Monday, July 16, 2007

Explaining the silence.

Last weekend was the official end of my the first phase of my Seven Things Project. In addition to the fact that I had two Saturday Sevens to catch up on, I had planned to write a reflection on the first year of this project. Unfortunately, my family experienced a horrific event that ended in an unbelievably happy outcome, and we have spent the last many days dealing with it. You can read about it here. This blog may "go dark" for a bit, and I wanted you to know why. After we get home from our vacation and get adjusted back to normal life, I will catch up on this blog again. Thank you for understanding.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #40

Tangled Up in Blue

Look! I actually got rid of some things this past week. Seven, even. So I'm sure you'll kindly overlook (again) the fact that this Saturday Seven is posted on Tuesday. (Okay, scratch that, it's actually early Wednesday morning now, about 1:00 in the morning. I started this entry first thing Tuesday morning but had to put it on hold while I plowed through a to-do list a mile long....)

Anyway, for weeks now I have had a pile of clothes sitting out in our bedroom waiting for me to determine whether to keep it or pass it on. Given that I haven't worn any of it since I piled it there, or probably in a couple of years or more, you'd think the answer on all of it would be obvious - pass it on. But not for me, nosiree. I have to agonize over every piece. Now that I'm doing the Wardrobe Refashion, it's even harder to get rid of unused clothing - because now I see all of it as a potential refashion.

Last week, we got a postcard from the Easter Seals saying they would be driving through our neighborhood picking up donations from the curb. It doesn't get any easier than this! So I took that as the little shove I needed to find at least seven things to donate. After rummaging through the pile in our bedroom, I came up with one pair of black sandals (have always loved them and love them still, but the elastic has stretched on them to an extent that they are too big for me now); one never-worn brooch that I bought last year to go with a capelet I was knitting that did not turn out well; and five pieces of clothing, all blue: two very nice Ann Taylor tops, two tees, and a pair of pjs. I also started to put some Ann Taylor stretch jeans that are no longer my style, but then I realized I might be able to make a fun skirt out of them.

Just as I was packing the stuff up to put out by the road, I realized there were a couple of small coffee stains on the striped Ann Taylor sweater. This happens to me more times than you would believe - I'm ready to pass something on, only to discover that it needs to be washed (or worse, dry cleaned). The stuff was due out at the road first thing, and there was no time to clean up the sweater, so I took it out of the pile.

It's funny, I've been hemming and hawing over giving that sweater away for months or maybe more than a year. It has stretched out and really doesn't fit me anymore in a flattering way, so I don't end up wearing it. But I loved it so much when I first bought it, and I have good associations with it. Funny that I finally decided to part with it only to discover it needed cleaning.

After I snapped this second pic, I found one more thing for the pile: a cute little maternity dress that a friend passed on to me but I never wore (because it was too small for my late-term multiple pregnancy self). I had tried to sell it in the past with no luck. I kept thinking I'd try again, but now I'm glad I just let it go. I also fished around in my car and found a few books that I had meant to drop off at the church rummage sale (counted weeks ago as a Saturday Seven), and I added those to the bag.

One more funny cleaning-related thing. After the stuff had already been picked up, I was down in the basement doing laundry, and I discovered two more shirts I had meant to add to the pile but had decided they needed washing first. They were clean and dry and ready to go. They were, of course, also blue.

Total this week: 7.
Total so far: 359.

Thanks, all of you, for your really great comments on my last post. I'm definitely going to persist in this and am glad some of y'all are doing it as well. I'm about to leave for vacation, and hope to spend some of my time reflecting on what form this project needs to take for me over the next year. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I started the Seven Things Project partly in an effort to move towards more sustainability - both economic and environmental - in my personal life, and to be a part of a communal conversation towards that end. Funny then, isn't it, that I cannot seem to sustain either the project itself or the blog that helped me launch it.

I am so grateful for you who read this blog, and for you who comment, and especially for you who are struggling along with me towards similar goals, and most especially towards those of you who have given me such gracious encouragement and support. I feel bad about my almost total failure to respond individually to comments (I'll blame blogger a little bit, for making it difficult). And I feel even worse about my inconsistency with posting. I actually do post all the time - in my head. Getting them typed up and online has been an entirely different story.

At the same time, I realize it's a little ridiculous to live with guilt over a blog. And I also realize it probably gets tiresome to read apologies and excuses.

Still, I feel guilty. And still, I am sorry.

I am an Idea Person. I have big ideas, sometimes good ideas - and I'm pretty sure that the Seven Things Project was - and is - a good idea. It's just when it comes to consistent follow-through, well, suffice it to say that I struggle.

Which could be why my house feels just as full as stuff as it did when I started this project nearly a year ago. The baby diapers I intended to post on eBay? Still here. The antique table I wanted to sell so we could buy something more useful? Still have it. The three recliners that I thought I'd give away? Still here. The new-with-tags Bebe dress, Bebe top, and Ann Taylor formal skirt that were all ill-conceived purchases five and six years ago and should've been returned within 30 days? Got it, got it, got it.

Perhaps I have made a dent, it's hard to tell. I know I have more mindfulness - especially about the stuff I am considering buying. It has been four months now since I bought myself a new piece of clothing (other than shoes and undergarments), and I've signed on for another six months. For me, that's a pretty big deal (but don't ask me how much fabric I've bought in that same amount of time). I have made some small eco-friendly commitments and recommitments that I haven't blogged about, that seem to have come as a result of the focus this project has given me. And, as much as I fail - in getting rid of stuff, in stopping myself from acquiring more stuff, and in blogging about all of it - I am still determined to keep trying to do better. And it's possible I already am, at least a little bit.

Does this sound like a farewell post? It's not, actually. It's just my current musings, and a bit of an apology for not posting any Saturday Sevens in awhile (I suppose I can't really count my last one, since it was ZERO). This project was intended to end on July 7 of this year. I guess this phase of this project will end, but this blog will keep going - though maybe without the weekly pressure of a deadline (I probably already have enough of that kind of pressure in my life right now - also, what was I thinking, making the deadline be a Saturday, when that is nearly always a full and sometimes stressful day because of my work?). I am still considering what incarnation this project will take next.

At any rate, I'm sticking around, and I'm grateful for those of you who might keep on reading. Even when I have no progress to show. Even when I am awful at responding to comments. And even when I am sporadic in my posting. Thanks in advance for understanding. You're all marvelous.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tackle It Tuesday #5 - the pantry

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Our pantry stays in disarray. We have four deep shelves - the depth actually complicates things, because items get sucked into little black holes in the back, especially on the lower shelves. The top shelf typically stays in reasonably good order, with spices on the right (my most-used spices are in magnetic containers stuck to the refrigerator next to the stovetop) and oils and vinegars on the left, with a few regularly-used items (peanut butter, tea, steel-cut oats) also stored on that shelf. But the rest? Pure mess.

I spent time this weekend sorting through it all, tossing old stuff (an opened bag of Soy Crisps from maybe 3 years ago? Yeah, I think it can go), organizing the rest, and shaking my head at how I continually buy new containers of stuff I already have because I didn't realize I had it in there (6 containers of oats, 4 containers of bread crumbs, for example).

I recently bought a set of four baskets on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics - one big basket with three smaller ones (in a red and white fabric that matches my kitchen, not that it will be seen in the patnry). I also found another basket that we were given a few months ago. I used the baskets to hold like items. One basket holds snacky stuff - chips, crackers, nuts, etc. One basket holds bags of rice. One basket holds bags of beans. One basket holds all my cupcake making things, and then it fits in the bigger basket, which now holds most of my baking items.

Here's the after shot:

Here are the two middle shelves. 2nd shelf - dried fruits, nuts, snack stuff, and one of the containers of oatmeal. 3rd shelf - pastas, rice, and beans on the left, baking goods on the right, with the little shelf for saran wrap and foil and plastic bags hung above it (that used to be hung above the 2nd shelf, but I realized that it works better to have it directly over a big basket that I can pull out and see the whole contents of; otherwise, the little shelf conceals the view of the back of the pantry).

Bottom shelf (with Tiny Dancer's hand sneaking in the pic) - on the left is many containers of oatmeal, some grits, cocoa, cornmeal, and a few other items that either had no logical place or were too big to place elsewhere. On the right, I finally have a place to store dishtowels, dishcloths, and cloth napkins (in a lovely Amazon box). Our teeny-tiny galley-style kitchen has limited storage, with only 3 drawers. Till now I have stored these kitchen linens in the basement - which is just a drag when we need a fresh towel or dinner napkins. I think this will be much more convenient.

Overall, I'm pleased with the outcome, and it actually took less time than I expected. The real challenge now will be keeping it this way....

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #39

Z is for Zero

Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. That's what I got rid of this past week. And I'm just kind of beyond feeling bad about it, and beyond being down on myself for never posting a Saturday Seven on Saturday anymore.

Life feels a little complicated these days, in a deep and slightly subtle way. On the surface I'm dealing with all the same chaos and busyness and happy stuff as always, more or less. In a more interior way, though, there are some small shifts (in a good direction), and also some old griefs and struggles that relate directly to how I deal with possessions. My mom is very ill these days, and while her diagnosis is not yet known (a recurrence of her cancer is a possibility), just the fact of her being sick again triggers old sadness and fear. So much of my relationship with stuff is bound up with my relationship with my mother, in ways that I can't always make sense of.

The Seven Things Project is explicitly about getting rid of things I already have. A bigger issue for me, though, is dealing with the acquisition and accumulation of new things. I find myself wondering how I am really simplifying by getting rid of stuff when the fact is I haven't quit buying new stuff.

Except in one area: clothes. Since signing the Wardrobe Refashion pledge in February, I haven't bought a single new item of clothing for myself (except the allowable: shoes [1 pair] and undergarments; I will also be buying a new swimsuit soon). When I first signed up, I did it for two months. Then I re-upped for another 2 months. As of June 1, I am signing on for (*gulp*) 6 months. It feels really good to make this effort, and I feel so much self-sufficient when I make my own duds. Truth be told, though, if I never made or bought another item of clothing, I could probably make do with what is in my closet(s) for a long, long time. I really, really need to get rid of much more than I already have. I just find it so difficult, even more so then I realized.

I suppose I am doing better in other areas, too, overall. It's just never easy, at least not for me. I think I've always had a vision that if I could embrace "simplicity" as a whole-life concept, I would also have a simpler life. But the older I get, the more I realize that life is probably always just going to be a bit messy, and difficult, and that no matter how much stuff I get rid of and how little stuff I own, I will never feel like I'm in some sort of balanced, harmonious, control over life. Because that's not how life works. The problem really isn't stuff, per se, is it?

So those are my rambled thoughts for this week.

Total for this week: 0.
Total so far: 352.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tackle It Tuesday #4 - my boys' room

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

My twin sons will be three next week. They share a small room, which has been in transition for the last 10 months, when we had to first convert their cribs to toddler beds (because they were beginning to climb out), and then take those beds out and leave the mattresses on the floor (because they were climbing the bed sides, jumping off the beds, pushing them around the room - taking turns riding in them - and blocking the door with them), and then take out the changing table (because they were climbing it and dancing on the top of it), and then take out the dresser (because they were starting to try to climb it). Yeah, my boys are a handful.

In the beginning, their room looked like this:

By this past March, it looked like this:

In March, I tackled the bed situation, by getting both crib mattresses out and assembling a double bed that we had stored in our basement. For two months, their room had a bed and basically zero storage.

I finally tackled it. My Old Man and I moved a nightstand, a small dresser, and a bookcase in their - items that were once a part of the guestroom (which was turned into the nursery), then were stored in the basement, then were moved into my study. I have had these pieces of furniture for roughly 14 years, starting with my first apartment after college. It's nice to see that they are still so functional, and they have made a huge difference in my boys' room.

Finding a place for all my boys' toys, big and small, has been a real challenge. It helps that it is finally warm enough to be in our poorly-insulated sunroom. I moved a lot of their bigger toys there. I'm not sure what I'll do in five months when it's too cold to play out there anymore. I moved most of their stuffed animals into their closet, where I hung one of those mesh tube-like things from Ikea (I had originally hung it in their bedroom a few months ago, but they promptly pulled it down). They seem to be keeping their books neater now that there's a sturdier bookcase for them.

And the best organizational piece I got was this:

A shoe hanger, for all their small toys. This has been perfect, especially for all those pesky Mr. Potato Head pieces. The boys can see all their small toys easily, and it is so easy for them (and me) to put them up).

Possibly the biggest change in the room is that, while there is now enough organized space for toys, books, and clothes, there is also enough cleared out playspace:

The dresser used to be on this wall, and the bookcase was right there at the window. Now, instead, there is a clear path from door to window (which opens up the room, and makes it feel bigger than it is), and there is space on the floor for them to pull out their trainset (from under the bed, where it is now neatly stored!) and set it up to play.

I am so pleased with this room now. I am even putting up their laundry in a more timely fashion, because there is actually a place for everything (for months, many of their clothes have mostly been stored in the basement, in laundry baskets!). It is so much easier for them to help clean up, too.

There is still work to do, and ultimately I plan to tackle it all. In no particular order:
1 - I need to remove the nursery border from the walls.
2 - We need to spackle in the holes where we had attached the dresser and bookcase (to keep them from tipping).
3 - The room needs to be repainted (probably the same color, but it needs to be freshened).
4 - New bed linens. I plan to buy a sheet set, but I'd like to make the bedcover myself (I'm hoping to learn to quilt this summer).
5 - New window dressings. (currently their old nursery valances are up)
6 - Wall hangings.
7 - Install a shelf for a CD player (that needs to be out of their reach).
8 - Remove the potties, once the boys are consistently using the bathroom toilet.

Obviously, I have a lot of tackles ahead of me! But I think this current one has had the biggest psychological impact. Now I'm ready for more!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #38

two big things and no tears

I'm late posting because I kept thinking I was going to find five more things to get rid of but I just didn't find the time to do it. But what I did get rid of was Big Stuff.

The first thing was my other crib mattress. What, no tears? Probably because I wasn't here when it was picked up (plus, I was just so freakin' happy to have it out of my study, where it has been standing in the way for weeks). I offered it on craigslist for a low, low price, but there were no takers. So I ended up donating it to a charity that works with pregnant women and new mothers, usually ones who are in financial need. I felt good about that, knowing that the crib where my little ones once slept in safety and peace would now hold another babe, one in a family that might need some extra support. A volunteer from this agency saw my craigslist ad and contacted me - she also made things super-easy. She picked it up and gave us a tax receipt. It's something I should definitely consider doing again, as you know I still have plenty of baby stuff around.

The second thing was a headboard that's been stored in our basement for three years (since we converted our guestroom into a nursery). Almost 9 months ago, I promised it to be friend CJ. Finally, this past Friday, the two of us, plus My Old Man, managed to work out the logistical details of getting it to her place. It's in nice shape, can fit a queen or a double, and should have a lot of years left in it. It feels good to have one more thing in the home of someone who will put it to good use!

So, just two things, but both things made a big psychological impact. I feel like maybe I'm getting somewhere with this getting rid of stuff. Always, always a lot more stuff to go. But still....

Total this week: 2.
Total so far: 352.