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.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #37

the blahblahblah edition

Blahblahblah. Life is busy. Blahblah. I'm late again. Blahblahblah. Way behind. Blahblahblah. Getting rid of things is hard. Blahblahblah. Church rummage sale. Blahblahblah. On the verge of getting rid of big stuff. Blahblahblah. But for now it's the same old small stuff. Blahblahblah.

I suppose I'm getting tired of seeing myself type all the same old stuff. Indeed, I am very behind. I missed last week entirely. The spring church rummage sale happened late last month, which means my automatic drop-off spot is in limbo until the church women do an after-sale clean-up (in a couple of weeks, I think). I am working hard, HARD, to get this house in some sort of shape (quite a feat given that it appears to be falling down around us). Over the weekend, I made major steps towards completing the transition of the boys' room from nursery to child's room. This included moving some furniture in from my study. Which means there are things in my study that currently have no home. I have big plans for re-doing my study into a study/studio (for sewing, quilting, and general making) [see SouleMama for HUGE inspiration]. And big plans for making our oddly-shaped, multi-purpose living room/dining area/entryway more functional. Our bedroom is in ever-present need of decluttering (as you may recall from my unsightly bedroom dresser). And our basement (with its buckling walls) and sunroom (with its sinking foundation) are also in need of more attention than I will ever be able to give them.

All of this is to say that I have been doing lots of work, and lots of confronting of the unsustainability of our house and its contents, and lots of planning for reducing. Just not a lot of actual getting rid of.

My measly Saturday Seven this week: 5 books. 2 childproofing items (unused; one unopened). And a small stuffed animal. These will all go to the church rummage sale. Which means they will be stored in my office at church until the post-sale clean-up is done and new donations can be accepted.

My office at church? It's a disaster all its own....

Total this week: 8.
Total so far: 350.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #36

Somehow I completely blipped-out on posting my Saturday Seven on Saturday, even though I actually got rid of seven things. No excuses, really, but I'll blame it on this anyway:

Saturday morning, right before a planned outing with my boys, I looked out the window to discover this. The gold car is mine. The blue car belongs to someone who was attending U-M graduation at the Michigan stadium 5 blocks away. The fact that the car was touching my bumper wouldn't have been such a big problem if it wasn't for this:

The guy who parked behind me only left me 5 inches. So my morning went completely differently than planned, and I sort of forgot to post my Saturday Seven.

I actually got rid of 8 things last week: 2 plastic outdoor push toys that I got on freecycle last year, and 6 pieces of boys' clothes that didn't sell at our Parents of Multiples Clothing Sale, all given to the church rummage sale, which was held this past weekend. But the reason they only count as 7 is because I actually went back and retrieved something from the sale that I had already donated - an alarm clock. My Old Man told me last week that his was missing and he wanted to buy another one. Given that I had recently donated not one but two to the sale, I was pretty sure I could scrounge one back for him. And I did.

I tried to do some other scrounging, too, but to no avail. This one actually made me really sad. In December, I gave this stack of clothing to the sale. It was actually kind of hard, because a few of the things had been with me for awhile and I had always really loved them. If you look at the stack, you can see the blue, purple, and white crinkly skirt I bought my senior year of college from TJ Maxx. For the longest time this was my favorite skirt - kind of signature skirt of mine. Very beachy. Very boho. But the elastic was shot and I hadn't worn it in forever. So I finally parted with it.

Just recently, we made plans to go to the beach this summer. I suddenly started thinking of this skirt. I kept thinking that now that I know a little bit about sewing, I could probably put new elastic in the waist. Or, if not that, then I could use the skirt for fabric, maybe make a beachy shawl out of it. I was very excited about the possibilities of refashioning it. Only when I went to the sale (before it started), the skirt was nowhere to be found. I scoured the tables for a very long time - no skirt. And the volunteers who set up didn't remember seeing it. So I guess it's gone for good.

See, this is one of the reasons it's so hard for me to part with stuff. Because it seems like the very instant I finally let something go, I realize I actually did need it or could use it after all. I had been so proud of myself for letting go of such a cherished and memory-laden garment. But now I'm very disappointed that I didn't let myself just keep it.

Total this week: 7.
Total so far: 342.