Tag Archives: figuring it out

I Have Been

Working hard — on the house. I’ve been following my cleaning plan.

It seems to me that a major shift is in order. Instead of trying to sell the memoir as a psych. program auxiliary piece, maybe what I need to do is sell the cleaning plan and make the memoir the back piece to that.

It would solve the problem of the memoir just not having a plot, being first-person, too short, and a mess of other issues. Of course, I still haven’t heard from my publisher, but my feeling is that I will not. Not now and not in the future. It will be as if it dropped into a black hole and vanished… poof!

This has completely stopped the work I was doing on the memoir. I had even talked to a friend about coding it for an ebook. Okay, fine.

I can’t sell the cleaning plan if I can’t use it, right? I can’t set myself up as an expert on anything unless I can actually DO whatever. (Well, that’s not true. These days the woods are full of blow-hard know-it-alls who make pronouncements about any and everything. EVERYONE is an expert, about anything they feel strongly about!)

But I was raised by someone who genuinely was an expert in his field. My brother is. My husband is too. I have been surrounded my entire life by men who are really good at their jobs, and became “experts.”

So I have standards about about what it takes to BE an expert:

  • You must know what you’re talking about.
  • You must be able to do something rather than just talk about the subject.
  • You must have some sort of track record, that is a history, of successfully being able to do whatever it is.

My dad taught aeronautics  and designed airplanes for 40 years, my brother has worked in his field for the same amount of time and he’s still teaching and writing about it, my husband has been in his field since the field started, about 30 years now.

Me? The only thing I’m expert in is the inner workings of my head. The memoir is 50 years of life & learning and took me 10 years to write. The cleaning plan started in one way when I started this blog in 11/2011. I’ve been whacking away at the problems since.

I couldn’t do the memoir until I did the trauma work.

I could write, but not use, the cleaning plan until I did the memoir.

So, we’ll see if the next step is what I want/hope it to be? That is, using the cleaning plan, make it  a habit, and a book and/or app is the next step. (Habits take 90 days to be established.)

I sure hope so! I don’t know that I have the patience to spend 10 more years on this project.

So, I’ve shifted gears. I was all set to publish the memoir, whack away at the cleaning plan, then when I finally got it to work, get it ready for publication.

Nope.

Doing it the other way around. Going to get the cleaning plan working,  finish up the writing related to it, get DH or someone to make the app I have in mind, then publish the CLEANING PLAN, with the MEMOIR as back material.

Then the lack of “plot” or “arc” or sex, drugs, rock n’ roll won’t matter. I’m not selling the memoir; it’s explanatory material, I’m selling the cleaning plan. Want to know why I set the cleaning plan up the way I have? Read the memoir and you’ll find out.

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Image is not mine, not sure where I got it. Sorry!

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Craft Supplies: What to Use or Cull?

I have too many craft supplies, of course. I need to either use the stuff up, sell, toss or otherwise cull this collection down A LOT.

I have been trying to think what I have to do/get rid of/cull next? And I don’t know. I have fabric at a seamstress currently to turn into \ throws. I don’t need more, those will do us year round, with the one my MIL made.

So, then what? I have pillow forms, fabric, beads, yarn, basketry material, and paper crafting supplies.

The obvious thing to use some of that up would be to do the knit the pillow covers project. The not so obvious thing is whether I have yarn in the right sort of colors/textures for the living room. That I do NOT know, I’ll have to look.

After that project and making myself a new hat. (Remember this? I decided to make myself another hat.) I have no idea how much yarn I’ll have left, how many pillow forms I’ll still, and what to do with what I DO?

I also have no ideas about the rest of it. I need to work harder to find projects or just decide to get rid of the stuff, in quantity!


Okay I sorted. I have enough, with an additional skien or two, to make pillow covers. One or maybe two? We’ll see. I also seem to have enough to make another hat. After that? I have a bin full of yarn, most of it with no particular use in mind. The one exception is the rug which was being knit/crotched for the bathroom, the one that takes about an hour to get 1/4 of the way around and 1/4″ thick  per row. In other words? To make that rug takes a LARGE amount of time/effort, which is why it got dropped to begin with. I either need to ‘fess up and admit I won’t ever finish it OR I need to actually finish it. Storing the tools and supplies and 1/2 finished rug just is dumb!

More Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Home Improvement

There are things I definitely agree with in Aslett’s book, Make Your House Do the Housework. And things I don’t.

One of the main things I do agree with him is that the easiest way to make something easy to clean/not require cleaning at all, is to change the overall system/design of something to that end. He has some favorites:

  • Vinyl (which we won’t use because I’m allergic or sensitive to many kinds of plastics and petroleum products). I don’t disagree with him about the stuff being easy to clean but I don’t want easy to clean and makes me sick at the same time!
  • Medium tones in colors, as very light or very dark show stains and spots more easily.
  • Built-ins. Built-ins take away areas to clean (or should) as they frequently go from floor to ceiling. Last week I found someone making a “built-in” from Ikea bookcases and they left a 4-6″ gap at the top, so you have a weird looking top and an impossible to clean horizontal surface? I don’t know what’s up with that? Built-ins are just that, built in. And if they go up over my head, they’re going to go to the ceiling, not almost!
  • Suspended Furniture. Wall mounted tables, chairs mounted to the front of a counter, etc. All make the single biggest horizontal surface in a home, the floor, easier to clean.
  • Water filtration removing things like iron which cause staining.
  • Reduction of surfaces, like using mirrored glass doors instead of louvers.

Okay, I mostly agree with him. I’d love a whole-house vac, but there’s no way thats possible in our solid-wall log home, forget it. That means at least 2 pieces of clutter/tools, vacuums. Of course, being us, we have 3. [We had 5 — I’m doing better, don’t get on me about this!]

DH has one for the workshop. I have a small portable I can and do carry around. Finally, I have an upright for the large rugs. We use all of them, every week. The workshop one DH has can be connected to tools to clean as he goes. MUCH better than before, I’ll put up with the extra piece to store! Not to mention that it’s much stronger than the other 2 vacs, so if I have something really filthy I borrow it . . . . And he made it a place to be put away, so it isn’t part of the floating clutter. That’s 2 of the 3. The upright doesn’t really have a put away place, and it needs one. It IS a part of the floating clutter. . .

I need a list! (I’ll add to this as I come up with other items.)

FLOATING CLUTTER (Cull, find a place to put it away, and/or use them)

  • Upright vac
  • All 3 rakes
  • Empty kindling bins

Proud of myself! Just figured out a spring/summer use for these: taking leaves to the dump! I have been reluctant to bag up leaves, because I couldn’t figure a way to do it without getting my face right in it.

My neat-nick neighbors put their leaves down a slope on the edge of their yard or put them in a trash barrel and haul them to the dump. They have trucks. We don’t. Putting leaves in barrels isn’t a solution here!

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Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

I’ve had a cold for a month now. The idea of using the kindling bins for hauling the leaves to the dump means that 1) they now have an out of season use which is much better than storing them empty 2) I won’t need to use bags to haul leaves to the dump, which means we won’t need to buy them and 3) I can get leaves prepped to go to the dump without getting my face near them.

WIN!!!

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 blow (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!

 

Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Fuel

We have been, slowly, trying to change our eating habits and others, preparatory to DH’s retirement, at some unknown future date. We don’t want him to retire particularly, but it will happen, and because he works on contract 1 or contract 2, if the company loses the contracts, he’s likely to lose the job he has supporting them, then. It’s entirely out of our control.

To that end, I’ve been for years slowly but surely moving us along a pathway towards lower monthly expenses as much as possible, and of course the easiest, first way to do that is almost always food.

You can’t really control what the bank charges for a mortgage. You can’t control what the oil man wants for heating oil or propane. You can control the cost of the food you buy, so that’s almost always the first place people start to cut down, including us. The only problem with this is that for many people, food is only 10% of their total expenditures, so even cutting the cost in 1/2 isn’t a significant saving overall. Of course it counts, but don’t kid yourself you’ll suddenly be awash in available funds if you cut your food bill in 1/2.

For us, this is complicated by the fact that we’re food snobs, and like it that way. There are traditional cheap foods we could use.

  • MAC & CHEESE: I don’t like mac and cheese, even homemade. I’m fairly certain they gave it to me, with orange soda (which I also abhor) one time I had stomach flu. DH likes it. I like cheese on pasta, but not baked and BROWNED, and not cheese food.
  • BEETS: DH hates them on principle. They are an economical food to grow because you eat all of the plant: roots and leaves. I can take them or leave them. Yellow beets I can sneak into stews sometimes. The greens I can add to soups & stews, sometimes.
  • HAMBURGERS: Unfortunately, I grew up eating prime beef. I like beef that tastes like beef. Much of the “beef” out there doesn’t taste like anything! Form without substance. (Also see ground beef, below.)
  • STEAK: See above comment about prime beef. My reaction to the insane price of beef these days is to buy very small hunks of steak, when I can find them on sale at the co-op and freeze them. I only buy and keep one. Steaks this size aren’t very efficient foodstuffs, it’s an expensive piece o’ protein and usually only one meal. I try to use it as a condiment rather than as a plate filler when I serve it.
  • BREAD: We bake our own. When a decent loaf of bread is as much as about 2/3- 1 lb of beef? I’ll bake it. I also buy enough flour between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 to last until about April. Why? Staples are cheapest between the holiday sales, prethanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. Because of that, the prices go up the MOST they do all year after New Year’s and during February. They level off by the end of March. Staples, like flour, go on sale again for Easter.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/FISH: I stopped eating fish long ago, because I heard something which indicated to me that we were overfishing. As someone who grew up on the Pacific Coast and dearly loves fish, this wasn’t easy. And, yes, I admit, I slip about once or twice a year. DH isn’t fond of fish, which helps.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/CHICKEN: We use bulk pack chicken thighs from the co-op, approx. $2.50 a lb. I buy a 5 lb bag and divvy it up into 3 piece portions, approx. 1 lb each. That’s 2 meals worth, a dinner and lunch the next day. This works for us. I no longer buy whole chickens, chicken breast in any form, etc. Chicken thighs are mostly white meat, some bone and for our household each piece is about 1 portion. It works and it’s cheap.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/GROUND BEEF: I’ve been known to buy meat from a friend who raises cattle, but mostly I buy a pound or two at the local natural food market. The stuff tastes great (see hamburgers, above) but it’s expensive. I get 2 meals from a pound of meat. We have friends who add black beans to ground beef and although this was yummy, I never remember that when it might be useful!
  • OTHER PROTEIN/VEGETABLE: I’ve been known to make lentil burgers. They weren’t bad, but not the success I’d hoped for. Let’s say this is a work in progress. My long-term notion for these is to combine lentils, black beans and ground beef, but it is, as I said, not finished. . . .

Other ideas:

Switch to wood heat, almost entirely. Why? Because we live on just under an acre of land. I can grow some of our fuel. Not enough to keep us warm all winter, but some of it. I can’t grow propane, fuel oil or pellets.

Along this line, we have registers to install between rooms to distribute the wood heat more evenly. We also will maybe buy an ecofan or other fans to help distribute the heat. We have one big fan on our staircase that in summer is used to pull the hot air up to the ceiling and in the winter to push down the hot air.

We’ve been concentrating on things we can do to stay warm and fed. That base layer of Maslow’s, right?

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Photo by Anna Popović on Unsplash

First Panic, This Time

Had the first sign of a panic attack last night. I had asked DH if he liked the way the house looked earlier, that may have triggered me. I woke up, mid sleep, palms sweating, leg cramped from pushing with it, and near tears. Figured out what was going on and rolled over, calmed myself down and went back to sleep. Only to wake up again, later and again rolled over and went back to sleep.

On the other hand? Things are getting done. The laundry room, bath room, kitchen and dining room are picked up. The living room has been worked on, so has the bed room. Just too much stuff to get it done.

This morning, for example, I unpacked a box in our bedroom. There’s a bunch of books in there, which are mine or need to be gone through. There was a stack of magazines, I’ve pulled all the pages I want out of all but 2 of those. And the magazines (minus pages) are in the paper recycling bin.

I grabbed the overlarge rattan satchel I’d bought a few months back, without a specific idea where I’d put it or how I’d use it? I knew I loved it, wanted to use it for kitchen linen, but it’s too big for that. It’s now the designated spot for “out of season bedding” one side of the tag in blue says cool weather and the other side says hot weather in red. (We still have flannel on the bed and probably will for another month or so.) The satchel isn’t big enough to also store excess blankets in the summer, but I do have another basket for that. It’s not covered AND it’s not big enough to take the extra sheets, duvet, and pillow.

I’ve decided that I love our duvet covers (one is black & white linen the other is greens and cotton) and will use them instead of a bed spread. (I now have one bedspread to add to the flea market stock.)

I also decided that since we’re down to one sets of bed linen for each season: winter and summer — (bottom sheet, top sheet, and duvet) and no more, I will try and do what I’ve heard others do: wash their sheets and put them immediately back on the bed. This will cut down the amount of things needing to be bought, maintained, and stored, saving money and storage space. All good — all I have to do is make sure to start the sheets in the morning….

I am slowly, but surely, finding a work pattern here. It isn’t fast, but it has been working. There’s only one piece which has really amused me. I decided I should clean the toilet after the first time I used it, daily. (We have a lot of iron in our water, so it needs daily scrubbing.) Wouldn’t happen,didn’t happen, no matter how often I told myself I had to do it! But the second time I use it? Well, then I can do it.  I’m greatly amused at my human foibles, but it is what it is. It’s getting scrubbed every day, and that’s all that matters, but I have to have my coffee first! 🙂

 

And so it goes, and goes and goes!

 

Today’s job and tomorrow’s is to organize the flea market stuff and get it into my car so I can take it to the storage or just store it here, in one place, and neatly, which would work better. It needs to be in one place and having it at home means I can clean, sort and price things as I have time, instead of trying to do it all at once, either at the market or in the storage.

I feel like it’s one of those marble or ball bearing games. Today this falls through the hole and gets caught. Tomorrow it will also get caught with some other piece. I am letting this process develop, organically, as it were, at its own pace. And it’s getting done; again, that’s all that matters!