Friday, 22 March 2019

Right Now

At one time I had a separate, more anonymous, blog. One of the popular features there was called "Right Now," where I filled readers in on current happenings in my life, what I was enjoying, etc. Since I'm not blogging here as often as I thought I might be, I thought I'd reintroduce this "column" for all of you. A new and consistent part (I hope) will be the headers Organizing, Finishing and Relationships, since those are things I particularly set out to work on this year. For better or worse, here's what's up, right now:

Drinking: I've been sick since Saturday night, so one thing I haven't been drinking is coffee. For some reason whenever I get a cold my taste buds just don't want java. Tea, please! Or ginger ale or orange juice. Or even water, with or without cat's claw (una de gato in Spanish, or Uncaria tomentosa, if you want its proper Latin name). 

I'm on the mend now, but I'm still not ready for caffeine!

Eating: Pretty boring meals since my appetite hasn't returned in full. For breakfast this morning it was Shreddies with unsweetened original almond milk and whole wheat toast with 100% natural crunchy peanut butter. Lunch will probably be chicken noodle soup with a leftover Tim Hortons bun. I'm still thinking about what to have for supper.

Reading: I currently have two books on the go: The Finnish Way by Katja Pantzar (which shows up as Finding Sisu on Goodreads, for some reason), and Shelter for The Spirit: Create Your Own Haven in a Hectic World by Victoria Moran.

Watching: Nothing really. I've brought a few videos home from the library, but we haven't watched any of them yet. Titles include: American Sniper, Stronger, and The Catcher Was a Spy. If you haven't caught a theme there, these days I'm preferring films that are based on true stories. If I'm going to give my valuable time to a movie, I'd rather learn about a real person's life and circumstances. That's not to diminish the value of pure entertainment and stress relief.

Listening: Also not too much. I borrowed a few CDs from the library and have given a listen to Mandisa's Out of the Dark, which I quite enjoyed. The other day when I got home from work, my son surprised me with a new-to-me CD by The Stray Cats: Choo Choo Hot Fish. He remembered that I'd enjoyed them and seen them perform live back in their heyday, and it's rare for one of their CDs to come through the used CD/DVD store at which he works. I've listened to the first part of it and it definitely makes me want to move. Housework anyone?

Buying: As little as I can. I'm trying to get things out, not bring them in. That being said, we of course need groceries and other such necessities. And the last time we visited a thrift store we picked up a microwave plate for our microwave. Ours had slipped through my fingers while rinsing and broken in half in the sink. To buy new would have cost over $30, including shipping. We got this one for 75 cents, reduced from $3. When we were asked to up the payment to $1 with the additional 25 cents being donated to Mennonite Central Committee causes, it was a no-brainer. What a deal!

Anticipating: I guess this could come under buying. We need to replace our air conditioner, so I'm anticipating visits from HVAC companies to receive quotes. There's also a furnace service person coming this morning to go over our furnace. We may need to replace both appliances, so better to find out now and replace them at the same time for greater cost savings. 

Organizing: I got a bit discouraged by organization fails and decided to put off until tomorrow what I can put off indefinitely. Not a good idea. As soon as I feel better I'll continue my efforts to declutter. I still haven't read the follow-up to How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind, but I'm still reading books along similar lines and finding inspiration. Not Gretchen Rubin's Outer Order, Inner Calm, though. That was a real disappointment. All stuff we've heard a million times before. 

Finishing: I still have far to go in terms of finishing my novel, but what I've been focusing more attention on is looking back at older work, revising, polishing and submitting. It makes me feel more accomplished, like I'm actually doing something toward getting published and getting my name out there. My Finishing School partner and I haven't been meeting as regularly as we'd hoped. She was away for a couple of weeks and there were a couple of days where I had to work or was sick. Hopefully we'll get back on track next week.

Relationships:My husband and I haven't really made a point of carving out the time I talked about earlier. Nor have I taken enough initiative with my daughter or seen enough of my mom. I'm certainly not perfect yet at giving my son the eye contact he needs and deserves, but I think I'm doing better. Haven't had a lot of time with friends - book club at the beginning of the month and  a lunch date with my Finishing School partner have been the extent of my "social" activities. Plenty of room to grow... 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

You're Not Going to Believe It

Remember my post on the powder room? Remember the progress I made on decluttering, beautifying every single storage space therein? 

Remember my husband's plans to remove the wallpaper?

Well, he's done much more than that! We had a snow-and-ice day yesterday (you know, the kind where they close schools and workplaces), and he gutted the entire room. Yes. Gutted.

D is much better looking
The last time he did something like this (our family room, October 2018), I thought we negotiated a promise going forward: no demolishing sans plan. That is to say, we needed to have our furnishings, paint colours and so on, chosen before we ripped the place apart. Is that what happened? No.

We haven't ordered our new vanity, we don't have our new room colour selected, we don't know if we'll reuse the old medicine cabinet, get a new one or just go with a mirror above the sink, we haven't decided on light fixtures. We do know we're keeping the existing commode.

My husband, God bless him, thought there might be extra closet space to be found behind the wall - and there is - but we don't know what kind of shelving we're going to put in or how it will work to access its deepest recesses.

It's good that I'd decluttered so we had less stuff to find temporary space for, but guess what temporary space we filled? The shelves I had just decluttered in our bedroom closet!

Oh, the joy of renovations. Oh, the joy of spontaneity. 

Almost everything is a mess again. But at least I'm keeping up with the dishes!

Thursday, 31 January 2019

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Book Review

Author: Dana K. White
Subtitle: Dealing With Your House's Dirty Little Secrets
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2016

Goodreads Description

“The dirty little secret about most organizing advice is that it’s written by organized people,” says blogger, speaker, and decluttering expert Dana K. White. “But that’s not how my brain works. I’m lost on page three.” Dana blogs at A Slob Comes Clean,chronicling her successes and failures with her self-described “deslobification process.” In the beginning she used the name “Nony” (short for aNONYmous), because she was sharing her deep, dark, slob secret. Now she has truly come clean—with not only her real name but the strategies she has developed, tested, and proved in her own home. She has learned what it takes to bring a home out of Disaster Status, which habits make the biggest and most lasting impact, and how to keep clutter under control.

In How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind, Dana explains that cleaning your house is not a onetime project but a series of ongoing premade decisions. Her reality-based cleaning and organizing techniques debunk the biggest housekeeping fantasies and help readers learn what really works. 

With a huge helping of empathy and humor, Dana provides a step-by-step process with strategies for getting rid of enormous amounts of stuff in as little time (and with as little emotional drama) as possible.

My Review

If I enjoyed Erin Boyle's Simple Matters, I loved Dana K. White's How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. It is bar none, the best book I have read to date on home organization and decluttering. White is practical, honest and relatable. I have quickly begun applying her techniques and am already seeing a positive difference in my home. Each day I continue to make progress and hold the line against clutter crawl.

Some of the tips that have been the most helpful so far include: doing the dishes daily, preferably right after they've been dirtied; asking myself where I would look for something if I were looking for it right now (and then putting it there), and dealing with visual clutter first. (Remember how I tackled my medicine and powder room cabinets after reading Boyle's book? Tsk-tsk. Deal with what people can see and what will make the most noticeable improvements before dealing with what's behind closed doors!)

White also addresses the problem of other people in your home. You can't worry about them; you have to work on yourself. My husband and son don't seem to notice any change, but I do. Instead of getting frustrated by their lack of appreciation and encouragement, I am forging on. Now I can't wait to read White's other book, Decluttering at the Speed of Life.

My Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Technical Difficulties

Please don't judge me for not blogging the last few days; I'm having technical difficulties. In short, we need a new computer. Fact is, we could use a new desktop and a new laptop, but we're concentrating on the former for now. 

The 500-words commitment is going by the wayside, but for the duration of the challenge I will blog as I am able to access the Internet and equipment. Once the challenge is done, I will transfer the minimum 500-words per day to my novel and aim to blog once or twice each week.

Anything in particular you would like to see on my blog?

Monday, 21 January 2019

Simple Matters: Book Review

Author: Erin Boyle
Subtitle: Living with Less and Ending Up With More
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, 2015
Length: 192 pages

Goodreads Description:

For anyone looking to declutter, organize, and simplify, author Erin Boyle shares practical guidance and personal insights on small-space living and conscious consumption. At once pragmatic and philosophical, Simple Matters is a nod to the growing consensus that living simply and purposefully is more sustainable not only for the environment, but for our own happiness and well-being, too. Boyle embraces the notion that “living small” is beneficial and accessible to us all—whether we’re renting a tiny apartment or purchasing a three-story house.
Filled with personal essays, projects, and helpful advice on how to be inventive and resourceful in a tight space, Simple Matters shows that living simply is about making do with less and ending up with more: more free time, more time with loved ones, more savings, and more things of beauty.

My Review:

I don't always connect with books on organization, decluttering and simple living, but I did connect with this one. What made the difference? 

For one thing, tone. Unlike many others on the subject, this one isn't preachy. While Boyle seems to have her "act together," she admits that it's been a learning process, and the reader's journey to simplicity will be a work in progress as well. We won't always get it right; we'll make mistakes and learn from them. There's no need to beat ourselves over the head; from trial and error we discover what to do (and what not to do) next time.

For another thing, the book itself is a piece of art. One reviewer refers to it as a "coffee table book" and she has a point. Lots of photos complement the text, the paper quality is excellent, and though some might call it colorless overall, there's a simple beauty in that that feels calming and peaceful. Just the sort of environment I personally hope to achieve...eventually. 

Boyle herself lives in a tiny apartment, a space much tinier than my bungalow. To an extent, necessity is the mother of invention. On the other hand, I'm sure there are people in tiny apartments who pack them to the max. The question is, how well are they living? Boyle suggests that doing with less, having more space, leads to a better quality of life. There's less to clean and maintain so you have more time for the people and things you love. That sounds very valid to me. When I look around my home, I am sometimes (often?) frustrated and overwhelmed with all the things I have to  care for. It makes sense that if there were fewer of them, I could devote more hours to my family and to writing, reading, etc. 

I'd have liked to know more about Boyle's upbringing. She doesn't indicate if her practices are things she initially learned at her parents' knees. Certainly it is much easier for people who grew up in more sparse environments to replicate those as adults. She does mention visiting museums with her mother and being captivated by the Puritan style, so there was some early influence that not all of us share. My mother kept a clean home, but like many raised during the Great Depression, she had a hard time getting rid of things that "might be useful someday." And after she returned to post-secondary education as a mature adult, the house became more cluttered with papers and books. Since I am a book-lover myself, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree (to use a well-worn cliche).

Boyle's book has already had some impact on me. If you read my last post, you know I had a measure of success with my powder room Saturday. I even used Boyle's "tests" to determine what to keep and what to let go of: Is it lovely? Is it useful? Do I have more than one of these? 

The next projects I plan to tackle are my closet, dresser and nightstand. I can't promise that I'll always post pictures (my husband wasn't too thrilled with the last set, LOL), but I'll do my best to keep you updated. And I'll keep reading and sharing reviews of books that purport to help.

I recommend this one.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Powder Room

I spent all day in the powder room today. Does that sound like too much information? LOL

I've been reading Erin Boyle's Simple Matters, which deals with simplifying your life and home so you can enjoy them more. One of the areas she's mentioned is the bathroom, and since it's a small room where one can see almost immediate results, I thought I'd tackle mine today. As you know, one of my goals for this year is to become more organized. 

This isn't our main bathroom obviously, but it probably had just as much in it in terms of odds and sods.

Here are the before (left) and after (right) pictures of the medicine cabinet. Section 1:

Section 2:

Section 3:

I hope you can see an improvement, especially in the middle section! I went through and disposed of any expired items as well as items we hadn't used in a while or were never going to use, and though there's still the occasional duplicate, I think it's a lot better.

This was our shameful bathroom counter:

 And here it is after:

I forgot to take a 'before' shot of under the sink, but trust me, it was worse than this 'after' pic. 

And here we are under the counter beside the sink, before and after.

Even though our powder room is small, we have lots of storage. These are the shelves in the cabinet above the toilet. Before on the left; after on the right. I had to make the pictures smaller to fit side by side. Sorry.

There are three shorter shelves to the left of these, in a cabinet above our built-in laundry hamper. I'm not quite done those with those, but they're underway.

By the way, that built-in hamper was a pleasant surprise when we bought the house, but it sure does fill up fast. I split the rest of the day between laundry, dishes and food breaks.

Also by the way, my husband plans to get rid of the 80s wallpaper one day soon and paint the room. We are not wallpaper people!

I'm sure Erin would have saved a lot less than I have. All I can say is, it's a work in progress and next time I'll probably be even more hard core. 

I'm equally sure this post doesn't meet Jeff Goins' daily writing requirement, but hey, a picture paints a thousand words! :)

Friday, 18 January 2019

Influence (Five-Minute-Friday)

To celebrate the release of Kate Motaung's latest book, today's challenge word is "Influence." For those who aren't familiar with FMF, Kate gives us a word each Friday and we write something around it, then link up to a common blog post. We write for five minutes only, no editing allowed. My five minutes are bookended with the words Begin and End. Today's link-up is here.


Just as in Spencer Johnson's book, Out of the Maze, there are thoughts that hold us back and thoughts that move us forward, in life there are influences that are detrimental and those that are beneficial. The trick is to recognize the difference. How much better off would we be if we recognized who had our best interests at heart and who did not?

We've all experienced both types of influencers, the good and the bad. In hindsight, we can see where we slipped up and let the bad ones in, allowed ourselves to go astray, down paths we never meant (or intended) to journey, and ended up somewhere we never wanted to be. Why can't we see this up front? Why do we let ourselves be drawn in and deceived? Are they such good cons? Are we that stupid?

Andy Stanley offers a very good question when it comes to decision-making: Given my past experiences, my present situation, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do? In terms of relationships, we might ask, given my past relationships, my present knowledge, and where I want to go, is this, or this not, a good person to have in my life?

Good friends encourage each other to succeed.


That's seven words more than last week's effort; either I'm getting faster on my feet or the topic was easier to write about. The "problem" is, I wasn't done.

I suppose there are any number of reasons we can let a bad influence into our lives. One might be simple loneliness. We don't have many friends, so when someone comes along and shows an interest, we're far too eager to accept without really evaluating whether or not s/he's good for us. We don't even know him or her well enough to be discerning. Sometimes we can even be attracted to a person because s/he seems to get away with bad behaviour. And all of us can probably point to an example of a "good girl" who always falls for the "bad boy." It usually doesn't end well, if ever.

Attractive? Or dangerous?

Then there are people who really are cons, maybe even sociopaths, people who can present themselves one way, to suck you in, and before long you find yourself manipulated like a puppet on a string. You get confused because they can be so nice one day, so awful the next, and you ask, "Which version is the real one? Will the real [insert name], please stand up?" You want to believe the nice portrayal is the true one, but quite often it's not. It can take a while to get untangled from that type of situation because you're a good person and have trouble realizing that not everyone's like you.

I've had good influences in my life and I've had bad ones. And I can testify that the good ones are far better and yield greater rewards: trust, intimacy, encouragement, support, love. You never (or rarely) end up worse off than when they first came alongside.

If I can encourage you to ask one question as you consider a  friendship/influence, it would be the one I posed above and reiterate now: Given my past relationships, my present knowledge, and where I want to go, is this a good person to have in my life? If you don't know the answer right off, take things slowly and get to know the person better before sharing too deeply. You don't have to decide right away. But once you're in a position to determine the nature of his/her influence, don't be afraid to let go of the bad, even if they've been life for a long time. Just walk away. Run if you have to. Don't be afraid to get help.