Wednesday, December 29

Washing Windows--Targeting Goals

When Georgia and Neal were little I went to our pastor's house on a Saturday to help the pastor's wife wash windows. They lived on a busy city street and she had noticed the car exhaust fumes clouding up the view from their living room more and more each season, so she felt a huge desire to shine the panes.

Each of us had arranged for our husbands to watch our own kids during this quick morning clean-up job. It wasn't easy to arrange this; Phil ran his own business and often manned the carpet store on Saturdays. Her husband had the ever-looming sermon to polish by Sunday morning. Our allotted work time was of the essence.

I arrived at her home and went into the kitchen to say hi to the family. She was helping one of her kids clean up from an extended Saturday breakfast and getting him ready to be "watched" by daddy. To maximize my help to the family I started gathering the breakfast dishes and reached for the dishwashing soap and sponge to begin cleaning up a few dirty cereal bowls while I waited for her to direct our window washing.

To my surprise I heard her say, "Stop, don't do those dishes." At first I joked that I didn't mind but she said again, "No, don't start doing the dishes." With a wondering look I turned around and really paid attention to her--was she thinking I was taking over her house or was she the type of housekeeper who liked her dishes done "just so?"

Seeing my face she explained, "We're going to get started on those windows in just a minute, I don't want you to get bogged down with doing little things."

Not knowing her real well, but respecting her for what I did know, I stepped away from the sink and just waited for her to finish with her children's needs. In minutes we were outside with buckets and ladders and we worked a couple of hours shining her windows. We finished the front ones, tackled a few more on the sides, then I had to go.

Over the years I never did get close to her and our family eventually began attending another church which was nearer to our home. However, the pastor's wife lived out a truth for me that has been invaluable over all these ensuing years. Aim for and work toward accomplishing the big goal; don't get bogged down with good, but less pressing, work. The pastor's wife knew she would eventually get those breakfast dishes washed up but she only had a small "window" of opportunity to get her more pressing task accomplished. She targeted her energy, and mine, on her goal and she achieved it.

Monday, December 20

Giving away treasured heirlooms

A friend of mine passed away recently and I've been wondering how to let her family know that I'd be happy to help with giving away or at least organizing her clothes for easier storage or passing along to other family members, when they are ready to let them go.  This post from Flylady's website made me realize that giving away treasured personal items is a good thing, yet we never know when the time is right until we're "led" to do it.  I think I'll tell my friend's family that I'm here to help, and wait for them to be "led" to choose the right time.  I'll also tell myself that if they don't ever mention it to me, that's "being led," too.

Today's Moment - No More Waiting for Someday

flylady, 12/18/2010 11:00 pm
Dear FlyLady,
I recently started a "book of moments." When something positive happens that really touches me, I take 5-10 mins and write about it. Then I put my "moments" into a binder. I realized when my Mom passed away that I wish I knew more about which moments meant something to her, etc... My 10 year old DS enjoys reading mine and has even started his own book of moments. This is my moment from today.
This morning I went through the last of my Mom's clothes. There were some scarves. You know, the silky, beautiful scarves that some people wear around their neck and tie into a knot. I'm not one of those people that are comfortable wearing that look. There were only four scarves left that I hadn't already given away. The only reason I hadn't was because they were the four most beautiful scarves. I felt that "maybe someday" I would wear them someday when I'm older and in a different place in my life, when I have a reason to dress more sophisticated than I currently do, in my casual business attire that I'm so comfortable wearing. Every time I look at the scarves, I get a twinge of guilt that I am not wearing them. My mother would want them to be worn.
This morning, I decided that if the "someday" that I begin wearing scarves is not NOW, I should pass them along to someone who WILL wear them. I bagged them up and brought them to work for a co-worker who wears scarves and looks terrific in them. Her husband recently passed away and there aren't enough people in her life who do nice things for her, although she is unfaltering kind to everyone. There was one scarf that had pink and purple in it that I had a feeling she may like. She opened the bag and gasped, gushing over how beautiful the scarves were. Then the pink and purple one caught her eye. She immediately lifted it, put it on and said, "Oh! This is my new favorite scarf! I'm going to wear it today!" There was such happiness on her face as she thanked me for them.
This brought me so much joy, knowing that instead of sitting in a box, collecting dust, waiting for "someday" to come along, my mother's scarves have a new owner who will love and wear them.
Thank you, FlyLady for teaching me so much that I am able to teach my son. He gets a kick out of the fact that we are BOTH learning how to do housework, declutter, and build routines - 15 minutes at a time! You've helped me understand that material items are NOT what hold memories of loved ones.
Blessing others truly does bring pleasure and is so simple to do even on a very tight budget. Tonight my DS and I are bringing 5 spare blankets & comforters to the local homeless shelter. We are so excited to be able to help others and lighten our load as well!
I am so grateful for you and your unconditional love for Flybabies like us!
Melanie in Shokan, NY

Saturday, December 18

Magazine Mountain

What do you do when a wonderful family member loves to keep magazines, trade journals and catalogs for a long time?  Well, Flylady reminds us that we can only change ourselves and that's true.
There are some things we can do to make the situation better. 

We can keep most of our home de-cluttered, the spaces we're primarily responsible for maintaining.  We can remove any of our mess from the family member's messy area.  For example, we can keep our magazines and catalogs in another place and not add them to the "magazine" table.  Very importantly, we can resist the temptation to organize the magazine collection (such as putting all the "Time" magazines in one stack in reverse chronological order) or making snide remarks about how unattractive the area looks.

Our homes can look very peaceful, tidy and spacious if most of the home is uncluttered.  Our dear family members have preferences for how they like to keep their belongings and we really can't organize for another adult, unless they want to change their habits.  I'm sorry.

Recycle That Halloween Candy

One of my friends showed me the gingerbread house her 3 year-old son made (with a little help.)  At Halloween she told him, "Be sure to save your candy for your gingerbread house at Christmas," and he did!

Can't think of a better motivator for having kids learn self control, and a wonderful way to recycle all that sugar.

De-cluttering Children's Books

We all want to read to our kids and develop their little minds, so we buy books for them and check books out of the library and ask the grandparents for books for their birthday gifts and .....we end up with huge piles of books!  Often we know we're due to return books to the library but we just can't find them.

My friend has two children under the age of four and her children's books had taken over a corner of her family room.  She loves to read to her children and wanted to make it easier to find specific books so we worked together this morning on organizing her kids' books.  First, the goal was written down so we stayed on track:

Next, we sorted all the books by "Older Son" and "Younger Son."  At this point we didn't take the time to consider whether or not a book was worth keeping. We did put the library books in a separate pile.  My friend was so fast at sorting the books that her arm looks like lightning in the photo.

Then, we got out several paper grocery bags and labeled them by the child's name, plus today's date.  I asked my friend to go through her older son's books and put half of them into a "Read Now" pile and a "Read in 3 Months" pile.  She handed the books to me and I organized them by size in their respective groups.  After we did her older son's books we tackled the books for her younger son.  We put the "Read in 3 Months" books in her storage area and she wrote a note on her calendar to rotate the books in March.

If her older son remembers and asks for a book that is in storage, it won't be too hard to locate it.

When we were finished my friend said, "I can do this with their toys."  I smiled and agreed.

Friday, December 17

Doing the Hand Washables

Wowie zowie--no school today and at 4 PM we start Christmas vacation--yeah!
The couch in my bedroom has been accumulating hand washables, delicate clothes that need a gentle touch for washing and drying, for 6+ months.  Keeping up with regular laundry isn't a problem in our house but those dainty clothes and linens hardly ever have their turn in the laundry room.  I get a kick out of using linens from my mom or those I've found at resale shops, but they do need to be handwashed and often they are in the laundry or unironed when I want to use them.  I never even think about how much it would cost to have them cared for at the cleaners.

Today was the day to tackle the enormous task--lightweight sweaters, family linens, slinky clothes, bulky sweaters--now damp, but clean.  Here are some tips for managing hand washables when you do them en masse:
Use the gentle cycle on the washer and the maximum water volume to wash clothes which can be safely washed in a machine.  Unless your clothes are extremely fragile this will work for non-heirloom clothes.
Family linens and dainty clothes can be washed in a big basin or in your (clean) laundry sink.  Have several bath towels ready to use for rolling up your rinsed clothes and blotting the water out for 10 minutes or so.  Throw those wet towels in the dryer unless they have absorbed dye from the clothes and dry them right away.
If you don't have enough floor space to dry your sweaters on the floor, on a towel for blocking, then use the top of a bed or your ironing board.  If you are unfamiliar with blocking your sweaters to retain their shape and size, just Google the term or please write me and I'll take a video of the process.

Use over-the-door hangers to dry lightweight tops and sweaters.  Sometimes I hang the item upside down and take advantage of gravity to maintain the neck shape.  If there's a possibility of the hanger making indentations in the fabric I'll use a small towel as a buffer.

Delicate linens can be dried flat on a bed.  Put a clean sheet on top of the bed and gently flatten the linens over the sheet, taking care to block the item into its original shape.  If your handmade linens aren't exactly square when you're done don't fret, they are handmade and very unique.  I use a fan to speed up the drying process and keep my bed linens from getting too damp.

Now all that's left on my bedroom couch are some papers and those unwrapped Christmas presents.  I can say with some confidence that most of the items will be gone by the 25th...

Sunday, November 7

Post Wedding Day

Whew!  My wonderful, organized daughter was married October 24th and it was glorious.  She assembled teams of friends to take care of all the different aspects of her Happy Day.  The delicious dinner, the flowers, the "cookie tables" instead of a big cake, the music, the clean-up afterward were all taken care of by extremely capable friends and acquaintences.

I expected she might be a little frantic the morning of the Happy Day, but she slept well each night prior to the wedding and rose early that morning to drive herself to the church and monitor last minute details.  Yesterday she mentioned to me that a friend told her that she noticed something really nice about the wedding and reception--all the guests were smiling and seemed very happy.  The Lord was very merciful in giving all of us such a wonderful day.

Organization is valuable for the good times and the tough times.  I just read this testimonial from the site tonight.  As an occupational therapist I'm amazed how well this lady has written her story; it really shows how greatly she has recovered from a very difficult health crisis.  I hope it is encouraging to you.

Dear FlyLady,

I have been a Flybaby for three years. My husband is a teacher and I have two beautiful daughters, ages 4 and 7. I have been a stay at home mom since my oldest was born and along the way I also went to school and got a bachelor's in Economics. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict and have been clean and sober for 19 years. I sponsor several women and go to meetings regularly. I have two cats and a dog. What flying has helped me do is keep BALANCE in my life. I find that I have time for all the activities and people that are important to me. I graduated with honors in May, and as my youngest was heading off to all day school this fall, I was planning on going to work.

This August I was on campus meeting with my adviser regarding my plans this fall when I suddenly fell over with a violent headache. She called 911 and the rest was a blur. I had had a brain aneurysm bleed. I had my control journal in my briefcase and I don't know if that is how they got a hold of my husband but I remember being in the ambulance being asked my phone number and not being able to remember, but pointing to my briefcase. DH, my parents and friends came to the hospital. I had a total of three aneurysms, three brain surgeries and was in three different hospitals, and post operative had a stroke on my left side. I was in the ICU for 21 days and unable to sit up because of an art line in my groin.

Through Facebook my DH was able to get the word out to my recovery community and they in turn helped him and my family provides stability to my DD's. My friends all knew about my routines and my lists and they helped DH and my parents figure out what needed to be done around the house, with the kids and for the pets. We all agreed that routine was the best thing that the children could have. I was so comforted the with the tools that I had in place, the household could run without me if need be.

When it was time for me to come home I still had cognitive problems. I had physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. I began getting better by getting dressed to my shoes every day. Doing personal hygiene was my first step toward feeling "normal" again. It has now been almost three months since the onset and I am released from all of my therapies. I have a prognosis of full recovery.

My speech therapist was duly impressed by my control journal and wanted me to explain how it works. She said it is perfect for people with brain trauma because we need reminders about how to stay on task without forgetting important things. My calendar was critical in coordinating my appointments. I now am back to doing a load a day, zone work, exercise, picking up and shopping. I am getting ready for the holidays and expect to be looking for work come January. For now I get to bring stability back to my children and still have the time I need to rest and heal. Again FlyLady is helping me have balance.

I'm grateful to be alive, grateful to be well and thankful that I found you years ago, so my routines were already in place when all this happened. It helped so much!

Debbie in Milwaukee

Sunday, September 19

Another Flylady post

Yes, I'm crazy about Flylady.  Once I finish reading Sink Reflections I start all over again.  Here's a post from her digest today and it makes so much sense.  Only problem--you have to have an empty drawer...

Hi FlyLady,

Recently my 11-yo DS and I had the opportunity to rearrange his dresser. Thanks to you, we set aside his top left dresser drawer as his "tomorrow drawer."
Before he goes to bed, he puts his clothes for the next day in that drawer, along with his belt and a pair of socks and clean undies. Plus anything small he wants to remember to take somewhere the next day. Those are the only items in that drawer.
He is so excited about his Tomorrow Drawer! He has a launching pad for his backpack, but he didn't want his undies out where anyone could see them & neither would I (lol). And I am amazed when he appears fully dressed & ready to go.
Thank you for the inspiration. The tomorrow drawer is already working well and it will make mornings a lot easier next week when school starts.
Flybaby in CA

Flylady's website

Saturday, September 18

A Gem from the digest

Well, I was having qualms about working full-time until I'm 70, but this lady's post on today's digest on has inspired me to keep aiming toward that goal.

Dear FlyLady,

I am 72 years old & still working- - at my third career (first:phone company supervisor; second: math teacher; third: church secretary/bookkeeper). By using your method, my home looks better than it ever did.

I have my Flight Control Journal with morning & evening routines, weekly routines,& zone routines. I combine these with index cards for monthly, quarterly, & yearly routines. When I complete a monthly, quarterly, or yearly task, I move the index card to the next appropriate month.

I have your purple Office in a Bag which I carry with me everywhere for on-the-spot use. Therefore, I always have something to read, plus notecards and postage stamps with me. Being organized as you recommend, there's time to go to the gym before work, attend evening events & meetings, & play the organ for up to three services on the weekend.

Couldn't do it without God's help and yours, FlyLady!

FlyBaby T

Friday, September 10

What a Difference a Little Peace and Quiet Makes

When I'm at work doing paperwork, there are usually several people nearby and it's very difficult to concentrate when their work-related conversations concern topics which pertain to my work as well.  However, today I stayed in the library at one of my schools and worked for a couple of hours on preparing student data forms, which I use to track progress during the year.  There was even--gasp--a window near me which looked out over a landscaped area at the school.  Bliss.

In those two hours I probably did more concentrating than 8 hours combined at my usual work station.  Best of all, the feeling of frustration when trying to unsuccessfully remain focused was nowhere to be found.  What luxury.

Do you beat yourself up for having trouble focusing at work?  If you have solutions and/or suggestions for this dilemma please share.

Sunday, September 5

I Thought I Was Tough

Today a friend told me how she had helped clean out a 100+ year old house for several days last week.  The former resident was a bit of a "collector" and had saved dead critters in jars and other memorabilia in unexpected places around the house.  All the friends who pitched in to help the family clean out the house wore masks, due to the large amount of rodent droppings possibly being hazardous if particles became airborne, yet slept several nights in the house since it was so far away from any practical lodging.  They also found many treasures from the 1930's and 40's such as jadeite and depression-era glass.

I thought back to the times when friends helped a colleague de-clutter her house and we encountered almost fossilized cat droppings around the edges of the room and especially behind boxes filled with old papers.  The ammonia in the air made our eyes water and we all took showers and washed our clothes immediately upon returning home.  How is it that we get accustomed to smells inside our homes, or our cars, and don't realize that it's unusual to have an enclosed area smell that way.  When our attic exhaust fans turn on in hot weather my whole house smells like creosote from the chimney, until the fans' thermostats shut them off at night and the house returns to smelling like it should.  If I leave my used lunch wrappers in my car for several days then my car starts smelling like a greasy fast food kitchen.

I think I'll go out and hug on Stewey--he usually smells like he's been napping in the sunny hay barn.


Saturday, August 21

Vinyl Treasures

Didn't my friend do a great job of organizing and displaying her 33 RPM collection?  She arranged it so that it would not be obvious when you view her living room from the front hallway, but rather she planned the arrangement so that it's tucked into one corner and you don't really focus on it until you're fully in the room.  This way the "wall of sound" doesn't dominate the room but allows the fireplace and other features of the space to be appreciated before a visitor sees the shelves housing the records.  

She enjoys listening to the records on her 1950's turntable console, which also serves as a functional table in her foyer.  In addition to making it easier to locate the album she wants, she now has better access for the arduous task of taking inventory of the collection and doing research on some titles.

Side note:  My friend helped me with some tricky formatting for a special project I'm working on.  Although she's a highly-paid graphic artist she traded me 4 hours of consultation for a few of these yummy chocolate cookies my daughter made from a Paula Deen recipe--they have oatmeal as a main ingredient so they're good for a "complete" breakfast anytime, if you add a little milk...

Monday, August 16

You Don't Read This Calendar Tip Very Often

This is from the digest on my birthday, which is very appropriate since it takes me about 2 hrs in the bathroom every morning to get ready to leave for work...

A note about calendars. My calendar is in the toilet attached to the door because everyone, at some time during the day or night, has to sit and face the door. It has everyone's birthdays (including their age), appointments, when someone is traveling and when they're returning and even how many years people have been dead. I know that sounds macabre but I've had so much appreciation when I've sent a simple message to a friend or relative just saying that I'm thinking of them.

Loving being a FlyBaby.


Mullaloo, Western Australia

And then the response from Kelly, who works with Flylady:  "FlyLady keeps her calendar in the bathroom, too!! Just find a place where you know everybody looks at it! Make sure you include in your daily routines to update it!!"

Today I looked at my backlog of work e-mails--it's been a long time since school let out in June and there were so many SPAM e-mails to delete.  It made me recall one tip I learned last year for quickly deciding which e-mails to delete:  Sort them by Sender and delete them in chronological order.  That way you can keep the "final decision" e-mail of the bunch and forget the earlier discussion-type e-mails.  Also, sticking with one Sender at a time helps my brain keep on track a little better than hopping around from person A to person B. 

Friday, August 13

Follow Up Is So Important

Had fun this week working with a couple on de-cluttering and organizing their kitchen counter (just the mail and other papers), their home office and advising them about how to attack their closets and master bedroom.  It was my first time working with a couple and I was a little nervous to start, but they were enthusiastic and ready to reclaim their home.

I felt badly leaving them after the 3-hour session, since they were so eager to continue.  Here is part of my follow-up e-mail to encourage and guide them in their ongoing efforts:

Hi Dick and Jane: You guys made a great team the other day; we got a lot of paperwork sorted out. I took the clothes to Goodwill yesterday and will mail you the receipt.  Note:  I take away the recycling and donations at the end of most sessions.

I wasn't being polite about the fact that much of your place looks de-cluttered and organized. The living room, the kitchen, the kids' rooms look good. You might have some hidden stuff in those rooms but the overall appearance looks tidy.

I know you want to organize the office and that is important for peace of mind and being able to locate information in a timely manner. I think that either of you can work on the office when you have a moment to spare and here are some reminders about the process:

1. Start with the most functional areas and needs first--get rid of the "dead" computer, clear off the desk surface, de-clutter one drawer of the desk or a drawer in the file cabinet close to it. Use the newly de-cluttered drawer for keeping files you have already purged of unnecessary info. You might continue to use the red box for the files we created Tuesday, if that works for you.

2. When going through the office papers, take a 4" stack of papers to another location, like the table we used. Take the red box with files with you to have handy. Have your bags for "recycle" & "shred" right next to you and also label piles "to do/action" and "ask Dick/Jane" By having a pile for papers which need the attention of the other person you can do the organizing when you're alone. If you find that you stay on track better when you're together, by all means do that, too.

3. Work in small batches of time--15 minutes, 30 minutes. Don't burn out, mentally. Leave 5 minutes at the end of a session to tidy up and put things away. If you don't finish going through the 4" stack of papers, take the remainder back to the office for another time. Don't create an new area of unfinished papers to do later, even if it seems efficient at the time. We're going for an uncluttered look throughout the house.

4. I think you're going to like your 3-ring "Control Journal" so keep putting in there the papers you usually post on the refrigerator or keep on little slips of paper on the counter. Let the notebook get jumbled up and messy with handwritten notes and taped-on pieces of scrap paper--you only use it occasionally and no one sees what's inside. You might keep thin booklets, like your church directory, in the front pocket.

5. When we reviewed your closets and bedrooms I got the impression that you will feel a lot better when your master bedroom is more open and organized. I think you can use the 15 minute, 30 minute guide for mini sessions to attack the clothes and other items that need organizing. Use the same idea of bags for "share" & "action needed" when handling clothes. If you really need to keep clothes that you can't wear right now due to the season, pregnancy, special occasions then fold them and bag them up to store under the bed. It will help to make a quick handwritten label on scrap paper and put inside the bag so you can identify the general contents, like "Jane--fall/winter."

Try to be ruthless when going through clothes--if you have several pair of black pants, for example, just keep the 1 or 2 best pairs and pass along the rest.

If you're going to give away clothes or other items to specific friends or charities, label them and put them in a bag, then put them in your car right away. We don't want to create new clusters of clothes in the room--we're working on making the room spacious and peaceful.

If you want to hang up clothes as you work, you might put a broomstick between two chairs or some sturdy furniture; it's not pretty but it will help you see what you're doing and anticipate how much space the clothes will take in the closet. Work on the clothes in the room before working on the master closet(s). Aim for a clutter free master bedroom and it will make you feel great when you walk in. 15 or 30 minute sessions with 5 minutes at the end for tidying up.

I hope the idea of handling mail each day is going well. It will take you 5 minutes to sort by recycle, shred and to do/action and your counters and table will be easier to keep uncluttered. Keep using your calendar for reminders to retrieve items from your "to do" clipboard.

Let me know about your successes and new ideas.

Thursday, August 5

Mail Management

Made a return trip this afternoon to my friend's house, whose office photos were in the blog a couple of weeks ago.  She had de-cluttered the closet in the office and now can even store her vacuum cleaner inside of it.

We created a mail drop zone on a newly cleared surface in the office, setting up a small "to do," bin and larger bins for mail to recycle or shred.  Instead of putting the mail on the kitchen table she's going to try placing it on this surface, since it's in the office where paperwork is handled.  While we were in the office we went through about 14" of bills and statements, taking merely 60 minutes to go through the entire batch, and she finished the job with only two items in her to do bin and lots of discarded papers in the other two bins.  Toward the end she said, "It sure goes faster when you have two people."  She made all the decisions and I simply put the papers she handed me in the correct spot.

We categorized the papers by vendor (like Verizon, Anthem,) so specific information could be quickly found.  Temporarily, she's using a bunch of two-pocket folders she had on hand to store the papers from about 16 different vendors until she determines whether or not she and dear hubby like the system. She was amazed that we finished that thick stack of papers in a very brief period of time.
The family's primary recycle bin is kept in the kitchen and we discussed compacting its contents by having her kids stomp on empty cereal boxes, plastic milk jugs and other air-filled receptacles to flatten the bulky items.  We also discussed using a tall bin for recycling, rather than a short, rectangular one supplied by the waste management company, which takes up valuable floor space.

Managing mail can really bog us down.  Is your system working for you?    

Wednesday, August 4

I'm the Clutter Criminal After All

How humiliating.  I return home from a week away, expecting my pristine kitchen counters to be full of HIS stuff.  Walking into the kitchen I was almost blinded by the sun's rays reflected from those bare countertops.  Hmmm, walking around the house I could see that everything was just as I left it.  Hmmm, no mess anywhere that wasn't of my own creation prior to leaving for my solo trip.

Re-reading Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley, I'm in the chapter about encouraging the family to get on board with de-cluttering and organizing.  Her main point--stop whining and do more than you think is "your share."  In fact, do it all if you have to.  The family is often so confused by the stop-starts of our de-cluttering that they don't know what to do to help.

So, if I keep my clutter zones clear then they will stay clear.  I don't have to worry about my dear husband messing anything up and my kids are grown and living away from home.  It's a little freeing to eliminate the thought that someone else is causing the mess and a little empowering to know that the solution lies within.

I can start using Marla Cilley's idea of working on "Hot Spots" twice a day for 5 minutes each session.  I really have one main Hot Spot, the large penisula counter in the kitchen, and 10 minutes total per day seems a small price to have it looking better.


Tuesday, August 3

Where O Where Did the Mildew Go

One more month of summer, then back to school.  Here is a photo of a friend's system for keeping summer camp necessities ready to grab, Monday through Friday.  Her charming mom begged the Gymboree folks for 5 tote bags for dear grandson #1 and my friend bought 5 identical beach towels, 5 swim suits and 5 each of the other needed items (water shoes and underwear) for swim camp. 
Think she's extravagant?  No, just a good shopper.  She was willing to find items at Goodwill but discovered super sales at Target instead.  Besides, her younger son will one day be using the items for his upcoming summer camps. 
Having identical items in each bag reduces potential early morning fusses--like her son's wanting to take the still-wet-from-yesterday shark towel instead of the dry, mildew-free dolphin towel.  Wouldn't we all like more peaceful mornings?
"It might be a little more expensive to do it this way, but thrifty shopping for summer gear goes a long way when not having to wait for towels or bathing suits to finish in the wash the night before or the morning of a school day. And the plastic gymbo bags, one of my favorite stores, work well with the wet clothes and are a good way to reuse the bags. I have been using the same bags for about a month --they have held up well so far! An added benefit--Son #1 likes toting the bag over his shoulder."

Remember--keep those (potentially dangerous) colorful plastic bags away from little ones who would rather play with them than with the safe, educational toys you carefully pick out for them.     

Monday, August 2

Cooking Up a Better Way to Organize Recipes

The Chicago trip went well and it was great to have my bestest friend from childhood stay with me at my mom's.  Cath wanted to organize her recipes so she brought them along.  All I added to the effort was to provide an air-conditioned room and make a couple of suggestions.
Cath honestly cooks a lot, so finding her recipes quickly is very important.  Like most of us, she clips and saves recipes "to try" but these do add up.  One of her resolutions at the end of the process was to avoid clipping any more recipes for quite a while.
So, first she took the recipes out of the double sided recipe box created by her elder son.  She recycled about half of these recipes.  She now has space in the wooden box to add tested "favorites."
Next, she went through her piles of recipes to try and discarded similar ones.  She clipped off the edges of the recipes and taped them to 8.5 x 11 inch paper, then inserted them into plastic sheet protectors.  She attempted to place similar recipes together.  By doing this she greatly reduced her stash of recipes to try.  The photo with the brown pockets shows another way she grouped recipes.  Since Cath raises a large amount of vegetables and buys fruit in bulk, she often needs several recipes which use one main ingredient.  So, she sorted her recipes by the fruit or veggie and now she can quickly find several ways to use up large quantities of seasonal foods.
Some recipes remained loose (she ran out of time) and these went into a school supply pencil case.
Several years ago Cath had typed up a 20+ page recipe book for her sons when they went away to school.  She put a copy of this into sheet protectors and placed it along with everything else in her 3-ring notebook.
Cath decluttered about half of her stash over the course of several early mornings, sitting in a cool room and enjoying those cable-only home improvement shows.  Since she gets up around 4:30 in the morning, and sometimes even earlier, she had no interruptions--especially from her night owl bestest friend!

Saturday, July 24

There Really IS a Table In the Dining Room

Will be going up north for a week so here's a fantastic Before/After set of photos for you to drool over for at least that long.
This busy mom of three also tutors, also teaches part-time and is involved with church outreach and her friends and.....whew!
She wanted her dining room to look calm and peaceful, yet be at-the-ready to use for tutoring, planning lessons and her kids' craft storage.  Good thing she has that beautiful, spacious oak buffet with many drawers and shelves.  Yes, that is a changing table in the corner but it's permitted in her "office" since one shelf holds the printer.  Oh, she also wants to be able to use her dining room table for meals without too much "clearing off" required.
Grab a friend to help and spend one or two hours steadily plugging away at one room.  You'll be amazed how much you can accomplish when you work together.

Tuesday, July 20

It's Easy to Find the Cat Carrier When It's Hanging From the Ceiling

Here's the follow-up photo from the shed de-cluttering post of July 9th.  We can now walk all the way from the door to the back wall, turn around in any direction, and actually touch/pick up anything we want in the shed!  Note that several things are hanging from the rafters--we're short folks!

Although we moved in a three-tier shelf from the "big" shed, the little wall shelves were already in place, as were the many nails for hanging items.

A friend gave me the grain sack, which I stuffed with Wal-Mart bags to fluff it out for display.

The underpaid gardener of the house--note the white socks raised over the pants legs and heavily sprayed with insect repellent; great for keeping ticks and other biters from easily accessing my ankles.  If you're wondering "Where are all the flowers?" just blame the minimal rainfall here in Virginia, and the gardener's lousy attention to watering.

Monday, July 19

Room to Think

Last Tuesday I helped a friend de-clutter and organize her home office. We re-discovered her desk surfaces, several feet of carpet and 5+ unused storage containers of various sizes. After 3 hrs she had made a huge dent in her accumulated stuff and had two extra large bags of trash to dispose of, plus the box for Goodwill.

There were many bags of "car" papers; papers she had brought in from her car over the last 6 months or so that were collected in multiple bags and which we had piled together, covering half a twin bed. Making our assessment at the end of the clean-up session she wondered, "Should I work on the car papers next?"
Looking around the room, seeing her progress so far and realizing how motivating it was for her to see some empty space in the office I said, "No, keep working on clearing the rest of the things off the floor and edges of the room. Save the "car papers" for after you're done with what we started today." I knew that if she started working on the bags of paper she would get bogged down in filing the important ones and might lose her zeal for finishing the general clean-up of her office.
Now, if there was something critical in those bags of car papers, then they would be a higher priority than finishing up the general clean sweep of the office. But, she did not think the contents of the bags were of high importance--she just wanted to make sure nothing worth saving was thrown away.
A few days later she reported that she had cleaned off all the surfaces of her desk, even going through notebooks and culling out the important papers. Afterwards, she ploughed through her bags of “car papers” and tossed a huge trash bag of discards.
Walking into a room with open space on the walls, desk surfaces and floor is relaxing, calming and sets us in the right frame of mind for clear thinking. It bolsters our motivation and lets us make faster decisions about what to keep, share and toss.

Saturday, July 10

Do You Have Space to Help a Friend

A good friend called this afternoon to ask if we could temporarily store some clothes for her, since her adult child is moving back home to attend school.  Discussing her space needs reminded me of being a Realtor, as we problem solved her needs and talked in terms of linear feet of closet rod space needed to hang her out-of-season clothes.  I figured I could give her about 3-4' of hanging space and that suited her just fine.
After the call I moved out some items from the closets that were taking up prime real estate--two 5 gallon Rubbermaid coolers, gift boxes that I was saving to use at Christmas, and about 50 unused dry cleaner hangers that are now headed to the recycle bin.  What was I keeping those for???
A quick review of my other bedroom closets made me realize that I have invested about 5' of hanging space to clothes and linens that need to be ironed.  The linens are family hand-me-downs that require dampening and careful ironing as well as smaller pieces that I found at resale shops and often use when friends come over. 
On wash day (every Monday) my mom used to fold her clean clothes and linens and put them on a shelf for her once-weekly ironing day--Tuesday.  My items have been hanging up, waiting for my attention, for 6 months to 2 years!  That's too much real estate--physically and mentally speaking--to devote to clothes, tablecloths and pillow cases that nudge me for attention each time I open the closet door.
Years ago a friend told me that many nights she ironed clothes at 10 PM while she watched her favorite shows.  Her kids were in bed and the house was quiet.  Ironing calmed her down and she actually enjoyed doing it at this time of night.  She's slightly more "saintly" than me, but I need to find a method that works.

Friday, July 9

Hey, I Can Walk Inside My Shed Now

Didn't quite get it all finished, but this morning we couldn't even step into our small shed and now we can.
Took everything out of the shed and laid it on the very dry ground here in Central Virginia.  About 20% of the items headed to the dump, although Phil was able to reclaim some hardware from a few items.

After sweeping and using the power vac to clean out the cobwebs and years of dirt, we moved the wooden shelves from the larger shed and placed them toward the front of the small shed, where the sunlight would shine on them.  An old trunk fit perfectly under the lower shelf and that's where I put my "good" clay pots until I need them.  I've learned that I need to keep pots covered somehow or else I often find a bunch of black widow spiders hanging out in the nice, dark recesses of the pots.
Made an effort to put usable pieces of wood in just one corner of the shed so I can find them easily.  Same for b-balls, soccer equipment and tennis balls; they all went into a large container we already had.  Remember--resist the impulse to buy storage containers until you see how much you really have left to organize, after your de-cluttering efforts.
Look for photos of the finished shed layout in later posts.

Thursday, July 8

All in a Bunch

Do you pick up pretty rocks when you travel?  Where to put them all???  How about family photos--are they strewn about most horizontal surfaces in your home?
Visiting Betsy's home today for our monthly investment club meeting and admiring her extensive rock collection from her travels reminded me about an idea I read a long time ago about how to display favorite collections--mass them for greater impact. 
I'd love to close the lid of our inherited baby grand piano and display the photos there, but doing so would result in the pointy end of the piano lid jutting out into the hallway--ouch!  Compromise--put the majority of them into a glass front cabinet and arrange them on different shelves by family groups:  dear husband's growing up pictures, my family's photos, our kids and a special shelf for just the two of us.
This way the photos tell a story, at least to us, of where we came from.  Only two photos of my husband's mom who left this world at an early age, lots of photos of his twin and their dad.  Mini shots of my mom taking my brother and me swimming at Lake Wauconda in IL, even though she was afraid of the water.  Albums will never lose their importance, but a collection of framed family photos can tell a story, too.

Wednesday, July 7

It's Only 106 in the Shade Today

Since it was only 106 in the shade today, of course I decided that this was the day to de-clutter and organize my part of the "big shed."  I must be dreaming all of this because my family and friends will testify that I hate hot weather; maybe those vitamins I started taking this week did something to me.
Please keep in mind that there are no small children going in/out of the shed so keeping sharp tools and farm chemicals low to the ground is okay in our situation.  You're also going to see a lot of mess around the areas that eventually get straighted up--remember, we can't de-clutter someone else's stuff.
The target area to de-clutter today was the dog bench as well as figuring out a better place to keep small garden tools.  The dog bench is the home for biscuits, dog and cat grooming items and bird seed.  In cold weather I use it to brush my Springer Spaniel so I need a wide open space to set her on.
The open bag of dog biscuits went into a coffee tin.  I rescued the Tupperware cups and bowls that had been stolen from my kitchen and put out the "approved" dog food cups for easy use.  All the greasy feed and grooming supplies, like corn oil and hair oil, now sit on an absorbent paper towel near the recycled container holding the dog clippers.  Several tubes of 3-year old antiobiotics and canine ear treatment were tossed out.  It's way too hot to take Tellie inside the shed to groom her, but I could if need be.  Brushing Stewey is easier, since he can jump up on the bench by himself.  Please note--if you have even the slightest possibility that children or animals will get into your shed or storage space, please be very careful where you put sharp items and chemicals.
Small, infrequently used garden tools and dog care items went into a shoe organizer hung on the second door of the shed that is rarely opened.  Some of the tools were too top-heavy to safely stay in the shoe-sized pouches, so I used some recycled hay twine to attach short loops to the tools, then hung them from nails placed in a spot that wouldn't get brushed against when Mr. Farmer goes in and out of the shed.  Sometimes I get a little "push back" when I de-clutter a shared space, so I try to review any new arrangement with a critical eye and often slightly adjust where I've placed something so it doesn't unsettle the other person.

Yes, that is a new tablecloth on the dog bench.  It had been crushed up in a heap on the bench, waiting for its turn, for about 2 years...  Will share more photos of other shed storage areas in later posts.

Thursday, June 24

Seen any blue-tailed skinks this summer?

Well, it's the second day after finishing work for the summer and I finally made it outside for some hugely needed yard work. The last few days of the school year were filled with, "We're going to do XYZ better next year," and my wild PT friend, Katrien, and I wrote notes to ourselves about how we plan to manage the enormous amount of computer-based "paperwork" next school year.

Although I love using a paper calendar to jot down the to-dos for each day and refer to my one-page-per-day calendar all day long, I realized this year that I need to start up next fall using MS Outlook again, and also to use it for special notes I might refer to during the year. The search features in the Outlook calendar make finding key words a breeze and this helps so much when you're trying to recall when you spoke to a parent or dropped off a piece of equipment that no one can find when the hot days of June roll around.
A couple of years ago, when I was still working as a Realtor, I found this book at Goodwill and it was a real eye opener: Take Back Your Life--Using Microsoft Outlook to Get Organized and Stay Organized by Sally McGhee. It's business focused but has applications for anyone who needs to better plan their work. It's also a training manual of sorts for folks who haven't been exposed to managing by objectives. Now, you may find it a little overwhelming so take a chapter at a time and avoid skipping around--organizational nuts like me love this stuff.
Whew, enough of this indoor stuff--back to the garden. For years it has bothered me that the run-off water from my air conditioning unit dripped uselessly on the ground, far away from my thirsty plants. Today I set out an unused birdbath under the little spout that drips the water, creating a little critter oasis. To keep the mosquitoes from setting up an aquatic nursery the pan is angled so excess water will spill over the side. The rock border will keep the pan from shifting around and also provide a cool hiding spot for the frogs and skinks.
Keep your eyes open for the shimmering of blue-tail skinks; they're my favorite.

Saturday, April 10

Pass it on

Here's a photo of a pretty hyacinth I saw outside a rest stop in Indiana yesterday, on my way back home from Chicago visiting my mom.  It looks like curled paper on a gift.

My mom, age 94, has done a great job shredding old papers and de-cluttering over the past couple of years.  I would love for her to now give away the mementoes she intends to later pass along to friends and family, so she can see their happy reactions when they receive the gifts.  However, she wants them to be special gifts after she is no longer with us.  That's the way she wants to do it.

How do you want to share your special things?  Give them away now or hold onto them until you're gone?  I say, do it now.

It may not make sense to everyone, but to me it's like remembering what any pleasure feels like, when you don't directly experience it anymore.  Now that I don't eat lots of sweets my mom will sometimes seem hurt when I don't eat her delicious date nut cake or a store-bought cookie she especially likes.  After being pressed to eat it, I'll sometimes tell her the truth--I remember how wonderful her pecan tassies taste at Christmas-time, but I don't care for any right now.  Give me a couple of seconds and my mouth will relive every molecule of the cookie, or the homemade cake, and I can enjoy the memory.  I don't need to have it in my hand, or my mouth, to savor it.

Can we give up a framed picture that a friend always admires, or a decorative tea set given to us by a departed relative so many years ago?  I don't mean to give everything up and have a bare home, but how about a few things?  It will make our homes open up and we'll feel freer.  When we remember where we bought it or who gave it to us we'll always have that memory; and now someone else will enjoy it as well.

Enough sermonizing--I'll leave you with an interesting article about de-cluttering services I saw on the Internet today: