As the Crow Flies

As the Crow Flies is a pretty common saying around here.  We really just live a few miles from a state highway if you look at a map, but it’s about 15 miles driving distance.

A friend once hiked it as the crow flies on the recommendation of my daughter while looking for a lost dog.  This was a bad idea for two reasons.  My daughter is both direction and distance impaired on a major scale and cross-country involves two river crossings, wildlife fences, wildlife including snakes and wild hogs, and ranches with gun-loving owners.  Luckily the friend looking for the dog has advanced military training, enjoyed seeing a zebra in real life and only suffered a spider bite.

Anyway, I’m using this phrase to refer to my decluttering journey.  As the crow flies is a simple enough plan.  Get rid of the stuff you don’t want or need, find a place for the stuff you keep and regularly pick up after yourself and clean afterwards.  Simple, right?

Today, I’m in the master bedroom.  After a fit of sneezing last night, I took a good look around the room.  (No judgement right?)  Piles of stuff, dog hair, dust, spider webs, a few dead June bugs, and more dust.  I had considered this room fairly decluttered.

Found on top of the blanket trunk

  •   three comforters that are used when it’s cold around the house and by spontaneous over-night guests.  It’s summer and we don’t have central air-conditioning right now.  How many blankets do we need?  More importantly, why didn’t whoever used the blankets fold them and put them up?  Two comforters gone to the thrift store. But first, I have to wash and dry them – in the poverty washer.  That’s more than a few miles or a few minutes.  I also found two pillows that look pretty on the bed but we don’t actually sleep with. That’s why they are in the pile.  Gone into the trash.  I’m living in real life, not a magazine!

Found on top of the dresser

  •   a lot of pens which explains why I can never find one at the desk.
  • Various earrings with no matches. Hmmm?  Did I take my earrings off in two different places?  In the jewelry organizer to try to match up.  I need to re-evaluate what’s in there.  I don’t wear a lot of jewelry.
  • A phone charger that I moved to the drawer that holds electronic stuff – most of which I can’t identify.  I need to ask one of the kid’s to figure out what’s good and what’s not.
  • Stuff the kids made me that I don’t know what to do with.  Obviously I’ve just been moving this stuff from one place to another to avoid making a decision.  The easy answer is to keep the kids and get rid of the stuff.  It’s not easy.  I’ve started a plastic storage box labeled “treasures” and placed it in the new storage space.
  • My missing hair brush, two pair of scissors, a Hercules hook, a pile of change and the change bank that I should be collecting it in, batteries, a Band-Aid (new, thank goodness), hair ties, two clean socks with no mates, expired coupons for free salads, and my missing bra

Under the bed

  • a long-sleeved shirt that I bought for the winter never worn with tags (yes, months ago)
  • 6 dirty socks.  3 of them belonging to my children and why are my children’s dirty socks under my bed?  None of them have mates.
  • two more phone chargers which explains why we can never find one.  I guess I need to apologize to my kids for accusing them of stealing mine.
  • coat hangers
  • two food storage containers and a paper plate – all licked clean.  That would be Matilda the Basset Hound and thief extraordinaire.
  • three books that I’ve already read and thought went to the thrift store

Okay, not a lot gone unless you count the dog hair and dust:  a couple of blankets, some jewelry, chewed up storage containers, 3 books and two pillows.

Total time is almost two hours.  The room is clean and tidy. Some more stuff is gone.  I’ll sleep better.  This is not a journey as the crow flies.  I’m definitely taking the long way ’round.

 

Stepping off the Hamster Wheel

So much time has passed.  With every day that goes by it gets harder and harder to write again.  The perfectionist in me knows that I can’t catch up and share everything that I’ve been meaning to write.  The writer in me just wants to put the words down and hit enter.

So, today we will let the writer, the artist, the imperfect work in progress win out and just start again…

What has happened?  A lot and nothing much.  The increased meds for anxiety did nothing to help the problem, but only compounded it.  I was so sleepy that I could barely stay awake.  In fact, while waiting at the outpatient surgery center while my sister had eye surgery, I actually slept curled up in a chair for almost two hours.  I’m really hoping I didn’t snore!  Because I was so tired, I didn’t get much done and that just made me even more stressed.

In trying to cope, I just jumped on the big hamster wheel of life and started running – trying to keep up with life and maybe make a bit of progress.  That never works out well.  All you end up doing is going through the motions without really seeing or living or feeling anything much at all.  Not much joy in that.

Wow, that all seems very depressing and that’s not the case at all.  It hasn’t all been bad, but it also hasn’t been very intentional.

Life has been okay – happy and sad, successful and unsuccessful, done and undone – just normal life.

But, I am searching for more than normal.  Today, I read something that made me stop running on that wheel and refocus:

To Declutter Any Room, Ask These Two Questions

I encourage to read the whole article, but in short, ask yourself, “Why do I have this?”  Such a simple question, but the answers are so important when making decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

Answers like “I use it”, “it makes me smile” or “I am working on an art project that I need it for” tell me that it should stay.

Answers like “I thought it would make the living room look better”, “I’m going to organize stuff in it” or “it was a gift” tell me something else entirely.

I’ve already pitched a big trash bag of stuff today and filled a give-away box.

The studio re-do is still in progress, but wasn’t completed in January like we’d hoped.  All overtime was cut at my husband’s job.  Ouch!  We can make it on his regular income and my part-time jobs, but that’s about it.  No extras.  Still, it’s progress and overall, much roomier and functional.  The dream and the plan are still in the works.  It will get done.

Now, I’m off to declutter, homeschool, and start an art project.  I think it’s time to play with some paper and glue!

I’m definitely going to take a moment to stop running, breathe deeply, take in the view and enjoy life!  I hope that you can do the same.

Less and More

A second post today to list the declutter because it just didn’t seem to fit in my first topic.

Decluttering has been hard lately.

I haven’t been feeling well.

So much has gone already.

The next layer is requiring some thought.

Is it helping?

What next?

A lot of fear is involved.

Has this just become a crazy obsession?

Should I stop?

Is the fear motivated by change and what the next step might be?

Am I the frog staying in the metaphorical pot of boiling water or am I jumping out of the pan and into the fire?

Gone yesterday:

  1. a stoneware crock for holding a 5 gallon water bottle. Been under the house for years
  2. an outgrown jacket
  3. dried up acrylic paint
  4. a book
  5. 2 small plates

Today:

  1. 2 dead plants decorating the front entrance to our home
  2. a small Little Tikes gym “thing” sitting in the back of the yard from when my youngest was a toddler.  She’s 12.
  3. an extra shower curtain rod.  ??????? Don’t think I’m planning on adding another shower anytime soon.
  4. a computer box.  Just the box, no computer.  Left in the living room by my son two days ago when he was working on his computer.  I’m gonna assume he doesn’t need/want it.  It’s in the trash can if he wants it (and reads this post)
  5. 2 flower pots (not the ones the dead plants were in)

Thursday’s “Duh” Moment

We live in a pretty big house.

Sometimes it seems way too big and too much to keep up with, but sometimes…

It seems just right.  Holidays, weekends, all four kids home, guests over for dinner and games…

Sometimes it seems too far away from everything.  A trip to the grocery store, a movie out, going to work, a quick jaunt to the library are all at least 20 minutes away – most trips are more like 45 minutes to an hour.

Most times it seems like the perfect spot to live.  Neighbors that aren’t too close or too numerous and lots of wildlife:  Deer, raccoons, possums, birds galore all wandering or flying about.  Lots of elbow room!

In any case, we are here to stay.  At this point in our lives when we are trying to get out of debt and live a simpler life, we just can’t beat our mortgage payment.  We have four bedrooms, two living areas, and two bathrooms for about what a one or two bedroom apartment would cost closer in.  That’s double the space for less money.

I read articles about families that are downsizing and moving to smaller homes to save money.  That doesn’t work in our area.  There is nothing cheaper than where we are now.  Not with working plumbing and a solid roof anyway.  I’ve done the fixer-upper house.  Even if you do-it-yourself, it’s not a real money saver.

One of the biggest problems with living in a large space is the ability to have more stuff.  We also have a ton of storage space – lots of cabinets and closets.  It tends to fill up fast and because its out of sight, it can be out of mind.

Unless you happen to have compulsive tendencies and obsess over what the inside of your cabinets and closets look like.  I am constantly pulling things out in order to tidy and organize things.

Today’s “duh” moment as I’m attempting to get things “together” for a peaceful holiday season with a lot of guests?

Having more doesn’t equate to doing more.

Having more art supplies does mean that you make more art.  A certain amount of supplies are necessary of course.  I don’t have any idea what that amount would be.  I am figuring out that you can’t keep it all.  Everything may have potential.  I can only create so many things…a finite number.  I can’t easily create anything if…

I don’t have a clear surface to create at or if I can’t find what I need to work with.  Some folks may work well in their packed studios with endless boxes and bags and shelves and…

…but I am coming to the realization that I can’t or don’t.  I need to find out what works for me and quit trying to “look” like an artist and just become comfortable with being one.

More chairs and pillows and decorations don’t make for a more comfortable house if…

…you can’t relax and enjoy the home.  If you are afraid someone will come over and see it as a mess or if you feel the need to constantly apologize for how it looks.

More supplies in the kitchen – dishes, pans, spices, food – don’t make for better meals or better entertaining if…

The dishes aren’t washed, the table isn’t cleared and the fridge is so cluttered that you can’t function in the kitchen.

More clothes don’t mean that you dress any better.

More school supplies don’t mean that you learn more.

More cleaning supplies don’t mean that you clean more.

More books don’t mean that you read more.

More just simply isn’t more.  More is not simple.  More is hard work.

It has to be paid for, picked up, cleaned up, stored, sorted, found, organized, accounted for…

and did I mention PAID FOR?

I know all these things.  Knowing and doing are two different things.  Sometimes knowing has to be realized more than once.  Sometimes I forget.

I have invited a lot of guests for Thanksgiving.  Folks that may not have a family to be with – a home to share a meal in.  I am excited.  I hope they all come.  It means a lot to me.  I want to welcome family and friends – old and new.

I want my home to be ready to welcome them.  I don’t want to apologize or be anxious.  I just want to throw open my door and say “Welcome, I’m glad you are here.”

I have work to do.

I haven’t posted the five items the last several days, but fear not.  Stuff has been going.  I just haven’t had time to take a photo or post.

At least five items have left each day. More old business files have been recycled.  Craft items, scrapbook paper, dried up markers, clothes, pillows, pantry items, trash, and more art and craft supplies – gone.

Today.  Thursday.  I have realized that more isn’t always more.  More stuff doesn’t mean more productivity or happiness or security.

For me, more stuff means more anxiety, more work, and more stress.  I’m so tired of dealing with it all.  I’m tired of it taking up so much of my time, energy and focus.

Change is hard.  Change doesn’t happen all at once.  Change is a journey.  Change is not a destination.

Back to the journey for me.  Happy Thursday to you!

New

A new month!  A new week!  Yea for new beginnings.  The washer is washing, the dryer is drying.  The dishes are…waiting.  And, although there is no picture, stuff left the house yesterday.  A mouse pad, some worn-out undies that I wouldn’t want to be wearing in a car accident, boxes of old business documents, a Halloween decoration that never decorated this Halloween, and more than 500 emails.  I know that the emails are not technically things, but they were most definitely clutter. In working through the email I also unsubscribed to a lot.  That will help my inbox stay more relevant and hopefully help me keep up.

And there was fun around here yesterday.  This is what happens when you have a college senior home for the weekend who is tired of being in school and is trying to avoid writing one of several papers due early in the week.  She talks her little sister into this:IMAG1100 (1)IMAG1104Yep, they painted some of our chickens’ “toenails”.  If you aren’t familiar with chickens, they definitely have personalities and expressive faces.  This one’s expression is not saying, “I am feeling glamorous and enjoying this experience immensely.”IMAG1105

The best news of the day?  Our first egg.  We’ve been anxiously waiting and checking for weeks now. It’s finally here.  You have to raise chickens to understand the excitement of this moment.  It’s just one.  It’s small, but it’s a start.  This is as close to living off the land as I’m likely to get.  I love my chickens!

Now, I’m off to live another day.  Cleaning, teaching, loving, de-cluttering, art-making, smiling, struggling, hugging, washing, and dealing with each challenge as it comes along.

It’s going to be a good day.

New Day

clutter-is-not-just-physical-stuff-717x1024….from the website becomingminimalist.com

Today is a new day.

-and this was the first email I chanced upon (out of the more than 900 that fill my inbox).  I’ll take that as a sign.  A positive sign.  A bit of encouragement and a thought to carry around in my brain for today.

…while I wash some laundry (including the “doggy” sofa cover), wash some dishes so that we have clean silverware, blow off the carefully planned menu of new recipes and just make some food that I know everyone will eat…

try to accomplish a bit of schooling, sort through the winter clothes and see what fits and doesn’t, fill a box (or two) with giveaway…

put my fitbit on and work towards 10,000 steps while avoiding the bag of candy corn that I bought to decorate cupcakes for my husband to share at work.    I probably should avoid the cupcakes and frosting also.  Crap!

…take a deep breath and balance the checkbook and update our online budget plan.  Remember that these are first world problems and that we are making progress…slowly…

hug and love my family (and myself)…

I’m NOT going to make a list of everything that needs to be done around here and “beat” myself up for not accomplishing it all.   I’ll do the things I listed above and if more happens I’ll celebrate.

I’m NOT going to try and deal with all 900 emails today…although I will try and figure out why I have so many and unsubscribe to the ones that no longer add value to my life.

I’m NOT going to get so focused on following the planned school schedule that  it causes stress. “Rabbit trails” are part of homeschooling. The point is to learn, not to check off items on a list.

Today, I am going to live in the needs of the day.  Do what needs to be done.  Be open to the interruptions – aware that sometimes they are the work I need to do.  I’m going to enjoy the tasks at hand and keep my mind focused – not running ahead to the next thing on the list.

There will be laughter and rest and hugs and smiles and…

it will not be perfect.  And that’s ok.

What makes a good story?

What makes a good story?  Interesting questions isn’t it?  In my opinion it ranks right up there with what is good art or what is a beautiful home.  Questions without answers – or rather questions with way too many answers.  None of the answers wrong and none of them necessarily right.

Just questions to think about (or not) depending on your philosophical bent or lack thereof.

I think a good story is one that someone can relate to.  It doesn’t have to find a huge following.  A one person audience can be enough.  I think I’ll go so far as to say that a good story doesn’t necessarily need to find an audience at all.  It may just be a story that needs to be told.

I’m often at a loss to explain why I am writing here on this blog.  To an audience of people I know and even more that I will never actually meet.  Some good people and probably more than a few not so nice people.  Why write at all?  Why risk?  What’s the point?

I have a story.  We all do.  I’m sure that there are people out there with far more writing skill and most definitely more interesting stories to tell.  I’ve never really travelled extensively.  I don’t have a glamorous job.  I’m not rich or beautiful or profoundly intelligent.  I’d say that I’m solidly average.  But, most of us are.

In my quest to live a more intentional life – a life of thoughtful choices – I’ve learned (am learning) to question the wisdom of following the stories of those who appear to be “better” than me.  Those whose life appears to be “more”.  Celebrities who are famous for absolutely nothing that has made the world a better place.  People who talk a lot and really have nothing significant to say.  Damaging stories that make us want more and better – homes, clothes, cars, detergent, hair, personalities, relationships….

I tell my story.

A story of a 54 year old woman who struggles with her weight.  Who can’t eat one Little Debbie snack cake and leave the rest in the box.  Who has been known to eat frosting from a can.  Who buys healthy food, but doesn’t always make good choices.  Who lost a lot of weight, but only because I had a major health crisis to motivate me.

I’m a wife who loves her husband and a mom who loves her children – but I have been known to yell way more than I should have over things that weren’t worth yelling about.  I worry about the things I’ve done wrong and sometimes wonder if I’ve done anything right.

I’m a homemaker that doesn’t always do a very good job of keeping house.  I have hoarding tendencies that I deal with all the time.  I “pile” things and worry more about what the inside of the cabinets look like than the whole house.  I bounce between wanting to get rid of everything and thinking I can pull off a “cozy and cluttered” ambiance.   Sometimes the laundry is done and sometimes we are scrambling for clean underwear.

I worry about the environment and try to recycle.  We don’t have curbside so sometimes it just gets thrown away.  I read a blog about a zero-waste home and wonder what I’m doing wrong.  The best I can do Is shred our junk-mail and use it as chicken coop bedding.  Other than that, it’s rather hit-or-miss.

I wonder what I should be doing to make the world a better place.  Most of the time, I don’t even know how to make my own home a better place.

This story could go on and on.

Mostly, I worry about being enough.  About doing enough.  About caring enough.  About whether it will matter if I spent time on this planet or not.

Is it enough to try?  And fail.  To be average.

I’m going to say yes.  It matters.  It has to.  It’s all most of us ordinary folks have.  We try. We fail.  We try again.

We hope.

We tell our stories so we know we aren’t alone.

A Tiny Little World

Depression is hard…trying to keep going and not let on that you are struggling.  Doing what has to be done.  Tired all the time.  Battling the hopelessness.  Frustrated because the negative feelings aren’t fully connected to the reality that you are living in.  Knowing that things aren’t really all that bad, but mad at yourself because you are unhappy anyway.  Not living up to the expectations that you are placing upon yourself.  The little voice in your head that gets louder and louder – criticizing and commenting on all your failures.  Knowing that the folks around you (who don’t live with you) are unaware of the struggle.  Pulling into yourself bit by bit until only you only have to deal with your immediate surroundings, decisions you can’t avoid and work you have to do.  Realizing that you’ve isolated yourself from anyone who might be able to help because you don’t want them to be aware that you are weak and less than perfect.

…an unhappy tiny little world…

I’m peeking out a bit today.  This vicious little merry-go-round ride I’ve been on is not fun.  I’m blogging today and I will write again tomorrow.  I promise myself.

Life has really been going on rather normally I suppose.  Most people around me would probably be surprised to know how hard the last few weeks/months have been.  What’s been happening since I last wrote regularly?

I’ve got three part-time jobs now.  Part of it is for the money – we are really working on getting our debt paid down.

My newest job is teaching at a private school that opened in our little town.  Did I share this already?  I’m teaching art one day a week and am really enjoying it.  I was pretty sure that I would like it, but am actually surprised at how much!  It’s been fun to get to know the kids and to see how talented some of them are and how enthusiastic they all are.  The art lessons are supposed to complement the history curriculum and they are studying the Renaissance.  That’s challenging to do in one hour, one day a week.  I’ve been lightly touching on an aspect of Renaissance Art and then adapting a lesson to be both fun and fit into the time we have.  Today we did a “stained glass” project using tissue paper, laminating sheets and a laminator.

My youngest and I are fully into our homeschool year.  It’s been sooooo different having only one “student”.  We’ve actually “done” school almost every day and are hardly behind my schedule at all.  We’ve also managed several field trips (other than trips to the grocery store).  We’ve visited the Blanton Art Museum and the Austin Zoo so far.    Not bad for a self-described eclectic un-schooling family.

We’ve been working on the house doing some small maintenance and renovation projects.  Right now we are working in our hallway which is almost large enough to be a room on it’s own.  Three of the bedrooms, the classroom/studio and hall bath open into it.  It also contains a built-in desk, counter and two upper cabinets.  I’ve decluttered enough that the cabinet above the desk is almost empty so we are removing it.  It overshadows the desk and looks cramped.  We’re putting in a simple shelf instead.  Less stuff, less clutter and a more open airy feel.  All the walls are going to be painted Polar Bear white.  I’m ready for simple, uncluttered and peaceful!

Still sorting through stuff and trying to see how little we really need.  Layer by layer we are downsizing.  About a box a week is going to the thrift store and the trash can is always overflowing.  Where does it all come from?!?!

Not much is happening on the art front.  I just haven’t had the energy to complete anything.  Anything I did attempt just didn’t measure up to my expectations.  I’m cleaning an architect’s office and have been gifted a lot of flooring and upholstery samples.  I’m planning on playing with them and seeing what I can come up with.  Lots of fun colors and textures!

Time to open the blinds, throw open the windows and let the breeze blow in.  No more shutting out the world!  There is joy out there to be found, lived and enjoyed.  I’m going to give it a try…



A cue from Mary Poppins!

This week I’m taking the advice of Mary Poppins in my de-cluttering ventures!

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

 And every task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree!
It’s very clear to see

That a…
Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go dow-own
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

A robin feathering his nest
Has very little time to rest
While gathering his
Bits of twine and twig

Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows a song
Will move the job along

Since I’m a big fan of birds and have been working on “feathering my nest” to make it simpler, more welcoming, and more intentional it seemed a good fit.

I’ve been stalled on making much progress (by stalled I mean discouraged, feeling hopeless, and considering giving up).

But, it’s just not in my nature to give up for long – so….

…a game it is.

I know someone who is moving into a fancy-dancy awesome new place and while I’m not jealous, (I’m happy for her because she’s worked hard and truly deserves this blessing) I’m a bit sad that I don’t have the option to “start over”.

So…I decided to make it an option of sorts – starting over that is.

Room by room as I follow my cleaning list, I’m going to envision what that room might look like if it were a new room in a new home that I was moving to.  What would the room look like?  What would I take with me to my new place?  What would I get rid of so as not to move clutter into my new space?  I’m taking notes on what renovations/repairs I would like to see including paint color, etc.  Then we have a to-do list to work from as funds and time become available.

Today is Master Bathroom day.  My husband is installing a new sink faucet that we’ve had, but never installed.  On the list of future improvements is a new shower unit.  Our shower has a crack that isn’t leaking yet, but…  I’d like new flooring because the old flooring is worn out.  And I think a bright coat of white paint is in order.  Bright and clean and spacious.

New lights above the sinks would be nice.  The ones we have came with the house and are boring.  That’s fairly far down on the list, but this is a wish list.

Having a list of needed/wanted items will help us out in searching down bargains.  We’ll know what we need when we spot it.  The list will also help us make repairs and updates in a more timely fashion.  A plan is a good thing!

In the discard pile are some old cosmetics that I never use.  Truly, I don’t know why they are still there and have made it through past de-clutters.  Also gone are my youngest daughter’s bath/shower toys.  She’s outgrown them, but I don’t know which of us is more reluctant to part with them.  Everything in the bathroom is useful or loved.  Nothing extra.

Our old towels are staying and not on the list to be replaced.  They are still more fabric than holes and perfectly functional.  Keeping in mind that I want to simplify and reduce waste, I find that I see a simple beauty in them.  They serve a purpose and there is no reason to run out and buy new ones.

I’ve finished up with a good scrub-down of the room – right down to the baseboards and trash can.  Less stuff = faster cleaning.

The game is on!