Working On It

Okay, I’m trying to get where the house just gets cleaned and maintained (entirely different things I’ve discovered).

Cleaning something, really cleaning it, is what traditionally “Spring Cleaning” or other seasonal cleaning is for. I want to do that year ’round, as I’ve said, no seasonal gluts of heavy cleaning. However there are tasks that are driven by the seasons, no matter what. I haven’t quite figured out how to do this entirely, that’s still in progress.

I have found a cleaning product I like as I’m not allergic to it, like most products of its type. I’m so in love with this cleaning product that in one week I cleaned (not maintained) 6 door surfaces (pantry in/out, hall closet in/out, l bath/out, entry door/in, both entry walls, two leather club chairs, a side table and the coat rack, its shelf and the boxes that live on the shelf! The product is this stuff.

For someone who’d largely given up on commercial cleaning products because all the solvents get to me, it’s wonderful to find something that I don’t have to melt, concoct or do anything other than just use. Many antique dealers I know use their restore product, which is why when I found this at a mom & pop store not far from here, I grabbed it. I’ve used about 20% of the bottle and I expect to use a good deal more of it in the near future.

Last week I bought a “dish holder” one of those wall hung display racks, sort of like this one:

dish rack

I have no wish to steal someone’s image! This came from here. If the rack I found was the size of the above rack, I’d have kept it. It’s a double wide thing and much too big for the space where I wanted one! So, it’s getting painted white and will be put up for sale.

Paints, like cleaning products, have been a particular problem; I’m allergic to solvents in most latex paints too. I “found” milk paint and that’s better, but still not great. (They have a new “organic” line I haven’t tried, I will.) In the meantime, I discovered chalk paint. Most DIY chalk paint recipes are built on a base of plain latex paint, which of course won’t do. Annie Sloan paints are made in England and there were no sellers near me when I looked. I found Cece Caldwell’s paints, made in the USA and sold pretty close to me. Expensive? Yep,  but no primer and next to no smell at all. I’m using this one:

Also this past week, I finally figured out what to do with the “3 tons” (well a large quantity anyway) of left over shirt pieces and bits of tarn from rug making. When  it’s more than just an idea, I’ll take pics. Many of the “projects” I”m undertaking these days are to use up stuff, notably craft supplies. I have a room full and although I could maybe sell whatever (there are multiple websites for this) I’d really rather have the satisfaction of using the things I’ve acquired, admired, and hoarded for so long. What’s the point of keeping it if you don’t use it or won’t? I’m not Gollum or a giant sitting on my hoard! I’m a nearly old woman who’s trying to use up her stash.

I had some wool gift yarn, really I mean wool? Yep, it was wool yarn, but not for knitting. It looked like the chunky acrylic gift tying yarn popular in the ’60s. I crocheted flowers out of it. Only enough for 6 flowers, they’re  gift tags for family members. That emptied that spool. Next? Dunno, but I’ll find something, use it up, then go on to the next. I’m on a mission. I have a high school friend who wants to visit. Our “guest room” is my office/the craft room. I have to get enough stuff out of there so we can get a bed in it again. Hopefully by next spring or at the latest, next fall. So, I’m on a mission!

The living room project is still being whittled away at. There’s less stuff, probably every week and what’s left in the room is cleaner. Still not where it needs to be, but better. I have to accept better as the progress it is because I’m not likely to meet my personal goal: to have it done by Thanksgiving, next Thursday.

I’ve realized that no matter what, there’s a certain amount of organizational “bones” have to be in place before getting and keeping a house clean can be accomplished. To that end I wrote A-D on the inside corners of our bed frame, the matress, and the “feather bed” (actually an extra down comforter)  today, to aid me with “turning” them to even out the wear. A was in the far corner from where my head usually goes, B where my feet are, C where my head is and D at the last corner. At the moment all 3 sets of letters are in the same place. I’m going to make a chart so that I can turn the “feather bed” more often than anything else and turn the mattress every quarter or 2x a year. The bed frame obviously won’t change!

I hope you and yours have a happy, safe and healthy holiday season!

A “Free” Mortgage Payment?

“Family Food Supply” is the name of a pamphlet I got a while ago. This one is from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 1934.

Okay, I’m a sucker for publications like this, I’ve confessed that already. But my point about there’s not much new in the “How to save money” world is demonstrated, again, by this old publication.

In a section entitled “Further Guides to Food Thrift” it says: “It is the penny saved on a pound of butter, and the few cents saved on sugar, eggs, bread, which add up to a neat savings account, because these are the things most often purchased. (According to one inflation calculator, a penny in 1934 is equivalent to .18 in 2014 money.) It also says:

  • The most expensive food is not always the most nutritious.
  • Staple foods that keep should be bought in as large quantities as can be stored.
  • Spoiled food is usually a sign of poor marketing, careless meal-planning, or bad house-keeping.
  • Most families need to spend from one quarter to one third of their income for food.

All of which, with more modern framing are things you’ll find out there in the “how to save money on food” blogs, articles, etc.

The first one is still true exactly as stated. The second is the basis for people who stockpile. The third isn’t usually framed that way any more, as “poor marketing” and “bad house-keeping” are not viewed in the same fashion as previously. And the fourth? That’s the only one that’s actually really different.

The average  American, these days, spends  less than every other citizen in the world on food, or < 10% of their income for food.

See below.

But of the money we spend, we toss 25% of the food we buy! See below.

I admit that’s only .25 on the dollar. But if you add those  up, then the .25 you toss from every food dollar can be used for heat or clothes or ? It’s not a huge amount, but when was the last time someone told you something you could do to save .25 of every dollar you spend, without spending an extra dime to do so?

Want to know how much you could save? Take a rough estimate of your income, for every $1000 you make, you’d get back $25. ($1000/10 = food dollars, or $100. 25% of those food dollars = potential savings = $25.) In our case, this adds up to a chunk of change that doesn’t seem insigificant at all. I could make a mortgage payment from it! A “free” mortgage payment once a year sounds good to me! Maybe you could do the same?

Behind, again, or Ahead, but Who Knew?

I listened today to a radio show about childhood traumas and how they can make you more resilient. Well, yes, I knew that already, thanks.

Most of the story and the folks they talked to posited the idea that a traumatized kid had some support network, albeit a nontraditional one: a friend, a grandma, a teacher, church, or whatever.

Me? My “support network” was a shifting network of people, stuff, and a LARGE dose of stubborn.

Since I only heard part of the show I thought I’d look for it to see if there was more info I could use. Can’t find the show. But in googling around trying to find it, a found a plethora of “help” out there. People think trauma is real, are doing something about it, and there’s resources. Wonderful. Almost none of it fits where I am; I’ve recovered too much. I was abused/traumatized too long ago.

Ain’t that just my luck? I mean here I had this thing decades before all these “experts” they know so much more than they did and almost none of it can help me.

I wasn’t depressed when I started the search, but — I mean after fighting something for 50 years there’s a huge amount of help which wasn’t there before, and next to nothing in what I’ve found is useful!

I wish that I wasn’t always on the wrong end of the curve, behind it or ahead of it? It seems I’m usually left behind or just bowled over/drowned out by the mob.

I’ve been looking for ideas

about how to unclutter here. Not much help out there. Oh there’s an abundance of ideas about if you haven’t used something in a year to pitch it, but not much that fits my situation.

I’m not afraid to toss stuff, I’m afraid of neat & tidy. And afraid isn’t the right word really. I get stressed in neat & tidy, well, that’s closer anyway.

All these people assume a few things, some of them dead wrong. You never read books on your bookshelf. (Well why keep them if you don’t?) Except for reference and some nostalgia, I agree, but I DO read the books on my shelf.

That you only keep notebooks because they contain your old school or meeting notes. Well, no. I use notebooks to file recipes, receipts, garden plans, story ideas, yada yada.

Maybe I’m running full tilt into old ladydom. I don’t have all my music, lit, and do all my writing on a computer or smart phone. I still use, read and store ideas, etc on PAPER, not surprisingly for a second generation bookseller (mother) and book collector’s (dad) kid. I’m a paper freak. I’m also of an age, I admit it. I don’t have a smart phone, will probably have to get one and resent it, but there it is. I really don’t want to carry a computer around with me all day.

Anyway, back to my original point, there doesn’t seem to be much advice out there that suits me. I found one post on pinterest that fit, out of dozens. I have a whole folder full of these “tips” and I read them and delete them, mostly.

It’s very frustrating; I’d really like some help. But most of these folks assume that 1)I’m adverse to purging things (not true) 2)that I have not recently culled my clothes (not true), medicine cabinet (not true), pantry (not true), games (not true) etc. I purge categories of stuff fairly often, and regularly. I tossed an entire box of cassette tapes tonight. So my problem isn’t getting rid of stuff.

  1. I have WAY too much stuff
  2. I have BAD habits
  3. I get anxious/stressed/my PTSD acts up when it’s tidy!

Neat & tidy feels nice, but unsafe. And there’s no pinterest posts, or very few, that I can use from where I actually am as above and with the addition that I have no problem culling things!

The world needs a pinterest post on decluttering when you have anxiety issues. I may write such a thing, at some point, but I have to get past mine before I’ll go dispensing advice!

Being Self-Sufficient & Not

It’s getting colder, thankfully, the furnace is finally fixed! We’ve been using the woodstove, a thing we’ve decided we’ll do much more of this winter. For one thing, it helps deal with the various downed wood on the property. For another, it uses the resources we’ve already paid for, like firewood, instead of incurring a bill with the local propane company.

We’ve wintered here without a furnace before and it isn’t fun to come into an absolutely frigid house, but it can be done.

I have for the first time put root veggies (carrots) in wet sand to store them overwinter. We’ll see how that goes. Being able to buy organic and then storing them without refrigeration sounds like the best of all possible worlds to me. Along that line, I found a Mother Earth News article (of course) about this. You can find that here;

Also, I’m making bread again. Making our bread all by itself saves us about $5 a week as we like hard crusted, “gourmet” type bread, not the supersoft cheap stuff. It ends up being about 2 loaves in a week. This time I cut up the end of the last loaf, to prepare it to become breadcrumbs.

I’ve been using a lot of breadcrumbs lately. I made stuffed mushrooms Sunday morning for both the political party my neighbor had and my writing group. Last week, I made a crustless quiche, why I’ve never heard of this technique before I don’t know, but I doubt I’ll ever make a quiche, at least for us, with a crust again! You just brush the inside of your quiche dish with olive oil, then spread a layer of breadcrumbs on that. Then add your quiche batter and bake. It was great, took WAY less time than a pie crust, was made with ingredients I almost always have at hand. Not to mention that it probably uses way less fat than traditional crusts too.

Otherwise, I did something I never thought I’d do. I gave up about cleaning the house. Last week I started to get really depressed, the house was a mess and no matter how much time I spent on it, it seemed it was still a mess. Or, I clean it up and then mess it up again. I finally asked 3 people to help. All of them know about my house, indeed two of them are neighbors. The other is one of my bosses (!). But I asked for help. I’m not getting it done on my own, I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done, fits and starts and forward & back.

I’ve had it. I’m stuck already. I asked for help, and thankfully, all 3 of them responded that they’d help. This is sort of scary for me, but I don’t really know what else to do. Professional help isn’t possible, it will make me panic AND we can’t afford it, so that’s out. And I’ve tried almost everything else I can think of, short of getting a dumpster, and that’s out for much the same reason the professional organizer is.

So, I swallowed my pride and asked for help where I needed it and otherwise, we’re working at being more self-sufficient.

Lost Places

I spent the time I had in SoCal when I wasn’t going somewhere or needed to be somplace at x particular time as much as I could wandering around my old home town. It’s beautiful, but not the place I left. It’s like a dream of the place I left, because it’s “off.” The buildings are basically right, but not, the whole place just feels weird, it’s not my stomping grounds any more. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I do miss the feeling like I belonged that I had when I lived there.

Except I really didn’t feel that way. I didn’t fit the culture. But the place was mine and that’s what I was trying to recapture when I could on my trip; and I couldn’t. I didn’t want to “go home” as much as I wanted to see/feel/smell the place that had been mine even if it had never been “home.” When you don’t really connect with the culture or your family you attach to something. In my case it was the place. The view of the water, the smell of the beach, the eucalyptus trees weeping on the drive, etc. The views were still there, the smell was the same, the trees had contracted something and were all removed, and what I had noticed the last time was still true: the place has been “Disneyfied.” That it is polished, and prettified and not a real town any more. The local shopping center small market became a deli and cafe. The drug store is gone, the liquor store is gone, almost everything is gone, except the bank, investment firms and real estate offices. The on again off again restaurant is in operation again as a chi-chi French place. See? No one actually lives in that place. It’s an investment. You go OUT to dinner there.

Same place, when I was a very small kid, still had the counter in the drug store. Jack cooked the best hamburgers around. When the drug store finally took out the counter, Jack moved around the  corner into the Bakery and still served the best hamburgers around, at Irene’s Bakery. Next to the bakery, by the time I was in high school was a real estate office,but before that, it had been the kids’ section and art section of the local bookstore. By highschool, that bookstore had folded, but another had taken up across the center. There was a “general” store that sold china and party linen and small kids’ toys and glassware. It’s a flower shop/bakery now, very chi chi.

I suppose you could still live in the place, but almost everything I could see was, “To be here, you need a lot of money! Let us help you spend it or invest it for you!” There was ONE gift shop and a flower stand; that’s it. Made me sad, no ballet school, no doctors, no advertising agencies, no drug store, no family cafes, no real market. Between that, the cost, and the crowding, even if I could afford it; I wouldn’t live there. Yeah, if I could afford it, I’d buy my Dad’s old house and stay there a week or two a year maybe. There were a few other houses I dearly loved I might do the same if I got the chance. But really live there? No.

Going home again wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to see home, to be in my home town again. That isn’t there either. As to the other part? Emotionally? I didn’t fit as a kid; I sure wouldn’t fit now!

Woodstove Going and . . .

our furnace is on the fritz (part is on order). This has meant that things in the living room have been majorly upset; a good thing. I’ve been whittling away at the bedroom a bit at a time, but the living room needs it too.

Had a friend over for tea last week, that got the table cleared off, which also needed it. Unfortunately, this meant the downstairs table was cleared off just in time for the colder weather (in an unheated house), when the inclination is to eat in the warmer rooms, upstairs! Backwards, that’s us.

So today started with me trying to make waffles. The waffle iron surfaced during the table clean out, for a long time I didn’t know where the waffle iron was, then the cable was missing. Found that. Thankfully I had marked it with a bread tag! (Do you use bread tags to mark things? I’ve done it for years, way before I ever saw a pic of such on pinterest!)

The waffle iron needed to be cleaned & seasoned, (it had been cleaned before it was put away, but the outside had gotten sticky somehow) so no waffles. Decided I was going to make pancakes instead. While looking for a missing ingredient in the canisters, one package of hull-less barley came open in the bin — another cleaning project.

My day, if you’re counting, before breakfast consisted of cleaning projects: the wood stove area, the waffle iron, and now the canister, sigh. At this point, DH took over and made pancakes. I finished cleaning/organizing the tools, etc. that had been used on the wood stove, so DH could put them away when he got there. He dealt with the barley (at that point I was still going to be the cook). And I put dishes away.

Almost every day now, when I put something away, I make a point of culling what’s stored with it, at least once a day. This has yielded a bunch of stuff, and the wagon is pretty full of things culled this way: a time card rack (factory type), a brass lamp shade, tape tins, etc. stuff — that’s going away, today (didn’t yesterday, stayed home, cleaned and wrote mostly).

The culling sort makes me almost miss the counting thing: combining stuff in the pantry, filing papers or tossing them, tossing excess clothes, etc. I know I’m doing it, not counting. I do notice though!

I sometimes wonder how I’ll know when I’m done? One paradigm I’d set was “being able to walk across my living room.” I haven’t accomplished that, yet. But the house is cleaner and I’m managing to not undo whatever I’ve done; a major victory, if you’re me.

For years, the idea of keeping some space clean would give me panic attacks. This going one-step-at-a-time isn’t fast, but I can sustain it, which having a professional organizer, spring cleaning or what have you doesn’t.

The dishes get washed daily (although I can honestly say they don’t ALL get washed all the time)! The toilet/sink/bath counter get washed regularly, but not on a schedule. The bed is made almost every day. The sheets have been getting washed every weekend. And I’m culling/selling/tossing stuff every week.  This is a slow but steady process, it has to be slow to keep the panic at bay.

When I wrote the memoir, I wrote about me and stuff and the woman who was my abuser. When I put the realities of what happened to me in a few succinct paragraphs, my being a “hoarder” makes sense. It also makes sense that I’m not attached to the stuff as much as the mess. I learned real quickly that anything of mine was subject to be “acquired” by someone else, or derided, or damaged, or broken, or given away. I learned that to protect myself I had to act as if my “stuff” had no value. The more I valued something, the more likely it was to be derided, broken, “lost” or stolen. I learned to hide behind mess, it was the only thing that worked.

Fifty-plus years later, I’m trying to undo that process. Not easy because most of it became unconscious behavior, and the panic is real. How often would you clean if the idea gave you a panic attack? That’s where i was for most of my life.

It’s changing. One piece at a time. Wish it was faster, but it is what it is. And, if this is like the PTSD behaviors, what will happen is that I’ll reach some point where 1)I’ll panic big time because the old behaviors are nearly gone and 2)I’ll ride that out and learn to live with whatever vestiges of the panic remain for the rest of my life, in a probably mostly clean & tidy home.

Took a lot of years and stuff to get here, it’s going to take some time yet to get out. Too slow, but it’s what works; and that’s inarguable, since the alternate just stops me cold!