Category Archives: stuff

Undoing the Mess

The only way to be a hoarder or live with one is to learn to ignore the mess.

Ignoring the mess was easier for me than dealing with feeling unsafe all the time and having continual panic attacks.

But we’re undoing the mess here, one piece at a time.

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I can tell our attitude is different than before. We’re congratulating ourselves/each other when we deal with one nasty spot or the other. When we finally find that ” ’round tuit” to clean some long-ignored corner.

It’s hazardous waste collection for our community today. We’ve dug into the sheds, the hobby spaces, the yard, etc. and out have come the cans of old paint (not latex) and coolant, and cans of ?. We decided that we’ll make a spot for things to go which fit this category, so next year (our community does this annually) it will it all in one place already. Not ignoring it.

Very different!


Also different, and still different. In my on-going battle with email? I just eliminated all the X person pinned your pins from pinterest. (These days, there’s only 25,8xx unread emails in my primary email account.)

I know I’ve gotten all the pinterest emails, because I got to the email which thanked me for opening my account, in 2012.

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Editing

In an effort to store less, I’m seriously considering a major reduction of my cookbook collection. I of course have too many.

My trunk novel’s protagonist was someone responsible for feeding an entire community through winter, in an unindustrialized culture. So, I have a lot of cookbooks related to that: Colonial American cooking, Medieval cooking, butchering, root cellaring, etc.

This came about in part because a gent I’d met had a character in his novel, a tavern owner, doing a marketing survey before industrialization, which simply wouldn’t have happened. Starvation was no joke in those days! Marketing surveys as such didn’t exist accordingly. The result is that I have a slug of premodern era cookbooks. Those are an easy cull, fascinating though I find them.

We also really only eat meat as a condiment these days, 3 times a week or maybe 4 at the most. So meat-centric cookbooks are probably another easy cull. (When I learned to cook, the way you started meal planning was determining the meat first, then the rest of meal around that.)

Along with those, I’d actually like to reduct the ENTIRE collection. The way to do that would be to copy the recipes I think I’ll use most into some type of house notebook or card file, and then eliminate the books.

I have a designed card, based on a commercial one. (I tried a cut/paste, it didn’t work.) The top of the first side is divided into 3 columns: measure, manipulate, and areas. This is directly related to the self-cleaning cooking posts. The bottom 1/2 of the card is the precooking actions

I have  “weird” symbols on many of my recipes. The on-going self-sufficiency index. I wrote a post about that here. That’s represented by 3 numbers, separated by slashes: 3/8/29, for example.

Another is something which shows up looking like a ratio, as this: 5:3, which is how many ingredients are used to create how many precooking pieces. I started doing this when I was working. I would do things like saute onions in the morning before I went to work and then come home to finish making dinner.

There is a type of food indicator: E S or D (entree, side or dessert).

And a list of month numbers, 1-12, so that I know when the ingredients are at their freshest.

Lastly there’s the source of the recipe and the page number.


This sounds really complicated, it isn’t in practice. Much harder to describe than use!

The other side of the card is divided into 4 columns: Qty, Unit, Ingredient, Procedures.

The bottom edge of the card has the name of the recipe spelled out again, for filing.

These are set up as 4  x 6 cards. The reason I haven’t made the cards is that I really need to change the format that it can fit on 3 x 5s. I have a 4 drawer file box I can use for those, but not for bigger cards.


Maybe make the cards hold less, linked by a recipe numbers maybe?

Recipe 1, Tools (card 1 front) Preprep (card 1 back), Cooking Instructions (card 2, front & back), Misc. Info, (card 3, front and back).


If I can get the cards printed by a computer, that should work.

I’ll have to talk to DH about it. Much of the work I had done for this is in a program I’d we don’t have running. I’ll research the upgrade and put it into the budget queue. Then retrieve the data I’ve already got.

In the meantime, I can go through the cookbooks I use now which I didn’t have, then, and get the data and do the obvious culls.

So, I’m off!

I’m not well, but for the first time in almost 2 weeks, I’m not hacking, wheezing or sneezing. I actually feel pretty good. And by comparison with yesterday? I feel terrific.

I am throughly tired of being sick and tired!

Whacking and Hacking

I did some work in my hobby space/office this morning. The drawers I plan to remove this summer are empty. However, the piece on top of them is NOT. Nicely, the bookcase which sits nearby is mostly empty, so I started the process of moving things from the top of the drawer units to the bookcase this morning. After that’s done, the top DH added can be removed. THEN the floor area needs to be cleared enough so we can get the small dresser and toy chest out and then, finally, the drawer units.

It won’t be tomorrow, that’s for sure!

However, there’s progress. Pieces were culled and added to the “flea market” stack, going to the storage, when convenient.

We got rid of the chair which has been lurking on the porch all winter last week, it went to the dump. It had checked (split) and neither of us thought it would sell, so off it went. It was a good, oak chair, but we couldn’t sell it, we tried in two shops, at various price points, nada. So it sat and sat and sat, and eventually the seat became checked.

Still  to be removed is the old flat file. That was waiting on better weather which we have now, but with both of us being sick, it’s way down the list, It can stay where it is, it’s a wind break on the porch.

DH examined the laundry vent, which got bent off 90 degrees by ice this past winter. It’s going to require patching, a diverter it should have had to begin with, and more sealing than it apparently had too, sigh.

THAT job is going to delay my moving the wood piles. We had one which fell over last winter and the plan has  been to move a lot of the wood storage to the porch. That has to wait until DH is done with the roof project. Since I didn’t want to move the wood 2x, I figured I’d just load it onto the porch around now. Hmm. Not now.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I did get the last of the unstacked wood stacked yesterday. The last fall delivery was dropped at the lowest point of our driveway, the wood on the bottom was pretty wet, even sitting on a tarp. I had a plastic pallet,slated to go to the dump, but what the hey, I used it atop the lower tarp, wet wood stacked on it, put the 2nd tarp back on top. There’s not much there, only about 20 pieces, but it has a chance of drying now and it probably didn’t before, it would have just rotted.

Yes, I’m still getting things done. Yes, I still feel fine, and then have no energy, like water running into sand. It’s inching forward, but it IS forward. I am whacking away at it.

(Hacking is what I sound like, mostly, if I’m not croaking trying to talk.)

Slowly Back To It

I have all kinds of crud in my lungs. Used to be every time this happened, I got bronchitis and then was sick another week. It was always the last stage of my cold.

However, those were the years when I smoked. And I now haven’t smoked 2x as many years as I did. The difference is that I am not coughing up as much, and I feel much better today than I did yesterday, that’s the semi-good news. The bad news is that I am managing to get things done in about 5-10 minute blocks, and then I’m just wiped out.

I’ve been working on a couple of new ideas here: floating clutter and finishing chores (or getting them to a set midpoint).

Floating Clutter are those things which may (or may not) have a home,but rarely seem to be in their home. The pepper grinder that seems to always live on the table, even though it should be put away on the side board is an example.

I have decided two things: 1)Floating Clutter is what it is because it’s too difficult to put it away, for _____ reason. 2)I’ve been trying to find new places to put those things away.

Things are tidier here than they usually are, because I’m concentrating on finding and putting away or relocating the floating clutter.

Finishing things is because I realized there are a lot of pieces here for projects which weren’t started, jobs which seem (and are) too big to get finished in one session of work.

These project items are likely to be culled these days or put in a box if I can’t deal with them now. I’m tired of looking at them, moving them, and their generally being in the way.

house with bookcase

The too big to finish thing as a stopper is being worked on. Some work is better than NONE so I’m working hard at finding partial steps I can do and finish now, rather than ignoring the piece because I don’t have the time/resources, etc. to do all of it NOW.

One result of this is that the top of the washer/dryer are cleared again. (The laundry was a big job, got nibbled at until it was done.) And the kitchen counter is also cleared again, same strategy.

There are two boxes downstairs and one upstairs of project pieces.


Result? Cleaner house, less floating clutter. It’s all good!

Going Back and Not

This past week found me working on pieces I haven’t worked on in a year or so: my might be a novel and the buying used stuff website.

Both are things that I hope to sell someday, so I guess I’m feeling like I need to make some $. Both are pieces I have a lot of time and energy into (the website data is 45 pages, for example).

Both got stalled last year. Okay, both are on my queue again, now.

Other things which have been dropped recently:

  • Food plan & food waste tracking – not so much dropped as forestalled. The farm food glut starts the end of this month . . . .
  • The cleaning plan – also not dropped as set aside because of the cold.
  • The absolutely final house purge. Also not dropped, but before the flea market last month I had gotten to all the pieces which were easily accessible here. So a major movement of boxes o’ stuff needs to happen. I have cleared off a bookcase in my office, almost entirely. But the other counters, etc. are heaped high with uncategorized stuff. There’s a crafters “maker space” (a commercial one) in the nearby college town. My idea is to take some of the materials there and USE them or donate or SELL them? We’ll see.

So, things haven’t stopped entirely, but yes, they slowed down a lot. The first major goal was met, that is we did the flea market in April. We donated a lot of the unsold merchandise to a thrift shop on our way out of town. There was a hole in the storage unit. There still is, although I’ve taken 1 load of new flea market gleans to the storage (and I have the beginnings of another).

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The next flea market is the beginning of next month.

Hopefully, I will NOT stay sick the entire month, like I have the past month, so this will be much easier!

I have dropped the following:

Early planting of the vegetable garden. Some of it should have been planted last month. Some of it should be seeded RIGHT NOW. I’m not because I feel wretched. Too bad!

What has been planned for this month is to scheudule the chimney sweep coming and  also replacing the chimney’s cap. That will do us for another year for that.

Do NOT Keep Up with the Joneses

We have one neighbor who has 3 kids. The kids are grown and have left home, but show up periodically to help Mom and Dad do things around the house, build a deck and rebuilding their entry stairs most recently.

These people have a house which always looks great. Except that they spend all their spare time, both of them,  working on their home: weeding, mowing, planting, fertilizing, washing their cars. Their home is really nice.

At various times, I have adopted the attitude that I wanted our home to be as neat and tidy as theirs. Except I can’t. DH mows the lawn and occasionally helps me bag leaves, but the yard work is up to me. DH keeps his workshop up and will do day-to-day maintenance: dishwashing, laundry, catbox, etc. but the rest is up to me. I do not have 3 kids and their significant others or siblings or parents all of which my neatnik neighbors do. And all of whom come and help.

So there’s no way. As a pie in the sky standard? Yep, that’s fine. But I was doing yard work today and our yard is still largely unraked. The bulb bed is raked out, but only about 1/2 the leaves have made it to the dump. (The neatnik neighbors have a hill they can put leaves down; we don’t.) About 40% or less of our yard is raked. Less than 1/2 those leaves have been bagged up and taken to the dump. I had a cold, DH has one. It was pouring rain, etc. It will get done, but it gets done slowly here.

Makes me want to plant a lot more pine trees and get rid of some of the oaks! I have made the lawn smaller, put gravel in the walkways, so that it doesn’t have to be replaced so often. The bulb bed has mulch in it to help keep the weeds down, and I’m slowly but surely replacing the regular lawn with no mow grass.

But I am aging faster than the lower maintenance yard is taking hold. I need to do things more quickly. One thing we’ve talked about for a while and hopefully will do this year is gravel the driveway. That will make keeping the weeds out of it easier AND will help keep the dust down, which will keep the house cleaner.

We’ve already agreed we’ll paint the kitchen this year. It’s a lot of work, same process as painting the living room 3 years ago: lightly sand the wood walls, seal the knots, caulk, primer, sand, primer, sand, primer touch up, and paint.

We’ll probably paint the laundry room at the same time; it’s tiny and it’s wallboard, easy peasy compared to the varnished log walls!

The living room needs some touch up and the baseboards painted. We finally agreed on the baseboard paint last fall, and we’ll use it throughout the house.

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

My office needs to be cleared out and painted too. But that will be easier than the kitchen because that room isn’t used all the time.

The attic clean out needs to be finished. We’ve agreed we’re going to put in knee walls and finish the space. I imagine this will probably be the unfinished piece this year. We have to clear out a huge space to do this, because everything has to come out of the attic. There’s nowhere to put the stuff in the house now, so it can’t happen yet.

What To Cull?

It occurred to me that I need to do an experiment. I will. But the experiment is to answer this question:

How much/how often do I use the kitchen tools/implements in the “everyday zone”? How many of the items I store in premium, everyday usage space in my kitchen (and elsewhere) really need to be there?

It seems to me that there are these easy areas to cull excess tools:

  • Medium sized implement in a small, medium, large set.
  • Eliminating duplicates.
  • Eliminating items used for the same purpose.
  • The tools which take up space and are used because the tool of choice is already dirty.

We only run our dishwasher once daily. If I really want to reduce my kitchen stuff, I could get into the habit of immediately cleaning and replacing the tool. That isn’t all that much more practical. So, it’s a balancing act, like many things.


Medium Item Removal: Eliminating medium-sized items is something I did for the bookstore. I stopped buying medium size dust jacket protectors, paperback sleeves, and book mailers. If needed, you can fold down or cut the large ones. I eliminated 1/3 of the supplies I bought and stored by that simple strategy.

Duplicate Item Removal: We only run our dishwasher once daily. There aren’t enough dirty dishes to run it more often. This inevitably creates a need for duplicate dishes. An item is pulled from the clean pile, used, dirty, put in the dishwasher, is washed, removed, and returned to the clean pile to be used again. The time passed from the beginning to the end of that cycle and how much cooking/eating we do here will determine how many dishes we should have. Right now I have 4 large plates, 4 medium plates, 6 larger small plates and 6-8? very small plates. Also in regular usage 4 custard cups, 4 monkey dishes, 4 larger small bowls, 2 salad bowls, 2 pasta bowls. That’s the bottom shelf. The 2nd shelf contains 4 crocks and 2 cereal bowls, 2 casseroles, and insulated drinking glasses.

When I remove what I consider to be excess items from the cabinets, somehow DH uses less, reuses more, or washes plates, etc. between uses. Because he works at home and frequently only has a few minutes to grab a snack, he continually during the day will put some cereal in a custard cup say, to eat at his desk while working. At the end of the day, between the snacking, meal prep, and consumption, frequently all the little dishes have been used, and at least 4 plates have also been used. I keep thinking I should be able to eliminate some of the small dishes and I do periodically cut it back. Somehow, the quantity seems to increase, again after a while . . . .

Eliminating Items with Duplicate Functions: This is why there are no glasses (except DH’s insulated mugs/glasses) in our home. I got tired of buying glasses. We use mugs.

I also got tired of replacing china. At the time, we were buying new china sets about every 4 years from Conran’s (like Crate & Barrel or Target). This was about $40 at the time, not insanely expensive, but after a while I decided it was an unnecessary expense.

I had worked in a commercial kitchen during college and I knew that “dinerware,” commercial china, was more robust than what I was buying in sets, so I set out to find that for our every day. That’s what we’ve got. Mixed brands, mostly rolled rim, white or diner blue commercial china. When a plate breaks, I look for a replacement at thrift shops and antique stores and usually find one in a few months.

Rolled rim china is a classic commercial style. Easy to find asst. plates and bowls with it. Rolled rims break less often than flat or knife-edged rims, no surprise.

If I was set on decorated china, I’d use dinerware with 2 green lines, every commercial china manufacturer made a variation of that. I’ve had it and mixed and matched brands, looked fine. In one of my culling purges, I decided that I didn’t need a pattern at all, I already had 3 solid colors: green (stoneware and fine china) white (fine china and dinerware) and diner blue (dinerware). That was more than enough!

The fine china was mostly inherited, but yes, I did buy some years ago. I keep promising myself I will have a tea and cookies party or another party and use all the fawncy china and then sell it. Because I have no reason to keep it!

Eliminating the fancy china from here would probably get rid of about 2 shelves worth of stuff, but I’m not ready to do that just yet. There are people who advocate using the fine china as everyday, but the stuff I’ve got breaks in the dishwasher or at least the glazes craze and so what I’d be doing if I do that is literally trashing ? dollars of housewares Dad bought for my Mom. Somehow, that doesn’t seem sane.

My Stepmother broke most of the plates and bowls doing exactly that. It wasn’t her fine china, so they used it for everyday, mixed with plain white open stock china from Pier 1 and it all willy-nilly went in the dishwasher and the good stuff broke. Dad wouldn’t let me take it, but he let her break it.

Somehow, I’m not ready to do the same, or let go of what’s left. I should get rid of it, because it pokes that wound every time I think about it! I want to use it, at least once more, first.

Use Fewer Tools: My answer to this is I think trying to set up a place where we can put a bowl or plate when it has been used, but isn’t so filthy it can’t be used again, like the underplate I just had for my cereal. No food touched the plate, but it’s now “dirty.” There’s no particular reason it couldn’t be reused as an underplate or for something else. We don’t have such an area. I will talk to DH about this idea.

I have an experiment I will try to see what we actually do use in a given day or week. After that, I may do a major kitchen purge!