Archive for the ‘decluttering’ Category

Use it or Lose it

This morning I stand in my closet of superhuman costumes and I do not know know how to choose. Today I need to be The Stuff Whisperer (Please insert your own heroic music), but I also need to be the Pied Piper of Pennies (What exactly does “pied” mean?). Unfortunately the two fight domestic disorder in different ways. Saving, upcycling, and repurposing can be at cross purposes with purging and simplifying. You may well be huddling with your picture frames that just need a good sand and some chalk paint, or the box of empty jars that would be great for votives or cookie mix gifts, wondering if you are saving the world or have unwittingly gone over to the dark side.
You may be thinking, “Leaping leftover casserole Deb. Is there no hope? Will I always have to choose between a simplified more stress free lifestyle and saving money?”
Take heart gentle citizen. There is one battle where they can unit. It is organization (cue the triumphant music).

To that end I offer a few simple ideas.
There is a lot of free stuff that comes into the house that gets tossed. In the kitchen it is the packets of ketchup, salt, pepper, paper napkins and soya sauce (don’t judge me). If they do get kept they are thrown into a drawer never to appear until they all get tossed.
These routinely get ignored in place of the purchased ketchup.  Why?  Why not use what we have?
Here is the compromise. They do you no good hidden away. What I did here was take three of my favourite pretty little bowls and place them on the kitchen table. One has ketchup, one soya sauce and one with salt and pepper. Feel free to be impressed with the groovy graphics border.

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The way I work is that to use it I have to see it. The bowls make me smile because I love their colours. If it doesn’t work to have them on the table these are stacked in the cupboard with the spices so they are not forgotten.
On the shelf below the spices lived in an unhappy jumble and I’ve often bought 2 or 3 containers of the same spice because I couldn’t see what I had. An easy fix, after you go through what is too old and needs replacing, is to have a lazy susan so that you can see everything you own and access it without tearing apart the cupboard.

I told you the bowls were cute.  I wish I’d taken a before picture of the spices below.  They were all a right mess before the lazy susan. I had three containers of poppy seeds.  I do not think I will ever bake enough muffins to justify that quantity.

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In the bathroom I dumped out everything and put all of the samples in an atrractive box that sits on the counter. These get used first. No buying new hand cream, facial cleansers or even shampoo until the samples are gone.
Getting the samples is only a deal if you use them.
These are just a few simple life hacks where simplifying and saving work well together.
I would love to hear your ideas on organizing your life to save money.
Up, up and oy veh. Oh my sciatica.

Can’t See the Forest for the Sleeves

OK maybe the title isn’t one of my better literary efforts but this is what happens after two days of trying to pack a suitcase and being unsuccessful.  The embarrassing part is that this is not my first trip to the rodeo (I did not just use that cliche.)  I had decluttered most of my wardrobe, matching outfits with jewelry etc.   It would have been a cunning and clever plan IF I had tried on everything first.  It also had another fatal flaw (see how I’m building the dramatic tension?).  I had a closet full of black pants and matched each one with a suitable top. Unfortunately I cannot bring 9 pairs of black pants with me and not all work with all the tops.  There are four variations on a yoga pant.  One is comfortable, a bit worn and the draw string really shows when under a top. The second is newer, has a more subtle waistband but a small paint stain on one leg. The third is a soft wide leg with pockets but keeps on lengthening due to the material.  The fourth is the newest but too figure fitting to wear with any shirt that doesn’t cover the bum.  Did I mention the dress pants with the faint pin strip in case I need to look businesslike, the flowing pants that would be great for the opera, the clam diggers or the two pairs of thick leggings with faux leather applique?  Of course I have two because the applique on one is on the side of the legs and the other is on the knees.

I will spare you the horrors of the toppings section ( I feel like an ice cream sundae), but I came back to the struggle between style and comfort.  What looked good was not necessarily what I could wear on the sort of multi climate zone trip I was going to take.  Unlike decluttering blouses and sweaters I found letting go of pants too hard.  My lifestyle requires clothes I can trash with my sculpting.  My textiles get lint on everything.  I have clothes for that so I don’t go out looking like I’ve rolled in an old man’s jacket pocket.

Bit by bit the pile of working clothes has grown out of control as well.  I justify that I can turn them into rugs one day but the chances are slim.

The truth is that by hanging on to all the “almost works” pants I didn’t realize that I did not have a basic black pant that was great.  The clutter of “must keep” clothing didn’t let me know what I needed.  Slowly I started matching the tops I wanted to take with the pants as they lay on the bed.  A clear winner emerged for the yoga pants that would serve for hiking and a slim pair for the boots that would walk me around Istanbul. The tops had to either go with one of these two pairs to make the cut.  I allowed myself one skirt and though I only have three, one is for summer, one is in a different colour theme and the lucky winner manages to work with three of the tops.

In the end I had a pair of city pants, country pants, and a skirt..

I learned I had no sweaters, no fleece, no raincoat and 16 camisoles.  Over the next few months I will try and refine the wardrobe into wearable outfits that mix and match and fit properly.   If I can also manage to get a cool hair style and balance my budget I will have pulled a hat trick of domestic bliss. I am reluctant to get rid of things that still fit.  It seems counter intuitive  but if I know what I really need I won’t waste money buying the wrong thing. Maybe the next time I want to get away I will be able to pack in less time than I will spend on my vacation.

Leaving you a trail of breadcrumbs out of the forest, Deb

When “to be” is the Only Option

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve canned  corn relish and made blackberry jam from hand picked blackberries.  I’ve created balanced homemade meals and avoided fast food (pretty much), started to organize my closets (You didn’t seriously think I got that done yet did you?), started to reduce my pantry and freezer stock, cancelled online daily deal subscriptions, avoided flyers and searching for airmiles deals, as well as sifting through paperwork, art supplies and filling donation boxes.  As I finished up washing yet another stack of handwashed pots and pans generated from apples studel made with apples from my own tree I was struck with the strength of my feelings.  I’m tired!!!!  There was a reason I ate out, ignored the filing and did not hand make my own shampoo and deodorant (and trust me folks, crystals do nothing to reduce the stink even if you think your aura is cleaner.  I’m just saying.)

Today my joints are swollen, my face is puffy and I can’t follow the plot line of America’s Next Top Model.  In other words it is time to rest, and let the world take care of itself.  Today I will ignore the dog toys, eat ifits (if it is in the fridge you can have it) and just enjoy my home.  We work so hard to create an environment for everyone but ourselves.  It is hard to realize that I have limitations but there is wisdom in knowing yourself, testing the boundaries and accepting when you have gone as far as you can.  Today is the day to let my home look after me rather than the other way around. Today I will enjoy snippets of summer that still exist in my garden. Today I will just be and be content.

Every Day I’m Shuffling

Have you ever had one of those moments when you get a shock and you go white, then flush, and then feel like you are going to pass out?

I never thought that that would happen just trying to get organized.  Today I decided to conquer the dreaded filing pile.  Yes I know you should do it at the end of each day and there would not be a stack that looks like a cartoon in-box.  OK so I have bank statements, receipts, recipes (cheese scones?  Oh yum.), Josh’s report card from last year, Bella’s vet appointment update and my car insurance papers.  No wait. My what?  Yup.  I had renewed the car’s insurance, brought the papers in the house and put them on the mini pile on the island in the kitchen.  These are the things to deal with today. Or at least in the morning. Or the next afternoon because in the morning is carpool, banking and lab work.  Or tomorrow evening because I have to get dinner ready and clean away things as I need to scrub down the kitchen.  Etc., Etc.,….. Until the mini pile joins all the other mini pile in the office which will be promptly filed.

The insurance was purchased July 10th.  That meant that for over two months I’ve been driving around with my insurance papers in a rat’s nest or folders and paid bills.  If I’d been pulled over I would have not had any clue where to find my registration.  Please feel free to winch right here.  I justify it by saying that I couldn’t just pop the papers in the glovebox as you are always warned not to leave the paperwork with all your vital information in the car.  All I needed to do was bring it all in to the house, remove the one paper with top secret info. and return the rest of the package to the car.  Simple and quick.  I was going to do it right after the groceries were put away, the dog let out, the oven turned on, the dishwasher emptied, the meal started, I checked my e-mails, facebook and the TV listings for the evening in case something urgently needed to be programmed for the PVR, etc.

I’ll admit that I know that I need to allot a certain amount of time at the end of each day for paperwork.  I think the only way for me to actually do it is to set a specific time.  I don’t want to but realizing how I dodged a bullet in terms of a large traffic ticket I’ve been scared straight.

My life as a cautionary tale, Deb

Sept.18th A Potential Problem

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a new show on called “Collection Intervention”.  It is a spin off of “Hoarders”.  To be honest I find all of these shows uncomfortable because you are mostly dealing with people with mental illnesses.  They have intermingled their identities with their possessions.  For some these items not only represent their memories but are seen as their only access to feelings of happiness.  When we look at the piles of garbage we gag and wonder how they live in the filth.  For many of them the do not see or smell the rubbish. They see potential.  Often when the organizer picks up some item the owner quickly snatches it back saying something like, “Leave that!  I’m going to use that! I can make something with that.  I have plans for that if only someone would make a space for me to work.  I know what I’m doing so leave my stuff alone.”  It is so sad to see them in this trap.  The allure of the pile is that each item in their mind has potential.  Each piece of rusted metal, patterned paper, old drapes, glossy magazine, arts calendar and storage can be made into something wonderful.

I have to admit that though my home is not a labyrinth of decaying boxes I can be just as trapped in my efforts to declutter because of an item’s potential.  I enjoy designing and creating rugs. Wool is the queen of materials, old Pendleton skirts and suits that will felt up when washed in hot water, are the best materials. However, there is nothing like an old worn out t-shirt for creating strips of bright colour. Having as many colours as possible gives limitless possibilities. Short of 100% cotton, I use most everything.  No old clothing needs to hit the garbage.  Therein lies the problem.  There is no way I can hook quick enough or give the time needed to create with all this fabric.  Bit by bit bins and bags overflow. But the potential.  Finally you have to do the math.  If you think of the square footage in your house and the amount of space dedicated to these “potential” materials you can calculate the portion of your mortgage you pay each month to store these items.

Unfortunately for me it doesn’t stop at textiles.  There are claying and jewelry materials that take up three storage towers and two drawers in my kitchen.  I started with the kitchen as this would keep all of my supplies out of site.  Things have expanded over an entire folding table as well.  Four shelves of books and magazines take up my study and three bins store dyeing supplies.

The task:  Catalogue what I have and decide what potential can realistically be realized within a reasonable time frame, what needs a moratorium of purchases and what needs immediate eviction.  This will take time and even the inventory will need a schedule and a deadline.

The reward: I will not get a surprise camera crew to the house with sobbing friends and family begging me to get help.  I will no longer have the negative energy of an unwritten and unfulfilled “to do” list.  I will have more space and a clearer focus as to what I want to do and what I enjoy doing.

I still won’t say no to a wonderful wool skirt but my potential pile has one month to be “realized” or released.

If you imagine it you can make it BUT potential is not your personal obligation.  Simply put, love it and live it or lose it.

May you all make peace with the demands of potential, Deb

Crafters in Sheep’s Clothing

You see the rich colours and glossy pictures as the magazine sits up on the rack.  It promises tips and techniques.  You know that this will be the one to have the project that will launch a new mindstorm of creativity. One of your favourite artists has an article that showcases her newest products.

 You proudly march it up to the cash knowing that you are saving so much by being a “do it yourselfer” or have you?

You stop by the craft store and there is a demo. for  something you had thought about trying and they even have a coupon for the supplies. They offering classes to learn the technique and some of them are free! Of course you need to buy all the material from the store first.  Yes if you thought about it $50 in supplies is a little steep to learn Tiborean lattice woven ashtrays but just think, when you get home you can make dozens.  Sure you need to buy a lathe and wood curling specialized vise grips from Tibora but hey, it could happen.

I love to learn new things. Papier mache, crochet, sculpting, acrylic abstract, beading, wire work, sculpture, basketry, mosaics can all use basic materials and tools but each has an industry behind it that is constantly at you to buy more and more products to create the latest thing.  A quick tour through any arts and crafts store will have you going down endless rows of colourful, exciting, shiny papers, inks, stamps, glues, findings, yarns, patterns, stains, and every possible accessory.

Once I’d get home with my precious magazine I would find that it was primarily advertising and that the articles were primarily advertising.  The projects were designed to showcase things you don’t have and will need to purchase.  Crocheting magazines feature yarns you don’t have.  They don’t say you can’t use what you own but we all know that if you do you will are just not a serious artist and can’t expect to achieve the results promised to the faithful who have bought the “in crowd” yarn.

Lesson:  To combine a frugal lifestyle with a leaning toward handmade you need to be “clever as a serpent and wise as a dove”.  You have to see the crafting industry for what it is, an industry.  They are there to sell.  One of the beauties of the internet is that if you are discerning you can learn basic techniques.  Be aware of your own weaknesses.  A few days ago a saw a link to homemade rugs.  It got my heart racing. I immediately wanted to jump in and try it.  Sure I would need yards of a fabric I didn’t own and a backing that was suspect for durability but,… No.  I had to calm down.  Like a bar to a drinker, I need to avoid new materials and techniques while I’ve got bins of materials waiting to be transformed.  Single use materials are not a good investment.  No new workshops for now.  I’m swearing off (unless it is Maureen Carlson as the teacher. Learning from her is on my bucket list.)  I need to deal with my excess of stuff and stop looking for new distractions.

In the blog “The Year of Less” September is the month to “Eat My Pantry”.  I think October with be the month to “Craft from my Closet”.  Be careful out there gentle crafter. There are wolves  in artist’s clothing.

Sincerely, Deb

(photo was taken at Van. fan expo. and is not meant to represent this woman as anything but a really fun person)

Sept. 15th Here there be dragons

I’ll admit it.  I’m finding that decluttering, saving money, simplifying, and trying to make things by hand do not all play nicely together

Doing it yourself can end up being much more expensive than buying a finished product.  Is saving money more important than shopping for local produce?  Is it better to thin out the wardrobe to live simply or keep the old clothes to save money?  That last question assumes that the clothes you let go of will ever see the light of day but who knows.  The gingham taffeta bridesmaid’s dress with the football player shoulder pads might one day be a big fashion hit, besides, it was stinking expensive. Those Hammer pants in leopard print could be adorable throw pillows. Maybe. OK lets skip that one, but it shows the problem. To declutter you get rid of the pants. If you are saving money you find a way to repurpose them.  To make something of them you will need to buy interfacing, thread, trim, a pillow form and any other embellishments.  You have made use of them and done it yourself but it cost you money to do it.  It also does nothing to simplify your space as you have just added another object.  Did you need another pillow?  Does it go with anything you have?

This whole process will hit rough waters without a clear destination.

I want to save money.  I want to eat healthy foods.  I need to simplify my possessions.  During this journey I ran into a few cross currents.  How can I let go of my crafting books as they hold the information as to how to make many items I might one day want.  I am a huge information junkie.  I used to say that I was an info. junkie but if you say it out loud you realize that that does not sound nice!  I become an avid hunter and gatherer when it comes to back issues of Rug Hooking Magazine, Polymer clay books, crocheting patterns, and material on mosaics, beading, wire jewelry and basketry.  I have done all of these crafts and tend to flit back and forth.  All of these crafts require tools and materials.  Did I mention mult-media sculpture?  I am proud of being able to create and sometimes even sell.  Art is a form of communication and these things are often our words and our language.  My desire to repurpose, to be able to make whatever I want has me huddled protectively over these possessions and it requires a plan so that these artistic impulses do not lead me in the opposite direction of my goals.  Tomorrow I will share an unexpected sandbar related to crafting.

In terms of my established goals I brought another two bags to the thrift store, left a full bag for the food back drive, picked a few end of season blackberries and had a great lunch of perogies, farmers sausage, onions and peppers.  Today was the day I let myself replenish some fruit for the week, and then bought myself dinner.  I didn’t need to.  I gave into an “I want that ” moment.  My trigger?  Doing errands by myself when I knew my son wasn’t coming home tonight. My need to reward myself with food is still strong and I’ve got a long way to go. I also gave into the nursery (plants not babies) that is closing out and bought a number of pretty plants for the front of the house.  I didn’t need but wanted pops of colour for the front.  I want to feel like I’m winning my own war of independence by not letting my divorce make me sad and invisible. See my bright and beautiful gerberas and know that I am still a woman to be reckoned with! 🙂

In trying to get your life together you need clear goals to help you navigate these uncharted waters because here there be dragons,

With dirt under her nails and Chinese food in her belly,  sincerely, Deb