Success so far . . .

So far — I have dumped some 30+ bags of trash:

Paper trash – documents I can access online if I ever really need them again.
Owners manuals for appliances that died and left the house years ago. Incoherent scribblings that may or may not have been transferred to one of my many notebooks. Old gift bags and tissue paper I have not, in however-many years, pressed to look fresh and new, and probably never will.  I have some OLD tax papers that I’m going to burn now that cooler weather has arrived.

Plastic. I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression. One is not supposed to throw anything away because it can come in handy at some point. Well, I threw away bags of plastic — custard cups, lunch meat containers. . . mismatched and incomplete sets of “nice” plastic bases without lids, lids without bases. . .

“Nice” stuff. Under the kitchen sink I had some glass jars that I probably could have washed, sterilized in boiling water, found new rubber rings for, and reused.  But I don’t think I would ever get past remembering that mice had climbed (and pooped) all over them. . .  and it’s not so easy to find replacement rings for german jars as ought to be . . . so into the trash they went. I hereby apologize for my prodigal squeamishness.

Broken stuff and the misc. bits to fix them. The small bedroom of my trailer had become my “junk” room. A couple of plastic coffee cans filled with misc. hardware bits and pieces are now gone — as are the broken bits of the drawer I haven’t fixed in x number of years and am not likely to do.

Old textile stuff. Some old pillows I’d thought of recycling or upcycling to some other project are now gone, as are some very old, torn clothes that — I had thought I’d hang on to them to wear when I need something grubby to put on, but let’s face it: one is always creating new worn grubby clothing. So out they went. I lost track of how many bags came out of this room.

Old food. My “pantry” shelves are also in the junk room, and I had a few cans of things that are not only past their expiration date, but they were rusting, so they went. Some other items had been infiltrated by mice (such neat round holes they make!) and those are now gone —

I mentioned sorting out several hundred books? Some went to a friend in Raleigh, who jumped on the chance to have some more Catholic books and some resources she can use with her homeschool setup. More are going to another friend who enjoys these particular novels. A few particularly academic theological works are going to a new friend who is working on a Master’s Degree in Theology. A few things like the old dish drain, duplicate and unused cookware, a craft gadget, a coffee pot, a couple of pictures I quit loving a few years ago . ..  in the car to be distributed as I go by the destination locations.

I still have a couple of pockets of disorder to sort out, and my big closet needs to be tackled, too. But I feel I’m in control — and will be even more when a friend comes this weekend with his pickup to haul some of the big things away for me. I’m so grateful for the improvement.

I have to admit – I hate my trailer; it’s never been what I wanted, but it is what I could get after going through the divorce. But I remind myself that there are people even in this wealthy, over-privileged, resort county who would consider themselves rich as Croesus to live here, and I thank God for what I have.

And, with the clutter out of the way and access to run the vacuum and to mop and generally keep things clean(er) and tidy/tidier, I find that I love my home.

Getting control of the house thing

It’s a gray, rainy day. The sort of day when one wants to curl up on the sofa, wrapped in a soft, plush throw, cup of coffee close by and a deliciously fine novel in one’s hands. Jane Austen, anyone?

It’s a bit more than three months ago that I started this amazing decluttering, take-control journey. More than 30 bags of trash, several hundred books (and more than that remaining on my shelves) – big stuff tucked in a spare room until a friend can help me haul them off in his pickup.  The difference in  my home is absolutely amazing. . . and I’m still “in process.” But I have to tell you, I’m loving this.

I never thought of myself as a domestic woman, or for that matter even a feminine one. My poor mother was a very sick woman — frequent debilitating migraines* and some other health issues that left her more often than not simply incapable of coping with life, much less a strong-willed little girl with more energy than she knew what to do with (what happened to that energy, now that I need it???)  Mom “managed” me by using mental beratement instead of actually teaching me things I needed to know:  “If you had any common sense. .  .” put the blame on me for not knowing how to sew, or cook, or . . . when the truth was that the poor woman simply had no energy or mental resources for dealing with me, for teaching me. No — Nor for doing any of these basic things, herself.

I remember the dishes being washed only when the clean ones were all used up — and we had a lot of dishes because Mom collected them from whichever store was giving them away as a bonus for shopping there. The living room was marked by a narrow pathway from the door to the television to the sofa and Mom’s recliner. . .  the rest filled with old newspapers, books, Hardees coffee cups and holders, overflowing ashtrays. . .

Children need to see home being cared for, as their first step to learning. I didn’t have that. They need to be allowed to work side by side with Mother in keeping home dusted and tidy. I didn’t have that, either. “You’re getting on my nerves . . . giving me a headache . . . ”  — and Mother’s headaches were the stuff of my childhood miseries, as she lay in a perfectly darkened bedroom, emerging only to go to the bathroom to vomit. . .  leaving me to eat far too many “meals” of peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon.  The house had to be kept q-u-I-e-t. . .  I could be sitting with my nose inches from the television, the volume barely audible, and she’d beg me not to have it so loud . . . from the other end of the house. So the threat of a headache was enough to cow me into submission and to quell my enthusiasms.

But I grew up believing that I had no sense, that I was incapable of doing ordinary things. I don’t blame Mother for being so sick — that was out of her control. But for years I hated her for making it my fault, and for controlling my behavior with insults. Now I just feel sorry for her. And as a mature woman I can teach myself and prove her wrong, most of all to myself.  Thank God for YouTube! Right?

So the sense that It’s Time! and just a general eagerness to have a different sort of life than I’ve had, before, converge and . . . more than 30 bags of trash, gone, several hundred books, big stuff ready to go when the friend and his truck can come.

I was looking forward to doing several things around the house, this morning – more taking charge, establishing routines, etc. — but this cold weather system (we’re supposed to drop to the low 20s tonight, which is typical for January, not November!) is coming through with all this rain and my joints are locked up.  I’ll do a bit of gentle stretch exercises in a few minutes, but if the bathroom doesn’t get wiped down today, I’ll try it tomorrow.

The big thing today — well, there are two:  this afternoon I plan to take some of the smaller, nice stuff that I’ve decluttered to a local thrift/consignment shop. This is another task I can postpone if the joints don’t recover as the rain clears out, by mid-afternoon.  But I’m looking forward to clearing out the back of my car! —

The other is that I have been carefully, frugally been adding some organizational and cleaning helps over the past couple months.  I have ordered an over-sink dish drain from Amazon, and it’s scheduled to be delivered today. That will be a huge help (I hope!) at least by freeing up my sink from the current dish drain. I live in a single-wide trailer and counter space is at a premium; I’ve been using a big dish pan set on the counter to wash, one sink to rinse, and the other to hold the strainer. Now I can use my sinks to their stated purpose and have my countertop freed.  I think it will be wonderful.

I also have undertaken a small sewing project — small in terms of complexity, that is. I bought a set of curtains for the living room from Amazon, more than a year ago, and I really like them . . .except they are very light and — well, it’s getting COLD and I need a  bit of insulation. So I am taking those curtains and inserting drapery lining, which I bought at the local Hobby Lobby. I did the first one yesterday — well, made a good start on it. I pressed the curtain, lined up the liner, pinned, cut, turned under and hand-pressed a seam allowance, and hand-stitched the two pieces together.  Top stitch only. I put the one curtain over the window, last night, and it’s hanging well — I appear to have lined things up well! — so today I will topstitch another as a quick remedy for drafty windows over the next couple of days. . . . then I’ll take the other pair and fully stitch them in, and, piece by piece, get the project done.  I had YouTube videos going in the background to keep me company (when I’m doing house stuff I like the company of another human voice; writing, like this, I listen to music), and the time passed very pleasantly.

Off to do a bit more stuff. It’s still raining, but the sky is lighter.  I think more heavy rain is on the way, though, so I mustn’t get too excited.  Still, the rain is beautiful, isn’t it?

God bless you all.

Love,

L.

 

Domestic Goddess – Warrior Woman

I’ve passed Phase One of the Great Domestic Goddess Challenge: the house has undergone a MAJOR decluttering. It’s been five weeks, I’ve filled my big outdoor trash container to near-overflowing, have lost count how many bags of trash and broken-down boxes I’ve discarded.

Some of these things, some of the glass jars, for instance, I might have recycled; but after so many years of being in the mice’s traffic pattern, I don’t think I could ever have gotten them clean enough to be able to overlook that they’ve made up the monkey bars and obstacle courses for the winter invasion of mice. . . so to the trash they went. Plastic stuff, like coffee cans I was so sure would make wonderful canisters. Paper. Shredded old clothes. Badly outdated and rusty canned foods. Broken items that aren’t going to be repaired or recycled. Stuff I haven’t used. Stuff I don’t want to use. Stuff I don’t know how to use (mostly hardware stuff).

Feels absolutely wonderful! and this week I go to Phase TWO:  Recycling.  For all the stuff I have thrown away, I’ve set a lot of shelves and  a pair of bifold doors and a set of scales and pictures I don’t want and a mirror and a lot of salvageable stuff to be carried to charity thrift shop. Students here have a half-day later in the week, and a young friend has volunteered to come help me load up my car and haul it all there — God bless him!

Why does this matter? Not only for health’s sake — although it will be easier to fight the mice and the bugs that came in during the flood season last spring (and aren’t responding to ordinary bug sprays) with all the junk gone.  It’ll be a lot easier to keep the house clean – vacuumed, dusted, mopped — with all these things in the way.

No. Somehow I have the feeling that my part in the Great Battle — the battle between Good and Evil, the battle for souls — begins with my success, or at least my dedication to the domestic sphere.

I’m still sorting this out. Women must be engaged in this Great Battle just as men must  be, but I’m convinced our function is different. Men are the wielders of the swords, literally and figuratively; women most of the time have a supporting role — no less important, but different. Ask a military troop – active duty or veteran — if they could fight without support services, and see what they say. Their success on a mission depends on having food in their belly, needed supplies at hand, accurate record of their objective, etc.  That’s what we provide. In our homes, we provide the place where our sword-wielder, our men, can rest from the battle, prepare for the next, have his spirit refreshed and his strength restored.

Sure, in history there have been exceptions:  the prophetess Deborah and Joan of Arc, Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife).  And a few of us might be called to follow their example. But most of us are not. The Battles of Lepanto and Tours and Gates of Vienna were won by men whose women were backing them up — and joining them in prayer.

Now, I’m single and I don’t know yet how this is going to apply to me. But it does. Even if I discover, to my horror, that I’m called to be a sword-wielder, somehow, I still have primary responsibility for hearth and home.

Not a popular idea, any more, with Feminism and all. But I believe Feminism has gone too far:  from being valued for our personal skills and competencies, and being allowed to pursue our dreams, we are now competing against men. Competing against, and denigrating them. And violating our own sacred calling as nurturers and carers in the world. This is destructive, not desirable. We need to recover our balance in order to have safe and prosperous communities, and in order that Good might flourish.

Domesticity continues –

In my last episode, I was rhapsodizing over the joys of decluttering. This is continuing. I’m still on the junk room — a bunch of cardboard and four more bags of junk have made it out to the roadside pickup. But I’ve also been taking time to go through and be sure that the things I want to recycle, rather than dump in the trash, are out of the way, and that my newly-tidied areas are staying tidied.  And I can see the back wall of that room now, and I think this week (I have to stop when the trash can gets full) will see me DONE.

Oh — and I paused last week because summer gave one more great heave of force — high on Thursday broke records when we topped 100 degrees for the second time all summer — before fall weather arrived today.

This is going better than expected. I don’t know what’s happened. Indecision has evaporated. Indecision, which has plagued me my entire life (fear of “doing it wrong,” which in this case is nearly impossible — if I throw out something and something bizarre happens that I need it, I’ll replace it. Although the weird collections of plastic and screws and nails . . . I can’t imagine needing again.) — poof!

And motivation remains with me. I don’t wake up the day after a big push, exhausted and confused what I ought to do next.

Whatever is going on, THANK YOU, LORD!

What is going well:
1. I’m not afraid of making a mistake. That in itself seems nothing short of miraculous.
2. As I declutter, I’m not asking “can I use this for some project?” Honey, after this many years, I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m not a crafter and projects aren’t going to be finished even if they get started.
3. As I declutter a room, I’m resolved to take care of that room, even if it means more decluttering is put on hold for a couple of days while I deal with the box of “Stuff to be put somewhere else,” dust and vacuum, tidy the dresser top, etc.
4. Daily routines take priority — making my bed, swishing out the toilet, washing the dishes. Eating properly.  This is super important because I live with low energy and with pain issues. It’s no good to clean out the junk room if the dishes pile up in the kitchen.
5. When I find a task that needs to be re-prioritized, I go with the flow.  I thought last night I’d be working on the junk room today, but when I woke up I realized that my back hall, where the washer/dryer sit, and where the cleaning supplies are stored, really needed attention first. So that’s what I’ve been doing. The junk room will still be there when this is done.
6. I’m recording in my bullet journal the accomplishments and the decisions:  4 bags to trash; metal file drawer to charity shop. etc.

Enormously satisfying.

I remember in Coming Home, by Rosamunde Pilcher, Aunt Biddy is watching Uncle Bob clean out the garage, and she recognizes that he is “clearing the decks” in preparation for going to battle. I think that’s what I’m doing, too, although I’m not quite certain just what my battle is going to be. I have a feeling, but I try always to test those, and there’s not been a chance, yet.

Back to it — a young friend is coming, later, to help me shift things that are too heavy or of awkward size for me to deal with.

Domesticated . . . Me???

I’ve never been a domestic goddess.  For years I just felt overwhelmed, not knowing what to do when, or how (my mother was the antithesis of an organized homemaker) — then I was sick with depression, recovering from trauma .  . . fighting to stay afloat . .  .

But I’ve got to get the house under control.  The clutter is a distraction and an energy suck. I have other projects to work on that keep being postponed because all that junk has been getting in my (mental) way.

Thank God for YouTube!  I found a delightful Australian woman who posts as The Sunday Stylist, and finally, it’s clicking.  That, and I really want to move.  So here I go.

It began two weeks ago. Dorian was coming through and I knew that big a storm in proximity to where I live would leave me feeling pretty achy and even somewhat crippled for a day or two. I chose a starting project that would allow me to spend a day in a chair:  Decluttering my file drawers.

I have two file drawers.  One is a 2-drawer KMart special, nearly 20 years old. The other is a lovely 4-drawer proper office file cabinet. I had all six drawers filled:  the small KMart cabinet held all my printer paper,  file folders, notebook paper, plastic sheet protectors, etc., etc.  The bottom drawer of the office cabinet holds my journals, going back more than 30 years (!), and the other three were just full of files and music and stuff.

The journals aren’t going anywhere. Part of me would like to burn them, but I’m writing my story, and I need them for reference.  So they have to stay. But nothing else had to.  So  – – –

I don’t need to hang on to so many of my printouts. They will remain available online forever and ever, world without end, amen.  So into the trash they went. So did a lot of the music I’d been holding on to from my days in various church choirs. Several reams of colored paper and card stock went to a teacher friend. The sheet protectors, which I can’t use because they throw glare into my eyes, are going to a local organist/music director.  At the end of the afternoon, drawer 2  had become the storage place for the printer paper and notebook paper (I write a lot, longhand, in draft).  Drawer 3 is where the necessary files for home and life-in-general have been stashed.  I have one empty drawer in the office cabinet, and the KMart drawers can be donated to Goodwill or somewhere — completely empty!

Well, I can tell you, those three bags of paper trash going into my dumpster felt mighty good! So I decided to keep on going.  I considered my options, and I decided to use my motivation, usually short-lived, to tackle some things that have been nagging at my mind for a while.  I moved on to the kitchen, where  I emptied the kitchen cabinets and discarded “recycled” plastic containers and stuck in some flexible shelving that has allowed me to nearly double parts of the cabinet.  Two more bags of trash.

One of the other things I’ve needed to do in the kitchen for . . . never you mind how long!  More than long enough, I can tell you! is to clean out under my kitchen sink.

Ordinarily this is not a big deal. But out here in the country, I’ve had mice, and more recently, after the hurricane, last year, a big roach invasion.  And their favorite place was . . . yep! under the kitchen sink.  Ooh, gross.

Well, if that stuff has been sitting under there THAT LONG, and I have neither needed nor wanted any of it, it can all go.  So three more bags of trash (because of weight, more than volume) went into the dumpster.  Even a couple of glass jars that could have been washed . . . because I felt as if I’d never get them clean enough to overcome the YUCK factor of knowing they’d been crawled all over by vermin.

The rules are simple.  Do I need this? Is this making  my life easier or better? Can I access it — like printouts — somewhere else, instead? Am I using it? Obviously the things under my kitchen sink, I was NOT using.  And had no intention of using. Most of it was more plastic storage containers, which had become brittle with age, and a couple of glass jars I just didn’t want to have to clean (with the mice crawling over them I don’t think I would ever have felt they’d gotten clean enough).

Next up: the junk room. Okay, I’ve actually begun that room already. Six bags (again, weight is a bigger factor than volume) out, and I’ve barely started.  Why did I hang on to that coffee can of misc. screws and nails and junk?  Why did I think mice wouldn’t get into that sugar bag? YUCK YUCK YUCK

When I can bear to, some time after the junk room is done, I’ll turn to my bookshelves. I’ll ask myself, Does this book have real value to me? Am I likely to actually read it again, or even at all?  I have an idea of how many linear feet of books I will be able to take with me if I go to a “tiny house,” and so that is my target.

I’m not having a yard sale — I just don’t have the energy for that right now, and I’m out of town so far I never get good turnouts for them, anyway. I’ll donate what I can to charity shops. A couple of things I will try to sell. But mostly the trash going to go in the garbage.  No, I don’t feel guilty for this; for many years I’ve avoided throwing things away in order to be gentle to our landfills.  I burn what trash I can, I recycle  what I can .  . . and now I’m going to be gentle with myself and dispose of what I must.

NO I am NOT going to post Before photos!  I MIGHT post afters.  Don’t hold your breath.  I know, we’re supposed to, more interesting, etc. etc. . . .   but I have some remnants of dignity and self-respect, here.

 

 

 

 

 

Battle fatigue

I’m tired. That chronic, pervasive sort of tired that just saps everything I try to do.

It might be age-related insomnia, with night-time overactive bladder depriving me of sleep. It might be that summer heat just drags on and on and hardly any respite in sight.

But I have come to believe, since a verbal spar with a member of a well-known Catholic agency, yesterday, that I’m mostly just plain tired of control freaks.

I’d pointed out that an item said agency had published was rather florid for a news item, and that this was a distraction, and I got hammered.  Actually, I was understating when I called it “florid.”  It was a matter of purple prose, which ought never to be permitted in what is supposed to be journalism.  And the team member — two team members, actually — criticized me for not recognizing that the piece was an “opinion” piece.  Well, no, you have it posted as a World News Item; you are promoting it as news. . .

Then I saw another piece, a YouTube video in which another well-known Catholic celebrity was — boasting? — that Personality X had treated their invitation for a conversation with less than the respect and consideration Catholic Celebrity seemed to think is his due.

Add to that the heartbreaking release of news of a bishop embroiled in the midst of the sex abuse scandal ordering his seminarians not to associate with a group formed for the support of victims of that abuse — or, if they disobey, they will face absolute consequences.

I think the bishop is acting ill-advisedly. But the other two, who have no real authority, are just being petulant. Getting too big for their britches.  The one hosting purple prose in the name of journalism boasts of being journalistic. I expect more authentic journalism in that setting. The other party is just another layman opining (however well or soundly) on matters of Church and Culture.  Personality X owes him nothing.

I have felt for some time, since resigning from a couple of activities and organizations that I found were not living up to expectations, that I probably work better as a lone wolf. It’s hard. God knows, it’s lonely. But I don’t have the energy to deal with egos, incompetence, and nonsense any more. It’s just less stressful to go it alone.

That actually puts a lot more pressure on me to live up to the standards I expect of other people. I’m probably the world’s worst for making excuses for my own failings; that won’t fly in this arena.  But I’m also not presenting myself as an authoritative voice in any subject, or as THE representative of faithful Catholicism.  I’m just one woman struggling to make some sort of difference in the world — while fighting with myself about what I have to give and whether it even matters.

 

Blessed Paradox

I received a telephone call this morning. I was not quite awake, and distracted on top of that, and I didn’t catch the caller’s name right away. Okay, I didn’t really catch his name until he was giving me his website and email, and the conclusion of our conversation. It was that of a fairly well-known priest.  The idea that a “celebrity priest” would be calling me for any reason still has me greatly amused, several hours later.

In the course of the conversation, he told me about his writing, and explained a bit of the theology behind it. It made sense, and I’m going to go looking for one or two of his books. There’s always that effort to find a balance —

Like, the amazing paradox that Jesus is our friend. . . even as He is also the Creator of the cosmos.  Not a buddy who’ll hold your beer and laugh while you attempt something amazing stupid-risky and possibly sinful, but the friend who’ll set your beer on the ground, grab you by both shoulders so you have to look him in the face, and tell you, “Don’t be an ass!”

Aslan is not a tame lion, after all.

We need to remember both — especially when we go to Mass/church. Dress appropriately, behave like we’ve got some sense, teach our children to be quiet and to be reverent, too.  It’s a good thing to view Jesus as our friend, with all the intimacy and warmth that conveys — but we err if we forget just Who it is Who has deigned to call us “friends.”