Tag Archives: decluttering

Friday Seven – October 23

— 1 —

Our reno is done and we’re really happy with it. New hardwood floors throughout the second floor and in the living-dining room meant that every item in those areas had to be removed to either boxes in the basement or to a temporary storage pod (mainly the furniture.) Now we’ve got to sort all the boxes in the basement and reorganize (or get rid of) a lot of stuff. It’s actually been a great exercise, to see how the house looks with quite minimalist decor. I am taking things slowly and making careful decisions about what to keep and where. One of the good decisions we made was to have cabinetry built in around our (new) gas fireplace so all our decorative items can be placed together, behind glass, and reduce the clutter on surfaces, one of our big issues.

— 2 —

The timer switch for our exterior lights on the front door quit, leaving the lights on all the time. I picked up a new timer and attempted to install it myself. I’ve done minor electrical work before with no problem but this was part of a three switch plate and the installation quickly proved beyond me, even after a lot of googling and referring to my trusty Reader’s Digest Complete Do-it-yourself Manual. So I left the circuit breaker in the off position and we have no lights in the powder room or at my favorite reading position in the kitchen. I tried to hire an electrician the normal way (Homestars) but the earliest i could get an appointment was in two weeks. I called my contractor for a name and he said he’ll get it done for me tomorrow or Monday at the latest. He’s the best!

— 3 —

I’ve been on the hunt for a daybed or sofa bed for my study. I had it painted in a lovely pale yellow, a good colour for creativity, and when I checked out a couple of shops in the nearby Castlefield Design DIstrict (Elte Mkt, Shelter) everything suitable was only available in a cool grey. By chance, Ethel 20th Century Living posted this gorgeousness on their Facebook Page yesterday afternoon and I’m heading there to check it out in person this afternoon. It’s in a warm grey (Pebble), five years old an in apparently fabulous condition. And at a great price.

BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.
BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.

— 4 —

I am almost finished an absolutely terrific novel by Ruth Ozeki called A Tale For The Time Being. It is hard to describe how much this book resonates with me. I’ve been listening to the audio version, read by the author. Watch the trailer.

— 5 —

Kotodama: the Japanese belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names; that ritual words can influence our environment, body, mind, and soul. It’s everywhere in Ozeki’s novel and i want to think about it some more.

— 6 —

If you have a chance to see Remember, the new film by Atom Egoyan starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, I highly recommend it. I saw a screening at TIFF this year and it was a highlight. While I don’t agree with this review (don’t leave early), I do agree that the rest of it is also very compelling.

— 7 —

Some Friday music humour.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

New Year 2015: Projects

I’m not making resolutions per se this year, but I’ve started a few projects that will put some discipline in my life.

On the health front, I’m starting the 100 days of real food program. It’s 14 weeks of “mini-pledges” that (hopefully) turn into habits. This week I’ve pledged to eat two servings of fruit/veg with each meal which is only an issue for me at breakfast. I mean, not an issue, but it’s not a habit (yet.) I also have a few minor health issues that I should deal with in the new year.

On the reading front, I’m participating in a few online challenges and read-alongs. I’m a member of the Roundtable group at Goodreads, a newly formed group rising from the ashes of Bookish that was recently closed. Like Bookish, they do a bi-annual reading challenge and so I’ve made my plans for the next four months. (I won’t get them all read, but I’ve lined up a book for most of the challenges.). They’re also doing a year-long group read of The Novel: A Biography by Michael Schmidt (along with various novels discussed therein); and a two-month discussion of The Brothers Karamazov. We’ve got our next four books lined up for my IRL book club: Us Conductors (Sean Michaels), Chez l’arabe: Stories (Mireille Silcoff), All My Puny Sorrows (Miriam Toews), and Bad Feminist: Essays (Roxane Gay).

On the social front, I am committing to meeting some online friends/relatives in real life! Last year, it was wonderful to finally meet Zouheir’s (and now my) friend Jean-Paul Audouy, high school friend Judson Stone who I saw in Paris for the first time since high school, as well as sheep-farming cousin Tom Goddard. This has spurred me on to get together with a cousin on my father’s side, Lillian Orloff Spencer, in Arizona in February and another on my mother’s side, Audrey Groff, close to me here in the GTA later this month. I also commit to be better about keeping in touch with those closer to me but with whom I can go for weeks or months without seeing.

With JP at Volos in Toronto
With the Temiskaming Goddards in Barrie
With Judson in Paris

And finally, on the home front, I will be continuing the decluttering with Rosalind from Fresh Start Solutions and getting some renovations done. December was a great month for that, with a huge purge of our main floor, new fridge and wall oven, as well as a good start on the basement (which is currently the home of things to be consigned/sold in the next little while.) The biggest win for me here will be the creation of my study/studio with all my creative endeavours organized and ready to go.

What do you see looking forward this year? Any projects/resolutions?

Because, apparently, you CAN have too many books!

The Ark, designed by Rintala Eggertsson Architects is a book lovers dream – the ultimate bookshelf, one that you can literally climb inside and spend the day in. Talk about getting lost in a good book!

Serious style for book lovers….click on the other views to see inside!

Getting stuff done

It has been very easy for me to fall in to the trap of excessive time online, planning and plotting, thinking about things I’d like to do around the house, reading organizing blogs and decorating blogs and business blogs and minimalism blogs…..and then not actually DO anything.

On top of the mountain of laundry that had piled up, I had a number of nagging tasks that I had been putting off for weeks.  Then I started saying “As soon as we’re back from Rome, I’ll get right on it.”   And then we got back and I got sick.

So now, feeling much better and only slightly bedeviled by allergies, I decided to hit the week running.

The top goals are/were:

Do something about the sorry state of our lawn. There was an article in the Star last last week about how to repair lawns, so I spent a good part of Monday and Tuesday raking the thatch and have started to put down a layer of new soil where the lawn is patchy.  I’ve got 200 litres of bagged soil in my trunk from my second soil run, and I”ll get that spread tomorrow.  I’ve also got some good quality grass seed that I’m sowing over the soil.  It looks like we’re going to get some rain over the next few days, so that will help. Status:  Half-done. To be finished tomorrow. 

Replace the hideous window coverings in the master bedroom.  They probably weren’t hideous when they were first installed, and probably matched the previous owner’s decor, but they are faded, dusty, brown-coloured balloon shades.  The strings are broken and the seams are coming apart.  So after doing the measurements,  I headed out to Ikea yesterday and picked up some sheers, some chocolate brown panels, and curtain rods.  We needed a total of six of each panel as we’re in a corner room with a double window on one side and a bay window on the other.  I’ve got some elbow issues right now, so I’ll need Z’s help to get the rods installed as I don’t want to put pressure on my joint with a screwdriver or power driver.  Status:  Measuring and shopping done.  Installation to be done this weekend.

Get a new washer/dryer.  We have the machines that came with the house.  The washing machine is ancient, doesn’t spin well, and is leaking oil.  So it’s gotta go.  I want a stackable pair as space is at a premium, so I spent some time on Monday researching machines, and whaddya know?  The top rated front-loading washer is on sale at Sears at the moment.  So I plan to order it in the next day or so. The city picks up old appliances free with a phone call in advance, so nothing to be done re disposal. And they offer a $60 rebate when you purchase a high-efficiency washer.  Status:  Research complete.  Rebate form printed.

Taxes:  Canadian taxes are due at the end of April.  Before we went on holidays, I downloaded the current tax software, (electronically) transferred the data from last years returns, and did Alex’s (very easy) return.  Today, I did Z’s and mine, and e-filed all three of them.  Status:  Done! Done! Done!

Laundry:  I don’t know how it happens, but it piles up!  It took me a long time to get all our vacation laundry done because I was sick, But it seems that as soon as I had it all put away, there were overflowing baskets of dirty stuff.  So today I sorted it all and got started.  Status:  Two loads done.  Two loads in progress.  Two loads left to do.

I’ve had a bunch to mini-tasks to do which I’ve managed to check off with some ferocity.  Shoes and a watch to their respective repair shops.  Getting some Canada Pension Plan info.  Groceries, shopping, chauffeuring, dog-walking.  You know the drill.  But it’s these things above that have made this week seem so productive.  And it’s only Wednesday!

I’ve been using this excellent Daily Docket from Simple Mom to organize my days.  It really helps me stay on track and not get lost in online wanderings or excessive book-reading-napping.  I print one first thing in the morning and fill it out while I’m having coffee.  It also helps that I’ve started trying to get up a little earlier each morning now that I’m feeling well.  I’m all done breakfast by 8 and have a good start on the day.

A shocking but (maybe) doable proposition?


My feed reader presented me with this today.  I like this guy.  I read Zen Habits and Zen Family Habits, two of his other blogs.  But get rid of books?  Even books I haven’t read yet (which is what I’ve pretty much whittled my fiction down to.)

But I have to take this possibility seriously.  I have too many books.  I have a great public library system that keeps me loaded with fresh reading.  Honestly, I haven’t read anything from my shelves in months.  Why can I not just wrap my head around giving away more of them?

I think I’ll start going through my non-fiction collection and cull anything that’s out of date or unlikely to be read or referred to in the next few years.  And then maybe tackle more fiction.

A Simple Post on Simplifying

I rarely print out content from blogs or websites, but yesterday’s guest post at Zen Family Habits had me hitting the print button.  Called 43 Simple Ways to Simplify Your Life, it was a list of great ideas that are short and sweet.  A list of some things that I’d already implemented and some things I need to get a handle on.  The tips range from keeping a gratitude journal to keeping spare garbage bin liners in the bottom of the bin.  I could benefit from both.

Zen Family Habits is a sister site to Zen Habits, another inhabitant of my feedreader, and full of sane advice about keeping it simple and real.  For example, it reminded me to get to bed early, one of my resolutions and something that I’ve fallen out of doing so soon into the new year.  Same with weekly meal planning;  I need to get back on that bandwagon.

For the next 30 days, Leo over at Zen Habits is giving every penny of sales from three of his ebooks to Doctors without Borders, so if you’re interested in this kind of lifestyle, head over there and get one.  They’re all under $10.

Seven Quick Takes Friday



For the past week, I have been trying the so-called “no-poo” method of hair management.  This involves ditching shampoo and using a baking soda paste to “wash” and some apple cider (or other) vinegar as a rinse/conditioner.  I have to say, it’s working remarkably well!  I don’t have before and after pics, but my hair is much smoother and less frizzy than normal.  I can also go an extra day (or two) between washes, which is a good thing with my coarse mop.  The second time I did it, I forgot to get some vinegar so I just skipped that step and it was still fine!  I’m using my regular styling products plus a new tool….


Ever since I’ve started growing my hair out, I have bemoaned the fact that I can’t get it to lie flat like my stylist can, with just a hair dryer and a round brush.  I can’t seem to put the hair tight enough to dry it flat, and let’s just forget about the back side of my head.  I had been contemplating getting a flat iron for some time, and I picked one up at Winners earlier this week.  Can I just say that I lurve it.  Seriously.  I am not a hair freak in any way, nor do I pay very much attention to my appearance in general, but this little (zebra-striped) baby is fabulous!  I’m probably frying my hair or something, but it gets it nice and straight and kind of soft.  I’m a convert.

While we’re on the subject of hair, I am considering letting my grey grow out.  I estimate that I’m over 50% grey, at least at the front.  After perusing Going Gray Looking Great and requesting the book at the library, I’m going to talk to my stylist and see if she can do some magic with a combination of low-lights and highlights to let my grey come in without looking like a skunk.

Okay, enough about my hair.  (And I said that I didn’t really care about it….)  The Declutter Club started on Monday with an online chat for an hour, which was great.  There were over a dozen of us online, plus some who couldn’t make it.  I’ve been working hard on getting my living room bookshelves into shape, purging books, listing some to sell, giving some away, and generally sorting through all kinds of papers and junk that I had stuffed in various places.  Next week, I will start working on a large former TV cabinet that I’m now using for linen and candle storage.  I want to get this unit out of my house, so I’ve got to find a home for all the stuff inside it.


The print editions of the National Post and The Star reported that Target is considering coming to Canada in the next 3-5 years.  Target, along with Trader Joes, were the big losses when we left the US 2-1/2 years ago.    Oh, and real barbeque.  Heavenly days!

Alex is coming home from Queen’s for the weekend.  Apparently, a lot of people are going skiing this weekend and he’ll find it hard to study.  Yes, you read that right.  We’ll see how much studying gets done at home.  And I need to remind him to turn off his file-sharing software on his computer….luckily for us Bell caps internet overusage at $30 per month.  We could have been hit by an extra $300 last month for whatever it is that he does.

I requested and received reservations for two papal masses when we’re in Rome over Easter.  We’ll be able to attend the Holy Thursday mass at St. John Lateran (cool VR tour) and the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s.  Those letters are my favorite faxes of all time!  Now I need to book a tour of the Vatican Museum.

Seven Quick Takes Friday


Welcome all Company Girls!

The last couple of days have been rather nerve-wracking, health-wise.  The night before last, I woke up at 3 am with stomach pains that wouldn’t go away.  They continued all day yesterday and pretty much prevented me from doing anything….I only managed to take Wilson around the block, and I drove to the library to drop off and pick up books.  My blood pressure was also up. Quite a bit.

I kept reading these websites about how heart attacks in women can mimic indigestion, etc, and was getting a bit freaked out. We didn’t have anything in the house for stomach ailments, and I didn’t really feel like eating.  I forced down some plain yogurt and a couple of bananas over the day (and a cookie)  and basically lay on the sofa with a book.

My stomach was still bothering me last night when I went to bed, but it’s all better this morning.  I have a headache, and my bp is still up, but hopefully it will subside as I start to feel better.  At least I’m up for errands and housework today.  And dinner out with friends tonight.

One of the “benefits” of being under the weather is getting some reading done.  Yesterday, I read the Philip Roth novella The Humbling


.  Very dark and intense story of a successful, aging actor who can no longer work.

I also got NutureShock: New Thinking About Children:


by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman from the library (again).  This is the third time I’ve checked it out but I’ve never been able to get it read before having to return it.  I”m halfway through and it’s a book that I wish I’d had when my kids were young.  So many important insights, but mainly it’s a debunking of many of the prevailing child-rearing tenets.  Like praise.  Like talking about race.  Like gifted testing in the early years. Like TV makes you fat.   Highly recommended reading for all parents of all ages.

I have a couple of resolutions from the book above regarding Michael.  First, it is imperative that he gets more sleep every night.  To that end, the laptop, iPod, and phone will be turned off at 10 and  left outside his room at night.  Second, he needs to understand that his brain is like a muscle, and the more he uses it, the more it grows.  He needs to start doing more work at school, more than is required by his teachers, if he is to keep it growing.   He has decided to drop Japanese for the rest of the year….he was quite far behind and unable to catch up, so we have let him stop going.  In it’s place, we’ve registered him in the Saturday Science and Engineering Academy at University of Toronto.  Their spring program is ten weeks, starting next month, and he’ll be taking the Math and Physics for Engineering program for students in Grade 9 and 10.


There are a couple of new TV shows that we’re enjoying.  The Republic of Doyle is a charming hour-long detective show set in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  The main characters are a father and son, who share a house with the father’s lady-friend and the son’s daughter.  The son is going through a divorce and his soon-to-be-ex-wife is also featured prominently.  The dialogue is fast and funny, and the scenery is gorgeous. The show has a retro buzz about it and is thoroughly engaging.

We also watched the first episode of the HBO production of Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, an adaptation of the Giller award winning book


of the same name by Vincent Lam.  The show really pulled us in, and is complex with flashbacks, fantasy scenes, and unanswered questions about why certain things are happening.  Another one for the PVR.

This Saturday, Z, Michael and I are heading to Koerner Hall to see Quartetto Gelato and Ethel.  Should be a high energy evening!  Check them out:


The online Declutter Group I’ve joined starts on Monday!  I”m looking forward to having a focussed approach to getting the house in order as well as the accountability of doing it in a group.  There are still spots, if anyone’s interested in joining me!

That’s all for today!  I”m off to get my house in order and run some errands.

Obligatory Post about New Years Resolutions

Yes, I’m making some.  But I’m easing in and taking it slowly.  My theme for the year is “Peace”.  Peace in all it’s forms:  peace with myself, with those around me, with the world, with God.  Bringing peace to others and building a peaceful sanctuary in our home.

But that’s kind of the overarching goal.  To get there, I need some feet-on-the-ground strategies around the many day-to-day struggles that I face as I move into the next calendar decade, as well as a personal milestone:  turning 50 in July!

My main source of inspiration over the past week has been Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project


.  In particular, I like how she focuses on one area of her life each month in an effort to establish some positive habits and I”m going to copy her themes, at least for the first few months.

In January, she chose to focus on Boosting Energy.  Rightly, she argues that boosting her vitality level would help her with future months in her happiness projects, and that makes sense to me.  Like Gretchen, I hope to develop some habits around both physical and mental energy.

On the bodily energy side, I need to work on getting more sleep and more exercise.  I aim to get to bed by 10 pm each night, at least Sunday to Thursday.  With my recent blood pressure incident, I need to bump up my exercise level to a minimum of 30 minutes per day.  I have started with doubling Wilson’s daily walks from 15 to 30 minutes and keeping to a brisk pace.  My 70s music mix keeps me engaged and moving.  Today’s playlist included Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke


“, Captain and Tenille “Love Will Keep Us Together


“, and Ian Thomas “Painted Ladies”.   I’m also going to go back to Oprah’s advice (actually, Bob Greene’s advice I think) about not eating two hours before bedtime.  Now, I’ve been known to do a lot of mindless eating in the evenings, and so this is a good one for me.  So, no eating after 8 pm.

On mental energy:  I need to create a calm and organized home.  If I see order around me, my stress level goes down and I’m able to relax and enjoy my family much more.  I have a number of great resources on this front, but for the purposes of setting a resolution, I want to spend some time each day following suggestions made by one or more of The Clutter Diet, Home Sanctuary, or My Simpler Life.  I also pledge to keep a running To-Do list, or bucket, per Getting Things Done‘s “Collect” phase..  I think of this as a brain dump, a way to manage stress by getting all the free-floating to-dos out of my head and onto a list so that I don’t forget them, and spend my precious mental energy trying to remember stuff.

Finally, I commit to blogging every day.  I did it in November, and the first part of December, and loved it.

I’m using an iPhone app called Touch Goal to manage my goals, and am currently using the built-in iPhone To Do list (which isn’t very good).  It doesn’t let me assign a start date or due date to items, so it’s a bit lame.  But there are lots of apps for that.  I just need to sort through them.

It seems like a lot, as I write it all out, but many of these habits are already (or have already been) part of my life at one point or another.  To summarize:

Body:  no food after 8 pm, in bed by 10 pm, and exercise 30+ minutes per day.
Mind:  one declutter task per day, running to-do list, blog every day.