British mystery on the telly.  Youngest is going to snuggle with me and read while wrapped up in a blanket.  We may fall asleep.  It’s that type of day.  My thoughts can settle.  My heart can fill with love.  All shall be well.

Declutter for the day:

  1. A small trash bag from the pantry.  Out-of-date food, junk food, empty containers from opened foods that were combined and miscellaneous trash.  Donated, trashed and recycled.
  2. A vintage dish that could be cool to organize and store something in, but it’s empty and I’m not going to refill it.  Donate.
  3. Coat hangers from past declutters.  All the laundry is caught up and they are still empty.  Donate.
  4. A large wire spool that we have used as a table on the deck – falling apart but still hanging around.  On the burn pile.
  5. And to be done:  clothes from my closet.  I promise I’ll do it today so we’ll count it now.

Too Many or Not Enough

I’m coming to realize that owning possessions is a balancing act – having enough of what you need, when you need it and not storing stuff that might be useful someday.

There is a lot of thought involved in what to own when you are in a transitional phase – transitioning from living the way you’ve always lived and making changes that contribute to a more intentional lifestyle.

There are things that can seem important one day and a few days later, not important at all.  You wonder why you still have it or why you acquired it in the first place.

Then there comes the moment when everything falls out of balance and the whole kit and caboodle crashes down around you.  You realize that most of what you own exists in your home to give you a sense of security.  A false sense of security. Right then and right there, the fear that you’ve been dealing with all along rears its ugly head.  The fear that you’ve been ignoring and battling is staring you in the face and can no longer be ignored.

Fear of not having enough, of not being enough, of not being prepared and of being hurt.  Basically just being afraid of what could happen if…

If is a scary word.  What if …?

There is no real security to be found in “things”.  Homes can be lost through foreclosure, fire or natural disasters.  Nobody is immune from homelessness and, in fact, homelessness is a reality for many.

The same can be said for clothing, dishes, decorative items, beds and bedding, etc….   Having something doesn’t mean that you will always have it.  All of it can be lost.

It is a lie that we tell ourselves.  A lie that was told to me.  A lie that I have told myself.  If I have certain things, all will be well.  Owning a house means that I a successful and doing the “right things”.  Multiple sets of sheets for my bed means that there will always be a clean set to put on and that means that I am a good homemaker.  Plenty of matching dishes to set on the table on one of many tablecloths means that I have done a good job.  Lots of clothes and knick-knacks and other stuff are all indicators that everything has been done correctly and that all shall be well.

If I live life “right” then I am prepared for whatever shall come my way.  Let’s store food back for an unnamed disaster.  Let’s have plenty of blankets in case really bad weather comes.  Let’s be prepared and be ready for life.  There is safety in that.

All bullshit.

Crap happens.  Scary stuff happens.  Disasters happen.  Jobs are lost and income is reduced.  I can’t spend my life, my energy and time trying to shield myself from the “bad” stuff.  There aren’t enough belongings or possessions to protect me from circumstances – real and imagined.

My solution?  Well, I really wish that I had all the answers.  Right now, I’m decluttering until I feel a little bit of fear.  I’m taking a tiny step into the fear.  I’m hanging out there for a bit and just feeling it.  Then, I’m taking a step back, reassuring myself that I’m doing a good job and I’m resting.  It’s slow work.  Sometimes getting rid of things is easy.  Most times it is not.

I know just getting rid of stuff isn’t going to solve everything.  I remember that the clutter is a symptom and not exclusively the problem.  But, for right now, it’s enough.

I am enough.  I do enough.  I have enough (more than enough).

Today’s declutter –

  1. Two margarita glasses.  I don’t really drink anymore, but if I should decide to make a big ole’ pitcher of margaritas, I can pretty much guarantee that there will be more than two people ready to share.  In reality, we will probably have a big gang of folks over and will be drinking out of red solo cups.  Two margarita glasses – too many and not enough.
  2. A pair of shoes that I really like.  They are too big since I lost weight.  I’m not going to gain the weight back just so I can wear them.  Why are they still here?  It’s been a year.
  3. More clothes that the kid has outgrown.  At least the laundry is finally caught up.  That should be all of it.
  4. A lightweight jacket that just doesn’t fit right.  I have two others and this one just never gets worn.
  5. Some terra-cotta plant pots that have been sitting on my deck waiting for me to suddenly become an avid gardener who remembers to water plants during months long droughts.  That’s obviously never happening since I had to dump the dead plants out of them to give them away.

Yesterday’s Declutter Today

Stuff I got rid of yesterday –

  1. the stand to a gumball machine that I thought I loved until I knocked it over and broke the glass part and felt relief.  Relief that it was gone and I didn’t have to clean it or find a place for it or make a decision about whether to keep or not.
  2. some computer something that my husband put in the get-rid-of pile
  3. some clothes that I was keeping to look like somebody that I’ve decided I’m not anymore
  4. a pile of wood that’s been sitting in the front yard
  5. a box of papers

And today –

  1. some more clothes
  2. an old journal
  3. a book off of the classroom shelf that has outdated information in it
  4. a throw pillow that mainly gets thrown on the floor
  5. a million (approximate count) plastic grocery bags taken to recycling.  How many do ya’ need to have on hand?