Planner mania

It’s the season for planner mania — all the planners and organizers marketed for 2020 are being pushed everywhere, not least on YouTube. I found one from a gal who actually uses a lot of the accessories for planners (stickers, washi tape and so on) who did a video saying, basically, “you don’t NEED all the Things.”  Gotta love someone with the guts to say it, when everyone else seems to be saying, “Oh, you NEED the Things!”

Confession: for years I was one of those who bought the Things thinking they would somehow elevate me to being the sort of person I imagined the promoter to be: savvy, sophisticated, ducks in a row, etc. etc.  In a word: lovable.

NEWS FLASH:  they don’t work.

I don’t have the time, nor the inclination, nor the artistic bent to mess with all the Things. I want a planner that will allow me NOT to forget my schedule (when little Tommy’s make-up piano lesson was scheduled, this week?) and will give me an opportunity at the end of the day to say, “Ahhh, good, I did these things on my list. It’s been a good day.” or, sometimes, “Eh, need to tighten up on . . . “whatever got neglected or overlooked.

With that in mind — and because I do need beauty around me (topic for another blog post, soon) I have invested in a Franklin Covey BLOOMS, 2 pages per day, planner, which I will be using for recording me ToDOs, writing word counts, music lists. . . whatever.  I’ll be hybridizing it with a dot grid “bujo” style paper to keep track of various projects and misc. lists that have to be dealt with. I love the soft pink and green background on this planner so I will enjoy looking at it as I use it, and I’ll use it several times a day.

I have a basket of washi tape that I bought on impulse and may or may not ever use . . . and a couple of pens, mostly black, but also the ever-reliable Pilot Precise V-5 in assorted colors.  I had bought a few sets of color pens, including “brush” pens, in hopes of pushing myself into the Artsy realm. . . but that was a flop and I gave the pens to a teacher friend to use in her classroom.  She and her students will get far better use out of them than I would have done.  There really isn’t any point in spending money in other Things — because I’m not going to use them. I like keeping things streamlined with a fine-point black pen. <shrug>

The point is, a planner doesn’t have to be elaborately decorated in order to be useful. What do you need to record? Dietary and exercise achievements? Word count on a writing project or time/pages of editing and revision?  Appointments? Household routines and tasks? Music practice? Stickers might be a bribe to do more for some people, but I’m not one of those people. Just let me get on with the task and not waste time trying to figure out whether the sticker needs to be in the right-hand upper corner or  somewhere else.

I DO, however, practice using a nicer handwriting in my journal. I am teaching myself Spencerian script, and I’ve been using a French 5-line paper to practice. But that’s because I love pretty lettering and calligraphy, and I feel it reflects my sense of self-respect. When I’m hurried . . . my handwriting isn’t so nice.

Do what you need to do in order to accomplish your goals. You can always ADD embellishments as they reveal themselves to be relevant. Easier than diving in over your head and becoming discouraged because you didn’t do it “perfectly.”  The only PERFECT planner is one that helps you to be a better you. And it doesn’t have to cost buckets of cash.  So relax and just do it.

And God bless you!

Making improvements: TOOLS

It’s no good just tossing stuff and simplifying if we don’t also use our imaginations to improve our — let’s call them our systems. Our systems are the way we do things and the tools we use to do them. Mine needed some serious overhaul.

My office baskets – I spend a lot of time in this room, but I don’t get a lot done. I realized that the clutter and disorder has been a major distraction and energy-suck. I had too much furniture in the room – desk, wheeled microwave cart repurposed to hold the printer, a wicker settee, two other chairs (including the desk chair), and two older file cabinets.  In addition, books were double-shelved, one row in front of another, for most of the shelves — and I’m pretty sure that if I live another 62 years I won’t read half of them.

I had a bookshelf that is a real clutter collector, and I wanted to rehome it. So I started there — pulled the writing books out and sorted which ones I find useful and which ones never have helped. The latter are on their way to a free share shelf at the local post office. Some of the domestic books are headed the same place, and the rest are now replaced in the main shelves.

When I purged my paperwork, during Hurricane Dorian (which skirted my area but left my joints stressed), I consolidated six drawers full down to three. Yeah, I had that much paper clutter. One of the three drawers was my journal collection. I’d like to purge those, but a friend is urging me to tell my story, and I am using them . . . not fun, but probably needful. That means five drawers became two.  I bought two sets of two woven baskets off Amazon and put all that stuff in baskets in my main shelf.  They look quite pretty.  When I buy the shelf I’ve decided to get for the printer, which will fit under my Ikea desk, it will have an extra shelf for my extra printer paper, so I will probably have more shelf space freed up. The journals fit into an Amazon box I’d been holding on to, and are now stored in the closet.

Vacuum cleaner. One of the tasks I badly procrastinate on, due to back and knee issues, is vacuuming. I have a really good, efficient Bissel vacuum cleaner,  but it’s heavy and I find it hard to stand to use for more than a couple of minutes. So I am trying out a plug-in “stick” vacuum from WalMart — I like it a lot and find it useful for light maintenance. Once I figure out the best way to clean the filter, I’ll probably use it more.

Mop. I also bought an O Cedar mop with a removable, washable cloth head. WOW!  Where has that thing been all my life!  There’s a spray bottle where you put the water and cleaner (I use cleaning strength vinegar) and spritz . . . and run the mop over . . . and I don’t know when my floor has been so clean. Not since it was installed, I’m sure.  I bought the mop plus two extra heads through Amazon, and used two heads the first time I mopped. Yeah, that’s how mucky my floor was. That’s why women used to mop on their hands and knees with real rags — to avoid swirling the dirt around and simply redistributing it. Which is what I’ve been doing for (ahem) years, evidently.

Dish drain. I wash my dishes by hand, and I’ve been using a large enamelware basin for washing, one sink for rinsing, and the other side of the sink to hold my standard dish drain. Living in a small trailer, I don’t have counter space to leave a drain with a mat. But I also don’t like having to take up the sink with the drain. — I came across an advertisement for an over-sink dish drain. I’d never heard of such a thing! But it’s a brilliant concept. I ordered one, it arrived yesterday, I put it together last night and inaugurated it today. It’s not perfect — the water dripping of the draining dishes is kind of an unpleasant addition to the work. But it’s a big improvement over what I had going, so I’m well pleased. Also available through Amazon.

Those four things — baskets, vacuum, mop, and dish drain — have made such an enormous improvement in my ability to stay on top of my homekeeping.  What tools do you need to re-figure or upgrade to make your work more efficient and pleasanter?

 

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.

 

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.