Category Archives: New Habits

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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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!

 

Two Types of Flashbacks

The last time I was cleaning 5 days a week (my goal) except for dishes/food clean up was last month. On the 15th, I wrote this blog saying, “I’m doing it!” and started waking up in full panic: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole thing. When I have a full, emotional flashback, it’s a two-week readjustment, but not a cleaning flashback. Those take longer, about 4 weeks.

What I’ve done successfully, is to make the routines, at least a minimum of them just habit. So, for the past 4 weeks, I’ve done some laundry, but haven’t put it away consistently. Done some dishes every day, but rarely are all of them done, etc. There aren’t 4 weeks of accumulated laundry and dishes to do. I haven’t gotten much sleep and my stress levels are up, but I’ve dealt with it.

My challenge is to either 1)Try and add to what I can do in the “bad times.” or 2)Lengthen the period when I can clean. The problem with either and this challenge is that if I notice what I’m doing — the panic starts.

I’m really sick of fighting this stuff! I’m in my 60s — I am honestly, truly tired of being affected by things which happened in my childhood. But they gave me PTSD and all of it, the mess to hide in and the other events or adaptations I made to protect myself, are all wrapped together as my flashback. Push on any piece too hard and there I go down the flashback rabbit hole.

The only difference is that when I’m pushed emotionally, I have a successful route I forged back. From something like the movie thing, it takes a day or two. If someone attacks me? It takes two full weeks.

I don’t have such a mechanism for the panic attacks/cleaning flashbacks. What I originally did with the emotional ones was to recreate my growth, one step at a time away from the painful place I used to live. I haven’t managed anything except the very first steps away from the panic/stress.

  1. I understand the root of the panic.
  2. I also understand that the reason it was and is so hard to fight is that when it occurs, I’m in full fight/flight panic mode.
  3. I have realized that the only way I know which might work is to habitualize the cleaning.

That’s worked to some extent or the other.

What hasn’t worked? Finding a way to notice that I’m cleaning and not go into a full-blown panic attack/flashback.


There’s hope. Until I typed what’s above and remembered what I’d done for the emotional attacks, I’d forgotten that I ritualized the steps away from the bad old days. I did that for years until my therapist said, “Do you really have to recreate each step, one after the other these days? Next time, see if you can’t condense some of it.” And I could!

So, hope exists. But it took me 20 years or so to heal enough that I could conceive of  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on the cleaning/panic is about 18 months more than I want to spend….

But, of course, the being dictating the rate I can go isn’t my conscious, adult brain, but that wounded little girl, whose body remembers all the trauma. She and the body run the roadways and determine how much I can do and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back, be patient, and wait. It sometimes feels as if I’m a passenger on an electric train. I got on, the doors closed and locked. All I can do is patiently wait until it stops!

trolley

 

Good Enough

Well, the three areas I want to keep clean, bathroom counter, the dishes and the laundry are all being worked on, daily, which is new. It isn’t always perfect, in fact I’d say it’s rarely perfect, but I have a large backlog of laundry to get through, the bathroom is still a construction zone, and the kitchen, although cleaner, isn’t where I want it to be, ultimately. That said? I’m going to say I’ve done what I set out to do.

Why? Because I know I can and probably would keep pushing the goal line out, looking for perfection, rather than giving myself credit for what I HAVE done. It’s a characteristic of mine that whatever I do is never enough, fast enough, complete enough, or in short good enough.

(Hello abuser!)

So, I’m going to declare a victory instead. And add something new. I want to start making the bed, daily. All of this is really simplistic and easy, if you don’t have panic attacks in a clean and ordered space. I’d really love it if someone could just come up with a drug or a switch they could flip somehow and it would just go away. No panic. No guilt. No “not good enoughs”. Because then I could set a goal and just X off the steps in between as I got them done.

I’d give one whole heck of a lot to have that work! But after 50+ years of fighting myself I know it doesn’t. I can get all caught up in trying to make the perfect plan. I can get all caught up in all the things I haven’t done. I can get all caught up in whatever flavor of not being perfect/good  enough fits, this time. Or, I can do a dramatic push and work and work and work — and then find a reason to sabotage myself, because internally I am freaking out/panicking.

So — I won’t do that this time.

It’s not perfect. I don’t care. It’s getting done, most of the time. It’s better than it has ever been — and that has to be good enough, because I know that if it isn’t either I’ll never get there OR I’ll freak out/panic.

So. I’ve won!

J

The War with Clutter

I have been fighting clutter for a long time now! My big issue remember isn’t getting rid of things, for decades it was living in a cleared space, which gave me panic attacks. That meant I was “wedded” to having clutter. So — I kept trying and before my PTSD diagnosis and work, there was no way I could fix it.

Since, I’ve tried, lots of different ideas (I’ve talked about some, here, for the past 6 years) and attempted to find ways around/through/vanquish my stupid panic attacks.

In the process, I came to a few realizations about clutter:

  1. Clutter gets in your way when trying clean an area.
  2. Removing Clutter is almost always the first step in a cleaning plan. (For anyone who isn’t me.)
  3. Clutter is normally made up of things you can pick up: dishes, laundry, papers, game pieces, bills, etc.

But because I’m me what this all means is that it’s interesting, certainly, but it doesn’t help me declutter.

What works? Well, the same thing that works when I’m knitting: being just slightly distracted. I tried trying to “dance” while I was cleaning and although that was fun, and Gawd knows I need the exercise, the cleaning was subpar. So no.

I tried “writing” in my head, that is storytelling. Except that what would happen is that I’d inevitably go back to the bad stuff, punch that button AND BRING ON a panic attack. No again.

I don’t know about others with PTSD, but math is my friend. Math is concrete, it is almost always the same. It has no emotional good or bad or family or traditions that I know of to punch any buttons at all.

So, I invented a game for myself. It’s 5:1. For every item I use, I have accrued 5 items I need to clean, clean up, put away, etc. I also learned from the 6-5 lists that I can’t carry it forward, or I’ll get too discouraged, so the counter is reset to 0 every morning.

When I get up in the morning, I have a cup of coffee with milk and stir it with a spoon, and that puts me at 10. After a couple of weeks of this, I am doing things like putting dishes away while the coffee gets hot, so I start with 0 or in the + column. Daily flatware (forks, knives, spoons) 3 pieces = 1, most everything else is 1 for 1, so a pot is 1 and putting a serving spoon away is also 1.

I wrote down one day last week:

Description Negative Positive Balance Time
Mug & spoon used -10 -10 7:30 a.m.
Dishes washed +14 +4 10:00 a.m.
Wood stove glass cleaned +1 +5
Hearth swept +1 +6
Wood stove accessories cleaned +3 +9
Wood box tidied & maintained +2 +11
Kindling boxes tidied & maintained +2 +13
Trashcan emptied & put away +2 +15 10:10 a.m.
Shelf cleaned +1 +16
1 item to trash +12 +17
Mug in sink -5 +12
Swept 5 areas & kitchen +6 +18
Cleaned 5 stairs +5 +23
Rag & spray bottle put away +2 +25
Broom & dustpan cleaned/put away +4 +29
2 chunks newspaper trashed +2 +31 11:25 a.m.
8 papers trashed +8 +39
6 things put away +6 +45 11:38 a.m.
1 plate used -5 +40

5 items used while making lunch -25 +15 12:10p.m.
Dishwasher emptied +10 +25
Cooking, serving lunch used 9 items -45 -20 12:39 p.m
22 items washed +22 +2 1:06 p.m.
Package arrives -15 -13 1:15 p.m.
Dishes put away +11 -2
Dinner was provided by a friend. One pan needed to heat it. -5 -7 5:20 p.m.
2 dinner dishes & 2 forks -10 -17 5:30 p.m.
Washed dishes & culled items +19 +2 9:05 p.m.

If you don’t have to make up games to do this sort of thing — good for you! I wish that was true for me, but it isn’t. Also, I only do this Monday – Friday. Weekends are for being with my husband and focusing on US, not cleaning!

If you’re not dehoarding, you might want to try this at 3:1 or 2:1 or even 1:1. I’m trying to get rid of a lot of excess stuff, finally, and this seems to work. Your mileage may vary!

clutter war button

(The image isn’t mine but I got it via images.google.com)

Background Work

The latest anthology is all but done. The (c) page and other formatting sort of things need to be completed. We also need contracts & money from the publisher. So, a bit more work there, but basically, it’s complete.

The taxes are done, or all but, as well. I sent the last number to the tax person after dinner last night.

The background work I’ve been doing is for the new domains and the new idea re this information and other writings I’ve published, are in process, or are complete, but not yet released “into the wild.”

The current plan is to have the book-related website up sometime in April. This is faster, why? Because a lot of what we’re going to do is post links for other people, the books I’ve been involved with, etc. Doesn’t require a lot of original content, just a framework.

The dehoarding piece (a lot of which will come from here) work has begun, but will take some time. Warning: posts may disappear from here altogether when I get the new things set up. What will stay: the how-to posts which are my most popular (how to cook madagascar rice, how to get more books on a bookshelf, ways to stay cool you may not have thought of, and others).

Re the housecleaning/purge? Things are better, although it certainly isn’t perfect. The bathroom counter is staying clean, the dishes are getting worked on, daily, as is the laundry. I’ve decided that when I can keep those three areas clean without it being a battle, then I will have achieved a major goal: that is, to deal with the inevitable addition of mess, daily.

That’s my first goal if you will. To get to where it isn’t something I even have to think about. The dishes are mostly there, DH or I do dishes, daily. We don’t get them all done or all put away every day, so that’s the next piece. The bathroom counter has been getting cleared off for some time, that’s really done. The exception there is that for a while now, the bathroom has been a construction zone. That should end soon. The worst piece of the three is laundry.

I learned that it’s impossible to keep a room clean if you just have too much stuff in it, I also learned that the daily influx has to be dealt with, first. I had this notion that if I just got rid of enough stuff, of any sort, that the house would be cleanable. Yes, that’s true. But when you count a dresser the same as for a piece of paper, as I was doing at the beginning, it doesn’t work very well!

 

It’s Monday!

Beginning of a brand-new work week.

I’ve read a story, deleted unneeded emails, figured out a seed order and cleaned the bathroom counter and part of the kitchen counter.

Have a friend coming for breakfast in a couple of hours and want to do a bit more before that. I cancelled, as I’ve been sniffling and sneezed a few times since I got up too, sigh. I do NOT need to get or be sick!

Got the wood stove started making coals at the moment, still just small stuff, I’ll add the bigger stuff in a bit. Building fires is a lot like culling this house. You have to be content with the small, slow steps in order to get where you want to go. Learning to just walk away from a cold started wood stove fire was difficult for me. In my childhood home, the way you started a fire in the fireplace was to put in wood, turn on the gas, add a lit match and a little while later turn off the gas. Absolutely foolproof  and easy. Doesn’t teach you to watch the fire for where it is; doesn’t teach you to build coals starting with really small stuff and lots of paper, first. Didn’t teach or show any of that. I was spoiled, yes, and ignorant too. I learned better.

But cleaning the house or any other really big change for me is very like my experiences with building fires. I expect to see a problem, turn on the change, say “Go!” and I’m on my way. Um — no. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. It requires learning what the small steps are, nurturing those small steps, walking away and letting them seep in/work, (because if you mess with it too much frequently you undo the fire/change). Then slowly doing the next steps, one after another.

I’m in the waiting mode for the stove. The flue temp is 127 right now. It needs to be around 150 before I add anything of size.

I won’t keep flogging the build a fire/make a change analogy, but I’m sure you see what I was after. I have no patience, unless I have had it shoved down my throat again and again, that the only way that works is to go slowly. I want things to happen

Now!

or with little effort; it works far better if I use patience and let it build on its own.

The stove is at 129 now. I’m going to go get the broom and sweep the stairs. The routine I’ve gotten for sweeping the house starts with the stairs, to the entry, to the living room, the hearth and then the hallway. The kitchen is done separately. The sweeping routine is one of the small steps towards cleaning and clearing this place. Frustratingly small sometimes, but of a piece.


Got through my appt. and other needed stuff, finally got home around 5:15. I feel like crap; I’m going to bed!