90 Day Improvement Plan…

(90 Days to Thinner Thighs!!!90 Days to a Whole New You!!! 90 Ways to….)
I can’t promise any of the crazy magazine cover stories. What I CAN guarantee you is that in 90 days, you will be looking back at 2010. Yep, a mere 90 days until the new year. Think of all the things that need to be done in the next 89 days. Parties to plan, gifts to buy, meals to cook, traveling to visit family….I know, you need a nap just thinking about it.

But the question I am posing today is this: Of this past years resolutions/thoughts/promises/ideas you had, how are you doing?
Sometime around the end of month one, I decided to de-clutter. And for a bit, I did well. 27 thing flings occurred in many rooms in the house, right down to the sock drawer being divested of orphan socks. I had grand plans, great goals. And I even thought maybe that if you journeyed along with me, you’d keep me honest, motivated and accountable.

None of which happened, I am sorry to say. There ARE great improvements, but I LIKE my stuff too much. I am not a hoarder; those shows scare me. On the other hand, I would do bodily harm to the hosts of those clean sweep shows, where they don’t take into account anything of any sentimental nature…to them, if it doesn’t match, it isn’t worthy of owning.

And the romantic in me, the sentimentalist, the genealogist—well, we all cringe when they seem determined to create a movie set of a person’s house—with two or three ‘personal’ touches.

The same thing can be said for magazines. I have the chance to peruse the home magazines at work, and every winter, they offer a slew of ‘Reduce Clutter’, ‘Storage Tips for Small Spaces’ and other creative ways to suggest that you go out and BUY a bunch of storage containers to solve the problems (Addresses and websites conveniently listed at the end of each article.) And yes, some of the ideas they have are clever; artfully displaying a few items.

But again, they are movie set clever—not real houses, with 2-6 real people, a couple of pets and not enough space, who already own things. This house was built without a coat closet, without a utility room or a broom closet. That is the reality of the thing. Therefore this past year, back when I WAS posting weekly about de-cluttering, I carefully avoided suggesting that one purchase a magazine to get a great idea or five.

I didn’t suggest that one read self-help books about clutter either, because they too seem to be of the ilk that it ALL go… and they don’t often suggest some pretty storage idea; no they basically think that one is either looking to live life as a hoarder or a minimalist. They suggest taking photographs of all things that are of a sentimental nature to you, and then pitching the objects in question. But it’s not quite the same thing, passing on a photograph of a cherished stuffed animal to your grandchild, you know?

Look, I admire those who can live life with a fork, a knife, two t-shirts, a towel and a back-pack to hold all their earthly belongings. More power to them, if that makes them happy. But I wonder if there isn’t a mom’s attic somewhere where they are storing a bunch of their past? If blank white walls truly make you happy, go at it. I like color. I like design and pattern and things that have stories.
So. Where does that leave me on the de-cluttering scale?

I still have to do the attic. Summer was too hot to deal with it, but hopefully with autumn I can get up there. And I want to re-carpet the house before the holidays, because putting it off isn’t going to get it done. And it NEEDS to be done. (I need to have the couch re-upholstered as well.)  I, of course, haven’t really finished the 27 thing flinging, either. The den hasn’t been touched. (The den is Timmy’s domain. That is my excuse.) I bought myself a Nook earlier in the year, and so I know I can start divesting myself of some books. Slowly. I am not about to tip the shelves over and pitch everything, because I can’t afford to replace everything on the Nook right away.

I can truthfully say that I probably could find 27 things in the kitchen, but only if it included out-of-date yogurt in the fridge or something. The kitchen has managed to not get re-cluttered. (Really, hunny. It’s a totally different thing if it’s not put away …that is a behavioral thing, not a de-cluttering thing! :) )

My studio needs to have a shelf by shelf re-organization as well. That is probably the room where the whole thing fell apart, because there is so much in there, and it all could have a purpose at some point! (Ah, the mantra of the magpie, “But it’s pretty, and shiny!!”) I lost sight of the forest for the trees- I admit it freely. My fabric has been contained; the boxes I chose are perfect and I am very happy with the way it is working. However, I do need to open them all and sort by color. But that is not something that needs to be done now.

Re-carpeting the house, however, is the thing that has made me aware that I really need to put this thing into over-drive. All this stuff has to be moved, right? I have two rooms (the kitchen and dining room) where we have already replaced the floors. The rest of the house is chock-full-o-stuff that will need to be moved. As there is currently no bed in the guest room, it seems like the time to do it. (And because my daughter informs me that the bed needs to be built before she arrives. :) )

I believe I am beyond a mere 27 thing flinging now. It is going to require a minimum of an hour of dedicated time spent per work day, and probably a nice chunk of any day off that has not already been booked (and it’s that time of year where a lot have been booked). I need to really analyze the things in the space, the storage they are in or not in, whether it needs to stay in the location it is in or can be moved, and whether it is better off at Goodwill.

So it seems that surfing the web, reading, goofing off with this or that project will need to take a back seat for a few months. I DO need to make some holiday gifts, but other than that, maybe I need to limit my play time until I get all of this done.

I will get my photo website all set up for the holiday gift-giving season—I have a few really neat things getting ready to launch, and I will need to gather and post my Christmas Photo-A-Day, starting on December 1. If I feel the need or desire to go off topic here, I will. But beyond that, do you think I need to simply post a “I DID IT” post every day? And maybe you will reply that you do, have DONE something, to get yourself to the place you want to be in 90 days. :) :)

It may be a push, but wouldn’t it be nice to say on Jan 1, 2011 “I am FINISHED and that the new year is mine to do with what I choose? To create with wild abandon?”

Sitting in Front of the TV….

…Once every two years or so, I regret that there is only one television in the house, all the way at the other end down in the den. I LOVE the Olympics, and really want to spend my free time watching them.

In order to not totally blow the next two weeks on flinging, I think that I shall endeavor to work on the following –recipes and photographs.

These two 27-thing fling projects can take place on the couch while keeping up with the latest in Vancouver.

RECIPES:

I have a two shelf area under the bar in the dining room that has scraps, clippings, binders, cards and books of recipes. The problem?? Don’t use them. For the most part, I cook from memory.

In order to Fling this area, gather all your recipe stashes (in a laundry basket maybe??) Grab a paper grocery bag (because it will stand on the floor neatly) a pair of scissors, some blank recipe cards (or index cards), another container to hold the ‘keepers’ and a good spot in front of the tube.

Some books should be easy. If you haven’t cracked the cover by now, it probably needs to go to Goodwill. If someone in the house is allergic to the main ingredient, or dietary restrictions eliminate over 50% of the recipes from contention, fling it.

If you remember there is one GREAT recipe in the book, grab a recipe card, and bookmark it for now.

The cut-out, magazine tear-outs and back of food box recipes that threaten to overtake you should be next. Have you made it? Why not? Would you make it again? Do you NEED a recipe to make it?

Fling or save, as needed.

When you have whittled down to a more reasonable pile, decide how you prefer your recipes. Do you want a box, with cards? Do you like a binder? A note book? A computer program? The transcribing, entering, creating of a new and useful to you recipe center can be done now, while you sit in front of the TV, delegate to another time, when you have the appropriate materials. (If someone gave you the recipe, remember to note it’s origin.)

PHOTOS:

This is going to be a multipart and on-going fling. Since we are in front of the TV, it’s going to be about real, hard copies of physical photos, printed on paper; not digital files.

Gather ALL your photos. The shoeboxes, the developing envelopes shoved in the bottom drawers, the photo albums that haven’t been updated, the desk drawer of stacks. Wherever and whatever state, bring them ALL together.

Paper garbage bag, of course. Manila envelopes, file folders, or plastic bins, and a Sharpie to label with family member names. You will also need a ballpoint pen.

First, as you open each envelope, DO NOT THROW OUT THE NEGATIVES. SAVE THE NEGATIVES. DO NOT FLING THEM!!! If you think you know the date/subject, write it on the envelope.

Second, DO fling any photo that is obviously out of focus, dark, blurry, or otherwise an epic fail. If it is with the subjects eyes closed, and the photo following has their eyes open. If the group shot was taken 13 times, save the 2 or 3 that are ok.

The only reason to save such poor image is—IT IS THE ONLY PHOTOGRAPH YOU HAVE OF THE EVENT OR THE PERSON. AND IT HAS GREAT HISTORIC SIGNIFANCE. See, that eliminates most of the reasons for saving the bad ones.

Next, fling the duplicates of photos that you really only need one copy of. If its a photo of your 5 year old and the neighbor boy, make a pile of the neighbor boy and give the pile to his mother when you are finished.

Other duplicates should be handled similarly. A grandma file so she can have photos. (You know she’s been asking) A long lost cousin file, a file of photos that you know have no negative but need to be scanned because other people would want a copy.

Make a Christmas pile, and a vacation pile. A school events pile, a pets pile. Whatever categories work for you. Now, give them away. If you see a relative once a year, and have for years on end, gather those photos, write a note, and ship them off to your relative. You have a copy, they have a copy, and memories will be recalled fondly. (Don’t ship the negatives and DON’T send the blurry ones!!!)

Oh, and before you give them away, or file or display? Do the genealogist a favor and DATE AND IDENTIFY the photos.

(And not as my great grandmother did. I own too many photos of 6-12 people, with notations like this on the back:

“Allison. Susie Smith’s house in Great Kills, Sunday, June 15, 1932.”)

Part two later. Don’t do anything rash with your photos while waiting. Enjoy the Games and Go, TEAM USA!

Your Great Aunt Mildred’s Bud Vase…

…And other things you can’t live without.

You are NOT flinging Aunt Mildred, ok? Let’s establish that first. Anything that belonged to her, that reminds you of her, that brings back fuzzy summer day memories as a child on her front porch….These are NOT Aunt Mildred.

They are your memories. Aunt Mildred will live on only as long as someone remembers her with love. Her bud vase may end up with someone who never knew her, never heard of her, isn’t related to her in any way, but simply loves the color or shape after you divest yourself of her vase, but she will live in your heart till you go.

That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it. It just means that you can’t keep EVERYTHING of Aunt Mildred’s, because by doing that, these items lose their magic, their specialness.

I own (protect, am the guardian of) a broken (re-glued), rather pretty to me planter that belonged to my great-grandmother Casey. It suits my style, and it still holds a plant (unlike the planter destroyed this morning by Gandolf, one our cats, who was aggravated at a forced fasting….)

vase

It is the only thing I own of hers; I never met her, it doesn’t bring back memories of HER. But it recalls many wonderful afternoons spent in her home where her two daughters continued to live until 1980. If I had kept (been given the chance to keep) everything from that house, the memory wouldn’t be so grand.

I take that back. I also possess a glass-doored bookcase with an encyclopedia from 1926, which while I like to think belonged to my great-grandfather, but didn’t as he died in 1924. It probably got my grandfather through college; it was one of the few things he chose to keep when the house was broken up (or allowed or offered or…well it was 30 years ago, I need to let it go…)bookcase

Oh, and years later, I drove past the house and found someone finally renovating (not well, certainly, but renovating rather than tearing down) and I chatted for a few minutes as I looked around from the hallway, and I saw it as it was back when I was little, not as it was currently…. Every little wisp of sunlight spun the carpets and the furniture and the playtime into clear focus in my mind. The man gave me a piece of the ceiling- ornamental horse haired patterned- and I framed it and it hangs on my wall….

These are memories I can not pass on to my daughter. She will not have the same memory of why she might want to own this odd little framed item, except that she may treasure it because I treasured it.

So, the point is this. If you are keeping something that does give you pleasure, and it is lovely to look at and suits your space, wonderful! Surround yourself with YOUR things, not with things that were on sale as the latest and greatest decorating scheme! (Large wooden bowls filled with spheres confound me. Don’t you own anything to display that MEANS anything?)

If you own something and it does have a history, write down it’s story. Take a photo of it, put the story with it, create a journal so that your descendants can know you and your ancestors.

We live in an odd time, where every little change is recorded photographically; will photos and owning them mean the same thing; will they be as special and revered as the rare photo of my great-great-great grandfather? Every utterance we make online is filed somewhere, but are there records of your handwriting someplace?

Is everything you own color-coordinated and texture specific and themed and absolutely lacking any sentimental meaning?

Examine why you are keeping the broken toy. If it belonged to your dad, and its stuffed in a box in the back of the closet, take a photo of it and toss it. Better yet, find a spot on the mantel and clean it and display it and have your dad tell the story to your little ones about the day Santa gave him this toy, and how sad he was to have it break.

Keep things, fine. (There is no way I am going minimal without being dragged against my will, I can’t ask that of you) But keep things you LOVE.

paintbrushes (Something else that will survive the flinging. A Pringles can, circa 1982, made in high school—Miss Volpe’s art class—probably the only thing I own from high school, its a diary of who I was back then….and it is full of paint brushes that my grandfather used, and that I used in college and to this day….memories too strong, of linseed oil, of sneaking into the painting room after I should be in bed, watching Daddy Gus paint….)

Will I get to 27 things to fling?? Highly doubt it this round. But, if I do, most may end up being gifts to others, who I feel may appreciate and honor their existence.

Far better that you present these items, (complete with memories in a note card in your own handwriting,) than leaving them for someone to have to clean out in a time of emotion and sadness and depression, when time and distance cause them to be flung without regard.