Category Archives: Getting Organized

The Primal Shift

Yesterday was pepper day! I made salsa, put peppers on a ristra, made stuffed peppers for dinner and the freezer, and roasted red peppers for future batches of my version of “tomato” soup.


This morning I’ve been dealing with dried herbs. The farm has PYO herbs and they bunch them occasionally. I use a LOT of parsley, thyme, mixed basils, and rosemary. I make a winter tea from spearmint/lemon balm. Today I went through all the herbs/spices:

  • I have enough/too much thyme. I’ll offer some to friends.
  • I need more parsley.
  • I need more lemon balm/spearmint for tea.

The rest of it I left alone.

If I don’t do this at this time of year, what happens is that around Feb.  I run out of parsley and tea. I object to paying retail for parsley, (Remember this?) so….


This reminded me that I also need a “cube” of pine shavings for the root cellar crates. I’ve tried sand (too heavy) and newspaper (too messy) so this year I’ll try wood shavings. I need to sterilize the crates. They’ve been empty all summer, but weren’t sterilized, as I knew it’d be months before they were put back to use.


There’s also the annual replacing older foods to make room. The last 3C or so of my 2017 winter tea mix is in the compost bucket, for example. The current bottle of thyme will join it soon.

Part of this is having enough parsley, winter tea, thyme, tarragon, etc. Where previously I would have kept all of anything, whether it was likely I’d ever use it, or not? These days I send a email to friends & neighbors asking if they want the extras. If I get no takers, the compost heap gets another donation.

pantry storage

It’s also time to beef up the canned goods. I’m pleased to say that we used all the canned and dried meats I had set aside and the canned veggie shelf has 2 cans of butter beans (used for bean soup), a can of garbonzos (hummus) and 3 cans of chopped chilis. That’s it! Getting to where the flow of pantry items made sense was one goal I had a couple of years ago. We had things we’d stored for years and hadn’t used. We had stuff neither of us liked, because it had been cheap. After three years of work, I’m pleased to say that my pantry at the end of summer has very little in it! More pasta than anything else, and not a huge amount of that. Previously, I had so much food that it was in the attic, under the sink, etc. and wasted mostly!

Still, there is something about the process of getting ready for winter I love. Much of it I hate because I loathe the idea of winter itself. But when I know I have a little food set aside to use midwinter it’s pleasing. It appeals to the frugalista in me, but it also hits a much deeper level.

 

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Defining the Job

I finally came up with a set of concrete goals for the house work. I’ve put it on the 7 levels site. You can find it here.

It was interesting to finally figure this out. The sliding scale of how much is enough has been an issue of mine for some time. It is possible to go way over the line from hoarding to OCD and the definition will also help (I think.) to keep me from doing that.

And, because of the need to find that “enough is enough” and not too much, I think the set definition will also help keep the PTSD anxiety at bay.

Another step,

HURRAH!!!

Blog Changes!~

I removed the counting data from 2017, it’s gone. Much of the other blog posts from here will probably be summarized, deleted, and perhaps copied — soon.

IF YOU WANT A SPECIFIC BLOG POST TO STAY PUT, EITHER LET ME KNOW OR MAKE A COPY FOR YOURSELF!

What I intend to do is summarize what I did, on the history page. The posts I intend to keep are those which are the concrete and most popular: cooking Madagascar pink rice, figuring out how many bookshelves you might need, ways to stay cool, the cookbook parade posts, etc.

What will be either cut/pasted into a new page or summarized in a long thread is the emotional stuff. OR, I’ll move it a new website. That hasn’t been determined yet. I have seven years’ of writing to go through.

The cleaning posts will probably be moved to the other blog I have here, which right now is almost entirely empty. It’s sevenlevelssite.wordpress.com. Right now it’s just a framework with very little in it.

So, the cleaning posts will move to 7 levels, the emotional posts will move to a new website, probably. What will stay here are pointers to both of those as well as the more practical and popular posts which have been here.

Comments? Questions? Objections? All are welcome. Not sure I’ll change my plans — but I’ll listen!!!

Self-Cleaning: Charts

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

Ingredient, Tool, or Area Used  Used? Recycle trash or wash? Return to storage? New storage req’d?
Onion, basket Y+1
Onion 1/2 Scraps/T+1 scrap dish W +1 Y +2 (partial onion, scrap dish) Y +1
Knife W+1 Y+1
Counter Cutting Board W+1
Butter 1/2 Y+1
Butter Dish Y+1
Pan W+1 Y+1
Spoon W+1 Y+1
Stove W+1
Totals T 1, W 6 8 1

Above, ingredients are plain text, tools italic, areas bold, and storage containers underlined.

Total items requiring washing after cooking this two ingredient dish: 6, while there’s 7 items to put away, 1 item went to the trash, and a container added to storage. Grand total? 16 items!

Yes, there are frozen chopped onions. You’d have a container to return to the freezer or trash, depending on whether you used it all, or not. This would eliminate the onion basket, the knife, the scrap bowl, and the cutting board, their clean up of 4 items, still leaving 10 items. Not enough of a savings to me to make it worth taking up my (already inadequate) freezer space. If you use dried chopped onions? Add a bowl and water to the mix, you’ve only eliminated 2 items, so that doesn’t help much. I got 1/2 way through an edit here and realized I had to rewrite it. That’s why this makes no sense! It made sense before I mucked with it, honest!!!

I messed up. the problem with this is that it’s REALLY easy to do. I think I’ve covered it, and covered it accurately — and the next time I look at it, I realize I’ve forgotten x or y or z! Sorry.

Revision: Yes, there are frozen chopped onions. You’d have a container to return to the freezer or trash, depending on if you used it all, or not. This eliminates these pieces: onion basket, knife, scrap bowl, and cutting board. -4 And this clean up: knife, scrap bowl -2. You do still have to return the frozen onions to the freezer, if you don’t use them all, but you may or may not need a new package for them. If you take 6 items from the 16 above, that leaves 10, a fairly large savings. That said? I’m in the same boat I was before. I have no available freezer space. [Because of the insane power our old, big freezer uses, we’re eliminating it this year, so I have only a side by side fridge’s freezer.]

If you use dried chopped onions? Add a bowl and water to the mix, or 12 items total.

My solution has been the same for some time: I chop a lot of onions at once, add a stick of butter and then put the resulting quart of sauteed onions in the fridge in a quart jar.

Ingredient, Tool, or Area Used Used? Recycle trash or wash? Return to storage? New storage req’d?
Onion, basket Y+1
Onions Y Scraps T+1 +2 (new jar, lid)
Knife W+1 Y+1
Counter Cutting Board W+1
Butter Y Wrapper T +1
Butter Dish N
Pan W+1 Y+1
Spoon W+1 Y+1
Stove W+1
Totals T 2, W 5 4 2

There’s 13 items there. I’ve eliminated 3 things to clean or put away by using all the onion and butter and eliminating the scrap dish.

sauteed onion

(image via google images)

The real self-cleaning part of this is that then I use 1 spoon to get sauteed onions for about two weeks’ worth of cooking. And THAT certainly makes it worth doing!

Ingredient, Tool, or Area Used Used? Recycle trash or wash? Return to storage? New storage req’d?
Sautéed onions Part Y+1
Spoon W+1 Y+1
Totals W 1 2

I wonder what else I can cook in bulk, part way, so that I can do it ONCE for many meals?

The first thing I thought of was preparing lettuce, but that really won’t work, because cleaned lettuces turn brown and rot faster. (How many years did I work in a cafeteria? Too many!)

More thought required . . . .


One last chart, what’s probably the baseline.

Using part of an ingredient creates more clean up and steps than using all of an ingredient, not too surprising! I don’t think that I’d add a stick of butter to a recipe asking for 1 tablespoon because of this, but I might add a little more?

Ingredient, Tool, or Area Used Used? Recycle trash or wash? Return to storage? New storage req’d?
Cooking Tool or Utensil W+1 Y+1
Cooking Area W+1
Ingredient  100% Possible T+1
Ingredient pkg? 100% Possible R or T +1
Ingredient Part Possible T+1 Y+1 possible +1

The items which consistently make the most work are the cooking tools & utensils, which both need to be washed and put away. Cooking areas just have to be cleaned after use. Food I’ve dealt with above. So I suppose the next step is to figure out how I can use fewer tools: reuse more tools or eliminate them? That will take more thinking too.


I haven’t gotten into serving tools, etc. because my goal is to eliminate most of the prep clean up after a meal, not necessarily the serving or eating dishes.

 

Self-Cleaning Cooking. Is It Possible?

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I’m beginning to think this is a pipe dream.

Even something as basic as sauteeing 1/2 an onion gets involved:

  1. Storage it came from +1 locale
  2. Cutting board +1 thing to wash
  3. Knife + 1 thing to wash
  4. Storage for remaining onion +1 locale
  5. Pan  +1 to wash
  6. Cooking tool +1 to wash
  7. Butter storage +1 locale
  8. Butter knife +1 to wash
  9. Stove to cook it on +1 locale

Potentially there 4 areas (onion storage, unused onion storage, butter storage, stove) which could need to be cleaned, 2 food remainders to deal with (the other 1/2 the onion and the rest of the butter which also might need additional packaging), and 5 items to clean (cutting board, knife, pan, cooking tool, butter knife).

From a TWO INGREDIENT cooking task, there’s potentially 11 items or locations to deal with! No wonder the kitchen is always trashed after cooking a meal!!!

My only “hope” is that if I do my 5:1 item swap, this would involve cleaning or putting away 20 items.

Honestly? I wouldn’t have expected this kind of ratio, that it takes about 5 areas or cooking tools to deal with a single ingredient.

I’m sure this doesn’t hold true through a complex recipe, (You would use the same knife to chop things, for example.)

I tried to do a count like this for the simple recipe I made for dinner last night, 8 ingredients. It kept getting longer, more complicated and then I’d see something I’d missed, and it got longer and more complex. After 3 drafts, I decided to do the simplest recipe I could think of. This one.

There are variables:

  • Was the tool already in use and re-used without washing? Certainly this could be true for the stove, cutting board,  & knife, if not the bread board, butter dish and butter knife.
  • Is the potential cleaning something done as a part of the kitchen’s clean up, rather than because of this recipe? Possibly so for the onion’s original storage locale or the storage for the 1/2 an onion, although maybe not for the storage it is put into?

I am working on a way to chart this stuff so it’s easier. In the meantime, I have relaxed. I am overwhelmed for a good reason, this is confusing as all get out and much more complicated than I ever would have figured!

stack of dirty pots & pans

Modifications

  1. One of the “truths” I’ve gotten to which I wrote about is that I not only need to do maintenance cleaning (dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc.) but deep cleaning (cleaning cabinets, appliances, windows, etc.) to get the house clean.
  2. I’ve also noticed that the only way to keep areas where items are always in use decluttered is to put more away than you use, like the chart, here.
  3. These days, whatever I’m doing, I look at the pieces with the idea that maybe I should get rid of some of it?
  4. Today I decided that if I ever expect to declutter this house, I have to make the culling and removal of the items stored in boxes as much a part of my cleaning routines as the others.

So, what did I do? I swapped out the summer and winter scarves and robes today. In the process, I pulled 2 hats out for culling, 1 purse I’d forgotten was in there for resale. Then I opened a box and found FIVE chunks of old business records from 1990-1992 to put into the paper recycling.

The swap is part of the regular seasonal shift. Also included: washing the shower curtains, refreshing the Never Wet on them (We have a lot of iron in our water. Without the Never Wet, the curtains turn ruddy brown.) Cleaning and storage of the heavy winter blankets/flannel sheets. Swapping winter clothes for lighter ones.

Just for grins the other day, at Target (?) I looked at shower curtains/liners. Curtains were about $25, liners $5. We have 2 cloth liners, one black, one white. Works fine!

Our plan today is to take both cars to the dump and get rid of the bags of leaves as well as another large chunk of stuff.

DH put the knobs on the new bathroom cabinet. More progress!

I put things away into the new cabinet. Found the missing back stock of deodorant and shampoo, got the emergency supplies (first aid and eye wash) organized and in one place again. (Did that first.) So, although the bathroom project isn’t finished, there’s a bit less chaos now than there was this morning!

 

Philosophy of Clean

It seems to me that there are “truisms” about cleaning. Some of these I’ve discussed:

  1. Clutter is usually made of “stuff.”
  2. “Stuff” is frequently made up of pieces you can pick up with your hand.
  3. Hard surfaces are easier to clean than soft ones.
  4. The only way to get an area clean and keep it that way is to keep cleaning.

My new one is related to #4. That people who manage to get and keep areas clean don’t see cluttered or untidy as acceptable.

For someone in their 60s who’s trying to learn to live differently, that last piece is not easy. Even when I clean regularly, I just don’t have that muscle. I’m so used to mess and clutter that I often just don’t see it.

This creates an all-too familiar situation for me: that I clean/cull an area and within a week or so, it’s a mess again.

I noticed this because of yard work. I’ve been working on raking out the beds, specifically, the bulb bed. For weeks I’ve had piles of leaves in the yard. I’ve been pulling them up and taking them to the dump, when I can get to the dump, at a rate of about 8 bags a trip. The piles aren’t there forever, and I finally have one more trip and that’s it to finish picking up those leaves. (It will be 4 trips when I finish.)

I’ve restricted myself. I’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning out the leaves in the other areas, and piling the leaves into neat piles. If I keep it up, it will still be another month or so before I manage to clean up most of the yard. This is an acre and I’ve never done this before; we’ve lived here 20+ years. Lots of dried leaves!

My neighbor’s yard always looks neat. Both of them work on it, instead of one person. And, whatever yard work they do is entirely cleaned up, before they quit. It occurred to me that there are some reasons for this: they have more storage than I do (a garage and a basement) also, they ALWAYS clean up and put away whatever accumulated mess and tools before they quit.

Also, in this neighborhood, we almost all have wood piles. There’s a neighbor who has a wood-fired, exterior furnace, with large wood sheds, as you might imagine. His wood piles, even when it’s a grapple load, are rarely messy. The wood is almost always cut to size and stacked in the sheds. The neighbors with a garage and basement have a small pile of wood for power outages, it’s tidy. Us? We have the end of two cords in a pile in front of the porch — which just looks messy.

The difference is that the large pile and the mess is something we live with, and the others won’t, for whatever reason.

I’ve been pecking away at that pile, a log or two here or there. I’m very aware of my weakened elbow and the potential for permanent injury if I’m not careful. Otherwise, I would have tackled it long since . . . .

But my observations are what got me to item #5.

5.  Keeping an area clean requires the attitude that a hodge podge isn’t visually acceptable.

J