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

Sept.12th The Tyranny of Excess

One of my favourite authors is Mary Hunt who has an online site called the Everyday Cheapskate.  When I have a few minutes I like to ready over her “Dear Mary” column or articles like http://www.everydaycheapskate.com/marys-perspective/paralyzed-by-too-many-choices/.

In my grandmother’s day most everything was done by hand and hard work but the one thing that they had was the gift of simplicity.  What I mean is that you knew what they would harvest, how to use the foods and what was expected.  You knew that when you went visiting you would be offered a fruit plaatz.  There would be relishes at the table, sliced meats and buns. You learned to cook the soups, stews and breads.  You knew how to succeed.  You had measurable goals and tried and true recipes.

Today we are awash of international fare that needs to be served on coordinated plating with themes that take into account vegan cooking, gluten free, wheat free, sugar free, cholestrol reduced, low cal, low carb., environmentally and socially sensitive foods.  No genetically modified please. Menu planning is like looking at a closet with thousands of separates. We can’t see what we have and we don’t know how they go together.   No wonder we stand frozen in the aisles unable to formulate a meal and head to the drive thru instead.  Yes we are condemning our bodies to a three mile island of toxic ruin but at least all our choices are on one board.

This month as I’ve been eating from my pantry there has been a certain freedom in restricting my choices.  I know what I have and what I can use. If I’ve gone to the store it is for milk, butter, or a red pepper.  It was almost like I was breaking the rules not to look to fill every empty spot with food I might want.

Yesterday part of the challenge was to remove one item from my wardrobe. I’d already sent out bags of clothes but I knew there was always more to go.  My fingers landed on a crushed velvet, 3/4 length shirt in shades of purples and grays.  It is beautiful. It fits but any time I put it on I tended to change out of it before I’d leave the room.  The few times I’ve worn it I feel blocky looking.  It was one more choice but it wasn’t adding anything to my life. Then I grabbed another piece and another.  It felt good.  I’ll admit that there was the old fear that if I let go of these piece I’d never be able to afford to replace them.  What I realized today is that choice is good but too much is a tyranny that can grind you to a halt.

Being free of the pressure to grab a deal, and to own it all can block your freedom and happiness.  I look forward to continuing to simplify my life through decluttering, narrowing my choices through donating and using what I have.  Today I ran out of fruit so I picked some of the remaining apples from our two trees.  It is nice to know what to serve for snacks and dessert.

Wishing you all lives free from the tyranny of stuff,  Deb

Miss you Oma.  Thanks for all you taught me and all I still have to learn from your beautiful and godly example.

Sept.10th Treasure Hunting

My uncle and aunt in Winnipeg are grand masters in saving and using everything.  My uncle used to be the treasurer for the Mennonite Central Committee and he was the best man for the job.  Though he will dispute 3 cents on a bill and not waste one pasta noodle I would never say he is cheap.  My uncle is a generous man who has helped fund many important projects and given openly to people in need. My aunt, a nurse, has worked tirelessly for others and her door is always opened in hospitality.

This morning just as I was chiding myself for overspending yesterday I had a call.  It was a friend wanting to meet for coffee.  I accepted right away. No it didn’t work into the plan of saving every penny but it did work into the plan of creating the life I want to live.  My friend has cancer and tomorrow, 9/11 she will have a difficult surgery.  Don’t get me wrong. This is a strong and wonderful woman and we would not be embracing and weeping and melodramatic. She is not her disease.  I knew with her we’d be laughing, sharing and living.  We went to a wonderful arts cafe, the Watershed in Walnut Grove and enjoyed our scones and coffees (mine was a hot cocoa with hazelnut, yum).  We talked for over two hours and hugged.  The money spent enriched my life far more than the few dollars could have ever done. his challenge is about more than just saving money. The point is destressing, decluttering, self discipline and organizing priorities.

When I was a social worker at a care home I led a caregiver support group.  All of them had a lot of stress but some held up remarkably well while others crumbled.  One of the exercises we did was to have people write down their top five priorities.  I then had them write down their top five usages of time.  For the people whose lists were very close, they had the best handle on the stress.  For the ones with almost no crossover they were depressed and scattered.  They felt incredibly frustrated.  What are your priorities? What and who do you treasure?

For many people the token list looks something like: 1. God 2. spouse 3. children 4. friends 5. recreation.   Often time usage is  1. work 2. TV 3. video games/e-mails/facebook etc. 3. shopping 4. cell phone 5. family.

Investing your time in your priorities is essential to balancing your life.  If you say you have a best friend you haven’t seen in a couple of years you need to get them on your calendar now.  As a Canadian I am here to tell you that you can’t vote on American Idol so your favourite will not be sent home if you miss this week’s episode, but your friendship may fade to nothingness if you don’t act fast.  Marriages need constant upgrading.  Even a palace will look like a dump if it isn’t maintained.  Go have fun with your spouse. Enjoy your kids rather than just letting them get caught up in the frustration of your out of control life.  It doesn’t matter if I create a cool rug if my son is feeling more and more detatched each day because his achievements go unnoticed and uncelebrated.  In a lot of ways we make our lives more complicated than we need to.

So today I took my friend for coffee and I feel completely on track with my goals.  Next time I will entertain at home.  I will strive to live my priorities.

Money spent today $10.78, avoided fast food on the way home and have dinner bubbling in the pot.  I gathered 4 cups of blackberries and now have enough for jam. Hooray!

And mom?  I love you.

Sept. 9th It’s like riding a bicycle. Where’s the medic?

Today started great.  Josh and I were pumped for church.  We were having our fall kick off and bbq after service. I don’t know what any of your experiences have been with church but today our pastor was delivering his message from an exercise bicycle.  From anyone else it would have been a cheesy gimmick but with Brad I knew it would be something relevant and on point.  I didn’t realize how it would apply to so many areas of my life.

What grabbed me were the words on the screen, “The Beauty of Discipline”.  He asked us about what we loved and hated about exercise.  He was sharing from Hebrews 12:11-15 and as he spoke I realized that the discipline of uncluttering, saving money, controlling our spending, donating our possessions and consuming less were all part of becoming more self disciplined. It is about taking back control of our lives and living purposeful and thoughtful ones.  Impulse buys, not budgeting and being overwhelmed by stuff is chaotic and discouraging.  Self discipline becomes a path to personal freedom.  His points were a road map to achieving this. He was helping us to work at identifying and overcoming the things that keep us from serious growth. Our lace up challenge was to identify the areas we need to tone and develop.

1. Get ready for stiff competition.  Be prepared that the runner’s high will not come right away.  There will be some aches and pains as we adjust.

2. Get a plan.  Set goals and recognizable mile stones so that you can see your progress.  This will also alert you for when you’ve gone off the path.

3. Get into a groove.  A habit takes practice and like anything worthwhile, it takes work.

4. Get into a group.  This is all about being accountable (like exposing yourself in a blog) or something like surrounding yourself with people with similar goals and check in on each other.

5.  Keep going.

These words came home even more sharply as I blew a tire on my own ride.    I’d done well with breakfast and lunch.  I knew that I had to prepare for the upcoming week so I carefully decided what I needed to buy.  I budgeted for the two jugs of milk, one for Josh and a lactose-free one for me.  I picked up the large bag of rice because I decided it was a staple and better value (didn’t take into account that there are only two of us).  I knew I needed butter and decided to pick up two (one would have been enough). Potatoes, check, and yogurt for Josh.  Once I got to the store I drifted. Josh prefers the yogurt tubes to the containers even though it is twice the price per weight.  I saw tinned corn on sale and rationalized that I was out and needed it for recipes (nothing was planned for them – broken rule #1 don’t stock the shelves again with items that aren’t essential).  Then I really went over the handle bars. A container of fried onions? Those are great on casseroles, pre-shredded tex mex cheese?  It’s on sale and I love it on scalloped potatoes, and finally the flat of Pepsi. Why? I love it and it gave me a bonus spin with the store promotional draw.  Oh darn.  I’m not even a gambler but I blew my budget for so many none essentials and the potential to win points.  Grand total?  $77.57.  Argh.

Plan- When I only need a few essentials I will stay with the car and send Josh in with the list and the cash.  Thank goodness for point 5.  I’ll dust myself off and apply some morale boosting polysporin to this crash and keep going.  Now if I could be more consistent with keeping my hands off of the leftovers at night I will be cruising again.