Friday, November 29, 2013


Staying organized is about overcoming resistance.

Keeping house is about overcoming resistance.

Keeping fit is about overcoming resistance.

In fact, doing anything difficult, anything that doesn't come naturally to you, paying off debt, living well within a budget, taking showers, accepting help, forgiveness: all of it requires overcoming resistance.

It may be internal. A lack of motivation, or a certain kind of inertia that takes over the minute we step out of bed. A lack of know-how. A lack of discipline. Overwhelm.

It may be external. No time, no opportunities, no space.

Today, I was paralysed. Utterly.

I got up late. My first words of the day, still in bed, were a moan and “Oh no.” I have to get up early tomorrow. I work at 7am. I will be horribly tired tomorrow.

I'd left the dishes undone when I'd gone to bed the night before. They mocked me. Horrible, horrible dishes.

I had a long list of chores to do today.

Cleaning chores.


I felt the weight of all the Christmas stuff I have to do bearing down upon me, as I huddled at the computer cruising Pinterest and reading up on paint colours and colour schemes. The morning completely gone.

It was too late to start the crock pot for the rib dinner I’d planned.

It was day three of three days off. The last thing, the very last thing I wanted to do was clean. But, I had to. The dust bunnies in my bedroom would probably attack me in my sleep this very night. The bathroom floor was disgusting. I'd cleaned yesterday and made note of all that had to be done. These were things that took top priority yesterday, but I'd run out of time to do them. I put an asterisk beside them on my cleaning checklist and soldiered on. The plan had always been to catch up today.

Today, I didn't like that plan.

So, I set the timer and played beat the clock. But first I made a list of those urgent chores. They seemed more doable, isolated and alone.

Vacuuming the living room? Five minutes.
Vacuuming the stairs? Ten minutes.

I walked into my room at 1:07 pm. I walked out at 2:25pm.

I stripped the bed and started washing the mattress pad. I picked up and put away. I vacuumed. Thoroughly. Pull out the bedside tables, pull out the the bed and vacuum all along the wall. Vaccum the things under the bed. That thoroughly.

I dusted. I cleaned the screen in our window. Put away two laundry baskets full of clothes and bedding. (Ten minutes) Even the summer shirts were put away (but not ironed.)

Two hours later, I was exhausted. But I'd broken the back of my inertia. Slowly, through the rest of the afternoon, I washed that mountain of dishes, more than once. I scrubbed the bathroom floor. (Even the nasty bits. By hand.) I cleaned out the microwave and watered the poor plants. I even hung the wreath on the door outside.

And tonight, after dinner, I had my husband help me flip the mattress over and wrestle the washed and shrunken mattress pad back onto it. Then, I made the bed.

I wanted more of a Christmas bed with grey and red and cream. This is more of a summer bed.

But, today, this is what we have.
I\m glad.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Zone 2 CONVERTed: The Cheery Back Entry Way

Not only am I thrilled to have this done: but I am very happy with the way it turned out.

Last spring, during Anti-Procrastination month, I started spiffing up in earnest. I was going to leave it as is, but this summer I was inspired by the book The House that Cleans Itself, by Mindy Starns Clark. I decided to use the approach outlined in the first edition to CONVERT my house into one that, if it doesn't clean itself, is much easier to maintain. The first step was to divide my house into zones. The back entry way was zone 3. You can read about my efforts with the book by clicking on the label HTCI.

What this area needed was a thorough cosmetic lift. Think Nicole Kidman. Essentially, all the rough spots needed to be smoothed out, the holes and cracks patched, and the walls and trim painted. I started in September. I finished the last step on Wednesday, November 21st.

CONVERT, is, of course, a pithy acronym. Here is what it stands for and its relevance to my back entry way.

C- clear out the clutter

There really wasn't a lot of clutter in this zone. I change out the seasonal items as it makes sense.

O- open up and clean

Always a good idea.

N- neaten, organize, and solve problem spots.

For organization we have:

1. The pocket organizer.

yay! my husband got a new lunch bag! You can see the old one hanging here.

2. Hooks on boards, now all of them silver.

3. A boot shelf with the magazine holders hacked into flip flop and sandal holders with a new curtain rod mounted above from which to hang things, namely, the rubber boots.

Problem Spots:

This eyesore:

yep, that's the electrical panel for the house. Yes, we need to upgrade.

When I saw a Ribba frame mounted to the wall on a piano hinge in the IKEA showroom, I knew I had my solution.

those are peel and stick magnets on the wall to help keep the frame closed (eta: we had to replace those with 3M command velcro fasteners.)

Many years ago, I had put up a paper towel bar to hold towels for cleaning off the dog's paws. Somehow, it got taken down and lost. I needed to put something back up.

installed during the Spring Cure 2008

installed Fall 2013

The spray bottles are there because we received complaints about the dog barking. We spray him with water and he stops.

V- verify rabbit trails and set up stations.

Not applicable in this situation.

E- examine sight zones

According to Clark, sight zones are those areas which you see first when you enter the area. If the first thing you see, as she says, is a messy bookcase, your impression of the room is that it is messy. If, on the other hand, you see something neat and organized, say, the made-up bed, then your impression is of a clean room--even if when you turn your head you see a cluttered dresser. To you, it will still be a clean room with a messy area.

She identifies four ways in which this all important first impression can be made--two of which concerned this area. They were
  1. the sight zone when you entered through the back door and
  2. the inevitable invisibles--the nicks and cracks and nastiness you just stop seeing after a while but which leave you with a sense of disorder and disrepair.

This was the sight zone as you entered the back door and looked down the stairs, straight ahead:

This is what it looked like today:

Admittedly, not a whole lot better. For this to dramatically improve, I need to paint the stairs (could happen), the basement floor (not going to happen), and do something about the stuff on the basement floor (will happen from time to time).

This next little area of the entry way is a great example of the nasty nicks, cracks and general groadiness that becomes more and more invisible as it builds up over time.

But we dealt with the nicks and cracks handily--and by "we" I mean my husband. He did a fabulous job in here.

R- record future improvements needed

I'd like to figure out a way to remove the old lock properly--both from the door and the molding. That will have to wait for the Spring, though!

We put all the weather stripping on the door we could. (The door is so uneven in its frame we had to use two different thicknesses.)

what is sunlight pouring through through the crack in August is frigid air in November

T- take steps now for ongoing maintenance

That rag on the towel rack isn't just for the dog's paws, of course, but for messes tracked in by other wet and dirty paws, ahem. I used to keep a rag in the kitchen drawer--this is so much easier.

A new rug and the area is done. It is a thousand times more pleasant than it's ever been. Finally, I feel like it is part of the house, instead of just an area to get through quickly on my way to somewhere else.

that photograph in the frame is one I took of some flowers we had on the kitchen table
Is there an area in your house that might benefit from a little cosmetic face-lift? Let's hope it won't take you six months!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Just a Pocketful of Time....

Ten minutes.

That was all the time I had before I had to go and catch my bus.
But I had it--and I wanted to use it effectively.

I'd been working on my living room. A few days before, I'd brought out my box labelled "drapery hardware" and found all the extra rings and the prongs I'd need to hang up my triple pleated fourteen foot long brown drapes.

I'd also taken down the drapes I had had up there.

I love the colour of these purple drapes, but they are really too small for the window
But, it was taking forever for me to find the time to put the new drapes up.
That day, with ten minutes to tick away before I left to catch my bus, I decided to just put the prongs into the pleats. One drape, fourteen prongs. I didn't even take them off the hanger.

Five minutes and I was done.

I had five minutes left.

I took out my step ladder and attached the prongs to the rings on the curtain rod, and bam! just like that I had one drape up and on the window.

(I didn't have time to take a picture.)

I left for work.

That evening, I had my daughter insert the prongs into the pleats and I hung them the next day.

The length of the pole was originally cut to fit these colossal drapes.

I took the same approach to weeding out the bookshelves in this room and writing this blog post.

the haul from the bookshelves

The single most effective way to take advantage of little pockets of time?

Have a list.
Use a timer if you're uneasy about losing track of the time.

Easy peasy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ode to the Range

I was just at the end of cooking my son's 16th birthday dinner--just keeping everything warm, actually, while my husband ran out to Safeway to pick up some last minute item for dinner.
While he was gone, the beast died.

I say I learned to cook on its back, but that's not quite right.

I met this range when I moved into our house. My husband owned it and shared it with two rent paying friends. I started using it right away, but only in a limited way.

Since I knew how to bake, I started our marriage off there. I decided to replace my husbands weekly box of taco chips with home made muffins. I thought it would be healthier for him to eat those on his breaks at work.

I did know how to cook. I could whip up spaghetti sauce. I could cook meatloaf and muffins. But I cooked like single people do: a few times a week, living off the batches I made between times. It took a while--a long while--before I learned how to cook a meal every single day.

I had to find flylady first. That happened in 2000, after my daughter was born. I was surrounded by chaos, a three and a half year old son and a baby. Like a drowning man sees the lights upon the shore, I found her late one night on the internet.

I remember the first time I took my knobs off the stove to clean them, I scrubbed off all the markings.


I never cleaned them again.

Through her, I discovered Leanne Ely and her marvelous cookbooks, Saving Dinner. She could have called them, "Saving the Family." I ordered my copy through a local independent book seller, now, sadly, closed.

I eventually got into the rhythm. I added soups and stews to my repertoire to replace the ramen noodles my husband took for his lunches. I started roasting chickens every Sunday, and stir-frying other bits --something every single night. I discovered I enjoyed cooking. And my husband loved it. He grew up on boxed cold cereal for breakfast, heavily watered canned soup for lunch and I don't know what for dinner. Yesterday, while wolfing down a homemade chicken corn chowder, he told us the only soup his mom ever made was to add a can of corn to a can of Campbell's chicken noodle. That's the sort of "home cooking" he got.

He loves mine.

But, over the years, the oven ran hotter and hotter. A few years ago, I put an appliance thermometer in it to discover just how hot. At 400 it was 500. But it wasn't consistent. So, to be safe, I reduced all my baking times by five to ten minutes.

My husband replaced the baking element twice, maybe three times. I know we bought two heat sensors at $100 a pop. My husband learned his way around the back of the stove.

The elements got slower and slower. He replaced an element earlier this year and had to learn how to change the wiring from hard wiring it in to a "plug-in." It worked, but it would unplug itself whenever a pan knocked against it (and a pan was always knocking itself against it.)  
He replaced the fuses constantly.

I believe the range was built in the late 70's. My only evidence is the colour scheme and the faux wood metal handles. If that's true, then this range was over thirty years old before it became unfixable. (And actually, we could have fixed it had the part we needed still been manufactured.)

When we bought our new range, they said it should last ten years. Ten years?
A blink of an eye.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Christmas Manifesto


There's the four of us under this roof. Then there's my Mother and my nephew. And my daughter's friends. Some of my best memories of Christmas involve my daughter, a friend and me baking and decorating cookies in the kitchen. I think a baking party with her two best friends would be wonderful.


I love spending time with everyone all together, all at once. It can be tough, these days. Maybe this will be the year we finally read the Settlers of Cataan instructions and figure out how to play it?

Peace and Joy.

Of course. But it means more. It means--stress free. Relax. Take a chill pill. It means that anyone can tell anyone else: give me a minute. Let me calm down. I want you to calm down. I'm sorry. I'll get right on that.


Self-explanatory. With two teenagers who don't get along at the best of time, a Mom adjusting to working at a job, outside the home, for the first time since becoming a Mom 16 years ago, and a Dad who probably will work lots of hours everyday and without a day off a physically demanding job between now and Christmas eve, it will be a challenge to keep this family cheerfully doing things together in an atmosphere of peace and joy.

But, that's the goal.
Isn't it ever?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Being Real

My living room this afternoon. I'd just mopped the floor. Things echoed and I felt a strong urge to paint my walls.

I am so far behind in what I'd wanted to get done for today's post, that I considered not even posting at all. But, what use is that to anyone?

Time management is a precious skill--and I am still learning that my time is not my own 24/7 anymore. Between work, the kids, my husband, and the house, it seems I use all my "free" time for sleeping!

I had thought I would do my fall cleaning this month--in the living room and the kitchen. I sent the living room rug out to be cleaned--and it came back last week. Yes. Last week. We have been tripping over it for exactly seven days.

I did get my living room windows cleaned and the screens vacuumed before our first snowfall, thank goodness.

The view from my living room window, Nov 4, 2013. This snow will stay.

But, I haven't yet got the storm windows up and the screens down at the back of the house. It's really cold by those windows. (I usually put plastic up on the inside, too, to help insulate them.) Let's just say you don't really want to linger long in that downstairs bathroom.

But, the worst thing of all? Yesterday, I decided on a whim, just to pull out everything that looked (or smelled) nasty from the fridge.

Isn't that awful?

All of that was festering while I wrote my "How to stay organized" series. I looked at that and felt like a fraud.

But that's life, isn't it?

I'm not upset. I am not stressed. And I'm certainly not a fraud. Some weeks are just better than others. I'll figure it out, soon, I hope. I feel a bit frazzled to get the carpet down and the brown drapes up--I'm expecting a couple of service guys to come and clean our furnace soon.

Kinda sums up my two days off this week--and I sure do love that sunlight.
But oddly enough, I am enjoying this season of busyness.
Well, this week. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

November: Getting Ready for Christmas

No, November 1st is not too early. Especially when you realise that I'm really getting ready to get ready.

The Living Room: Glitzy or Dusty?

a very messy --and dusty-- living room

I'll be focusing on giving my living room a thorough clean --just so the Christmas glitz doesn't have to fight its way through fields of dust. I am also going to try and tackle a sewing project-- recovering my POANG chair. I am very tired of the very tired green cover. Besides, it's really the dog's chair--and I want a cover that's easy to remove so I can wash it before we invite humans to sit on it.

the ubiquitous IKEA POANG chair in olive green.

The Kitchen: where the party happens

As well, since Christmas actually happens in the kitchen (it just parks it gear in the living room, much like my daughter), I plan to give it a lick and a promise as well. Plus, my new range is coming --and I want the rest of the kitchen to meet it looking its best. I owe it that much, hardworking thing that it is, don't you think?

And in the Christmas Corner:

I will be working on a few things directly related to Christmas, too, of course. I have enrolled in Simplify 101's course: Get Organized for the Holidays. Tonight, the family is going to have a sit down, a rare face to face to talk about what we want out of Christmas this year. Funds are tight, so we all need to have our expectations aligned.

My Holiday Planner. Created in 2009.

Blog News:

I plan to reduce my blogging frequency from every day (yeesh! For a non-money making blog, that 31 Days of Staying Organized series sure was a lot of work!) to twice a week. I am aiming for Tuesdays and Fridays.

What do you think? Is it too early to get organized for Christmas? What are you up to this month?
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