Friday, March 30, 2012

Gone but not forgotten

Last night I got to the point where I had typed a really whole lot on a new post, but I was still writing it and not ready to publish it, and somehow I typed on the wrong button and my computer froze up. Somehow I had copied and pasted my monitor's wallpaper as part of my post which pushed Blogger over the edge. When I was able to get it back, the whole post except for the pic and one letter of the title were gone.

I still remember what I was talking about though, so you still get to read it. At some point, but not today.

First I'm going to whine a little bit. Here's what's wrong with me (and has been wrong with me all month!):
  • It seems like everything lately has been hard.
  • I can't think of anything that's gone smoothly.
  • Hiccups and trouble at every turn.
  • Small things that have bugged me for a while have all of a sudden turned into big things the moment I touch them.
  • Like when I cleared the kids' oh-so-slow-draining bathtub drain of a big and very nasty clump of hair and lint then all of a sudden the tub stopped draining at all. It was then completely stopped up. There are 5 people who use that bathtub every day. It required a trip to the store very late at night to get some drain opener. You know Drano and Liquid Plumber don't really work, right? "Foaming Pipe Snake" sounds awesome, and on TV it looks like it scrubs out all the muck and gunk in the pipes and sends it and all the murky, dirty, disgusting water rushing down the pipes. But it doesn't. How do they get away with that?
  • While I was in there in the kids' bathroom I noticed that the caulk around the kids' bathtub is mildewy again. So I got some Clorox spray that I had that is made especially for that and sprayed it all over. It did absolutely nothing about bleaching out the mildew. So I assumed I hadn't shaken the bottle sufficiently, shook it up some more, and sprayed it again. Waited awhile before going back to check. Nothing.
  • How do these companies get away with charging $4 or 5 or 6 dollars for a bottle of something that doesn't do at all what you specifically buy it for?
  • I've been working hard trying to get some improvements done in our home. They are slowly coming along which is nice. But then three "specialty" light bulbs have burned out in various light fixtures here this week. Each of which required a trip to the store on top of the other trips to get the one thing I didn't have to finish each particular project. I'm still probably at least two trips to Home Depot away from finishing my laundry closet. I'm spending more time driving back and forth to the store than I am actually working on the house.
  • I trip over the pile of supplies and tools in the upstairs hallway at least 10 times a day.
  • In order to put those things away properly I'm going to have to clean out the garage. Which I just dread doing, and haven't had time this week to do anyway.
  • There have many small things like these make me wonder why I even bother trying.

I wonder why these things are bothering me so much. I know that I have much to be thankful for, and that small but aggravating things happen to everybody in life.

Maybe my lucky stars are out of whack or something. Maybe they'll get back in line and I'll have a month where things go smoothly and easily.

Hey! Wouldn't it be awesome if that month started today!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Home Repair

Or maybe "Home Renovation".

Or maybe just "Home Decor".

I don't know. Remember this post when I talked about reorganizing my laundry area? That picture is how my laundry closet used to look. Functional, organized, but not very cute. Or very interesting or fun or entertaining to stand in front of for hours while I wash, dry, and fold clothes. It was what I could manage at the time.

I started working on it last week and it is still in progress. Here's what it looks like now:
I took everything out, including the moldy old shelf (easy), and cleaned it out thoroughly and completely (harder than it sounds). Then repaired the wall (easy) and painted it this lovely, relaxing, soft blue/gray color (easy and fun). I'm taking a break for a couple of days because this process took much longer than I imagined it would, and now there are other, more pressing matters to attend to. All that's left for me to do is fasten the standards to the wall with screws (harder than it sounds), put up the shelves (easy), reorganize my supplies (fun), and decorate a little bit (harder than it sounds but fun).

Decorate the inside of a closet, you ask? Yes. The closet doors are open quite a bit and I stand for longish periods of time looking into this closet several times a week. I have some fun ideas for the decorating.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

product review

Bar Keeper's Friend.

Of course I have heard of this and have seen it in the store. I've always thought it was regular cleanser like Comet or Ajax which is what I've always bought for scrubbing out sinks and tubs.

The other day on a blog I saw where a lady had scrubbed the silvery-gray marks off her stoneware dinner plates with this stuff and I immediately thought of this:

See that silvery-gray ring around the bottom of the bowl? That's where my Little Friend scrapes up with a spoon the last few molecules of oatmeal every morning. Over time that gray ring has appeared on all the bowls that he uses at breakfast.

I wondered if Bar Keeper's Friend would work on the stains. I thought it was probably the same kind of scrape mark that was on the blogger's plates. Today I bought some, and sprinkled it all around my white porcelain sink. There have been the same silvery-gray marks there from silverware, pots and pans, specifically my aluminum pizza pan that is too big to lay flat in the sink so it has always rubbed against the side of the sink when I've washed it. I scrubbed with a brush for a little while, not too strenuously, but giving it a good going-over. I have done this many, many times with Comet and it hasn't helped at all. Then I used the brush on the bowl.

The bowl and the sink are clean! I will work on the sink a few more times over the next week or so. Some of those marks are 15 or more years old, but it looks pretty great, and the yellow onion-skin stain from yesterday is gone too! It's hard to tell in the picture because of all the reflections and shadows in the sink but I'm very happy with how clean and new the sink looks.

Here's the bowl:
Bar Keeper's Friend is definitely not the same as Comet.

Monday, March 26, 2012

40 Bags - bags #27-29

I think we can agree that I didn't succeed with the "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge. I didn't make it to 40 bags in 40 days but I am completely okay with that. The parameters of the challenge were created by someone else, and I'm willing to change it to suit my own needs and my own life. I'll get rid of 40 or 45 or 50 bags in however long it takes me to do it. I've seen some other de-cluttering challenges on the Internet that I thought were intriguing, but for now this is what I'm doing.

I am avoiding the garage where I am probably going to get the last 10-12 bags that I will be permitted to clean out. (Mr. Dub's closet remains off-limits to me. That's okay though.) The garage is dirty. It's overrun with daddy long legs spiders. It has things stored in it that will be more complicated to dispose of. It's a big, sweaty job. Right now in my life I need small, easy, cool jobs that won't take 2 or 3 showers to recover from. Jobs that I can finish quickly and feel productive, successful, and accomplished.

Today I tackled the "spare room" closet. It's not exactly "spare" right now because all the kids are living at home. My Pretty Girl has all her clothes hanging on the rods in the closet. On the floor of the closet are piles of kid stuff which will be sorted and removed from the house as the kids get out on their own. On the shelves, as you can see in the photo above, is a variety of things, some of which is here on purpose, some of which has been shoved/stuffed/crammed here. What I want for these closet shelves right now is storage, but organized and sensible storage.

I took everything on the shelves out of the closet and made a decision about every single item. Have you heard this quote by William Morris? "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." He was an interesting guy, William Morris was, and I would have liked to have had the chance to know him and understand him. Which is quite irrelevant to this topic.

So I decided, item by item, which things were useful or beautiful to me and got rid of the rest. Some items didn't belong in this closet and have been relocated to their proper place, and most of the things that are going out of the house are tired old holiday and home decor items. It's okay to get rid of things because I'm tired of looking at them or my taste/aesthetic has changed. I don't have to keep things just because I made them or because I've had them for a long time. Two bags are going to the trash and a box full of things that are still good is going to the Goodwill.

While I was going through everything I got to see my things again. I have some fun holiday decorations that I really like that I haven't used in years. Know why? Because it was too much of a hassle to climb over and dig out and then sift through the boxes it might be in. It has been so much easier to skip the whole ordeal than to try to find them and put it all out. I think that's sad.

I was reminded today that that is the point of the challenge. To make living in my home fun and enjoyable and peaceful by purging the excess and arranging what's left in a way that makes sense to me and helps me get to it quickly and easily. If decorating my home for a holiday makes me miserable and cross because of what I have to go through just to get the decorations out of the closet, it sort of defeats the purpose! I am a spontaneous person, and when I decide that right now while I'm waiting for something else to happen is the time to set out all the Easter decorations, I won't have time if I first have to unearth them from the closet. So it doesn't happen. For years it doesn't happen. Another thing I've realized while going through things is that sometimes I spend money because I am impulsive. It is a waste of money and space to buy and keep things that I don't love. I am still trying to figure out my relationship with money, spending, and shopping. Some of the things that I'm getting rid of today I bought because I was in a store with friends who were buying things, or it was on sale, or I was in the mood to spend or acquire. I'm trying to figure out why those situations make me temporarily lose my focus. What is it that I really want, anyway?

Here is the after photo:
In the box on the left are Valentine's Day and Easter decorations. In the middle is a box with the Fourth of July and Halloween/Fall/Thanksgiving decorations. Around the corner we have bottles of propane and a one-burner stove (in case of hurricane/emergency) and not in the picture but definitely on the shelf are some reference materials for Church. In my lofty plans, all of this stuff will belong somewhere else in the house when this room becomes a "spare bedroom" once again. Wouldn't it be awesome and amazing if I had an empty closet for guests to use when they stay? For the immediate future it will all stay here.

Here is the other side of this closet which is already organized and didn't need any sorting or rearranging. These things will move to another room when we rearrange bedrooms later this Spring:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

40 Bags - bag #25 (for real) and #26

"Upcycling" is a word and a concept that I like. It means to make something that has become useless or worthless into something new that has as much value as the original item had when it was new. As opposed to recycling, which produces items of lesser quality than the original. Like plastic bottles or paper made from recycled plastic or paper isn't as nice or as durable as the original.

A while ago I think I wrote about how once I realized how much paper we throw away, I wanted to do something about reducing that amount. We were going through lots of paper towels with all the kids living here, and thinking about how every single paper towel was used only one time and then thrown away started to make me sick. Many times a paper towel would be used to dry someone's freshly-washed hands and then be thrown away - clean paper going in the trash! What a waste of money and landfill space!

In January I bought dozens of good-quality white washcloths that were so cheap thanks to a combination of a great 30% off-coupon and a good white sale going on at Kohl's. I found a big basket at Garden Ridge Pottery that was 50% off. I keep the cloths in the basket on the kitchen counter and so far it is working just fine. If I have to replace the washcloths every year, it will save me $120 per year. If I can get two years out of them, then I'll have saved over $250. It does cost something to launder them, it's true, but I'm already washing whites and towels every week anyway. There are a few "gross" jobs that I will continue to use paper towels for - patting dry raw chicken pieces, covering bacon while it's microwaving, wiping off paintbrushes - but for everything else we've been using these cloths.

On to the next thing-

My kids don't like to have a top sheet on their beds. I don't get it - it feels so much nicer and cleaner to me to get into a bed that has a fitted and a flat sheet. But they don't feel that way. Fine. Consequently I have a few flat sheets that have never been used that match fitted sheets that have been worn out and thrown away. I had the brilliant idea that I would make napkins out of these never-been-slept-on sheets. I cut them into big squares with my rotary cutter, hemmed them on the sewing machine, and put them in a cute wire basket that I found at the Goodwill for $2.99. This isn't as big a money-saver as the paper towels but it's still something, and there's also the reduction of paper products that were getting thrown away after a single use. Plus I've been wanting cloth napkins, and they aren't cheap to buy. Now I don't have to.

On to the next thing-

You know I love that show Hoarders. One thing I've had to come to grips with after seeing some episodes is that craft supplies can be clutter. These crafty hoarders had big plans and wonderful intentions but somehow it all got to be too much for them. In order for me to not end up like that, I'll have to make as many things as I have the materials for or get rid of some of it. I have sentimental reasons for keeping it and I have lots of good intentions and ideas, so all the necessary ingredients are there for a potential problem. In the last couple of months I've finished a few projects that used up some of my supplies. By making one full-sized afghan, one baby afghan, 3 pairs of mittens, and 3 hats, I've used up 18 full skeins of yarn and lots of little leftover balls of yarn. These are all being given away as gifts.

The crazy thing is that all that yarn has been used up and it's not even made a noticeable dent in the pile. I have a lot of yarn.

Bags #25 and 26: two sheets and 18+ skeins of yarn are outta here. (Well, the sheets aren't technically "outta here", but they have been made over into something useful and are no longer taking up space in a drawer where they had been waiting for...what? I don't know, perhaps a sudden, emergency shortage of flat sheets in various sizes?)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

40 Bags - bag #25

Re: the candle cabinet, which is where I keep all my scented candles, votive glasses, lighters, and matches. I went through it mostly to straighten it up, and remembered when I found them that I had saved for the future dozens of short pillar candles that are white, unscented, and already partially burnt up. I know that I saved them because there is still plenty of use in them. I saved them because I spent money on them, and it seems like a waste of that money to throw them away. We used them as part of some decorations for an outdoor wedding last year.

Reasons they are out of here now:
  • They are white, which means they don't add a splash of cheery color to my white kitchen counter (where I set all candles while they are burning), which wouldn't be so bad except that
  • They are also unscented. The reason I light a candle in the first place is to bring some fragrance to the house. To counteract whatever funk is coming from the boys' bedrooms.
  • They've already been burned for a few hours. Which means that when I go to use them again as decor for another wedding or other event, they won't seem good enough.

Now that I'm thinking about it though, they would be perfect for use during long-term power outages such as we get during a hurricane. Hurricane season starts in 2 weeks. I think I'll dig them out of the trash and put them back in the candle cabinet. I'll put them in a box though, instead of rolling around creating havoc and falling down onto my head every time I open the cabinet.

I guess that means I'm still looking to fill up bag #25!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

freezer organization

When I straightened up the medicine cabinet last week I ended up with some extra baskets. I had said that using containers in the freezer seemed like wasting space to me. I also didn't like the idea that I would have to take out the basket that contained all the frozen vegetables just to find the one bag of broccoli I needed. It can't be good for frozen foods to go in and out of the freezer multiple times, right?

Since the extra baskets were in the kitchen by the fridge I figured what the heck. I had done some soul-searching and had admitted to myself that because I generally use the first package I find of whatever it is that I'm looking for, there is more than one opened bag of frozen spinach in the freezer. There might also have been more than one opened bag of broccoli cuts, and a couple of opened bags of frozen peas. I had admitted to myself that when I'm looking for a roll of sausage I nearly always end up in some sort of arctic expedition to the back of the freezer that involves taking everything out of the freezer and laying it on the counter, only to have to put it all back when I discover that, in fact, we don't have any sausage, so I can't really use the excuse that it's not good for food to go in and out of the freezer. I admitted to myself that I buy frozen vegetables and fruits because I don't know what we already have on hand.

Typically I would call this extra "food storage". But since our freezer is a freezer/fridge, freezer space is at a premium. There has to be balance in our freezer.

I put all the frozen veg in one basket, and all the frozen fruit in another. Tonight when I was making pork fried rice for dinner I took the veg basket out of the freezer, found the peas & carrots, and put the basket back in. It took approximately 3 seconds. Although the baskets do take up more room that just shoving everything in, there was actually a lot less hassle than doing it the old way. A nice bonus was that I didn't end up with frostbite.

I also know that I don't need to buy frozen spinach next time I'm in the store. I have a few bags in there already. And really, it's nobody's business if they are all opened.

I can see myself gradually over time containerizing the rest of the items in my freezer. It actually does make finding things and keeping an inventory much easier.

Who knew? Live and learn.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

something to ponder

I had a wonderful visit yesterday with a person I don't yet know very well. Part of my Relief Society job is to visit the women who have recently moved into our area.
  • To get to know them better.
  • To find out who they are.
  • To understand what's important to them.
  • To learn what is happening in their lives.

It's one of my favorite parts of the job, which is funny to me because I consider myself shy and unable to think of anything interesting or engaging to say to other people.

Which is part of my problem with my blog.


One of the things she said struck me as something I could do improve my life. One of her goals right now is to make more meaningful memories. It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I feel like my life is currently in flux. I can't get a grip on all the different lives and people swirling in and out of my life and my home. Everything feels temporary.

I find myself waiting for it all to resolve itself so I can get "back to normal". Which I think might be a mirage. I don't know. Does life ever get "normal"? Or will it always seem this way from now on, and I will someday find myself standing there thinking, "Wait, what? Why didn't anything happen?" and I will realize that I waited till the end to actually notice that I wasn't doing anything. Because there was something on tv or the internet that I was sitting there passively watching while life was moving on without me.

I want more meaningful memories. I don't want to look back and realize that I didn't have enough good times. What those good times are going to be I don't really know - I'll have to find something. There is a discontentment in my heart that cannot be filled with things.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

40 Bags - bag #24

The "medicine" cabinet before. We call it the medicine cabinet because that's where the medicine belongs, but there are other things that live here too:
  • bottles of lotion, insect repellent, and sunscreen
  • first aid supplies
  • vitamins
  • small tools like tweezers and nail clippers

and on the very top shelf (because I don't use them very often) are all my baking "fancies". Things like:

  • sprinkles, jimmies and colored sugars
  • food coloring liquid and gel
  • decorating bag tips
  • a cookie press

I clean out this cabinet about once a year but it gets messy again pretty quickly. What's wrong with it is that it's hard to find what you're looking for. I think that happens because there are so many different categories each with their own large and small tubes and bottles. There's a lot of stacking things deep in this cabinet. When things are stacked deep it isn't evident where a thing goes when you want to return it to its place, so items get shoved anywhere that seems more convenient.

Stacking things deep is a problem for me. I should remember this about myself and try to stop doing it. Do you think there might be a 12-step program for people who stack things deep? I have things stacked deep in every cabinet, closet, and drawer in this house.

While purging this cabinet I combined opened multiples into single bottles (throwing away the empties), took away the things that were here that belong elsewhere in the house, discarded all expired pills, potions and elixirs, and generally put the place to rights again. I didn't get what would normally be called a "full bag of trash" but I'm calling it bag #24 anyway.

I'm learning about containers from the organizing blogs . I didn't "get" it for a long time because it seems like adding containers to cabinets make less room in there for your stuff, and it doesn't seem efficient to pull out a whole bin - filled with baking supplies, for example - when you only need the baking soda. It might work for this cabinet though, but it will take some getting used to and the retraining of myself and my family to grab the "first aid basket" instead rifling through the whole shelf to come up with only the box of band-aids and tube of ointment. The top shelf is so high that I have to drag a chair over, and even though I had the stuff there somewhat contained, it still wasn't easy to pull things out or put them away. I've bought some deeper baskets with handles on the front hoping that will make it easier. Another thing I'm learning about containers is that they make a reliable boundary - you can only have as many bottles of sprinkles as will fit in the sprinkles basket. Even after re-organizing this cabinet I have too many sprinkles. Maybe we will make cookies this weekend and use up the excess?

It makes me feel bad when I see my poor Mr. Dub trying to get his vitamins out of the cabinet every morning. As you can tell in the picture they are all just pushed together on a shelf. I've put them all on a lazy susan. I think it will be more convenient for him. (It will only be convenient for him once he gets used to it being different from how it's always been. There might be an adjustment period to be borne. He hasn't ever complained about how it was, and there is risk in organizing a man without his consent.)

Here is the medicine cabinet after: