Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out with the old...

So far over Christmas break: 6 boxes donated to the thrift store. One of those I even managed to pick up, peek inside, and NOT rummage through to salvage anything. I tease the thrift shop manager, an old business acquaintance, that I try to leave the store with less than I brought. I've been practically angelic on that front lately, but I did acquire three "portable closet" units from my Grandma's basement. Those are earmarked for the dress-up clothes and costume items, although I may offer to the closetless kids first.
We're on a cleaning binge for the NYE party tonight. It's actually not so bad this time around; we've been doing a better job of normal, day-to-day maintenance and it shows. I did tackle a couple of side projects, like cleaning out the storage container drawer and a couple cupboards. I've also gutted my catch-all mud room. When we moved in here, we gushed over the rustic built-ins that would afford us so much storage, then proceeded to block them with various unused appliances and other obstacles so we couldn't use them. A bit of rearranging to block an unused door, and the cabinets now house all the small appliances, gadgets, and auxiliary cookware. I always feel compelled to hang a curtain so people can't look in from the kitchen; now it might be nice to have one for decor, but I don't need to hide anything.
One thing that baffles me is how filthy my open wooden staircase gets, even with (nearly) daily sweeping and dusting. Any hints?

Sunday, December 20, 2009


So, after years of illness and busyness and frustration making this house worthy of condemnation (the legal and official kind, not just the vocal kind), there is progress.

In fact, there is a house I'd be willing to have people enter without embarrassment.

It is not done, not by a long shot, but it's...livable. Best of all, I no longer want to drive past when I come home from work, unwilling to walk in and face the heaps o' crap, the moldy and mildewy basement (whose smell permeates everything), the cat-mess ruined den carpet in the den, a room I haven't willingly entered in over a year (the elder cat, Merlin, took it upon himself a few years ago to skip the whole going-to-the-basement step of bathrooming, choosing the den carpet instead, so we moved all the litterboxes there in an effort to meet him halfway, only to have him often miss the boxes anyway or refuse them).

What occasioned this massive change in household fortune, you may ask? Meet Della Mae and Lee, my husband's awesome parents.

They took two consecutive weekends this month to drive across the state, stay in our so-called "guest room" (aka storage room with a path to a bed you could almost see), and help us dig out. Well, actually, help Justin, my husband, dig out, as I had umpteen grad school papers to write.

In the last two weeks, the group of them accomplished the following:

  • Light fixture replaced in dining room.
  • Light fixtures either replaced or removed (awaiting electrician--seems we almost died in our sleep from some old, shorting wiring) in the kitchen.
  • Kitchen drawer fixed.
  • Plastic put on living room picture window, the one that leaks like a sieve.
  • New sub-pump motor replaced (again) and new cover put on (thanks to Justin's brilliant idea).
  • Refrigerator moved out and cleaned under and behind (removing a grocery plastic bag that had been sucked up into the motor).
  • Snowblower tinkered, mostly, now.
  • Downstairs toilet removed, awaiting a new one that works.
  • Light fixture in upstairs hallway replaced, with much chagrin.
  • Shower enclosure caulk and tape replaced, painstakingly, by Della Mae.
  • Master bedroom tidied...floor found.
  • Justin's closet in spare bedroom cleaned out of unwearable clothes and miscellaneous crap.
  • New shower curtain liner.
  • Many fresh towels washed, folder, and placed within reach. Likewise, drawers are full of clean underwear and socks. Bathrobes, long lost, found and washed and smelling like heaven.
  • And...the best thing ever...the basement not only emptied, tidied, rearranged, and bleached within an inch of its life, but all the hundreds (you think I'm kidding) of loads of dirty laundry that had stacked up put in bags or baskets and neatly stacked.

What does that mean? That means the house *smells* great. That means I can now go into the basement without dying of an asthma attack (the mold and mildew were not good for me). That means that Justin and I are fighting over who gets to do laundry!

Catboxes back in basement--cleaned daily--and we're in the process of re-training Merlin as best we can (the other three are fine with moving catboxes).

The den is nearly empty and carpet gone, awaiting new laminate flooring to be put in, professionally, this week (whereupon Merlin had better find the catboxes, or there will be much renting of clothes and tearing of hair). (I must mention here that while my own parents, neatfreaks both, are too elderly or too sick--my mother has Alzheimer's and walks uneasily and my father, aged 86, is her sole caretaker in another town--to help physically, it's thanks to these lovely folk that I'm getting the new floor. They're also paying for the dumpster.)

Oh, did I mention this dumpster? A 12-yard dumpster. Overfull. It's gone now...and there's still stuff to throw, but not even close to what was there before.

The house is lighter. I feel lighter. My mood is lighter. The world is fresh again. I have hope for the future.

Things SMELL good!

Oh, and it's like going shopping every day. Clothes that the Basement Monster had abducted months and years (no, not kidding) ago are showing up, and most are just fine after a washing. It's like a shopping spree that I don't have to pay for! Yippee!

We still have to rearrange rooms, paint, and find places for many things. The garage is jam packed--mostly with furniture from the den until after floor replacement, but not completely--and closets are, well, frightening, most of them.

And we won't talk about the outside. I still have lawn furniture and a trellis out, under inches of snow.

But, seriously...we're past the nadir, here.

Last weekend, after my terrific in-laws had left and Justin and I were in the basement, doing laundry (which we'll be doing daily for the next six months, hauling most of it to goodwill, smelling fresh), we were giggling and listening to Christmas music and darn near dancing.

In the basement.

And me without my asthma inhaler...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Domestic bliss

The housework is on the backburner lately. I've been filling my days with summer projects in the kitchen. Withering bananas became bread, as did frozen pumpkin to clean the freezer and make a blue-ribbon appearance at the fair. After 10 years of watching the apples from the backyard tree go to waste, because we can't ever seem to get ahead of the bugs, the wheels in brain turned enough for me to remember my centrifugal juicer. You can grind and sieve any manner of stuff and get useable juice. I've therefore been cranking apples through it and making enough jelly for the whole neighborhood. I'm making up for lost time. We've also managed to pick through and get enough decent apples for sauce and pies. Meanwhile, between the hubs wanting to sort through all of the packrattery in the basement and closets, and the kids wanting to create a basement hangout, they've gotten a fair amount done in those areas while we keep plugging on the rest of the house. Its all good.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Worse before its better

Oh yes, we are definitely there. We've made every mistake in "the book" (who published that thing, BTW? Oughta be shot...) and started too many projects. iPastor is installing windows while I drag everything out of a room to rearrange stuff and kids in preparation for new exchange students. The stuff gets sorted and purged before being allowed back into the room. Gave away a box of hair stuff and some other items, started a new donation bag, and took a pickup load to the dump. Progress is being made, just wish it would show more.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Progress is progress, no matter how small...

Now that I no longer work across the street from a thrift store, I am a little less aggressive about closet and drawer cleaning. I still do the seasonal rollover, but not so much in between. That is, until, the big red box came to my neighborhood. Lately I see these drop boxes for clothes and shoes everywhere. So, although they don't take household items, it has made it far more convenient for me to drop a few items at a time, rather than build a big load I have to haul somewhere. So far, we've gotten one garbage bag full and several grocery sized bags over to the drop box. In the meantime, I work on the "stuff" in the basement a box or two a a time. It goes very slowly, but it is better than getting overwhelmed and leaving a mess out. The addition of my MIL's stuff hasn't helped much, but we've actually gotten some treasures. Last week her boxes yielded some inflatable stuff for camping and the lake, and yesterday I found a nice drawer organizer in the salon stuff. I have more hair product than we will ever use, but thrift stores cannot take opened stuff. Maybe the nursing home or Freecycle (tm!) can. It's hair stuff, not like someone spit in it.
Today we have a deliciously unplanned Saturday, and I plan to get at a few more boxes before the lawn dries out and I absolutely HAVE to mow it!!! Is it weird that I'm almost as excited about this as going to the lake?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Garage cleaning

Go here to see the starting of my garage cleaning.

Not much, but I did what I could until my back gave out for today. See what I can get done tomorrow.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

One load to the dump, and general housework...slowly getting back on track. Hoping the long weekend helps with that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ok, so not much here, but check out my yard work pics on the other blog...

Sunday, March 29, 2009


T-5 days until company. Of course, nothing got done until the last minute!! I need to fix this!! DId get a lot done yesterday, though...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Easy does it

Didn't really feel like I got a lot done today, but I got out into the yard and started the firepit. We have lots of scrap from the bathroom project, so I burned that to enjoy while I puttered somewhat aimlessly about the yard. Though I had no real sense of purpose or direction, I cleaned up a lot of crap that was uncovered by the thaw, recycled quite a bit of stuff the plow pushed into the yard, and recovered some yard tools that were left out by the kids. I also did some trimming and lopping in the problem areas near the alley. If I can make this much progress every day, spring should look halfway decent around here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


We have six bedrooms in our home and four children. My kids have a sometimes-annoying habit of playing "musical bedrooms" with the extra one. One of them got a wild hair and decided to switch rooms today, but it actually works for me this time. We have company coming for 3 weeks in April from Germany, and the room she vacates will actually make a better guest room. In the moving process, we put together a huge giveaway box and dumped two bags of garbage. It's also going to give me a little freedom with moving some furniture around. Now that I am wireless, I plan to move my desk into the guest room.
I put a couple odd bits of furniture on freecycle today as well, so I feel like I made some good progress, after a few weeks of slacking.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Back in the swing...

Not going gangbusters like I was, but got a couple more drawers dug out, and the stupid baskety catchall thingy on my desk. Thing 3 cleaned out the mitten/hat bin, and hubs finished up the porch. We have a red alert of sorts posted. Our most recent exchange student is coming for a visit in April, so we want to get a lot done before they come. Once again, we want to do this for OUR family, so WE can have a comfortable, uncluttered place to live, but it helps to have a little incentive.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coming up for air...

Still working toward grade drop tomorrow, but the end is in sight. In the meantime, I haven't kept up with my "one a day" plan, but I also haven't backslidden much (spellcheck thinks I made that word up. I'll keep it.)
I have managed to get another box of clothes ready for a thrift store, take a giveaway box of books to the school, and make a couple passes through the vehicles.
On another note, I was planning to do before and after shots of my porch, which is useless as a porch 9 months out of the year and therefore becomes storage. When I got home today, the hubs had it halfway done. He rocks. Still plenty to do, but he made a huge dent.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Drowning in paperwork!

That time management thing I mentioned. Yeah...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Have to Come BEFORE the House

Easier said than done.

My dishwasher pooped out on me, and over the weekend I was sick. You can imagine what kind of havoc that combination can wreak on a household. My husband is a wonderful man, very helpful and hardworking, but I'm sorry to say that he relies on me for motivation, and when I'm down for the count, usually so is he. He took fine care of me, but the house suffered.

So, this week I start in a hole and won't even think about reclaiming fallen areas of the house. Besides decluttering my house I'm trying to get fit. In the past, the house along with everyone else has come first, and today it was tempting to ignore my promise to walk 30 minutes a day in favor of tackling the kitchen, but I decided to put taking care of me first today, so I got on my treadmill, which gave me the opportunity to share a messy space I've been wanting to reclaim for a long time, bedroom.

That's me, on the treadmill, in my messy bedroom, ignoring the clutter because I'm putting myself first on the list. Gosh, if I usually put the house before myself, and my house is such a mess, what does that say about me?

No matter. I'm fixing both!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Two observations from opposite ends of the spectrum

My teenage daughters were able to throw a party for a friend last night without me being mortified at the condition of the house.


It's amazing that after all the recent progress I've made, one snarky comment can make me want to chuck it all and go back to the sty. I keep reminding myself that I am doing this for me, 'cause I'm damn sure not doing it for anyone around here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ah, cleaning

One of my least favorite things to do in life.

My dislike of cleaning comes from a mother who was an absolute neat freak. She washed walls and ceilings at least twice a year, if not every change of season. If we had the family coming over for the holidays, the entire house was scrubbed from ceiling to floor, even if we'd just done it a couple weeks prior.

So, for me it wasn't that I didn't have a good example, it is pure rebellion. Only now as I've come to terms with my parents addictions to caffeine, nicotine and alcohol do I understand that cleaning was one of the few things my mom could control in her life. Everything else was so out of control, but she could do that.

Since I got into feng shui earlier this year, I've been getting the clutter... moving... I guess would be the best way to put it. The feng shui helped me understand in energetic terms what clutter was doing to my home, my health, my finances and more. After I got fired in August and started temping again, I realized I needed to change tactics.

Last year from July on I made five trips to ARC, a local thrift store that takes donations. I've cleaned out my closet of clothes I don't wear, thrown out broken luggage, cleaned my office (start herre for photos and recap of my month long cleaning binge).

In that month long cleaning binge, I cleaned out my office, mostly, along with bits and pieces of my living room/kitchen/dining room area. Five contractors bags of shredded stuff from high school on went. The office was rearranged so I face my best feng shui directions (if you want a consult, let me know, I'm game to help others) for my desk and meditation chair.

It's not done yet. My office still has stuff on the floor from the last time I got some energy to clean. My kitchen table is better than it was, it still collects stuff. Still haven't found a place to put my backpack that is my brief case that goes with me to work and damn near everywhere. (Some women carry a purse, I carry a backpack.)

Things are one day at a time. I do what I can when I can. My biggest issue is finishing what I start, as exampled by the current state of my house. I got 95% of it done, the rest is still waiting.

Accountability is a big key to getting things done. I've learned that with my coaching training. I've helped others be accountable for what they said they wanted to do, cheered them on as they accomplished what they thought they couldn't. I used my blog as an accountability tool because I knew at least two people were reading it on a regular basis, and they cared enough to post comments encouraging me to keep going.

Hang in there, keep taking the five minutes here and there to do what you can. Perhaps as we get to know each other better, we could arrange a weekend to go help one another. If we've admitted to each other we need help, then there's no shame in us coming together to get a dent made so you can see progress has been made.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of you think, what you do to help yourselves, how we can help each other.

And since I have a three day weekend, I'm going to start making something out of it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some random thoughts about this blog.

Rather than email, I'll just post this to all "invitees" and whoever else might wander by. I purposefully spent no time whatsoever with "templates" or features or what have you. I don't want to get caught up in that stuff and off topic. If anyone else wants to play, go right ahead. If you know of anyone else you'd like to invite, go for it. I left comments open but kept the word verification, although I've noticed on a friend's blog that the porn bots somehow got past his, or they're paying humans to troll comments for spam these days. Sad either way. Anyway have at it.


I'd like to at least mention Flylady here. A friend mentioned her to me several years ago, speaking from his own (and his wife's) experience. I eventually searched her up on the internet, and I've been an off-again/on again follower ever since. I feel as if I have to give a disclaimer for those who know me in real life. I am cynical, and sarcastic, and don't even do the feigned surprise thing. Flylady is frilly and fluffy and cutesie and, by God, I believe 100% sincere in her self-avowed mission to give people the tools to help themselves out of cluttered lives. There is a lot of merchandise and several subscription offers to other services for sale on her site, but the actual site is free. She has "27-fling boogies" and "Purple Puddles" and floofy little pats on the back for people like me. I got past the saccharine stomachache and saw the psychology behind her methods, and she is really onto something.
Some examples: You didn't get this way overnight and you won't change that way either. Housework done "incorrectly" still blesses your family. You don't have to do it the way your mother did. Don't take out more than you can put back in an hour. You have to do it for yourself and let the rest of the family follow your example; if you resent them you're shooting yourself in the foot. And the two that I use the most: you can do anything for 15 minutes; just do it now! I'd advise anyone to check out her site at You can pick and choose like a smorgasbord, and adapt her ideas to work for you.


I didn't do the resolution thing, but I have made a little plan to clean at least one drawer or shelf every day, or spend 15 minutes in a cabinet or closet that will take more work. So far, so good. I started this over Christmas break, when I gutted my linen closet. How many extra sheets do we need, anyway? We only sleep on one at a time! So far, so good. I've done 5/7 desk drawers, decluttered the dish cupboard, and made real progress in our bathroom cabinet. That thing is huge and open, and has no side, so the shelves actually extend behind the wall all the way to the laundry chute. I suppose it would've made a cool secret panel thing at one time, but for us, it just means items roll back into the netherworld for months or years. We also acquired all of my mother-in-law's (a beautician, oy!) hair and makeup stuff. We discovered that she hoarded hotel soaps, etc. I do, too. I feel justified in this to an extent. These are the things we send with the kids to camp, or on the choir trip, etc. I use them for the same purpose. We have WAY more right now than we need, but I've tidied them into a huge bag, and will send the whole thing off to camp this year for the girls to share. The thrift store won't take them, and there isn't a women's shelter or crisis house close enough to donate these items. If anyone has a mission trip any time soon, let me know.


Another area where I'm making progress, but still struggling, is managing my time. I will tell you all about it later, because now I have to rush out the door to work!!!

It's a State of Mind...and Body

The state of my house is reflection on my state of mind--and if that doesn't frighten people, there's no hope.

I grew up with the neatfreaks of all neatfreaks. My parents have white carpeting. My mother used to clean the kitchen sink and then not let us--my father and me--use it the rest of the day. You could safely lick the linoleum in their house--in any corner--without fear. Everything was gleaming, dust-free, folded, put away, stacked, and smelling of Clorox and dryer sheets.

I hated it. guessed it...I got out on my own. After spending years driving my mother crazy, I, myself, became the neatfreak in college, terrorizing my own roommates. I cleaned for fun--and no, I'm not kidding. I enjoyed it. I'd clean my friends' apartments given half a chance (and I could find that half a chance anywhere).

It my way of controlling my life without actually dealing with the important things. I was a complete basket case, but apartment? Spotless.

Roll ahead a few years, and things I was much more mentally healthy. Happy, even, and busy (so had my parents been, by the way--they were both professionals who worked a lot and still managed a spotless home). My life began to move; my junk began to stay put.

But, I managed, for most of those years, to find a happy medium between cheery clutter and cleanliness that worked. By the end of my first marriage, however--to a packrat who, paradoxically, had a pathological need for symmetrical order--things were...messy. In every possible way.

Cleaning out from that marriage was emotional and physical. Between the divorce and the selling of the house to move across the state, I can't remember how many dumpsters I filled with...stuff. My father, bless his heart, would drive to my house while I was gone during the day and just absolutely raze everything. I joked that if the cats were still for more than fourteen seconds, they'd be gone, too.

(My father is the exception to the norm for Depression-era children; he doesn't horde anything and he doesn't believe in keeping anything old (except photographs). You should see his garage. Monk could live in it.) life, new marriage, new career, new town, new house in Marshall, seven years ago. Things started out well. It was clean, and it was cluttered only because it was about a fifth of the size of my house in St. Cloud before, but I'd gotten rid of much extraneous stuff. I felt great! My house looked great!

Despite my working a gazillion hours a week during the school year, it stayed that way. Despite my new husband, who's a self-avowed slob (which he is, but I will not complain because the man does all the shopping, all the cooking, all the taking-care-of-me-because-I'm-incapable, and that's a difficult job), it stayed that way.

Until about three years ago.

I got sick. A lot. In the last three years or so I've been diagnosed with three chronic, life-altering (to a degree), incurable diseases that affect my daily life to varying levels. I've been hospitalized several times. I've had two miscarriages. I've had eight surgeries. I've had two separate biopsies (fine). I've spent more money, miles, and minutes in doctors' offices and various clinics and such than I could even follow.

Things got...messy.

And I've not been able to keep up. And then it got worse, and I really wasn't able to keep up.

For nearly two years now, my house has been mostly unlivable (for me). I hate this. And I don't know where to start, and even when I have time (summer, Christmas vacation), I don't have the physical energy.

We are overwhelmed. I hate going home.

My classroom? Orderly, for the most part. I like things in their place. I dislike clutter. I used to deliver mail, and my sorting case was immaculate. My supervisors used to show mine to newbies as an example, and I was, more than once, enlisted to physically organize other routes when they changed and needed upkeep.

My house? Two adults and four cats--and no children to blame it on--is a disaster. We occasionally make little dents of happiness (I get the kitchen and bathroom cleaned, for example, or there's a path to the couch and only a few books and newspaper on it to clear off if you don't mind walking around the back side of the coffee table), but I long for having the whole house clean and organized once again.

So, that's my story. Can I be one of you?!?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

I'm in the same boat as Gette. I never really learned to keep a clean house consistently, and for some reason, I rebel against routine. Consistency and routine are the only ways to keep a house consistently and routinely tidy, but I've always lived more by the seat of my pants, a slave to the urgent.

I was the same way in school. I did only what had to be done and always at the last minute. Maybe it's unfortunate that it served me so well. The lesson I learned there was I could get by with minimal effort and excel.

Oddly, when I worked outside the home, my desk and my office were very organized and neat. People would comment that I must have an immaculate home, and I would roar with laughter. I think there are two reasons my office was so neat. 1) I had a routine driven by deadlines. Organization was not a luxury, it was the only way to make sure our vendors were paying for their product. The people I worked for got a little testy if our customers weren't paying their bills or if I couldn't tell them how much moolah we had coming in every day. 2) There was no one else at work messing up my space, and it was MY space, the only place where I had complete control. I've never been able to work well in chaos.

I've been able to figure out why I avoid digging in and clearing clutter. I'll save that for another day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Here we go...

I am a slob. I have several theories as to why I am a slob. My mother never taught me how to keep house; her mother never taught her. Seriously, any housework that got done was because of my dad. When he died, my mother's home was like one of those garbage houses they show on the news, albeit not crammed quite so full of stuff. Just clutter and filth. My brother and sister's homes are still like that. My house is not like that, thank heaven, yet, whenever we get a call that company is coming, we issue a red alert and scramble to make the house presentable, and sometimes it is a real struggle. Whatever. I am sick of living in a dump. I try "systems" and "plans," but they haven't worked well for me as yet.
In my email today was a list of articles from Dulcinea about organization and decluttering. There's a market out there for this information; other people want help with this stuff, too. Not everyone grew up in a cluttered house. Some folks had a perfectly lovely home life, but no-one there taught them how to do it for themselves; the parents took care of it so the kids wouldn't have to. Some people have pack-rat personalities and amass too much stuff. Some poeple have mental or physical limitations that inhibit their ability to maintain order in their homes. There are many reasons for the same problem.
Over Christmas break, I made some progress, but I live in constant fear of backsliding. Lately, I have been getting messages through different sources about accountability, so that is why I am here. I started a new blog because I don't want my other blog to become a daily whine about "here's what I cleaned." I want to make that place funny and light. But I do believe it helps me to put my accomplishments and failures out there to share. To keep me motivated. To maybe help someone else. That's why I'm here. Join me if you understand.