Small Victories

The word for the week is capable.  That is how I am feeling these days, accomplishing all sorts of non-routine tasks.

#1 The pile for Goodwill was getting quite large, especially after the room swap so I finally threw it all in the trunk of my car and dropped it off!

Filled trunk for Goodwill
Filled trunk for Goodwill

#2 I went 4 days without checking Facebook and then I very deliberately checked.  Apparently it was a “simple” matter of mindfulness and breaking a habit. I am no longer checking FB every time I get on the computer.

#3 I reached my goal weight window. I like to be in a 5 pound window for my weight and for the last few months I have been 1 to 2 pounds over it. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal but I am more worried about the “it’s 2 pounds now and then 4 pounds” etc never ending gradual climb. So the time to nip it in the bud is now. I would like to blame the weight gain on my thyroid but I know I  have been doing way too much snacking.
I opted to try something new. I ate the same breakfast and lunch everyday.  I didn’t want to have to think about food so much.  I also planned a morning and afternoon snack that I only ate if needed.  I frequently skipped the morning snack.
I had some hiccups with lunch the first few days as I ended up eating lunch out three days in a row which is a very rare occurrence.  But I made sensible choices and on Sunday morning I had just edged into my weight window.   I am giving the same diet another go this week to try and get more towards the middle of my weight window.
I don’t think what I ate was overly important, you just have to find something that you know you can stick with and isn’t too unhealthy. In case you are curious though:

B- one fried egg, one sausage patty and one grapefruit
Morning snack – greek yogurt
L- 1/2 can tuna in olive oil mashed up with 1/2 an avocado and 1 chopped tomato, sometimes I also ate a banana or some cherries if I was still hungry
Afternoon snack- homemade smoothie

Dinner I just kept sensible, lots of veggies and lean meat/poultry.  I tried to make sure I kept well hydrated and avoided milk and ice cream and wheat which I believe I have developed a sensitivity to since my thyroid problems began. And of course I skipped most of  the junk food (still, a few dark chocolate covered almonds snuck into my mouth somehow).

#4 While Powell’s bought a fair number of my Library of America books I still had one small boxful that I couldn’t quite bring myself to donate but wasn’t sure how to try and sell them.  I now have a plan!  In October I am going to post a few of my son’s more valuable outgrown toys on Craigslist and I will post the books at the same time.  It is worth a try and then I can use the money for Christmas.

#5 Most of the time I donate my purged clothes to Goodwill.  For my son’s clothes I sort out the items still in good shape and take to Once Upon A Child, a kids used clothing store.  Sadly they do not have one here in Tucson but there are several in the Phoenix area so once or twice a year we make the trip. (We usually combine it with seeing a basketball or baseball game.)  This works well for his clothes and some of the toys.  For instance, this trip I got $65 credit and bought $80 worth of stuff.  My son got everything he needs for school/winter and I only paid $15.  That makes me happy! (Would have almost broke even but we splurged on a new $12 tie.)

#6  I started work on my needlework Haunted House in January with hopes of finishing it before Halloween.  And I did, two months early no less!

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#7  When my new lampshade arrived in the mail I realized it wasn’t going to work.  It was the perfect size and I loved the plaid but it was more like an over sized chandelier shade and the part that fits over the socket for the bulb was too small (I looked it up and I believe this is called an Uno Fitter).  I was really bummed and then wondered if I could just remove the Uno Fitter.  I tried tin snips and  the blade off a hacksaw to no avail.  About to give up I decided to go to Ace Hardware and see if they had a solution.  I love my local Ace, they truly are helpful as well as friendly.  Thirty seconds later, voila, the uno fitter is gone, no charge.  Thank you Ace Hardware!

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Love the plaid!
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The problem piece now removed.
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See how perfectly it fits?

 

So there you have it, a whole lot of productive happiness here in the desert!

 

The Big Swap (in Pictures)

My son and I swapped spaces right after we returned from the mountains.  We moved his play area upstairs into the extra bedroom that was my office and my office downstairs into the living room/dining room area.  After some internal deliberation I decided it made sense to do the swap before school started. My son wanted to do it right away, I wanted to do it the week school starts (he goes back on a Thursday) so we compromised to a date in the middle.

Here are some before pictures:

Downstairs play area in what is supposed to be the formal living room.
Downstairs play area in what is supposed to be the formal living room.
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What will be my son’s half of the closet upstairs.
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Baker’s rack staying in the upstairs play area.
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My half of the closet that I am keeping.
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The table I use as my desk, a general view of how the room was set up as my office.

 

We spent two days lugging items up and down the stairs, moving furniture and cleaning.

After photos:

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The start of my son’s Lego City.  He kept the table and those houses are on a “mountain”.
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His side of the closet.
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My side of the closet, not too bad.

 

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We swapped the treadmill and the baker’s rack to give more open floor space.  I kept the top two shelves of the baker’s rack.  (He can’t reach them anyway and I needed a place for photo albums!)

It already looks messy but that is okay.  That is why we moved the toys upstairs.

And here is the downstairs:

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The living room area now looks like a living room.
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The dining area with “my office” in the background.
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Play area storage is now my office, piece one.
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Piece two. My printer is inside on a slide out shelf.
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I love my dog table!
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Most of the time I work at the dining room table but piece two is set up for a desktop computer.  I store my laptop in the drawer with the all the wires for the printer and power tucked inside and I can work there too. I brought my chair down to use because it is on wheels, easier than moving a dining room chair and more comfortable.
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My son and I each had a cubby so we just swapped contents.  I like how the cubby and my office chair are hidden from the front door by the couch.
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So basically my new office is in the entry hall. It seems a little odd but hey, it works.  (I have a lamp shade coming in the mail. I needed an odd size and couldn’t find one around here.  I stumbled on a vintage burgundy plaid one that is the right size on Etsy!)
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I like how the office area isn’t “in your face” when you are sitting in the living room.  From the couch you don’t even notice it.

I am very happy with how all my stuff fits into the space.  So far my only concerns have been a lack of privacy for me (the first few days every time I got on my computer my son and/or husband appeared over my shoulder commenting on what I was looking at) and I don’t think my son loves being upstairs alone as much as he thought he would.  I believe both problems will be solved with the start of school.

A few other changes that were a result of the swap:

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This wonderful nightstand moved from my old office to the upstairs hallway and makes an excellent place for a very large dictionary.

Remember how I wasn’t loving the way my Agatha Christie’s fit on the wicker shelf?

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I finally came up with a solution.  I swapped the wicker shelf for a wider, shorter bookshelf I had in my bedroom.

 

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I like the way this looks much better, more space.
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The wicker shelf re-purposed in the bedroom.  Better for the wicker, less weight.

So there you have it, one major reorganization project finished.

 

 

Unplugging

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This is what the sky looked like most of the week

I spent last week in the White Mountains of AZ and I loved it, despite the fact that it rained everyday. We still managed to get two good hikes in and two good campfires, one afternoon one and one evening one.

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Six mile hike to the West Fork of the Black River

One thing I noticed was despite being in the trailer for so many hours I did not miss my computer or tv at all. I didn’t even think about them. When we arrived at our campsite I turned my phone off and didn’t turn it back on until we got home.

Instead I read my books, worked on a needlepoint project, watch the rain and played games with the family. As soon as it would stop raining we would walk around the campground or down to the lake. I never felt bored or trapped.

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“Fire Pit Lake”

Once we got home I was reluctant to turn on my computer and I started to think about my computer usage.  Of late I have deleted some of the blogs I used to follow.  Some had become repetitive and some made me feel bad.  (Why can’t I be the fun mom like that?)  Part of me really dislikes Facebook.   I originally got an account so I could post pics of my son for far flung family members and reconnect with old high school friends.  I turned off some of the feeds into my account but I am realizing that maybe FB isn’t such a great thing.  But how do I stop myself from checking it?

Having a computer is like having an eating disorder.  You can’t just stop eating and I can’t just chuck the computer.  Okay, I could but there are practical uses of the computer:  my writing, paying bills, researching things to do, making reservations etc.  So now I have a goal of trying to wean myself off sites that I don’t really enjoy.  I am not too far gone.  I don’t spend hours on the computer everyday going through Pinterest or reading blogs.  I have already downsized my blog list.  I think I am ready to stop reading the comics online everyday.  (When I cancelled the newspaper I realized I could still read the comics online but it has come to feel like a chore as opposed to something I look forward to.)  My biggest challenge will be not checking FB every time I sit at the computer.  I am going to continue my “French Lessons” on Duolingo which I need to do everyday in order to progress.   The key is to be more cognizant of what I need to do when I open my computer and stay focused on my goal.

For me the computer is a good servant but a bad master (Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project”).

 

The Influence of Books

I am a voracious reader. Yup, voracious. I can’t remember the last time a day went by when I didn’t spend some time reading. I have always wondered what people did when they traveled by airplane if they didn’t read.  I think public libraries are the best thing ever.

I read for entertainment.  I read to experience other time periods and other cultures and lifestyles.  Mostly I read mysteries, cozies, some popular fiction and a little chick-lit.  Occasionally I will read a western or a romance or even a cookbook.   A biography gets thrown into the mix once in awhile.  I never read science fiction or fantasy.  Nope, no Harry Potter or J.R. Tolkien for me.

I love to read stories set in England or Europe.  I like the details of house descriptions and knowing what people ate for meals and getting a glimpse of the routine of their life.  And while reading these books sometimes I find myself craving bits of the characters lives.  Okay, mostly craving bits of their meals.  A week ago I was reading “The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss” and found myself wanting chocolate raspberry muffins that Sophia made for breakfast one morning.  So I made chocolate raspberry muffins!

 

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Yum!

 

Sometimes the cravings go away when the book ends, but sometimes not and there is nothing to be done but to fulfill it.  It is not always food I crave.  I have been reading a series about quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini.  I love how the books skip around in time and location.  Everytime I read one I have the urge to make a quilt.  Being realistic I am starting with a dresser scarf instead, made out of nine patch squares.  I also like how Mary in the Little House Books was always working on her nine patch quilt insteading of getting into mischief like Laura.

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My sewing basket

Books have also made me want to move to various places such as , Virginia (Krista Davis), the lake country in England (The Beatrix Potter series by Susan Wittig Albert ) and wherever Mitford is (Jan Karon).

Of late I have been fond of reading  books set in WWII Europe.  I read “All the Light We Cannot See” recently.  Wow.  “The Nightingale”  is another good one along with “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society”.  Reading books set during that time period really makes me appreciate all that I have.  If I find myself groaning over preparing dinner I stop and realize how lucky I am to have food and the means to cook it.  How horrible it would be to have a hungry child and no food available.  When I am dusting I wonder what I would take if I could only keep what I could carry.  When I am paring down my wardrobe I wonder what it would be like to not be able to buy anything new for 4 or 5 years.  And back then people had a lot fewer clothes!  I can’t imagine losing all my books and access to a library.

My favorite part of the day is bedtime reading to my son.  Seems I still love young adult fiction too.  We have read (or listened to the audiobooks while traveling) all the “Little House” series by Laura Ingall Wilder and everything by Beverly Cleary.  I am lucky we enjoy some of the same books right now and will be sad when/if that time ends.

For me, books are the best part of life.  So many vicarious experiences.  I am a lucky woman. What am I reading right now?  At bedtime I am reading Agatha Christie.  Currently I am going through the Miss Marple stories in order.  I am up to “A Murder is Announced” leaving me with a desire for scones and tea.  I just started “A Serpent’s Tooth” by Craig Johnson.  I have a hankering for cowboy boots and a crush on Sheriff Longmire.  And for bedtime my son and I are reading “Junonia” by Kevin Henkes.

I hope you find the pure joy of a good book today too!

De-cluttering Continues

Having spent the last year and half attempting to downsize what I own to fit comfortably in my home I am discovering what process works best for me.  (I am also realizing just how much stuff I have…Holy Cow!) I have found while it is helpful to read blogs and find ideas, doing exactly what someone else did doesn’t seem to fit me.  I find it more helpful to take bits and pieces of suggestions from different sources but mostly to listen to my instincts.

One thing that seems to really work for me is doing an area two or three times.  The first time is about getting rid of the really garbagey stuff and  items I know I don’t want/need.  And then there is the surprise at finding all the stuff I forgot I had.  It is just like Christmas!

The second time through, a few months later,  allows me to objectively evaluate all those “found items”.  If I haven’t even thought about them then I know they can go.  I also find this is when I typically have a big pile of  “maybe” stuff.  Stuff I still feel attached to but really have not used/wore.  My general rule of thumb for the maybe pile is to get rid of at least half.

Third time through I have found my objective has changed.  I have gone from: I just want everything to fit in a designated space;  to: do I really love this?  Does it suit who I am today?  Why, exactly am I keeping this?  I have found the three times through method works on clothes, knickknacks, memorabilia and half finished projects equally well.

Clothing

I mentioned working on my wardrobe in my last post. I have already downsized a fair amount of clothes this year but I still feel like I have way too many items I don’t really love. I perused a few blogs and saw some good ideas. I also recently read Leo Babauta’s  book “Zen Habits” and that gave me more food for thought.   For the third time through I went with the “would I buy this today” mentality.

1. I truly looked at my wardrobe objectively and who I am now. I have a ton of t-shirts from various units, deployments and vacations, some ten to twenty years old. Memories, yes; stylish articles of apparel, not so much.

2. I really need a separate set of clothes I can wear camping that I won’t care if they get muddy or smoky (from the campfires) or snagged on a bush.

3. I truly believe that I am one of those people happier with less stuff.

So here is what I did. I made a pile of clothes that:
– I feel sort of embarrassed wearing outside the house.

– Anything really old, especially over-sized t-shirts.

– Shirts given as gifts that I really didn’t like.

– Anything that didn’t fit well or made me feel frumpy when I wore it.

– I put aside a few t-shirts and two polo shirts from my military days for my son to wear/have in the future.  It is important to me that he realizes how much more there is to his Mom than just being his Mom.

With my shorts and capris I pulled two pair, put some in the camping pile and the rest back on the shelf.  With my summer shirts and t-shirts I put about half back on the shelf and culled 5 shirts for camping.  One very large t-shirt I am going to try out as a nightgown.

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The pile of purged clothes (includes the basket in the back)

The plan was to  put all the “rejected” clothes into a basket in my bedroom.  On the first day of school I would move them to a box or tote in the garage and label with the date one year from the day.  This way if I really miss something or find myself looking to wear a “rejected” item I can retrieve it. And if after one year I haven’t thought about it it will be easy to take to Goodwill.  (Waiting a year will give me most of another summer season to evaluate my wardrobe and plenty of time to make sure I haven’t downsized too much. {Did I really just write that?  As if.}  I want to make sure I have enough camping clothes because I really don’t want to buy new items for camping!)

But I had way too many items for the basket so I put most in a bag in the garage and just a few items I was very on the fence about into the basket.

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“On the fence” items

I think I got the put stuff in a box with a date on it idea from Peter Walsh but I was also thinking about Leo’s advice to make things as easy as possible to establish a new habit.  This way I won’t feel any stress about something being gone forever.  For now I have just re-located half my wardrobe :).

And when the weather gets cold (okay coolish) I can go through my winter items and do the same thing.  I don’t think I could handle the stress of sorting more clothes right now.  I do find it interesting that even though I feel happier looking at my pared down wardrobe I find the process itself a bit stressful.  All change is stressful, even good change!

Laundry Room

My laundry room was feeling messy and cramped.  It is not only a very small space but it is the walkway from the garage into the house and heavily used.  It is awkward trying to carry bags of groceries through the space.  This was my second time clearing the space up.  Since I am not the only user of the space it doesn’t stay tidy for long.  It really didn’t take long to sort, purge and straighten the items but it took awhile to do a good cleaning.  There was a fair amount of dryer lint in all the nooks and crannies.  I also made the executive decision to remove the large laundry sorter.  I seldom used it, mostly just as a holder for tablecloths or sheets I wasn’t ready to wash right away.  I owned it because in Montana I had a ginormous laundry room and it made sense there. It didn’t make sense here.  Now the walkway is much wider.

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BEFORE
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BEFORE

 

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THE GAMES AND PUZZLES

I did this section of the cupboard earlier this year.

 

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AFTER

 

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AFTER

The top shelf is for non-Christmas gift wrapping and birthday party stuff.

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Washi tape

Now that the laundry bin is gone you can actually see the light switch.  Just for fun I decided to dress it up  with a little Washi tape I had on hand.

Office

In preparation of the office and play area swap later this year I have been really thinking about the items in my office and what I love and need and what I just have.  For the most part I think when the time comes I will box everything up and then find it a new home downstairs or purge it.  See how things fit in the storage furniture first.  In the meantime though I am looking to see what I can purge ahead of time.  This will be my second go through of my office. It doesn’t seem like there is much I want to part with right now, but I hope with time that will change.  As usual books seem the biggest obstacle.  However I did combine four old photo albums down into one.  (How many pictures of the Christmas tree does one need?)

My husband and son are going to a baseball game tomorrow night and I think that will be a good time to look at the closet in the office.  My son is going to get half and I am keeping the other half.  The side he will be getting isn’t too full.  I will empty his future half  closet and then make a pile of items to move downstairs (which will go back into the closet until the swap), hopefully a pile to get rid of  and I need to see what will fit on the other side of the closet.  I have some ideas percolating about where things will go but I can never seem to fit as much stuff in a place as I think I can.

This first step will be a good test of hard this swap is going to be.  I keep picturing how nice it will be to have a tidy living room and dining room  for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I imagine not feeling frustrated by the sight of a zillion toys piled up by the front door.  I picture how happy E will be to have more space to build his Lego town.  I feel the freedom of having less stuff.