Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Basement, Oh The Basement!

The Uncluttered course is now complete. I've a few posts left to write to wrap up my experience. In short, it was a wonderful experience and I am thankful I did it. The next round is Sept 5th. I'll have a discount code for you around the end of August! I plan to take it again, (hopefully, with my mom).

But first --my crowning achievement-- the basement!

As the weeks went by, the basement just got better and better. No matter what area upstairs we were focusing on in the course, I would come down here and work. Things which had survived many past purges got taken upstairs and taken away. I am absolutely thrilled.

I started my decluttering for the course down here. And that means pictures! Before and afters! My favourite.

The view from the bottom of the stairs looking at the back wall:

From left to right: The white shelf unit held home decor items and the last of the homeschooling books. I donated them to a lovely woman who had lost a lifetime of homeschooling books and supplies in a devastating house fire last year.

With some space freed up, I put a few dishes down here from the kitchen clear out to see if we can live without them.

Those blankets are protecting our new windows for the bedrooms upstairs. We will save some money by staining, varnishing and installing them ourselves.

The pine dresser and the black shelving unit hold various scrapbooking supplies.

There's my exercise ball and underneath it, my 12"/1" miniature townhouse. I am not sure whether I will ever finish it.

To the right, out of frame is my husband's workshop. I don't touch it--or photograph it. That's totally his domain! But I am happy to say it is in relatively good shape.

To the left is the Wall o' Shelves.

Some cubbies I decluttered, others I left alone. I went through the bins of fabric and home decor. I didn't touch the memorabilia. I also left the photos alone: but I have a project in mind that once I'm done will see more than half --and dare I hope? 75%-- of those photo boxes gone.

I would like to pare down our luggage, too, but I doubt my husband would agree.

(No, the table is not longer. I turned it lengthwise to make more room for our bags of recycling (blue) and bottles and cans (clear).)

Turn left again and you're in the "game room." I did ask the boy whether we could get rid of this TV (and some of the Lego pieces) but he said, "no," even though the Xbox is now upstairs (and very infrequently played. Still, he and his father still enjoy a game from time to time.)

I made room for this piano. It's well-traveled! It belongs to my Mom. We borrowed it for years and it had pride of place in the living room while the kids took lessons. When the lessons were finished, we returned it to my Mom. A few months ago, we took it back when Emma said she wanted it in her room. No sooner did we haul it over and all the way upstairs when she declared it "too big" (it was) and she wanted it out. I doubt anyone will ever play it again but Mom is not ready to let it go (and be useful to someone else) so I'll store it here for a while.

Isn't that cozy? The picture over the piano used to be in the living room. It is one of the first things Chris and I ever bought together. I'm glad it is on disply again. That's the flooring leftover from the bathroom. We had to buy an an ginormous piece of it. 

Going through some art I had stored on top of the wall o' shelves, I came across a few pieces Ben had done when he was around four or five. I'd gone to the trouble to frame them way back when, so I decided to hang them in here with a few other pieces I found. After all, if we were going to keep it, we may as well enjoy it!

I am still struggling to put into words the uniqueness--or the difference, if you will--between this decluttering program and others I've participated in. As I went through my buckets and bins and shelves the interior monologue was something like this: "Am I using this stuff? No? Why hang on to it then? Could someone else get value from it?" And I think the difference I am seeking is right there in that last sentence. There was a whole lot of awareness for me of other people and how they may be blessed with my things. Decluttering became this huge act of giving. And so it was easy --and fun!

And then there's the laundry room:

and look at that: stuff in the donation station! I'll take that out Tuesday. I wonder if I can scrounge some more to go with it? I bet I can!

Aaaaaand, last but not least, the area beside the stairs: the painting supplies.

aaah, that's so much better!

Of course, I am under no delusion that this is it, that for once and for all, the basement is done! No. Things change. And when they do, stuff comes down here to die. So, it will get cluttered up again, I suspect. But you bet I will enjoy all this space as long as I can!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Make Ahead Meals: Bye bye Pizza Night

The Set Up

A long, long time ago, I used to plan all of our suppers for the month. This was so I could shop for all of the meat and pantry items we needed during Safeway's Customer Appreciation Day. We would get 10% off the entire grocery bill. Now it's 15% and I'm even more interested in saving money than I was then, so I sat down earlier this week and planned two weeks plus everything we needed for the Make Ahead Meals. (All of our other shopping trips will be at other grocery stores so I can compare prices.)

The Rationale

It's summer. And while I normally love to cook, I am not a fan of spending any more time than absolutely necessary near hot things--like a stove--when it's summertime.

Eating out--or, more likely in our case, ordering out is expensive. And it doesn't help my waistline, either! So, the only way to beat the heat, save time (and money) and stay mean and lean--is--you guessed it--to make meals I can re-heat quickly or throw in the crockpot.

Because I am an excessive planner, I sat down with my work schedule and figured out how many of these meals I'd actually need--and then I doubled it (sort of).

The Recipes

Lentil Butternut Squash Curry x2
Cilantro Lime Chicken x2
Slow Cooker Turkey and Black Bean Chili x2
Mediterranean Eggplant x1
Spicy Peanut Chicken x2
8 hamburger patties

We've eaten all but the Spicy Peanut Chicken before. That one is from a recipe I found in a book from the library. Any Peanut Chicken recipe would do, really, as it is essentially cooking the meal and the freezing it, just as you would left-overs. The rest of the MAMs are all assembled, frozen, and then thawed and dumped into a slow cooker. Easy peasy.

The Assembly

"I made thirty meals in four hours--and then I didn't dread dinner-time any more."
Most blogs are full of cheerful statements like this one.
Not this one.

I may never set foot in my kitchen again.

I set everything up (well, what I thought was everything) and began. I honestly expected I would be able to chop and assemble everything the same day. I had only one small problem--I needed black beans-- but I hadn't cooked them yet. And then I realised I didn't have enough spices for everything. I had to make a late night run to Walmart for paprika, chili powder, and parsley flakes. Of all the stupid things.

This shows them after they'd soaked for a couple of hours. I put them on the boil while I chopped the squash.

The squash nearly killed me. It seemed I chopped forever. And of course, I had to make dinner, too.
At the end of Day 1, I'd made only two of my recipes. Just before bed, I realised I needed to cook even more black beans.

On Day 2, I was pretty anxious to get the meat based meals out of the fridge and into the freezer. I took the beans I'd soaked overnight and started cooking them. As I had to leave for work at 5pm, I'd also planned a crock pot meal for supper with some really old chicken backs I'd found while doing my freezer inventory. Thawing and deboning those took a solid hour. So, after about three hours in the kitchen...with temperatures rising by the hour.... I'd managed to make only one of my Make Ahead Meals, the slow cooker Turkey and Black Bean Chili (which is awesome, by the way).

The third Day I was desperate to get the remaining chicken breasts and ground beef into the freezer. The Spicy peanut stir fry was time consuming, but very simple.

The burgers were messy--but also simple. Apparently, the key to homemade burgers is not to man handle the ground meat too much--and to dimple the center of each patty. My husband was quite disappointed we weren't having any for dinner that night.

Finally, finally, late today I made the Mediterranean Eggplant.

So, now I am all set for those night's when I am not home to cook--and the morning's are too rushed to make anything.

Bye bye, pizza night.

More MAM's:

New Leaf Wellness has several recipes and free batch cooking/assembly instructions.

5 Dinners 1 Hour is a batch cooking meal plan site. There are some recipes for free.

Thirty Handmade Days has quite a few original recipes. Looking forward to trying them.

Once a Month Meals is another meal plan site. All the meals are freezable, though. I tried a few of their free plans but didn't really like it. I also found the way they constructed the prep lists confusing.

Happy Money Saver Mom has many different kinds of Make Ahead Freezer meals, including some that can go into the crock pot.

Self Magazine has some really delish looking MAMs for the crockpot.

eta from the comments: Living Well Spending Less has an 11 part series, each one with five recipes made twice for freezer to crockpot cooking. I'm linking to Part 11 as it has all the previous parts linked on the page. (Thanks Marie!)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Musical Fruit: Saving on the Grocery Bill.

Our single largest expense, by far, each month is our grocery bill. It eats up about 15% of our income--net income. That is more than we should be spending--even given the higher price of food in Canada. (source)

So, one of the first pieces of advice you get when you ask "how can I save money on my grocery bill?" is "Buy dried beans. Not canned!" But how much do you save, soaking, cooking and freezing your own?

And so, needing kidney beans and chick peas (alias garbanzo beans), I bought a two pound bag of each.

I was so excited about cooking my chick peas, I forgot to get a picture!

I asked Google how to cook them, and ever helpful, it offered me several methods. I portioned out a pound. Then, I chose to rinse them, boil them for 10 minutes on medium, change the water and then bring them back to a low simmer until they were done. (I tasted them.) I was anxious to get this done.

Then, I carefully measured them out into a pint mason jar (in the past, I figured out that a pint holds the same amount as the cans I usually buy.)

I would have preferred to freeze them in the jars, but I don't have enough.

I got 3 "cans" from one pound.

So. The bag of chickpeas cost me $3.39 at Safeway.

Assuming I'll get the equivalent of 6 "cans" of beans this way, each "can" costs $0.56 1/2

I made sure to price check the can of chickpeas I usually buy. They were $1.79 at Safeway. That seems like lot.  (I rarely, if ever, buy them at regular price, though. I usually get them on sale and stock up.)

So, my "homemade" beans are 1/3 the price.

An instant 66% savings on our grocery bill!

I wish all of it could be that simple.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Introducing Uber Frugal Month

The next step towards a more minimal, no, scratch that, a more intentional life, seems obvious to me: get a handle on our finances and get out of debt.

As well, our situation is dicey. My husband is losing his job some time this fall and, I confess, it is freaking me out not a little. There are all sorts of complications with the timing of it all, his pension (and cuts to it depending on various scenarios which we are still trying to work out) and the severance package. The fact that we are thisclose to the warehouse shutting down and no one has answers for us is maddening to say the least. One thing we can pretty much count on, unfortunately, is that it is not likely he will be employed again at anywhere near the wage he is getting now.

This is the rainy day we should have been preparing for--and we haven't. So, rather than learning to be frugal proactively, which we should have done--we are going to do it reactively.

But we are going to do it!

I am not sure what to expect.

I just wanted to put this out there so you can have a chance to join up as well, if it interests you. Every day during the month of July, starting on the first, the blogger behind Frugalwoods will be sending out prompts to encourage u to be, well, uber frugal.

We had some homework to do prior to starting. Here is mine.

Step 1: Establish your goals.

1. Why are you participating in this Challenge?

 I want to get a handle on our finances. I need some help and support to spend less.

2. What do you hope to achieve?

At the end of the month, I want a clear do-able plan for living uber-frugally until our debt is gone, no matter what our income may be.  (Yes, we did Dave Ramsey. No, we were not gazelles.) Specifically, I want to see my way clearly through Steps 4 thru 10, below.

3. What are your long term life goals?

 I still want to travel. I'd love to take hiking and biking tours in Europe, Iceland and the U.K. If I dared dream big, I'd say Thailand, too, or another equally exotic location. Dreams. Dreams are nice.

4. Where do you want to be in 10 years?

I want to be in a small house by the sea.

5. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it?

I think I spend money mainly for convenience and to treat myself, food-wise. I also use money to indulge my love for creating, designing, and decorating.

Step 2: Review last month’s spending.

Done. I used to track our spending. I haven't in a long time. Funny, there's a direct correlation between how much we save to how much I track. I guess it really isn't funny at all. 

Step 3: Categorize your expenses.

Fixed Mandatory Expenses. Yep. Got 'em. Surprisingly, they only make up about 20% of our income. 

Discretionary Expenses (everything else.)

Step 4: What can I eliminate entirely?

Eating out and snacks
Clothing (for a while)

Step 5: Embrace the art of substitution.

The idea behind this frugal step is to substitute something free for something you are paying for. So, for example, I do pay the city a certain amount to use the pool for my aquafit classes. I try to go once a week. I love aquafit. 

Step 6: Reduce spending on discretionary expenses.

I could shop for groceries at a cheaper place than Safeway, I'm sure. 
Now that I've lost a bit of weight, I'm looking into paying a little less for life insurance, perhaps.
As for our utilities, I have this little project in mind for a spot in our basement:

I am hoping the challenge can help with this step.

Step 7: Empower yourself to insource!

The idea with this one is to stop paying other peopleto do things for you. Do them yourself. So, these are the things we paid other people to do this month: 

  • repair the Jeep
  • make two windows to replace our bedroom windows which are failing.
  • prepare food in restaurants so I (or someone else) didn't have to cook.
  • repair teeth (the dentist)
  • align the body (the chiropractor)
  • cut hair 
  • teach me what to wear, and how to declutter. (two on-line courses)
  • groom the dog

Hmmm, that seems like a lot all written out that way.

Step 8: Examine your habits.

Someone needs to be taking shorter showers, ahem. Again, this is an area I hope will be easier for me to see and thus do something about by the end of the challenge.

Step 9: Plan ahead.

Yes. Keeping up the meal planning and grocery shopping is de rigeur and it would be wise to add in what I plan to eat for lunch, too. I should also talk to the teenagers about this. 

We could also seriously cut down on the number of trips we make to the grocery store. We made over 25 visits to Safeway this month alone--only two were large weekly shopping trips with responsible lists. Not really sure what's going on there.

Step 10: If you do buy stuff, get it used (or cheap!)

This is an area we do not do well in, I admit. But, I have promised myself that I will go to Value Village for temporary clothes while I am losing weight. Of course, I say that, and yes, I did buy a pair of shorts there this month--but I also bought two T-shirts, a pair of capris and a dress--at a regular clothing store where people bring you alternate sizes to try on and you don't have to wait in line for a change room. sigh. Frugality is hard.

Step 11: Banish excuses.

I take it back. 

Major Lifestyle Changes

This whole section of our "homework" seems a bit premature and since this post is already too long, I'll spare you my thought processes for now. In brief:

1) Do you need to earn more?

Yes. We will.

2) Would moving help?

No. The house is paid off. We will move, eventually, and that will help substantially but that won't happen until the youngest finishes University--in about 5-6 years.

3) Should you get rid of your car (or one of your cars)? 

We would have to be pretty desperate for me to live without a car again.

4) Are you paying to work? 



I am going to give the penultimate word to Mrs. Frugalwoods:

The crux of successful, joyful frugality is spending in service of your goals and on the things that matter most to you. By identifying what you want out of life and eliminating spending that doesn’t get you to that final destination, you will succeed.

I only wish I had started down (and stayed on!) this path long, long ago. 

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Habits: A Clutter-Free Kitchen

Our challenge this week was
to tidy up the kitchen to clutterfree each evening before going to bed. 

This is not my first kick at this particular proverbial can. From courses I've taken at Simplify 101, I've learned two things:

1) As Abby advised, if you hate it often.

Say what?

But if you do the dreaded task--before it becomes a gigantic dreaded task you can avoid all the discouragement and overwhelm that comes with just thinking about doing the dreaded task. And, of course, it's the only way you can avoid this:

 This is what my kitchen counter looked like on May 13, when I began the course. I think that is every dish we own. On the stove, you can bet there was every pot we own. 

Doing it more often makes it more manageable, hands down!

2) It works! 

I found that if I did the dishes--if even only once--before dinner, doing the dinner dishes was a snap. And there's no excuse not to do something if you know it takes less than 10 minutes. No excuse. Even better-- other people in my house did up a few dishes here and there. Here, my daughter--without prompting from me-- looked after the dishes she used to make Mac 'n' Cheese for a pot luck.

Yes, from scratch!

Other things I learned this week:

3) Clutter attracts clutter.

The day before, I had cleaned out the fridge. I had left these cherries out of the counter as an invitation to people to eat them. Instead, a certain member of my household took it as an invitation to leave out his breakfast things. 

4) A tidy kitchen is essential.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what is essential this year. I've been trying to figure out what those things are which I absolutely have to do in order to feel like my life is ok.... And by OK, I mean, not spinning out of control, not casting me into despair and helplessness.

Yes, well, not going there would definitely be a plus!

The standard is a bit higher than that (but I seem to have only two settings on my internal gauge.) I was thinking about this: what do I need to feel like my life is OK?On the right track? As trite as it sounds, I came up with what my Grandmother told me, what I tell my kids and random facebook strangers. "As long as you do your best., you'll have done all you can." And so that's the new daily standard. Do my best, every day. And do what is best for my life, every day.

And cleaning up the kitchen is one of those things. The rest of the house can be in chaos (actually, this week, most of it was) but if the kitchen wasclean--even just before bed-- I found that I could think more clearly and I was calmer than, say, the week before, when it wasn't. A tidy kitchen is essential to my peace of mind.

5) It brings me joy. 

Actual caught-in-the-throat joy.

More than a tidy dining room (where I spend all my time), or a tidy bedroom (where I am in the habit of making my bed every day) or even a clean bathroom (though that's up there), a clean and tidy kitchen is essential to my happiness. I have actually felt joy as I have looked at my kitchen every night this week. And that feeling was worth overcoming the pull towards bed at midnight more than once. (I worked late shifts this week.) 

And so, my joy-filled week in review:

 There is no Day 6 because I was heading up to bed--without doing the kitchen! and I thought I'd just do one thing...and then I did another...and another...and before you could say "I am so tired I can't even remember Jack Robinson's middle name" I had tidied the kitchen...and gone to bed.

On Friday, I grabbed a few things still hanging around in the garage from previous decluttering sessions. Previous YEARS, I mean. This course has been amazing that way--pretty much everything I've gotten rid of is stuff that has survived past purges. This time, I'm looking at it with fresh eyes and wondering, "why?" So, out it goes!

These are all books from the bedroom bookshelf purge of January 2015. I confess, I did fish out two books to keep. But only two.

The mirror for the bathroom is still bedeviling me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Unclutter The Interlude: My Space Hogging Hobby

This week our assignment was to declutter the kids' rooms. Since mine are 16 and 19, other than moving the piano out of Emma's room and clearing her floor for someone to access her window to give us an estimate for a replacement, I didn't touch them. Instead, I stayed in the basement and confronted some demons. 

It makes me so sad.

I loved this hobby. I loved scrapbooking our lives almost more than the life I was scrapbooking. I remember I had layouts on the go all the time.

But no one ever looked at them.

the scrapbooks in the dining room

Except my Mom.

But I barely noticed this, or if I did, I didn't think it was important. They would look at them later, I thought, when they are older. I enjoyed making pages, anyway.

I had a goal to be published--and I pursued that for many years. I was published, actually, and I am quite proud of those layouts.

I think they are some of the last I ever did--except for Mom's Annual album. I stopped making that in 2014. Or was it 2015?

I had pretty much stopped taking photos of us altogether by then.

I am not sure why that happened. The problem with not keeping records, of course, is that you have no way of referencing the past.

I started working in the fall of 2013. Maybe that was it?

When you declutter, you essentially force yourself to deal with things you have ignored --either out of laziness, forgetfulness, or disinterest. Those things are easy to get rid of. But things you have been avoiding--as I have my scrapbooking--are much more difficult. I ask myself: why haven't I been scrapbooking all these years? Why did I quit?

I think there are lots of mundane reasons, like it's a messy cluttery hobby, it takes up a lot of space, you have to chase people down with a camera and teenagers don't appreciate that, it feels like an invasion of privacy once the kids reach a certain age, and whose story am I telling, anyway?

OK, so that last one is not mundane. But the real kicker for me was this: our family is, actually, boring. And since our last family trip --to the West Coast in 2014-- we haven't done anything as a family together (except for attending the first Star Wars re-boot movie.) We don't even eat dinner together. And it's been a crushing disappointment. That's what I've been avoiding.

The question is: what now?

Can I scrapbook? Can I accept the reality of our lives now, as well as how they have been? I mean, I do love each person in my family. I have a good relationship with each person. It is just that the four of us aren't a "family unit."

Here are some of my unscrapped photos, filed away in boxes:

On this wall in the basement are most of my tools and supplies (and more photos).

can you believe it? those plastic cases contain albums "in progress." 

Underneath this table are more supplies (paper, mostly):

yes, that's the toilet seat from the bathroom. It is in better shape than the one we have currently, we just can't figure out how to work the bolts properly. (We smashed the old toilet to release it). We haven't given up on it, though.

It is past time to let this all go. As much as I loved it, I don't see scrapbooking in my long-term future. But I'm not quite ready to let everything go. I think I have one more project that needs to be done.

Story albums.

Specifically, the Story of Ben, the Story of Emma, and the Story of Us. I'm thinking of 8 1/2 x 11 albums that begin with Chris and I getting married, then the birth of each child and carrying on until High School graduation. Ben's album will contain more pages about him and what he did as he was growing up, Emma's will have more of hers--and the "Us" album will be both albums in one (minus any duplicate pages, of course, like vacation, and holiday spreads.) To keep it simple, I feel each one should be more "photo album" than "scrapbook."

It seems daunting and exciting all at once. But if I died without doing it, I'd regret it.

I haven't decided exactly how I will do this. Handmade spreads seem exhausting, yet it's the tactile aspects of scrapping I've always enjoyed. I like the idea of creating a digital photobook....but I would have to scan in all the photos!! I have hundreds, if not thousands of physical photos. I have a few digital photos...but they have pretty much trickled down into nothing since 2013. That's a pretty big gap. I have some logistical issues to sort out, obviously.

I've given myself a year and a bit to complete it. Emma graduates high school in June of 2019. My Mom's birthday is July 27th. (She'll get a copy of the compilation album).

I am hoping this will be enough to satisfy my urge to create as I think we are truly done with decorating this house, at least! I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Persevering in the Bathroom. An Update.

The bathroom, just as it is today.

I confess, when the sink bracket broke, I just didn't have the heart to continue in the bathroom for a good long while. Luckily, Chris kept going.

He rummaged through his incredible selection of odds and ends and found something called an "anti-tilt bracket." He figured he could make it work and thank goodness he did, because the blacksmith I called just laughed at me. We talked about trying a welder--but given how expensive labour is-- he'd probably laugh at us too for such a small job.

Thank God, it worked.

But it made the sink too high for her beautiful chrome legs. So, I hunted down some replacements --but we didn't like them-- and I don't believe they were any higher than our original ones. But they did give Chris the idea to use big washers to raise the height--so that fixed that.

So, looking it over, we have actually come a long way--just chipping away slowly.

Here was my "vision" board.

The light fixture turned out to be too large for the space--the door to the medicine cabinet would have had next to zero clearance, and the fabric is about 10x darker than this. Imagine that background a muddy grey and those white bits as bone coloured.

I never did show you my alternate plan. I made it when I was trying to decide which fabric to purchase. As it involved buying a new shower curtain, I rejected it. But that mirror frame sure would have been simpler to make!

And here was the to do list:

  • new fan 
  • new paint job
  • new light fixture
  • remove the tiles over the sink
  • create some sort of wainscoting
  • replace the old nasty black drain pipes with pretty chrome ones
  • new flooring
  • new window treatment
  • install new toilet
  • sew and install a new laundry bag
  • hang hooks for towels
  • put up shelves (maybe)
  • hang artwork
  • frame mirror

By week 5.  everything in blue and green was done. We had removed the tiles above the sink, nailed in the wainscoting, painted the room, installed the fan and the light fixture, and I'd sewn the window shade the day Chris and Ben put in the floor. I had also installed the pretty chrome drain pipes for the sink, but we were having problems with leaks. After Chris fixed the sink and adjusted the legs, he gave the pipes a good turn with the wrench--and they worked! No more leaks.

Isn't that purdy? So happy.

The sink caused a few glitches with spackling and sanding and re-painting the walls, but Chris persevered.

The toilet was apparently a nightmare. We purchased the tank already lined....and apparently it just causes problems when you try to attach the water line to it. (And yes, we needed a longer water line than the one we had, so another glitch. But easily solved.) Poor Chris just had a terrible time with it. We'd installed a one piece in the upstairs bathroom just before Christmas and Chris has sworn he'll never install another two piece again!

I just noticed I need to remove the tag on the water line hose. 

And it is high! You can actually see out the window while you are sitting on it.

I decided not to use the fabric from Tonic Living. It was just too dark. Instead, I headed out to Home Sense and browsed their table cloths and shower curtains. I wanted something with blue in it--and organic--like leaves or flowers. Both the mirror and the striped shower curtain have really strong geometric lines, so I wanted to counter that.

The best I could do was circles. It kind of talks to the floor.

The shade, right after it was installed. I love this shot. As soon as we put the toilet in, the room felt instantly crowded.

I got the hooks installed fairly quickly once I figured out how to do it. As the bathroom possesses our only tub and shower for four people, I needed them sooner, rather than later. Still, we had to wait 24 hours after they were installed before we could use them.

I'd had the laundry bag sewn up before the fiasco. I'd cut the old curtains apart and reused the fabric. I installed it just this week. I got fed up with everyone just piling their laundry behind the door!

Note how high the door is from the floor. Apparently you need two full inches in order for the fan to draw air properly to vent the moisture. Since we've done that, we have not had any water drip down the walls.

It is working well...and I love it, even though no one can actually see it beneath the towels!

I'm still working on the mirror.

It's coming along well, actually, though very slowly. If it were just a matter of making a mirror in a frame, we'd be done by now. It's complicated by the fact that it needs to be a door.

whoa, dusty!

I cut the horizontal wainscot board purposefully short so I could install a board there as the new right edge --and create a mirror centered over the sink. Of course, I didn't realise until much too late that the light was centered over the medicine cabinet--not the sink. Oh well.

I'd planned to install shelves, but I'm hesitating. I purchased glass ones from IKEA--and spray painted the hardware, so I can't return them ...but we seem to be managing just fine without them and I love not having the clutter.

I will hang some artwork, though. (I think.)

Ironically, I still have to clean and seal my grout! And I would really like to re-caulk the bath tub, too. I absolutely have to caulk behind the sink and around the toilet on the floor before too long.

In case you'd like to catch up on all the posts on the bathroom makeover, here they are:

ORC 2: Jumping in Relunctantly.
ORC 2a: Evaluating the Bathroom
ORC 3: Using Inspiration to Solve a Bathroom Design Dilemma
ORC 3a: Progress Report
ORC 4: Yellow Alert! Yellow Alert!
ORC 5: Tick Tock
ORC 6: Disaster

Thanks to all of you who have kept me going through all of this. I am getting anxious to get this finished and out of my life--so let's hope I'll have that reveal for you soon!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Intentional Kitchen.

The assignment for this week (#6): declutter the kitchen cabinets, drawers, closets, and countertops.

This is a doozy of a post. You may want to get a coffee (or something).

I've been looking forward to this week. I've been itching to weed out a few things for the past couple of months. I did a great job of decluttering and reorganizing just before Christmas, but I'd noticed recently that the kitchen had become almost completely unmanageable. I joke that I can get dinner in 2 square inches of space, but when you do that night after night after night, it isn't funny any more.

As well, when the kitchen is messy, the whole house feels bad. And then I feel bad, and hopeless and angry. And, really, who wants that?

When I started this course, about 5 weeks ago, I had a mitre saw in the kitchen.

Fortunately, I started this project a little further ahead than that! But it was still outrageous.

Looking towards the back door:

The Stove Wall:


cart to the left of the stove:
cabinet above the stove

the drawer in the stove:

to the right of the stove, beside the back door. 

The mess at the back door.

The mess of the table:

The cabinets and drawers:

The bank of drawers to the left of the sink:

Under the sink cabinet (we keep recyclables here):

The drawers

The "baking drawer"

The "utensils drawer"

The cabinet underneath them, to the right of the sink:

The "junk" drawer beside the fridge:

The cabinet beneath that.

The Upper Cabinets.

To the right of the sink:

Beside the Fridge:

Above the fridge:

And back around to the fridge and corner doorway.

Straight ahead, the dining room. To the right, the back hallway.

The Method

There are four of us. I decided we needed only two glasses and two mugs each. I pared down our cutlery. Our plates and bowls are already down to two or less per person, so they stayed the same.

Then, I took an evening and went through all the food cabinets and sorted and consolidated.

I had half filled jars and open bags and unopened bags--sometimes all of the same thing! I have a huge selection of mason jars--and since jars are easier to manage than floppy bags--I put all I could into them. When I could,  I labelled them simply by cutting open the bag and taping it onto the jar I wrote the expiry date on it with a fine point sharpie.

As part of our course material, Joshua Becker asked us to read an article by Mark Bittman on the essential tools and supplies one needs to outfit a kitchen in order to cook in it.

These are some of the items Bittman recommended:

  • vegetable peeler (U shape)
  • Stainless alloy chef's knife
  • bread knife
  • paring knife
  • knife sharpener--either a whetstone or "a steel" (which is what I assume I have.)
  • can opener
  • (not mentioned by Bittman, but included: the metal spatula or "turner" or "fish slice." (Thanks to the Brits in my Facebook group for that last one!)
  • slotted spoon
  • sturdy tongs
  • heat resistant rubber spatula (can replace the wooden spoon, apparently)
  • big whisk

  • plastic cutting board
  • 3 stainless steel bowls (I have 3 ceramic ones on their last legs)
  • Sturdy sheet pan
  • colander
  • 3 Pots/Saucepans: small, medium and large "cast aluminum." (I have stainless steel)
  • 2 fry pans: 1 medium (10") non-stick, 1 steep sided heavier duty steel pan (14"). I have my two cast iron pans.
  • single lid. Absurd. I have lids for all my pots and pans.
  • blender

Bittman also recommended a few things I don't have:

  • instant read thermometer
  • Japanese mandoline
  • skimmer
  • 12 cup capacity food processor
  • salad spinner
  • microplane grater
  • coffee and spice grinder

But I happen to use a lot more items for cooking, so I got out those things and put them on the table.

clockwise from left:

  • small aluminum pan with lid, perfect for boiling eggs
  • rice cooker with insert and server
  • weigh scale nd basket
  • two saucepans with lids
  • steamer
  • 1 tea ball
  • 1 tea strainer
  • cake/pie server
  • meat fork
  • thin rubber spatula ( for digging things out of long jars)
  • short rubber spatula (for digging things like honey out of measuring spoons)
  • salad tossers
  • soup ladle
  • pasta ladle
  • large spoon
  • potato masher
  • pasta measurer
  • egg slicer
  • microwave lid

  • across the bottom:
  • ice cream scoop
  • pizza cutter
  • basting brush
  • zester
  • tiny whisk (I don't use this (I prefer a fork) but my husband does.)
missing: small non-stick frying pan and non-stick plastic "turner" or flipper, and the crockpot.

As I was sorting, I realised Bittman's list did not include items for baking. So, I piled up those next:

  • two sets of stainless measuring cups
  • top half of double boiler
  • 3 ceramic bowls (same as above)
  • electric mixer
  • rolling pin
  • sheet pan (as above)
  • muffin tin
  • 12 silicone muffin cups
  • biscuit cutter (I have used a floured glass in years past)
  • whisk and beaters for mixer
  • rubber spatula (as above)
  • 2 wooden spoons (1 as above)
  • icing tip
  • basket of various stainless steel measuring spoons (not pictured: One complete set of plastic measuring spoons)
  • pastry mixer
  • two cooling racks

But then, I turned around and confronted two areas I'd completely forgotten: above the fridge and beneath the stove.

  • pedestal cake thing
  • roaster
  • angel food cake pan
  • spring bottom cheese cake pan
  • 3 bread baking pans, 1 glass, 2, metal
  • 2 glass 8x8 pans
  • 1 glass 9x13 baking/roasting pan
  • large round metal cake pan
  • 2 metal pie pans
  • 2 metal cake pans

I didn't declutter too many of these baking pans, even thoughI don't use them very often. The thing is--an angel food cake must have an angel food cake pan....a cheesecake is a million times easier with a springform pan. I have the space. Even if I only ever make one of each again before I'll be worth keeping them.

I got rid of a few items. But a lot more I took down to the basement "to see" if we can live without them for 29 days.

I wasn't sure if I'd want it again or not, so it is on these shelves in the basement in the meantime (where the homeschooling books used to be, coincidently).

This was my donation/drop off pile for this week. (I do wish I had gotten better pictures of the kitchen items I gave away, but oh well.)

yep, there's the old bathroom light in that box. And the bathroom "fish" tiles.


stove wall:

I have decanted these drink mixes into jars and I may do it again.



I removed an old tin full of sweet 'n' low...and my "everyday" serving dishes. We just don't eat "family style" anymore, but plate from the stove and go our separate ways.


to the right:

I still love that spice rack!

I really wanted JUST flowers on mt table, but there's really no where else for the fruit!

The bank of drawers to the left of the sink:

I'd like to get rid of that water filter, but I am not sure how.


Baking supplies.

I decluttered all the black plastic measuring spoons I always avoided....and a set ofplastic square measuring cups I'd had since the 90s.

The utensil drawer

The junk drawer. 

 Lower Cabinets

to the left of the sink:

the large soup pot and lid is on the stove.

the cabinet beside the fridge:

 The Uppers:
beside the sink:

the small one beside the fridge.

the larger one beside the fridge:

 above the fridge:

and back around to the fridge and the doorway.

All that stuff on the fridge is necessary. One of those pieces of paper is my 2 week menu plan. Another is my Smoothie formula...and the big pile in the middle are all the recipes we need for the week. Oh, and there are some store coupons, too.

We keep our bread in those baskets on top of the fridge.

I don't feel like I actually removed all that much from the kitchen...and yet, it feels different. It feels like its easier to keep clean--easier to prepare food. I don't know if that's because I have been keeping it clean (which mostly means I've been doing the dishes) or because there's less in it--but it feels good and I'm glad I've skimmed another layer, as it were.

But I don't think by any stretch of the imagination you can say I have a minimalist kitchen.
Nor, I think, will I ever.

But I do have a very intentional kitchen.
And, I hope I always will.

If you would like to see the kitchen as it has evolved through the years --and gotten less and less cluttered--  check out this post: A Retrospective: 6 The Kitchen, 2007-2014.
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