Basement progress

Apparently, kids in school all day = official basement clean-out time.

I’ve worked a bit these past few days, ducking downstairs between grocery trips and volunteering in the school library and all the various other things that have to be done.  In the past, I’ve been horrible about procrastinating:  I would work and box things up or bag things up and there they would sit, for months; ready to go out the door and yet still sitting on the basement floor.  So my rule for this round of work was to get it in my car.

Day one, I told myself that all I really wanted was to be able to have a clear workbench:  once I had an empty surface on top of my workbench, I could stop.  Once I had that space, though, I wanted to keep going, at least a little.

Day two, I was a bit more vague, but my goal was to have the main area of floor empty.  The entire center of the room, empty.  And that little taste of space, foot by foot, encouraged me to keep working until it was done.

Two trips to Goodwill, one with a trunkful and one with a trunk FULL–plus backseat full–of “stuff” really can make a difference.  The room feels like it weighs less.  I still have an ugly pile on one side of the room, but the change in feeling when you walk in that door is amazing.  I can breathe again…the walls aren’t closing in; instead there’s space and room to roam.  (Well… as much as you can roam in a 11×14 foot storage area.)

Next week I’ll tackle the last pile, and over the next few months it’s time to seriously evaluate the tubs of “seasonal storage.”  In my opinion, seasonal stuff is what basement storage is for, but the amount of tubs we have down there (regardless of how neatly lined up against the wall) is a bit ridiculous.  As I pull things out for fall and Christmas, it’s time to cull.

Pillow problems

I’m laughing, because I just read a blog post about tossing throw pillows, and I just got new ones.  🙂

The author looks at her pillows through William Morris’ quote:  “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  For her, the pillows fit neither criteria.  In our home, however, throw pillows are useful.  Back support in our chairs, propping laptops and books in laps, cozying kids up; especially poor, sick kids, camped out in the living room.  We use those throw pillows; good grief, even the dog uses our throw pillows.  They were so loved and well-used that they needed to be replaced.  They were useful, maybe, but definitely not beautiful.  (You can only wash pillows so many times….)

So I have two sets of two pillows sitting in my laundry room right now (happy birthday to me!).  And I am typing this on a laptop that sits on an old pillow.

Why?

Because they’re new and fresh and clean and too pretty to use.

Yes, even after I wrote an entire post devoted to the idea of “too” stuff, how everything in our house gets used, how we don’t have anything “too” nice or “too” fragile to be used… In the house where I just pulled out my grandmother’s cranberry glassware bowls to use everyday, because they’re a perfect size and why buy new ones if we have ones that work…. I have four pillows stacked neatly, waiting.  Just…waiting.

Time to go get the pillows.  The useful, beautiful pillows.

“What’s THAT room for?”

My daughter had a friend over to play recently, and this was the question shyly asked about our fourth bedroom upstairs.

I had to laugh, because looking in the room, it was a completely fair question.  I explained that the room used to be an office, and now we were turning it into a bedroom (for our eventual adoption), so right now it was sort of “in-between.”  It was an honest description of the situation.  That being said, it’s been an “in-between” room for a really, really long time.

There are remnants of “office” in there:  a (completely empty) computer armoire, one kitchen chair used for a computer chair, a rocking chair, and a side table.  There’s also a child’s desk and a doll’s “baby care center,” pulled from bedrooms to go to the basement playroom, but somehow stalled out upstairs.  There’s also our stepladder.  At some point, I needed the stepladder upstairs to do something, but it was so long ago I actually don’t remember what it was.  (I’ve seriously thought about this for three days…I have no idea why that stupid thing is up there, it was that long ago.)

Admittedly, lots of things are “trapped” because I need help moving them down the stairs (even the child’s desk I’m not too keen on tackling by myself).  But the room has been in transition for so long that I’ve reached the point of absolutely no excuses.  I won’t even mention the file cabinet and stacks of papers in the closet….

It’s hard to commit myself to working in the room; the uncertainty of what to expect weighs on me as I think about getting started.  Who are we getting the room ready for?  Boy or girl?  How many?  How old?  What will they need?  Instead of anticipation, it’s a feeling of almost frustration–why am I cleaning this out now?  It almost seems like it would be easier to wait:  wait until we could be getting a room “ready for someone,” instead of simply “cleaning it out.”  Building on an attitude of excitement, instead of simply the reality of the unknown.

But here’s the thing:  I know, without a doubt, one thing any child will need will be an EMPTY ROOM.  A room standing ready; able to be filled with them and their things.  Wouldn’t it be easier, wouldn’t it be so much less stressful, to start moving forward on a child (or children) feeling like we’re ready to welcome them in; into a room completely cleared of everything and ready to make their own?

Maybe, just maybe, the next time someone asks me “what’s that room for?” it will be because it’s empty; ready to be filled.

Neat Freak

From The Comforts of Home, by Caroline Clifton-Mogg:

the joys of an orderly home

To live in the midst of disorder is disorientating, for nothing is more uncomfortable than a house where every chair is covered with old newspapers or toys, every table coated with the leftovers of the last meal, every bed unmade and every bathroom floor littered with unfolded, unhung towels.  So why is it that in some contemporary circles the word ‘order’ or ‘orderly’ is mocked for sounding out of date and old-fashioned?  Is it that their military and service connotations do not adequately convey the quiet pleasures of a home that is tidy, comfortable, friendly and warm?

A real home is a self-contained place where everything works for the benefit of the people who live there.  It isn’t just tidiness freaks who like to open a linen cupboard and see order–folded, stacked sheets and pillowcases instead of crumpled, billowing unidentifiable mounds.  And there are few people who do not like to see an orderly pantry, well-stocked with satisfying rows of jars and bottles, tins and packets; all promising delicious meals to come.

The easiest way to bring order into a home is to organize, and the first step in organization is to get rid of all surplus clutter.”

I stumbled across this book at the library last week, thinking I was simply getting a “house book” to flip through with my daughter the decorator.  (“Mommy, can we get a house book to look at?” is a question I hear regularly.)  I ended up reading it cover to cover….and I loved this bit, because I always feel like I should be slightly apologetic about keeping a “tidy” home.  The phrases “neat freak” and “obsessive-compulsive” are all the words that seem to come up when you talk about someone with a clean house; there are always negative thoughts toward the apparently crazed monster that insists on (gasp!) wiping down the kitchen table after a meal.  I loved to read her description of how a clean and orderly home acts as a blessing to everyone who lives there.

I suppose, if you’re dealing with a perfectionistic drill seargent who insists that the rest of the family “pull their weight” and do it up to his or her standards….I can see, then, why a clean house would have a negative connotation.  I don’t want my children to grow up thinking their attempts to help are never “good enough,” or my family to avoid coming home because their mother is incessantly cleaning, or my kids to not bring friends over because their mother doesn’t want anything “messed up.”  But I don’t see anything wrong with having a home that is welcoming and comfortably clean….

I really like the word “tidy.”  🙂

Animal house

My sweet daughter approached me one morning as I folded laundry.  “Mama…could you please help me sort through my stuffed animals today?  They’re getting a bit out of control.”  I told her of course, I’d be up as soon as I finished what I was doing; while inside I was doing cartwheels about the fact that she made the decision on her own.  No nudging or suggestions from me required.

I’d been watching her pile of animals grow.  They have an assigned spot to “live,” in an old cradle that my mother slept in (and my daughter, too, for a while), and for months–years, really–that cradle has been perfectly sufficient.  Slowly, though, my little one was making “nests” throughout her room for the overflow.  There was a little nest in the less-than-a-foot of space between her chest of drawers and the wall.  There was a nest  between her bedside table and desk.  A tiny nest in a child’s chair.  Each made up carefully with a blanket for the assorted “guests” that would live in that spot.  She had commented a few times on how many nests there were, and apparently she’d finally crossed some sort of line, because she was done.

I took a suggestion from Simplicity Parenting and made three piles:  keep, put away, and give away.  I don’t tend to like the idea of a “put away” pile; I hate the fact that we have toys in storage when some kids have no toys at all….but I also knew that there were so many animals it made sense to not keep everything out.  She sat in her desk chair while I held up each animal (no touching!  Many thanks to Sort It Canada for THAT epiphany) and she pronounced its fate.

As I suspected, the “give away” pile was small.  The “put away” pile, however, was huge.  I was completely unprepared for the amount of animals that my daughter was willing to give up temporarily, some of which I thought of as very important to her.  I was incredibly glad I’d let her make the decisions, because she was much more thorough than I would have been.

That night she went to bed with three animals in her bed.  Every other animal fit in the cradle; all the nests were put away, chairs were now chairs and the floor was back to being a floor.  She kept telling me how much better she felt, how much better the room looked, how nice it was to have everything where it belonged.  We’ve agreed that six months is a good time for a swap:  to pull out the old and put away the current.

I think, though, that I might ask her what animals she wants to retrieve, instead of just dumping out the bucket….I have a suspicion she wouldn’t miss some of those critters if they were gone.

Piles of Ponies

My daughter pulled out her tub of “My Little Ponies” from its cubby the other day.  She dug for awhile, and dug some more; picking out an item here and there.  Soon she was digging with enthusiasm, then frustration, and finally she looked at me sheepishly for permission:  “Can I just dump this?”

“Of course!”

So the box threw up ponies and pony accessories all over the carpet…a crazy pile, a jumbled mass of pink and purple plastic, fake hair, and “furniture.”

It was interesting to watch her deal with the enormous mess.  “Do you wanna see my favorite pony?” she asked.

“Sure!”

She shifted the pile around a bit, and finally pulled out a pegasus, carefully, and showed her to me.  Gently, she set it aside, and searched the pile for the matching crown.  That, too, was pulled out carefully and set apart.  Then she returned to the pile, much less enthusiastically.  Picking up a pony, looking at it, throwing it down again.  Shoving the pile around, pushing things back and forth, picking up another piece and chucking it down again.  The favorite pony was treated with care….the rest, apparently, was just a pile of junk.  Too much, too many, too messy…the whole of it was just overwhelming.

It’s easy for me to look at my kids’ toys and notice the “overwhelming.”  We have so many ponies, legos, doll clothes, markers and colored pencils ….the list goes on and on of the things that I should probably weed through with my children; the things that they truly do play with, but are currently swimming in to the point of drowning.  Then I take a step back and remind myself that I need to set an example in love:  what things am I “swimming in” that need to be discarded or passed on?  What things do I use, yet have too much of?  “Paper” tops the list.  Even though I do my best to stay on top of the ongoing, incoming stream of paper that enters this house, it consistently overpowers me at some point.  Books should probably make the list, too; although I do my best to cull books regularly, and our shelves do have space, I know without a doubt there are more I could let go.

Time to take the plank out of my own eye, so I can help them with the speck in theirs…..

Deal with it

As I was weeding through piles of papers this morning, I was struck by my train of thought:  Why does this always happen?  How do I get on top of stuff, only to let it bog me down again?  How on earth can I keep up this time?  How do women who work outside the home do it–I’m home constantly and I’m still buried by junk!  How many times will I go through this pile again?

Aha!!  I caught myself, and realized exactly what the problem was.  It was suddenly so clear I felt kind of silly for not seeing it before.  While I do battle the incoming stream of papers and “stuff” that enters this home, 90% of the problem was me:  I was forever putting things aside to deal with later.

I’ll put this here for now.

I don’t have time right now.

I’ll take care of that after _______.

There’s no point in doing “xnow, I’ll do it when I do “y and save some time. (ha.)

I’ll stack these up and take care of them later.

Oh, the list goes on and on…..but it’s all the same.  Procrastination.

The Flylady website designates each Wednesday as “Anti-Procrastination Day,” challenging you to tackle something you’ve been putting off.  I decided this morning (a kid-free surprise) was my Anti-Procrastination morning, and got to work.  (Kid-free mornings are quite hard to come by in the summer.)  The “office” cabinets in my kitchen I am no longer embarrassed to open in front of people, and the laundry room closet was dealt with before it got out of hand.  (I guess that’s progress, right?  To work on it before things are actually falling on my head?)  The most important part:  papers are actually in the recycling bin, and trash is actually bagged and in the garage, ready to be dumped in our cart.  These are, officially, Things I Will Never Have To Weed Through Again.  Thank goodness.

I wonder what else I could get to before the kids get home?