Packing, moving, renovating

It has been so long since I’ve been on this blog I had to look up the password.

Not sure where to begin since I’m trying to keep it together here, but barely hanging on a thread. We are moving into a tiny shoebox house for a couple of months in two weeks, 2 WEEKS, so the packing post-holidays has begun in earnest. It appears however that things are not quite as overwhelming as I thought, originally, since we do not appear to have quite as much useless stuff as I first assumed, but on the other hand, the way we store some of the stuff we want to keep has me ranting and raging on a regular basis lately.

I must find a way to train the entire family how to be more….orderly. Or something. Continue reading

The day I met insanity head-on

A few weeks ago I was depressed. I couldn’t see beyond the stuff, the mess, the clutter, and school hadn’t even started yet.

My basement has potential but the problem is always time. There is never time….so I bring the bin with the summer clothing downstairs and since I would have to move shit from this place to that place to get to the spot where I want to store the bin, I just leave the bin there, for later.


Until it’s too late and then hell breaks loose. Continue reading

Skara Brae made me think of the stuff in my house

I am currently reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A short history of private life and in it he mentions Skara Brae, the neolithic village located in the Orkney Islands off the northern tip of Scotland.


This ancient village was uncovered by a storm that swept through the area in 1850. Underneath a grassy hill, at the time known as Skerrabra, was found Skara Brae, this mostly intact and ancient, stony village which today is a popular tourist attraction.

This glimpse into the life of a people dating back to 4000-1800 BC has made such an impression on me, I had to investigate further. And the result of my investigation into this historic village made me reflect upon how we, our family, live today and how my life is affected by the incredulous amount of stuff that we claim to need in order to live so-called satisfying lives.

Continue reading

Flying coffee leads to purging

This morning I woke up with a single thought on my mind.

The very thought I thought of last night prior to going to bed and continued thinking the entire night while I was sleeping.

It wasn’t a complicated thought. And I didn’t even need a list to remind me of that thought, since I am reminded of it several times a day throughout each day.

That thought was to become reality today. It was to evolve into an activity with a beginning and an end-result that would please me for several weeks days hours everytime I would look at the fruits of my labour, so to speak.

This sought-after result would be something I would relish, enjoy and appreciate after the weeks of irritation and annoyance I have experienced to date.

Continue reading

2000 pounds of waste

My grandmother died just before Christmas. She lived in Switzerland.

My mom went and helped her two sister organize the apartment, and empty it out.

The three sisters realized two very important things:

  1. It is incredibly helpful that one has their financial life in order.
  2. It is incredibly helpful that one does not accumulate a lot of useless crap.

The first point probably makes sense to most of us. Although many people have some sort of filing system in place, these days keeping pertinent information organized requires extra diligence since many of us handle our financial life electronically.

My grandmother was 92 when she died. She did not own a computer. She also did not own a filing system, but instead had an envelope for each business matter into which she put important papers. On the outside of the envelope she attached the business card of the person whom she dealt with.

For my mom and her sisters, it was a simple matter of picking up the phone and contacting that person, and in some cases taking the contents of the envelope out and dealing with what was outstanding.

It was incredibly easy and painless.

The second point is more complicated. People of that generation, particularly in places like central Europe, and particularly people who have lived through the Second World War, have not really caught on to this “shopping as a hobby” idea. My grandmother shopped with a list and only got what she needed. She didn’t shop “for fun”. This wasn’t done. It was considered a waste of time and a waste of money.

How many people do we each know who, when they feel bored, say to someone “let’s go shopping”, just for something to do? In most cases, they have no specific need to buy anything. Almost always, they do come home with stuff though. And not only that, they will also have spent money on snacks, or lunch, or dinner. It’s what one does when one goes out shopping.

My grandmother did have some stuff in the house she probably received as gifts. Or simply didn’t part with when she downsized from the house to the apartment. Things like dishes* she obtained as a wedding gift, or Christmas decorations that were unusual and beautiful (and unique instead of mass-produced). Things that she cherished, but which remained in cupboards or boxes for the bulk of the last 20 years or so.

Despite the fact that she was mostly clutter-less, there was still stuff there that my mom and her sisters had to deal with. Some of it was sent on to me and my siblings, some of it went to remaining family in Switzerland, but almost all the rest of it, well, it was either donated (which is more difficult to do in Switzerland because charities there are much more selective in what they accept than most of the North American charities that I’m aware of), or it was thrown out. No Goodwills there where you can simply drop your garbage bags off at the front door. Oh, no, in Switzerland, things are much more organized than that!

To draw you a picture, the remaining stuff that was carted off to the landfill weighed 1000 kg. (or something like that).

1000 kg = approximately 2200 pounds

Think about this. One person who is cremated and now occupies a tiny square in a cemetery left behind 2200 pounds of garbage that ended up in the landfill.**

And that is from an organized woman who did not shop, accumulate useless stuff, or hoarded endless teapots and knickknacks.

It is astonishing the amount of potential garbage each person accumulates over their lifetime simply by means of instant-gratification at the local shopping mall.

*I am now the proud owner of her beautiful dishes, which will replace my older, mostly chipped ones.

**To illustrate another very good point against accumulating too much crap, in Switzerland you have to pay to get rid of your stuff.

How to get, and stay, organized

Alternative titles:
Wishful thinking.
How to get, and stay, organized for a week and then fail.
How to complicate life with to-do lists.
How to get organized on the cheap.
How to procrastinate with schedules, calendars, and to-do lists. 

* * *

A couple of days ago I bought two binders. A red one and a blue one. $1.99 each at the local drugstore. (If I had gone to Staples or Walmart, I would have spent $199 on various things on my list so I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t go there.)

Continue reading

Planning life

It seems that having a concrete plan on the wall, be it a blackboard, a whiteboard, a calendar, or simply a piece of lined paper taped to a cabinet door, helps me to stay focussed.

Because when I don’t have a visual plan to look at, I feel like I start a thousand things, projects or chores, but nothing ever seems to get completed.

I tend to wander aimlessly around the house wondering why I entered this room, or opened that closet, looking at life’s mess and clutter, and I just can’t seem to get it together.

I could blame this lack of propulsion to do something on the fact that the last few weeks of summer vacation are upon us, that the rainless weather is beckoning, that the infant became a toddler overnight, that the 3yo is exhausted by the multiple activities he pursued this summer, that hubby is going on a 6-day fishing trip leaving me with the kids and clutter, but I won’t. Because it’s not them. Not really. It’s everything together, the cumulative effect.

I’m just so tired.

Having said that, there is no better time to look for an organizational planner than in August when the stores are pushing back-to-school propoganda. I’ve made excuses to myself to enter shops specifically to look for the perfect calendar or organizer or planner, but I’ve always left emtpy-handed. Well, not completely empty-handed. I might have a tall latte in one hand, and a lemon poppyseed slice in the other. But a planner, or organizer, doesn’t seem to warrant the purchase for some reason. Either they were too complicated, too reminiscent of past-held jobs, or simply too expensive.

What am I looking for anyway? A large, big-squared calendar-type planner for the whole family to use? Or a smaller one just for me I can put into the diaperbag? Should I stick to the old whiteboard for now? Or use notepad or email or something? Maybe I should get a blackberry….or an iPhone…

Perhaps a lined piece of paper will do just fine, thank you very much.

But where is the lined paper? Now that the basement is mostly finished save a few details, you would think finding paper is the easy part. Except the bins and boxes need to be sorted and put away…where again did I put the paper?

Anyway, I digress. After all, I could, technically speaking, use the back of a bill to make notes on. Happen to have a couple right here next to me that need paying.

I think I’ll go have a cup of tea and a piece of pie while I ponder my situation.

Shoes, etc.

Because we own more than one pair of shoes each, and because I cannot stand to have them all tossed randomly in some corner or closet, AND, in order to save my sanity, I will immediately need at least two of  these

and one of this.

I already know where I’m going to mount them to the wall. And which shoes will go on which rack. Mostly his, but some of mine too. He has way more shoes than I do…

Edited days later:

Free books

There is a cool recycling/thrift shop company that calls me every few months to say they will be in my area on such and such a date and if I have any clothes or small household items, to put them out on the porch by 8 am on that date.

How easy is that to get rid of stuff? They come to my house and pick it up. I don’t have to lug stuff to the car, drive distances battling traffic to get to the local thrift shop and dump it outside the doors since there is no room inside what with all the other stuff everyone else has dumped there recently.

Just pack it up, mark it with an X, and put it outside your front door.

The only thing is, I’m not sure if they take books, or if they take only a few books at a time. It seems that most of these places take some books. And by some they mean 3. Not 30.

But we are book people. We have lots of books. Most we’re keeping, but a lot are just, you know, done. Read them, liked them, but don’t really feel the need to keep them around. We keep a lot of books around because we re-read some of them, but really, how many books I know I’ll never re-read do I need to keep?

So when we moved the bookcases down into the new basement, we purged. I had about 6, maybe 8 boxes of books we no longer wanted. And they were sitting in the garage or basement or livingroom or wherever else I could place them, where they waited patiently for their doomsday. 

Today I had this nifty idea.

I placed a huge piece of cardboard outside on my front lawn, stuck a small bookshelf on top, and filled it with books from those boxes.

Then I placed a sign in front of it that said

Free books
Leave the shelf please

Our house is on a street which has a lot of foot traffic because a large park is situated steps from it. We get all the neighbourhood, as well as those who drive here to get to the park and beaches, passing our house.

And with the sunny, dry and warm weather finally arriving, I figured, what better way than to get rid of stuff I was planning on donating anyway? Technically I could have done a little garage sale, but really, do I want to haggle over 50 cents with someone about a book I truly don’t want to keep anyway? Let them take the books, let them read.

And they did. Before I unloaded the third box, half the books were already gone, and that at 9 am!

I feel lighter already.


Interior closet organizers

This has kept me sleepless for days now.

All I want is for my new, empty closets in the newly renovated basement to be functional. You know, so I can see at a glance what is in it and take out what I need.

Because if I keep storing everything in bins, labeled or not, I will have wasted precious time and money having these closets built.

Because inevitably, there will be challenges with other members of the family having to commit to the responsibility of keeping the bins organized. One in particulary would probably make somewhat of an effort, but inevitably he will get frustrated with having to move the top bin to get to the bottom bin, spend time searching for a particular item inside the bin, then having to put it all back in the exact position it as in before.  Knowing what I know, he would get frustrated and simply end up going out to buy an identical product. And I do not need duplicate items in this tiny house thank you very much.

The other members of the family can’t read yet, so that poses additional challenges. How do you tell your 3yo to go downstairs, find the middle bin in the small room closet, move the top middle bin without breaking a bone in the process, take out item X, then put the lid back on the middle bin, replace the other bin back on top, close the door and don’t make a mess while you’re down there for god’s sake?

Ain’t going to happen.

So I started looking around. I really like the California Closet ads, but that’s just a tad out of my league.

I started with Ikea. They have good (enough) products, great space-saving ideas, and usually decent prices. But the choices were too many, and it required things like arithmetic and measuring tape, so I went to Canadian Tire (or Home Depot, or Wal-Mart, they’re all the same) and looked at the Rubbermaid options.

I ended up buying the Rubbermaid option. The closet kit for 50 bucks seemed simple and straight forward enough, so I bought it and took it home.

Carried it downstairs.

Savored what my empty closet looked like.

Left it for DH to put up.

It remained in the closet, in the box, for several days. DH doesn’t have time.

So I opened the box myself. The instruction sheet indicated that I needed to drill about a gazillion holes in the wall to accomodate some of the shelving. It was just daunting. I mean, I’m pretty handy, I can DO things, but this was just too time-consuming. I got babies for crying out loud. Finding 10 uninterrupted minutes is a luxury, but this kit would require several hours, if I’m estimating things correctly. And the baggies with the hardware? I’m not an engineer you know. I just want to put some shelving and a clothesrack in there, not reinvent the wheel. Or closet.

So back into the box it went.

Now I’m pouring over Ikea catalogues. Actually, I like some of their options, but the choices there are pretty daunting too.  Pax, Hopen, Stolmen, Komplement and Broder, to name a few of their funky product names. I think I’ve narrowed it down to Broder, but who knows what will happen when I get there.

I will need to buy each piece seperately, since that is the way of Ikea, which is fine, if you have time to do things without incessant interruptions. But the planning part too will take some time. It will require measuring tape, stud-finder gadgets, and some pre-visualizing of the final product. Then, it will require the actual shopping trip where one hopes that all the items one so carefully selected will be in stock.

Perhaps I will volunteer DH to take care of it. Bribe him with “I’m taking the kids for a playdate, go to Ikea and buy yourself a $1 breakfast, then buy me the friggin closet organizers, this is what I want, feel free to install it when you get home, yada…”. We’ll see how that pans out.

But it is kind of exciting. So exciting in fact that I spent the bulk of today organizing various kiddie clothes, making piles of “keep for future”, “donate”, “sell”, “send to nephew” and “keep for friend’s kid”. Now I have 3 empty (EMPTY!) bins, a few bags with clothes I will throw in the car to drop off here and there, and eternal hope for organization.

Maybe I’m kidding myself, but it’s worth a try at least.

Oh, and on that topic, I bought one of those storage-vacuum-bag thingies, that promises to reduce the size of the contents to mere inches. Can’t wait to try that out on all the heavy winter coats!