Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Purge-athon Part 5: Food Clutter

My week-long clutter-clearing marathon included the fridge, too.

This was not such a big deal.  Not nearly as big as dealing with the mass of general clutter all over the house...

or the piles of paper clutter I shredded and recycled during the week.

Pretty much the only reason I mention cleaning out my refrigerator is so I can pass along one really good tip.
It's this --------------->

The best way I have found to absorb refrigerator odors is not a little box of baking soda.  (Don't make me laugh!)  It's not even vinegar, although that is good for occasional acute stinkiness.  No, what I find works best is newspaper.  Slip a page of newspaper under each drawer, and see for yourself.

It not only works, it works for a long time.  Purge-athon 2014 took place the week following Father's Day; the old sheets of newspaper I replaced in my fridge that week were dated from January.  Just saying.

While you're at it, toss a few sheets of newspaper in your kitchen trash can under the bag and in your garbage cans, too.  Our garbage cans used to reeeeeeally smell.  It was an embarrassment.  I tried everything to freshen them up, including scrubbing them with chlorine bleach.  Everything worked for a while, but ultimately the smell came back.  Then I tried simply lining the bottoms of the cans with newspaper, and the smell disappeared.  No smell at all.

One of these days I'm going to try stuffing newspaper in my kid's shoes. 

Purge-athon Part 4: Paper Clutter

I hate mail.  I love my shredder.  A lot of churches and synagogues in my area recycle paper to raise funds.  Therefore part of my Purge-athon resulted in this ----------------------------->

Yes, folks.  Three -- count'em -- three 33-gallon trash bags of shredded paper went from my home to a local recycling bin where finally they are doing some good.  Given that volume, one might think Granny hasn't a firm grip on the problem of her family's paper clutter.  One would be right about that!

This problem has two facets:
  1. Granny gets way too much mail and is much too paranoid to throw it away.
  2. GrandDad Fabuloso thinks it's cool to hang onto a copy of every bill he ever paid.

The solution to the first problem is easy:

Any catalog, advertisement, insurance quote offer, etc. that comes to my house -- and likely to all my neighbors, too -- goes straight into a paper bag.  When the bag is full, I put it in the car and drop by one of the local recycling bins some time when I'm out and about.

The problem is the scary mail:  the credit card solicitations, loan offers, "convenience checks," notices about my car warranty, basically anything that is targeted directly at me by people who are trying to sell me something I don't want.  Whatever information these people have about me that makes them think they understand my needs and desires is not information I intend to share with the rest of the world via my garbage can.  So I shred it.  When I get around to it.  And that's the problem:  I just don't get around to it often enough, resulting in, well, you can see for yourself.

In Purge-athon Part 3 I discussed dealing with general clutter.  So, having eliminated all clutter from my laundry room, I have now made the laundry counter the permanent home of my trusty shredder.  And I now shred the scary mail the minute it comes into the house.

The solution to the second problem is also easy:

This is just a nice way of saying "throw his useless old stuff out whether he likes it or not."  If he protests, just tell him the government said you have to.  Seriously, here it is:

The following document retention information is provided by the U.S. government.  For more such information, follow this link.

DocumentHow Long to Keep It
Bank statements1 year, unless needed to support tax filings
Birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, passports, education records, military service recordsForever
ContractsUntil updated
Credit card recordsUntil paid, unless needed to support tax filings
Home purchase and improvement recordsAs long as you own the property
Household inventoryForever; update as needed
Insurance, lifeForever
Insurance, car, home, etc.Until you renew the policy
Investment statementsShred your monthly statements; keep annual statements until you sell the investments
Investment certificatesUntil you cash or sell the item
Loan documentsUntil you sell the item the loan was for
Real estate deedsAs long as you own the property
Receipts for large purchasesUntil you sell or discard the item
Service contracts and warrantiesUntil you sell or discard the item
Social Security cardForever
Social Security statementWhen you get your new statement online, shred the old one
Tax records7 years from the filing date
Vehicle titlesUntil you sell or dispose of the car
WillUntil updated

So now I have a system in place.  I file anything I need to keep for more than a year, noting the "keep until" information on the file folder.  Anything that is only good for the current year goes into a box to be shredded next year.

As God is my witness, I will never be a paper hoarder again.  Not me nor any of mine will ever be paper hoarders again.  Fiddle-dee-dee.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Purge-athon Part 3: General Clutter

It's called a Purge-athon for a reason.  It took an entire week.  It took 100% of my time and attention.  It involved every room in my house.  And that's why I planned this for the week when all my family was out of town.

Clutter is serious business.  You can't reason with clutter; you can't treat it politely; you have to be vicious.  My particular method of dealing with clutter is downright anti-social.  Maybe even illegal in some states for all I know.  (Look out!  I'm an organizational renegade, I am!)  Basically, it goes like this:
  1. Drag all the junk out into the open.  And all means ALL!
  2. Throw out the trash.
  3. Pack up all the donate-ables.
  4. Put things you intend to keep in their final proper place.
I know that sounds super simple, but in fact there are plenty of ways to screw it up.  Avoid the following pitfalls:

Yes, it is going to make a huge mess.  That's called motivation.  When you see several years' worth of crapola splayed out all over your living space, you'll be inspired to end the madness once and for all.

You won't be tempted to "leave well enough alone" and skip over things that are at least out of sight.  That is probably how you got into this mess, and so those are the things you need to handle most of all.

You will be less tempted to hold onto things if you recognize the extent of your excess.

Finally, when you determine the best place for something you wish to keep, there won't already be a bunch of stuff there.

If it's no good, if you never used it, if it got ruined, get it out.  The fact is, you wasted your money the second you paid for the thing.  The sin has already been committed, and continuing to give that useless thing space in your home only serves to remind you of your mistake.  Forgive yourself, consider it tuition for a lesson learned, and let the thing go.

Whenever I feel liking clinging to something that is really no longer useful to me, I make up stories about what should happen to it.  For instance, when I left the workplace, I had a professional wardrobe that could have hung beautifully in my closet for years to come.  Oh, the memories!  I can still picture the day I wore that nice tweed number to a meeting with the auditors... HAH!

Instead, I picture a shabby but deserving girl coming across that lovely suit at the thrift store a few days before her big job interview.  I imagine her wearing it and feeling confident and professional as she lands the job that will be the first step in a brilliant and successful career...  Okay, that probably didn't happen, but so what?  It's okay to pretend, especially if it means never for one moment missing any of the things you decide to give away.

You may like it.  It may have sentimental value.  It may be priceless...  but unless you have a place to put it, you can't keep it.  Give it to your kid, sell it at a consignment shop, donate it to a museum, whatever...  but if it doesn't have a place, it has to go.  Trust me.  It has to go.

Here's the good news, though:  if you really worked steps 1 through 3, you probably have plenty of places to stash away all the good stuff you like and use and really want to keep.  Do so with my blessings!

Purge-athon Part 2: How Does This Happen?

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I've always considered myself to be organizationally gifted.
  • I'm the kind who stores all the foodstuffs by type, arranged by size and height, with all labels facing out.  (But not alphabetically.  Alphabetically is for rookies.)  
  • I'm the one who, if you ask me, "Do you have a socket wrench, a square post-it pad, last month's cable bill, a pet nail trimmer and some borax," I say, "Sure!" and locate all five within three minutes.
  • I genuinely believe that clutter is evil.  It will ruin your life.  

How many times have you bought something and later discovered that you already had one?  Even worse, bought something you knew you already owned, but couldn't find when you needed it?

How many minutes/hours/days of your life have you spent searching for things you've lost amidst an uncontrolled collection of crap?  I wrote an entire post about this topic that you can read here.

How can you maintain mental clarity in the midst of chaos?  How can you feel attractive when you are surrounded by an ugly mess?  How can you be healthy in a house full of dusty, moldy, useless junk?        

I consider my home to be sacred.  I want it to be beautiful.  It's supposed to be healthy and efficient.  It should be organized, functional, harmonious and make me proud.

So then tell me....

I can give you 101 excuses, but it all boils down to one thing:  Respect.  (I'll bet you weren't expecting that answer!)  Four years ago I married a widower, and we went about gathering all of my stuff, his stuff, his late wife's stuff, his kids' stuff and his share of his late parents' stuff (plus a dog and a bunch of cats) into one abode.

I have spent these past four years carefully and respectfully sorting through other people's precious records and possessions.

  • Some of those people were the frugal type who kept everything.  EVERYTHING!  
  • Some were shopaholics who bought more things than they were able to use, literally, in their lifetimes.
  • Some were just plain hoarders.
  • Some of these folks had great taste, and the beautiful things they left behind deserve to be treated with loving care, whether we really want them or not.
  • Others not so much.
In these four years I have carefully inspected and thoughtfully sorted every document, collectible, knick-knack, article of clothing, piece of memorabilia, household good and photograph.  Whew!  I have filled at least two dumpsters with what I deemed to be trash and appropriately gifted/donated/consigned at least twice more.

As for what remains (and plenty remains!) I am now ready to finish the job.  I am ready, once and for all, to make a place for anything I think we should keep and to properly dispose of all the rest.  That is what this week is all about.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What Blooms in June

I took a walk through Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark the other day.  I had to.  I was driving past the park for the second time on a day that I thought was going to kill me.  (I won't go into the details -- I don't have to, because I'm pretty sure you've had days like that yourself.)  I figured it was either take a walk in the park or dive head first into a pile of cupcakes or something.  And I didn't have any cupcakes.

The walk was a good move.  I estimate it took the gardens about 30 minutes to quiet the mental frenzy that had built up for several hours (days, weeks, all month!).  And with zero added sugars.

Yes, I took photos!  Take a "walk" through my pictures and see what blooms here in June...

Allium as big as my head.

Clematis climbing an iron gate.  



The elegant iris


Hardy little evening primrose

Queen Anne's Lace 
(It's just so... lacy!)

Roses, of course.
White and...

Hot pink!

Spiky purple salvia

Sedum growing in a stone wall



 Ah, the serenity of the garden!

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Purge-athon - Part 1 - It's ON!

It starts tomorrow.  I look forward to this all year long:  the best week of the whole year!

It's time once again for the annual family camping/biking trip!  This vacation has everything:
- 50-mile daily bike rides
- group tent sleeping
- yummy camp food
- port-a-potties
- public showers...

Yep.  This vacation has everything... except ME!

Poor me.  I stay home all by myself.  I stay home and do no cooking, no cleaning, no carpooling, no shopping, no housework at all.  I stay home and spend an entire week working like a fiend on a project of my choosing, something I never have time to do the other 51 weeks of the year.

One year I cleaned out the garage.  Got rid of junk, reorganized all the tools and gardening stuff, painted the walls, ceiling, trim and floors.  Was my husband ever excited when he came home to that!

One year I sorted and either filed or shredded about twenty years' worth of obsolete family documents.  (Boy, I sure do miss all those phone bills and gas card statements from the 1980's!  But somehow I manage to get by.)

Last year I was feeling kind of lazy, so I "just" painted the kitchen and reorganized all the drawers and cabinets.

And this year?  Oh, there are so many options to choose from!  Should I paint the upstairs hallway and reorganize the linen closet?  Should I paint the foyer and reorganize the coat closet?  How about remodeling the "kid's bathroom" since the kids have all grown up and acquired bathrooms of their own?  Decisions, decisions!

Well, this year I have decided to keep it simple.  I'm just going to purge.  I'm going to rid my household of clutter once and for all.  I'm going to attack every hoard, hot spot and junk pile on the property until we are no longer stuffed with stuff.  

Someone call Goodwill and let them know they should hire on some extra help asap.  Cuz IT'S ON!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"What Do You Do?"

I dread that question.  These days I never know how to answer it.  Once upon a time, it was easy:  I would say, "I'm a financial analyst," and that sufficed.  That was as much as people wanted to know.

But three big changes happened the year I turned 50 (besides turning 50):
  - I became a grandmother.
  - I became a wife for the second time.
  - I left the workforce to "stay at home."

"Staying at home" has a lot of facets to it.  Of course, I cook, clean house, do laundry, run errands, shop, garden, decorate, organize the household, handle finances, care for children (his, mine and grand-), care for pets, and even pay a little attention to my husband once in a while.

I do community service work.  I serve on the board of a not-for-profit foundation.  I play music and participate in other activities at my church.

I occasionally find a little time to do fun, creative things for my own enjoyment.  And then blog about them.

I'm also, apparently, a concierge.  It seems no one else in my extended family ever has time to pack for vacation, run the car into the shop, fix the leak, take the delivery, buy the tickets, find the missing *you name it*, sew on the button, wait around on the cable company, take kids to the doctor, buy the present, etc., etc., etc.

(The funny thing is, I did all the same things back when I used to say, "I'm a financial analyst."  Go figure.)

So, how do I explain in a word all that I do?  How do I answer that stupid question so that people understand I'm not "just a..."  How do I convey that, while I don't earn a paycheck any more, I am proud of the integral role I play in the well-being of my family and my community?  How?

This is how:

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Chalk paint and stencil makeover

Functional, good quality, but nothing exciting.  This fine little chest really needed a makeover -- something to make it stand out.

 I started by painting it with Annie Sloan chalk paint in Napoleon Blue.  But it wanted something more...

I found some cute stencils in a bird and branch motif by Martha Stewart at the craft store.  I used the stencils as the basis for a tree branch design, painted with Annie Sloan in Coco and Olive.

I also went free-style with some of the branch design.

Chalk paint provided even more interest:  Primer Red berries dotted here and there, and a little bird in mottled Provence teal and Olive, perched jauntily on the main branch.

I also used a brown Sharpie marker to give the branches the appearance of wood grain with random squiggles and swirls.

To give the piece a rich patina, I applied dark wax.  I like to thin the wax with some mineral spirits, in about a 1:1 ratio, to the consistency of a thick soup.  Then I apply the wax with a natural bristle brush...

and buff off the excess wax with a soft rag.

Before dark wax and after.  Quite a difference, don't you think?

Finally a coat of clear wax, some new hardware, and my little chest is a stunner.