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.