Babauta blogs at Zen Habits and I find his work unfailingly helpful and thought-provoking. He wrote an eBook called Focus and this illustration summarizes some of his key points for managing distraction (and may print out a copy for my university-aged son.)
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.
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.
Mind: one declutter task per day, running to-do list, blog every day.
Kitchen ledge after: Ahhhhh…
Filing cabinet before: Note bottle of Chinese rice liquor is sitting just three feet from where it belongs in the liquor cabinet. There is also a stack of financial and other paperwork, most of which is filed in binders in another room and doesn’t belong there.
Filing cabinet after: Ahhh…nice and clear, with just a piece of artwork
But the other two big unscheduled tasks this week were the fridge and the master closet.The fridge was LONG overdue to be cleaned and we got rid of half a garbage bag of take-out boxes, old rotting sauces and condiments, and moldy leftovers (which we don’t normally have, with a teen boy eating them at 10 pm most nights). The fridge itself was also rather filthy, so it’s now gorgeously white, decluttered, and sparkly. I was able to get Z to focus on the master closet this weekend, as he has been setting up his new office in our recently departed-for-university son’s bedroom (sorry, Alex!). We got rid of 2 bags of clothing that will be donated at the monthly St. Vincent-de-Paul Bundle Sunday coming up next weekend at our parish. Everything is dusted, spacious, and tidy, with nothing on the floor except for some shoes and the laundry basket. It’s quite a small closet for two people, so tidying it up really makes a difference. So while I didn’t get all my proscribed tasks done, I believe that the decluttering mindset is rippling through the household, and we’re getting some other long overdue projects out of the way.
Thanks to the Clutter Diet people for spurring me on to accomplish these large tasks. It’s great to have a resource like that to give you a list and make you accountable. They have message boards where you can compare notes with other declutterers and get advice from the pros. I hadn’t been able to motivate myself on my own, so the small subscription fee is definitely worth it to me.
Here are the results for Week 2:Item 1: two bottles of Barbeque sauce. We don’t use bottled barbeque sauce. Plus, they had expired. Not sure how we got them in the first place. Dumped sauce and recycled bottles.
Item 2: Candle from master bath. Haven’t used it in the past year and it’s gathering dust. Outta here! (Goodwill)
Item 3: Cleaning products from master bath. First two require you to remember to use them EVERY DAY. We are not that on-the-ball. Third was empty bottle. Fourth is moisturizer that I never use and is just taking up space on vanity. Into recycling bin.
Item 4: Sort of spooky foot-high candle holder (space for tealight at bottom). Bought it years ago at a craft fair and kinda liked it. Not so much anymore. On to Goodwill.
Items 5 & 6: The big linen clear-out. I’m counting two items for these: a twin duvet that has lost some stuffing but is still serviceable, and some twin sheets and pillowcases (cotton) that are in primary/child colours and are no longer interesting to our sons. Plus a couple of lacy Euro shams that have yellowed. Into Goodwill bag.
Item 7: Stuffed monkey with magnetic feet. Promo item from Zs work but is in danger of becoming a dog toy leading to large vet bills when dog rips toy apart and swallows magnets. Goodwill.
The folks over at Organizing Queen are hosting a month-long declutter challange and awarding some interesting prizes. Every Friday, we need to post our weekly progress on decluttering one item per day.Here’s mine! Friday: Some too-small clothing from boys’ closets to take to Goodwill
Saturday: Bags for Goodwill that had been in my car for a number of weeks were dropped off.
Sunday: We were on holidays, but I managed to declutter (i.e. throw out) two old windshield wipers from the back of the car.
Monday: A pile of webbed stuff that you put under carpets. In a trash bag on the porch, waiting for garbage day.
Tuesday: A game that our kids have outgrown. Off to Goodwill.
Wednesday: Baby food that my brother forgot to take home with him when he and his family were visiting this summer. Left at a food bank box at my local grocery store.
Thursday: Cans of cream of mushroom soup that I bought at Costco for some casserole I was making in large quantity. I only used three of them, and will likely never use the rest. Also left at food bank box.
Lots of milestones since I last blogged:
- Became godmother to William Joseph. Spent 5 days in Berkeley CA where my brother and his family live and enjoyed very much the ceremony (which took place DURING mass, and was great) and the party aferwards.
- The boys finished their first year of school here in Toronto. Alex has one more year before he heads off to university.
- Alex got his first job, as a grocery clerk at our local No Frills. It’s four blocks from home which is great, but he hasn’t been scheduled for many hours yet. He’s enjoying the paycheque though. He bought an iPod shuffle to run with and is suddenly hyper-aware of how much everything costs.
- Alex is taking Driver’s Ed this week. Yikes! How did that happen?
- Michael got contact lenses yesterday.
- We replaced five feet of our kitchen counter (a peninsula) that was damaged, and installed a new sink and faucet, and….wait for it….a new dishwasher. Our old one sounded like a jet plane and prevented conversation pretty much anywhere on the main floor of the house. The new baby is flush with features, and you pretty much have to put your hand on it to figure out if it is running. Yesterday, I ran the “Top Only” cycle after breakfast which saves water and frees up space to get the rest of the days dishes in by the evening.
- I have started listening to a very inspiring audio book on decluttering (It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh). I gave away all my scrapbooking supplies to a (very grateful) cousin, and a pile of art stuff to Michael’s art teacher. I listed a bunch of books to sell on Amazon.ca and give away on Book Mooch. I’ve got a long way to go, but it feels good so far.
Blogging may be light over the summer. Have a good one!
Well, shreddings. Three large garbage bags full, ready for recycling. I have wanted to tackle our filing cabinet ever since we moved and I finally got the kick-start I needed.A couple of weeks ago I saw an item over at Uncluttterer on the FreedomFiler. It’s essentially a system for managing household and/or small business files that is self-purging. I ordered the smallest kit that just comes with labels and instructions as I already had hanging file folders and a cabinet. It arrived on Thursday and by midday Friday, our living room was awash in piles of paper to recycle, paper to shred and THEN recycle, old labels to throw away, and dust. By mid-afternoon today, I had two thirds of the cabinet purged, the shredding bags out on the back porch, the carpet vacuumed, and a basic system in place to manage our files. I got rid of 10 years of tax returns, 6 years of bank statements and bills, pay stubs, immigration paperwork, user manuals and warranties for things we no longer own, etc, etc. It feels incredibly freeing to have all this empty space in the cabinet and to be able to locate important papers quickly without pawing through piles of out-of-date stuff. I still have health records and the boys school and sports files to go through. Plus Z will have to deal with some of his bulging files full of financial and work stuff, old papers written in Arabic, and yellowing photographs from his childhood. My ultimate goal is to get rid of our existing three drawer lateral cabinet because it’s in our living room, is not attractive, and takes up too much space. There is simply nowhere else in the house to put it. I think I can get down to half the cabinet, which could then fit into a three-drawer standard filing cabinet that could be stashed somewhere unobtrusive. Or stored in some kind of attractive desk-type furniture thingy (maybe like this or this) in the study part of our living room.
As I have mentioned before, we don’t have a lot of storage space in this house so every bit has to count.Our front hall closet will the be repository of every winter boot, glove, scarf, coat, slipper, etc used by the four of us, so it needed to be well-organized. Here are the “Before” pictures. Note the jumble of miscellaneous stuff on the upper shelf.
After: I started by moving the brooms to a basement closet where I installed hooks to hold them all. I purchased four clear plastic bins and labeled them with their new owners’ names.
The hanging shoe rack will be limited to slippers or other indoor shoes, and dog walking apparatus (leashes, bags, and paper towels for cleaning his feet after a walk).
The shoe cleaning stuff (that was in the cardboard box on the top shelf) is now in it’s own bin on the floor at the back of the closet. The rest of the closet floor will be **strictly limited** to outdoor shoes.
[Hard-assed mother anecdote: Alex tends to leave his shoes directly in front of the door upon entering, rather than taking the, oh, 6 seconds to put them in the closet. On at least two occasions in the summer, after warning him about this, he “lost the privilege” of using said shoes for 24 hours. He had to run in his “back-up” running shoes, poor boy. I may need to resort to this again as the effect seems to be wearing off.]
Z and I redid our closet yesterday and it’s great! It’s a small walk-in, about 5′ by 6′, and we installed shelving on all three sides (not including the side with the door.)We started with a very basic closet. Zs side had two hanging bars.
My side had one bar, but at two heights.
I used the ClosetMaid Shelf Track system. I started with their flexible and helpful online closet design application, the Visual Storage Planner. It lets you enter the dimensions of your space and design your closet using their parts. You can see both elevation and interactive 3D views of the closet to make sure that you like the design. Then you can print out a parts list to take to the store.Home Depot will cut the shelving for you, and because we had the detailed parts list, we were able to have our cuts made at the store, which saved a lot of time. The demo of the existing closet was a pain, because there were layers of paint over wood shelving pieces (click on photos to get full horror!). We had to do a lot of spackling to fill holes and ripped drywall paper, and then we primed everything
We decided not to put a finish coat of paint on the walls because we were running out of time and our clothes were all over the place. It’s nice a bright white though, and looks just fine.
With the new shelving, we should be able to get most of the stuff off these open storage units in our bedroom.
The shelving used to be in our garage in Atlanta(!) but they’re headed for my basement room that I’m organizing this month.