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.

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Reflections

The huge arctic blast that everyobraadfordpearne has been talking about has reached my area.  Lows last night hit nearly 20F, and today’s highs will be in the low 40s.  These are temperatures we normally see in January, not November!

I admit I don’t care for the shorter days of winter, but the quality of sunlight this time of year is so golden and so magical, it almost makes up for the brevity of days.

The leaves have been beautiful.  It seemed to take a long time for them to turn, but I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a more beautiful display. The peak never lasts long enough to suit, so I’ve tried to absorb every moment of the splendor that I possibly can. Driving late in the afternoon, earlier this week, along a stretch of country road, it seemed the red-leafed Bradford pears, the dogwoods, the crepe myrtles were ablaze!  And the golden maples, sycamores, and ash were lit from within themselves.

So often people give only a cursory bit of attention to such details, but this beauty has really fed my soul.  I pray I may never be too busy, or too low in spirits, or too distracted, to be able to appreciate such generous, even extravagant, indications of God’s Love.

 

 

Preparing for Winter: Remembering Grandmother’s House

The first wave of really severe arctic air has hit my part of the East Coast.  Today feels more like January than mid-November. It looks as if it’s going to be a long, bitterly cold winter.

I love summer, when I can stay comfortable with lots of fans moving air around, even when it’s hot.  And I love that my electricity bills drop to around $55 for the month. But I hate being cold.  I hate being cold, and I hate power bills that have jumped as high as $300 for a single month, during our worst weather.

I hadn’t thought about it for years, but suddenly I had a memory of my grandparents’ house – one of those wonderful, vivid memories that momentarily transports one back in time to a much-loved place.  Papa and Mama lived in what had been built to be a practical small farmhouse just outside their town’s business district.  It was probably a hundred years old, built before electricity had been introduced to the area.  There were fireplaces in the living room and both bedrooms, as well as the flue opening for a wood stove in the kitchen.

When electricity was added, an electric furnace was installed under the house.  A hot air return was cut out of the floor of the hallway. In summer, this ugly grated opening was covered with a throw rug, but in winter it stood uncovered and dangerously hot, belching heated air into the house.  (Mama always fretted over the danger of children tripping and falling on top of that grate, and being burned.  I did it once — Not Fun.) To save money — that generation was frugal — they shut off the unused living room, and Mama also shut off her bedroom. That room was like ice!!!  I don’t know how she could stand to dress in there, twice a day!

But Papa’s room, which also doubled as a den, was always toasty warm with a small fire burning in the one fireplace in the house that hadn’t been sealed off.  He and Mama would get through their daily work quickly, in the mornings, then they would settle into that one heated room, he with his newspaper and magazines, and she with her kitting or crocheting or tatting or sewing . . .

So I’m going to give it a try. I’ve moved my office into what was formerly the master bedroom, and it’s large enough I can tuck a couple extra chairs in.  I can warm it with a space heater while I’m working in here, and keep the rest of the house a bit cooler.  Maybe I’ll even get more work done, this winter.

 

Spring birds

Blue Grosbeak

I’ve had some unusual birds at the “Funny Farm” this spring – unusual not for this region, but unusual to me. In addition to the usual suspects – titmouses and sparrows, brown thrashers, cardinals, cowbirds, starlings and bluejays – there have also been some newcomers to my yard: indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, goldfinches, purple finches, a redwing blackbird. There is a pair of doves who come outside my window and walk along, stately, every afternoon, picking at the spillings left by the other birds. It’s quite a nice distraction, and I’ve moved my desk up to accommodate my need to watch.

One of my tasks for today is to make up some nectar for the hummingbirds that have been visiting in search of food. (I think I know just where the hummingbird feeder was left… hmmmm….)

One evening I saw quite a lot of deer in the field to my north, and I see tracks between the house and the mailbox, but so far I haven’t seen the deer up close. That’s okay, though; it’s everyone’s busy season.

I hope all is well at your house, and that the joys of spring are upon you.

Catching up –

It was a long winter, unusually unvaryingly cold. It’s normal for us to have some very cold weather (anything below 20F is very very cold for this area), but then after a couple of days we always bounce back up even into the low ’60s. Not this year. We went from November until late February with temps hovering from 10-45. My power bill has never been so high (and I economize).

So spring has come at last. The cold kept all the things that usually bloom in February all dormant until fairly late in March, when suddenly everything burst open and we had a pollen-dust storm of unprecedented dimensions. The air looked like a smog of yellow. It even crept in through closed windows, leaving a thick yellow coating on everything. I took to covering the computer with a towel when I wasn’t actually using it. I’m still cleaning up.

This year the wisteria on my front porch suddenly decided to bloom – after nearly 20 years. Last year one thin and puny cluster of blossoms surprised me one afternoon; this year, there was a riot of blooms. And perfume. No, the photo isn’t my front door, but it looks very much as my front door did for about a week and a half.  – – – An interesting thing I noticed. I’d observed that the wisteria by the highways turns grey as it fades; my wisteria kept its vivid blue until all the blossoms had fallen. I suspect that wisteria is a vivid illustration of the automobile pollution that is dirtying our air along major highways and even residential roads – the grey being the dirt from the cars and trucks going by.

Early signs of SPRING

1) longer days (for which I’m extremely grateful!)

2) warmer weather (we hit 60 today. We’ll have more cold before Easter, to be sure, but after two months’ unremitting cold (highs in 30s and 40s, extremely unusual for us), this is a wonderful respite.

3) Robins and bluebirds – and other birds as well, but those are the two noticeable species.

4) Green! – tips of green from bulbs and daylilies are poking their noses above-ground.

5) Patted Simon a few minutes ago, and my hands came up covered in cat hair. He’s already shedding!

The Mouse Saga (cont.)

In our last thrilling episode, Laura was bewailing the ineptness of a certain cat at keeping live mouse prey CAUGHT. In this episode…

Laura: Simon, what’s that noise in the kitchen?

Simon: Mrowr?

Laura leans back on the sofa and looks into the kitchen, where one… TWO mice are gazing at her from the back burner of the stove.

Now, after our last episode, Laura went to the local feed store and bout a set of humane traps. So far they have been patently ignored… she re-positions the traps in closer proximity to the stove.

One mouse is caught the next afternoon – not one of the two adult-sized mice from the evening before (these mice, I have a feeling, are akin to Douglass Adams’ description of mice in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Mice are the physical protrusions into our dimension of a race of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings who commissioned the construction of the Earth in order to find the Question to the Ultimate Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything. As such, they are the most intelligent life forms on that planet.

So – I have a young juvenile mouse in a humane trap, and the plan is to take said Mouse with me the next morning when I leave for work, and to drop him/her/it off at the creek about a mile from my house – the OTHER side of the creek, to be as precise as possible, since everyone who has ever encountered a Mouse knows that said Mouse will go to great lengths and distances in order to return to its favorite B&B when transported Out. On the other side of the creek there is water to cross in order to come “home” – cold water, this time of year. And there are a variety of other houses and barns to (hopefully) distract the Mouse and keep it occupied until Nature, in the form of snakes or my cousins’ cats, takes its Course.

But as I was pulling the car over to the shoulder of the road, the humane trap lid jiggled open, and Mouse JUMPED OUT of the trap and onto my coat, and then to my feet, and, by the time I was able to stop the car and get out to try to catch it…. out of sight.

I cannot win for losing, sometimes.

I did stop by a DRUG STORE and purchase a new, larger, and heavier humane trap. We’ll see how well IT works once the mice become complacent to its presence in the kitchen. It’s baited with peanut butter and Cadbury chocolate square.  For Cadbury Chocolate, I’d climb into the trap, myself (but I have the rest of the bar to console me, so there’s no need for such measures).

 

to be continued… sigh.