Are you living in what Marla Scilly, aka The Fly Lady, calls CHAOS? (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Well then, join the club there are thousands, perhaps even millions of us!

I have struggled with organization in almost every area of my life for, well, my entire life. By starting this blog I hope to encourage others that they too can get and stay organized!

While it will probably embarrass my children for me to air the dirty laundry here, in full color photos, if it helps just one person along their own journey to getting organized and staying that way, it will have been worth it!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Declutter the Refrigerator

refrigerator before
Today I spent 15 minutes cleaning out my refrigerator. I did a good clean out a couple of months ago so it wasn't too bad today. Always start at the top, toss anything old and move the stuff you are keeping around so you can wash the shelf. Then go onto the next shelf.

That way you are not taking everything out at one time and leaving it laying all over the counters and tables. If the shelf is really dirty then just clear it and soak it in the sink awhile. Go do something else, then come back and finish just that shelf. If you are really short of time you can do one shelf a day until you finish.
Refrigerator after just 15 minutes

I still need to clean the bottom part of the door and wash two door shelves that are soaking. But other wise I am done. Nice clean frig.

There is one thing I do not like about this refrigerator and that is the way the door shelves just sit on pegs that are molded into the door liner. Over time, especially if you put heavy stuff on the shelves, the liner spreads, so the pegs do not hold the shelves securely and they fall off if they get bumped. When I need to buy a new frig I will look for one that has the door shelves fastened in a different way. I would love it if they would be supported by shelf brackets the way the glass shelves on the inside are.

If you have a big family and have a lot of stuff in your frig you might find some nice organizer racks. I know The Get Organized store has some for your cabinets to organize your canned goods and spices. They also have some for holding cans and bottles of soda and water in your refrigerator. And Amazon has some handy extra shelves too.

Find everything you need to organize you life

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Declutter the Patio, Part II

patio before
So today I worked for 15 minutes decluttering the patio again. I pulled up some trees, picked up some trash and emptied some pots of their dirt. I'm putting the potting soil in one of the beds in my garden. The potting soil was a mix of commercial potting soil and good compost so I'm not going to waste all that good organic matter.

patio after, view one

So I've made a little bit of progress here. What  you can't see in the pics is that behind that old bookcase is a fire pit. I'm not fond of the way it is made, great for a big bonfire, but not too hot for actually cooking over it. I've given consideration over the years about what to do with this. I've thought of having a metal insert made, so I can control the draft better as well as having a better grill added in.

I've also given a lot of thought to closing off the bottom part and building a mud oven. I am intrigued by the idea of cooking in something so ancient as a mud oven. And of course I have lots of mud!  My favorite Urban Homesteaders added a cob oven to their homestead a few years ago. You can see the beginning of it at this post on their blog. Cobb is another term for building with mud.

A large portion of the earth's population live in buildings made of earth. Mud is a practical and plastic building material. All sorts of fanciful decoration is possible with it. Besides that if properly sited and designed a mud building will be cool in summer and warm in winter with much less utility use than conventional wood frame construction. It is very handy also in areas where there are not a lot of trees available.

patio after, 2nd view
But I digress; back to the patio. There is still a lot of dirt on the patio from the July 4th flooding. Along with a lot of pots and just plain junk that has accumulated.

patio, more to do
Then there is the strip of patio down the southwest side of the house, parallel to the kitchen. Lots of work left to do here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Declutter the Patio

Today I did my 15 minutes out on my patio. If you are just joining me and want to see where the patio started out, I posted pictures on July 13, 2011

Today I took several bags of trash to the trash can and spent some time pulling weeds.

The stone walls of my patio were built in the 1950's-1960's by my grand parents. They would take their vacations and travel around the western United States. They brought back rocks from all of the states they went to. I just wish I knew which ones came from where.

There is still a lot of work to do but it is getting there a little at a time. I just wish my sun shade had not gotten broken.  A couple of years ago I hadn't taken the cover off of it and it snowed. I guess I never realized that snow is very heavy. The weight of it sitting on the canopy broke several of the frame pieces. Of course I've saved them, intending to go to the plumbing store to see if they could cut some pipes the same size. And of course that hasn't happened yet.

Of course the smartest thing to do would be to build a permanent trellis over the patio and cover it with deciduous vines. That way there will be shade in summer and sun in winter. So that is also on my mind, thinking about style, type, what sort of materials to use, how much would it cost..... So I'm looking over my garden book collection for ideas.

Style. So hard to decide. I love white picket fence cottage looks but I also like Rustic stuff like bentwood. And with all the junk I have laying around I could probably just devise one and call it All American Junk Yard. ;-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Decluttering in the Kitchen, part V

behind the stove; you can see the mud from July 4th
Have you done your Weekly Home Blessing yet? If you don't know what that is, see my post here. It is basically a weekly run through the house, taking care of surface stuff, like trash, dusting, vacum, sweep & mop. While I was working on mine this morning I was sweeping in my kitchen and moved my rolly cart by the stove to sweep behind it. That's when I realized that the mud from July 4th had made it all the way down here.

To top that off there was bits of insulation the rats and mice have pulled out of the stove along with some dust bunnies. So I pulled the stove all the way out as far as I could. (it's gas, so range is limited by the flex line.)

the other corner behind the stove.
These before pictures were actually taken after I had swept up, but before I mopped.
behind the stove, after

So at least it looks a little bit better. My whole kitchen is in poor shape, especially the floor, so I don't spend a lot of energy on it, this is about as good as it gets.

side of stove before
While I had the stove out I realized that the side of it that is always next to the big cabinet had some grease and gunk on it so I cleaned most of that up with a Brillo pad and elbow grease.

side of stove after

It's not perfect, but it is better.

Reminds me too that I need to get the # for the repair man from my mom and give him a call. The oven is out in the stove again. At first I thought it was that darn electronic ignition again. But now I'm wondering if the rat had something to do with it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Decluttering in the Kitchen, part VI

ants on fridge
ants on the edge of the door of the fridge
I noticed the other day that there were some little piss ants on the fridge the other day but I was busy and didn't pay them too much attention.

But then today when I opened the freezer door to see what was holding up the ice from the dispenser I realized that there were a LOT of ants.

The culprit seemed to be this basket of stuff up on top. mmmmm. The little piss ants had discovered the open bag of cough drops. So I dumped most of the stuff in the basket (it was more than a year old anyway, vitamins and medicine) and washed everything down.

These were the really tiny little ants that don't seem to bite. Some people call them sugar ants because they are always after sugary stuff. Did you know they smell like lemons when you smoosh them?

So now the outside of the fridge is about as clean as it is going to get. When this one croaks and I buy another one, I will probably buy a smaller one; I don't need a fridge this big and I could use a better freezer arrangement. That water & ice thing is handy but it sure takes up a lot of space in the freezer.

I also know that I will never again buy an appliance with a textured surface. Who the h*ll thought that up any way? I know it certainly wasn't the lady of the house who has to wash it! Even with a scrub brush you cannot get all the gunk out of that texture!

Why couldn't they leave well enough alone and give us a nice smooth finish like washing machines  have?

I looked at several other refrigerators and there was one a bit bigger for not too much of a bigger price, but of course the thing had a textured finish. This has a stainless smooth finish and while I don't really like the look of stainless this might be the only option to textured.

BTW, if you live in AZ and have APS electric service, they will pick up  your old fridge AND give you $30 for upgrading. Some restrictions apply, go to the APS website for more information.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Decluttering in the Kitchen, part III

Well I did another 15 minutes in the kitchen this evening. Tackled the pile that was sitting on those two chairs that are stacked together. They are stacked like that because a too big person sat in them and rocked back and forth, breaking loose a leg on each. I haven't had time to really mess with fixing them, so there they sit. Most of what was sitting on them was bags of fertilizer, which I moved to the front entry with the other bag of fertilizer.

Then I tackled the boxes of canning jars. I had already decided to chuck the commercial spaghetti sauce jars, simply because I don't need them at all. I have plenty of new and vintage home canning jars in a variety of sizes. I may whittle that collection down a bit in the future, but for today I got rid of one box of jars.  I also rearranged the canned goods and empty jars on the storage shelves in the corner. And discovered that I still have bags of bean and pea seeds to thresh out and put away from last year.

So at least now there is more walking space around this end of the kitchen. What I am hoping is that I can eventually get this corner totally emptied so that I can move in the wood cook stove that I am buying from my sister and which is currently living in her garage. Yes, that is an electric weed eater sitting there by the chainsaw. Another thing without a home. I have no outside storage that is safe from the elements and the critters so important things have to live in the house for the time being. You can also see the ice cream freezer on the floor and the fruit press on the broken chairs, empty wine jugs on the floor and assorted other stuff.

What I really really need is an old fashioned humongous farm house kitchen with a pantry and root cellar and a summer kitchen attached. What I have is a long skinny room-9'8"x19' chopped up on this end by the door to the porch and the door to the living room, no overhead cabinets, a ceiling with holes in it that slopes from nearly 8 feet to less than 6. Many other problems with it. Really I probably just need to rip it off the house and start over again. So I dream of the day when I can have a lovely harvest kitchen with plenty of work space, room for wine making, canning, drying, cooking and baking. Cozy in the winter and cool in the summer.

I have a copy of this book and love it. I can't wait until the day I can use the plans in it to build my own Harvest Kitchen. They have some lovely simple kitchen cabinet designs that you can build yourself, some with options for simpler joins and techniques for those that are new to cabinet building or don't have a lot of fancy tools.  Also some small simple projects like an herb drying rack and cutting board to start off with. The cabinet plans are built as modules so you can start with one and add to it as you have time and money.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Decluttering in the Kitchen, part II

Today I'm back in the kitchen, have to leave for work soon, so I really only had 15 minutes. If you are just joining me, you can see the kitchen 'before' pictures on this post from a couple of days ago.

I was able to sort through and move a few things around on the floor and sweep up the dirt in the area.
I also managed to clean off the table, except for one thing, an old drawer from a cabinet I ripped out. It was my 'junk' drawer and it's still full of junk! So it will probably need a 15 minute session all to itself.
The reason I want to keep the drawer itself, though is because my grand dad made the cabinet it was in and while the cabinet was in bad shape, the drawer is still pretty sound. So I'm thinking of hanging it on a wall someplace as a little display shelf.

 I will probably not tackle what's in the 'junk' drawer anytime soon. Right now my game plan is to work on the quick and easy stuff, so I get the most bang for my buck.

The large piles of stuff, things I can get rid of or move to another area, thus clearing large amounts of space in a short period of time. That does mean that I am just stashing things in other places; like tools & hardware are just getting dumped on the back porch and anything craft or art related is just getting dumped in the studio. But that is actually part of my master plan.

My goal is to get my main living spaces fairly free of clutter before tackling the really tedious stuff, like sorting through and organizing hundreds of assorted bits of screws, nuts, bolts, washers and miscellaneous hardware. Or organizing hundreds of containers of different kinds of paint, along with all sorts of paper, new and used.

The point is, don't get bogged down in the little details in the beginning. Make as much of a clean sweep as you can at first. It will improve your morale and your accomplishment will give you the energy to carry you through the tedious bits later.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Decluttering in the Kitchen

Well, as you can see, with everything that has been going on lately, the kitchen really needs some help! So I am going to focus on it for a few days, 15 minutes at a time.

The big blue thing is the book shelf full of cook books that I had to move when the water came in July 4th. Time for it to get back where it belongs!

That box of stuff on the floor? Stuff I brought home from cleaning out an estate in California in, get this, Dec, 2009!

Now I have to get ready and go to work in a bit, so I really don't have all day, but I do have 15 minutes.

Mmmm Rat poison, yes definitely need to keep that! I need to go stick it in the attic, they are getting noisy up there! (trapped a big wood rat in the living room the other day. He just danced in the front door when it was open!)

Some other things in that box, parts to a rain gutter, popsicle molds, assorted nuts, bolts, tools, pencils, a pocket knife, staples, stapler and staple puller. Miscellaneous junk.

So things are looking a bit better, that box on the floor to the right is all trash and on it's way out.

Some people have wanted to know why I have a chainsaw in my kitchen. I heat with wood so I need a chainsaw. It's in the kitchen because at the moment it is homeless. Hopefully I can find a place for it to live where it will be safe and out of the way, but still easy to get to.

As  you can see I think we are going to be in the kitchen for awhile; there is still a lot of stuff in there!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Today lets think about routines. If every morning you do the same things, in the same order, that is a routine. It has probably become a habit, and a habit is something you do automatically, without thinking about it. Now the question is, do you have good habits or bad habits? Stop and think about what you do in the morning when you first get up and again, what do you do in the evening before you go to bed?

Think also about the end result. Do you arrive on time for your job or appointments, feeling fresh and ready to go? Do you have everything you need for the day? Or are you tired & crabby because you didn't get enough sleep, out of sorts because you didn't have enough time to stop for coffee and you were still late for work?

By making some gradual, incremental changes to what you do in the evening and what you do in the morning, you can make some big changes in your end results. For instance, what is it, in the morning, that makes you feel less than in charge of your life? Think about what you can do the night before that will ease up that morning stress.

Marla Cilly, the Flay Lady calls this the 'before bedtime' routine. But don't wait until bedtime! You can start in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on your life schedule, to do these things that will help make your mornings go a lot faster and easier, with less frustration.

  • Check your appointment book or calender and gather up everything you will need for tomorrow.
  • Decide what you are going to wear and lay out your clothes, from the skin out, top to bottom, including jewelry and accessories. That way in the morning you just get dressed, you don't have to think about it, you don't have to make a decision, you've already done that.
  • Set up your coffee, tea, breakfast. Do any little thing you can tonight, so you won't have to do it in the morning.
  • Fix your lunch and refill your water bottle.
  • If you have kids, help them do all of the same things. Make sure their permission slips and homework is in their back pack and it's handy to the exit door. 
  • Shower at night. By taking a shower (or better yet a nice relaxing bubble bath!) at night, before you go to bed, you will probably sleep better, being more relaxed. You'll save time in the morning because you won't have to do it then. 
  • Go to bed at a decent hour. We really do have more energy and feel better when we go to bed in time to get a full 8 hours of sleep. Even if you can't fall asleep right away, just laying there, deep breathing and relaxing and trying to clear you mind, you are at least resting your body. And you will probably fall asleep before you know it.
In the morning hop up as soon as the alarm goes off and get dressed. Make  your bed. Eat your breakfast, get your lunch and water bottle out of the refrigerator and put them with the rest of the stuff you need for the day. Assist the rest of the family as needed and get out the door with minutes to spare. Now I know that real life happens and sometimes everything does not go as planned, but I am quite positive that if you will follow these steps then your mornings will get off to a great start at least 99% of the time.

In the morning, especially if you work away from home, you will probably want to do minimal extra things, but there are a couple of important ones to squeeze in. Make you bed. You will be so happy you did when you come home in the afternoon. A made bed just makes the whole room look nicer. And if you are careful getting out of bed, then making it up is just a matter of twitching the sheets and blankets back up and smoothing them out.

At least rinse your breakfast dishes off, so the food doesn't have time to get dried out and caked on. If you have a dishwasher, which you probably ran last night after dinner, take a couple minutes and put away the clean dishes. That way you can put the breakfast dishes right into it. No more coming home from work to piles of dirty dishes in the sink. I really hate getting up in the morning or coming home in the afternoon to a pile of dirty dishes. It's just a depressing sight. It's like I already have 2 strikes against me. Whereas if things are clean and tidy, it's like starting with a clean slate.

bathroom shelves before
Today's decluttering session focused on finishing up on the bathroom floor. One more coat of paint and when it dried I put the shelves back in. I wiped every thing else down and then cleaned up the shelves.

Starting at the top I cleared one shelf at a time, wiped it down and put back just the things I wanted to live there.

It hasn't been that long since I did this (a couple of months) so there wasn't too much dirt & crud built up, and I only found a couple of bits of trash. so this was mostly about rearranging and reorganizing.

bathroom shelves after
In fact, since I'd gone through and dumped most of the clutter and stuff recently, it actually took less than 15 minutes to make it look this tidy.

So we will hopefully be able to get back to our regular decluttering work very soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

De-railed; Again, part II

Whew! Almost done. Have laid down the new peice of plywood that my son cut for me awhile back, caulked the crack all around to prevent scorpions and other critters from finding their way in and put on one coat of paint.

painted toilet seat installed; acrylic craft paints
While I was down on my hands and knees painting the floor I got a really cool idea. Instead of putting down more tile, I think I am going to paint this floor with a scene. Not sure just what yet, but maybe something to match the toilet seat I painted one day.  I've seen pictures of floors painted to look like fish ponds and such before, I think it would be cool. Just don't let your drunk friends in, they might hurt themselves trying to swim. ;-)

This is a great book to get you started, even if you haven't done a lot of decorative painting before.

After the paint dries I'll put on 2-3 more coats. I'm using some leftover semi gloss exterior latex. I figured it was the toughest most waterproof paint I had. If I do paint a floor mural I will probably use my outdoor and patio paints for the same reason.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

De-railed; Again

Well, I know I haven't posted in a couple of days. Life has certainly derailed all my good intentions! On Friday I had to go to a training for my job. I left home about 6 in the morning and didn't get back until after 8:30 at night.  As I was getting ready to crawl into bed I could hear water running in my bathroom. Under the floor. I went outside and looked around but couldn't see anything so I just turned the water off at the main and went to bed exhausted and sore.

When I got up this morning I began by turning the water on just a bit. Definitely under the house. Which really sucks because there is no crawl space. Only a few inches between the floor and the dirt under there. Knowing that there is one water pipe under the floor of the spare bedroom (oh don't get me started on that idiocy!) I went in there and listened carefully. Put my ear on the wall by where I thought I heard the water in the bathroom. Yup. Definitely coming from under the bathtub area.

Which sucks because the only way to access the pipes is to take up the floor. I had the whole big piece of plywood all undone but couldn't get it to come out. I think it is nailed down in one corner under a projecting wall. (and especially don't get me started on the asinine way my bathroom is currently put together!) I finally had to just cut a chunk of plywood out of the way with my sawzall.

Have I ever told you I am in LOVE with my sawzall? Cut through anything like it's warm butter! Walls, floors, wood, metal, I think they make blades that will cut through anything! Great for demolition work!

I even used the wood blades to cut out chunks of a tree stump I needed to remove once!

But I digress. I think part of what happened was maybe there was a pinhole leak at the pipe join and some tree roots grew in and made it worse. Or maybe the joint just wasn't glued the best in the first place. To get to this I had to rip up the tile off the floor and then like I said I tried to pry it up after getting out all the screws and nails, finally just cutting part of it out with the sawzall. Well that left the floor that remained covered in adhesive from the tile.

Then I had to lay down on the floor and reach under and dig the dirt and roots out with a hand trowel. At first I couldn't tell exactly where the water was coming from. So kept having to turn the water off and on until I could see where the problem was. Then clear the mud away and get the joint the rest of the way apart, use some rags to get it as clean and dry as I could and then glued it back together.

I did all this a bit at a time, laying on my belly and having to reach in under the floor, mostly with one hand. So now I am covered in dirt and my whole front and the soles of my shoes are sticky with the adhesive....

Wait awhile and turn the water back on just a smidge. Then go check for leaks. Turn the water on a little more, check for leaks. Turn it on full blast and check for leaks. Whew. All done. Now I just have to replace the bathroom floor.....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Routine, Everyday, Boring Stuff

Years ago, when I first discovered Pam Jones and Peggy Young's book, Side Tracked Home Executives, From Pigpen to Paradise, I didn't have a clue as to how to keep a neat and tidy home. I had never learned growing up what it entailed, the necessary daily tasks, the planning ahead. In other words, I didn't have a road map.

Their process was simple, a single job was written on a 3x5 inch card. The cards were color coded according to how often they were to be done, daily or every other day, weekly or ever other week, monthly or every other month and seasonal. In your little card file were 31 numbered dividers. You put all the job cards you were going to do that day in front of that days date. Then as each job was complete, you filed it in front of the day of the month when it should be done again.

I discovered when I got off track that the best way for me to get back on was in the first week to have nothing but the daily task cards, then the second week I started adding in the weekly things and in the third week to begin adding in the monthly items. This gave me a whole week to dig myself out from under the dirty dishes and the laundry mountain, before I added more to the list.

Marla Cilly, aka The Fly Lady has a little different system. She gives you 31 baby steps to start out with, then as you get a handle on these she has you add in special missions and later down the road, after you have gotten your whole house decluttered you start on the detail cleaning.

Really it doesn't matter which system you follow or if you come up with something that works for you. But I think the biggest things that get in the way of our having a clean and tidy home is we never learned to pick up after ourselves!

Somebody was always doing things for us, like our mom's, so we never learned to do for ourselves. And now our husbands and children think that it must be mom's job to clean up after everyone.

Look around your home and what do you see? What's in that pile on the coffee table? Whose junk is cluttering up the dining table so you never sit down to eat together? Chances are very good that a great deal of it belongs to you! I used to think the house was messy because I had kids. And yes, that was partly true. However, I have learned that the house was messy because I wasn't picking up after myself! How could I set a good example and expect my kids to clean their rooms and take care of their own things when I wasn't doing it myself?!

If we want a clean and tidy home there are just certain things that have to be done every day. These are those boring, mundane tasks that we all seem to hate doing and procrastinate so much over. Yet, if we would just get up and get going and get them done as fast as possible, we would have a lot more time for fun in our lives!

What at these things?
  • cooking meals
  • cleaning up afterwards
  • laundry
  • putting things back where they belong
Most of us are pretty good about making meals, even if it's take out. After all whining hungry children pretty much demand  we do something. But so often we procrastinate about washing up the dishes afterwards. I have discovered of late that it takes me less than 15 minutes most nights to put away the clean dishes, put away the leftovers and wash all the dirty dishes, pots and pans, wipe the stove, sink and counters. (I will add that I live by myself and don't generally make elaborate meals. However I don't have a dish washer and do it all by hand. Your mileage may vary.) This means that I start the next morning with a clean slate.

Now I don't mind doing the washing and hanging out of the laundry, it's always been the folding up and putting away part that gets me down. Here again Fly Lady to the rescue. If it's not easy it doesn't get done. Why is folding and putting away the clean clothes so difficult? Because we have waaaay too many clothes! The dresser drawers are bursting at the joints and the closet is overflowing. Really, you don't need that many clothes! Enough socks and underwear for a week. Enough work clothes for a week. (choose outfits that can mix and match so you don't actually wear the exact same outfit all the time) A couple of party dresses, something suitable for weddings and funerals. Some 'groddy' clothes to wear in the garden. I'll bet you haven't worn half of what's in your closet in the past six months. (and don't even let me get started on your shoe collection!)

A suggestion I read recently was to turn all your clothes hangers around backwards to the way you normally hang them. Then as you wash and put things way put them in the way you normally do. At the end of a month look at how many are still backwards~you could probably toss all of those and never miss them.

There are 5 parts to laundry, sort, wash, dry, fold, put away. I don't have a dryer, so I hang my things on a clothesline. Now that there's just me I can get away with about 3 loads a week. When I had kids I had to do at least a load a day just to keep up. So in the afternoon I ran a load and hung it out. The next afternoon I took down the dry clothes and put them away while that day's load was washing. But a load a day will keep the laundry moving smoothly without piling up.

 So much of the time we aren't even thinking when we set things down. And since our homes are so full of stuff, it just becomes part of the landscape and we don't even see it when we are looking right at it. As you declutter and have some free, open space, the things you toss down absentmindedly will become more obvious. But it will take some time. You will have to work at it and then it will take a while to train your spouse and children not to leave their stuff all over too.

If you can establish a home for each thing and consciously work at putting it back in it's home spot when you are done with it, then your home will always be tidy looking. Have a place for your purse, coat, keys. A place for the kids to keep their coats and backpacks. When you sit down at your computer or to watch TV, don't unconsciously kick off your shoes and leave them there. Take them off and put them in the closet before you sit down. There are many other little things you can do that will help make your life flow smoothly.

Try it out, every day make a commitment to do a load of laundry, all the way to putting it away; wash up all the dishes and pots and pans and wipe out your sink. Pick up everything you have gotten out and haven't put away yet. In a week it will make such a huge difference in your house you won't believe it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little by Little

Some of you might be overwhelmed by the state of your life and home. We all have so many things on our plates these days it is hard to keep up. For those of you just starting your journey from CHAOS to Organized I have a couple of things that might help you out.

I've learned along the way that much of what's cluttering up the house is 1) stuff that ought to be done every day that I procrastinate over 2) things I brought home but they didn't have a place to live so just got set down anywhere and 3) things that have been here awhile but that I no longer need, want or love.

Now #2 and #3 are actually related. You just have way too much stuff in your house! And since you can't find what you are looking for in the mess you have actually gone out and bought another one! The cure for this is easy. Take just 15 minutes every day and declutter. Fly Lady (Marla Cilly) teaches us to just focus on one small area at a time, so we don't get overwhelmed. Just work on one shelf, drawer or box at a time. Have some boxes handy that you have labeled, KEEP, DONATE, PUT AWAY and a trash bag.

First, set your timer for 15 minutes. As you sort through a pile, box, shelf or drawer, look at each thing. Do you LOVE it? Do you REALLY NEED it? If the answer is NO and it's still good, then put it in the donate box. If the answer is yes, then put it in the KEEP box. If it is something that is just lurking where it does not belong, then put it in the PUT AWAY box. And of course you know what to do with the garbage!

Now, when the timer goes off, first, take that DONATE box straight out to the car and put a stop at the thrift store on your list of errands. (please note: At this point in the process,  you are NOT allowed to go into the thrift shop! This will help keep temptation at bay). Next, decide what to do with the things that are in the KEEP box. I use the KEEP box for those things that I want to keep, but am not quite ready to deal with just yet, like photos for a scrapbook or a crafts project I have in mind. In that case I stash them in my craft area, you will have to decide what to do with what you have in your KEEP box. But try and get it out of your main living space for the time being.

Next go and put away all that stuff in  your PUT AWAY box. I'm sure, especially if you have small children, that you will find all kinds of things that are not where they belong! Dirty socks, spare change, crayons and papers, partially eaten food, fruit pits, candy wrappers, shoes, underwear and other clothing, toys of every description are some of the things I used to find hidden around the house when my kids were little.

Now 15 minutes does not sound like a very long time and in the grand scheme of things it is but the blink of an eye. However, you can get a great deal done in this amount of time, much more than you will ever think you can do. Now sometimes the area you are working on is very visible and your 15 minute session will have a major visible impact on the area. Other times it may take several 15 minute sessions to make a noticeable difference. Just keep going, because every little bit helps!

We'll talk about #1, all those ordinary, routine tasks we should be doing every day another time. For now I'll leave with this.

Here is looking out my back door onto my patio. I worked there a little while last evening cleaning up the mud.

But there is a long way to go before I can call the patio 'cleaned up'! So I will just continue to work on it, 15 minutes at a time and soon it will be done. Then I can work on making it look even nicer and become an outdoor room for eating, B-B-Qs and other activities.

Monday, July 11, 2011

More Mud Mucking

I have been making some slow progress with the mud. The open area of the back porch is done, just will need to eventually move the washing machine, paint cabinet and my tool cabinet out of the way to get under and behind them.

There is still a lot of clean up to be done outside on the patio; the mud in the spot is probably 4 inches deep.

 I did finish the ditch on the side of the hill. It is only as wide as a shovel and varies from 6-8 inches deep, but it is a start and should at least slow the water down in the future.

When I got done with the ditch I hauled rocks and worked around the culverts in the creek bottom. When they were installed the bottom of the creek was about a foot lower. There are signs that the water was actually going over the top of the crossing. Those culverts are about 24 inches across, to give you an idea of the size.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Staying Organized; it's all about Maintenance

In our efforts to organize our living spaces and our lives there is one huge factor that I think many of us overlook. Maintenance. You just have to do things all the time to keep up with life. "A stitch in time saves nine" is an old adage that is still true today. Maintenance is my downfall.

I can clean up and de-junk and organize a space and make it look great. But the problem has always been keeping it that way. The day in and day out nitty gritty details and routine, boring tasks. There are so many other things I'd rather be doing, like painting or writing an article or blog post, working in my garden.

One thing that has been of great help along my journey from CHAOS to Organized is making a task list. Each morning when I get up I make a list of things I need to do that day and as I do them I cross them off. Marla Scilly, aka The Fly Lady suggests you can do this by writing out a list of routine tasks to do in the morning, afternoon and before bed time and putting your list in a plastic sleeve protector. Then you can use a dry erase marker to cross each one off. That didn't really seem to work for me. It just became part of the landscape clutter on the refrigerator.

Now I belong to the Fly Lady Forums over at Blog Talk Radio. I have my own thread there and write my list in my thread, using the edit function I can go back during the day and cross off the things I've done. I think the reason this works for me is because of the interaction from other forum members. They give suggestions, commiserate when you having a bad time and cheer you on when you have accomplished something difficult. But I'm thinking I might like to try that little magnetized white board. And if it doesn't work for my task list I could use it for making other notes or a grocery list.

Fly Lady  also teaches us about routines. To have a simple short list of things to do every morning, afternoon and evening. Mine vary depending on season of the year and whether I have to work or not. Fly Lady says our before bedtime routine is the most important, because that is the time you can do some things that will help the next morning run smoothly.

Consider doing some of these tasks before you go to bed at night and see if that doesn't help your morning get off to a better start;
  • Shine your sink. Yeah, sounds crazy, but if you wash up your dishes and clean your sink before you go to bed, it will make  you feel amazing in the morning. Besides, who wants to wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes?
  • Lay out your clothes. This is especially important if you work outside the home and need to look really good for your job. (I get to wear jeans and t-shirts on mine, so I usually skip this one) Pick out your outfit and set it up with your shoes, socks/hose, jewelry, etc. If you do this early in the afternoon or evening then you have time to wash and dry or iron things that you need, instead of running around crazy in the morning because you can't find a clean thing to wear.
  • Prepare for tomorrow. Have launch pad by your door, a place to set all of the things you are going to need when you leave the house in the morning, purse, keys, water bottle, lunch box, library books, mail, grocery list & coupons. Whatever you are doing, put all the pieces and parts in one place so you can scoop it up on your way out.
  • Go to bed at a decent hour.  Getting enough rest is important to your health. Waking up refreshed and energized is a wonderful start to your day. Waking up tired and crabby isn't going to make any body feel good, especially your kids, spouse and co-workers! It just makes for a bad day all the way around.
Think about your life, family, house, work situations and what you can do ahead of time to make things run smoother.  I know if I had been paying attention and doing more maintenance projects around my place, I would not have had mud and water in my kitchen. Now I have to spend a lot of extra time cleaning up the mess and trying to get back to normal. But I'm putting a note on my calender for every month to go check the ditch!

 In the meantime making slow progress on the porch. Before it got too hot I went out and scooped up some of the mud. When the remains dry off a bit more I'll try to sweep and vacuum up some more of it.

If you look close you can see the high water mark on the far wall, exactly 3 inches. The only reason I didn't have more water farther into the kitchen is because the floor is not even, it goes uphill from the back door.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Eureka! (Vacuums that is)

I love my Eureka vacuum cleaner with a bag. I have never bet a bag less vacuum that I liked at all. Who came up with that idea any way? Without a bag, when you go to empty the silly thing up comes a big cloud of dust all over. Not healthy to breathe at all. So I will never buy a bag less vacuum cleaner. I have an older model Eureka that does a great job on everything I put it to.

To the left is a newer version of my Eureka and when mine gives up the ghost I will probably buy one like this. It has some newer features mine doesn't have. Like a special attachment for vertical cleaning without getting dust and dirt in your eyes; I like that idea!

Well today's 15 minute session was in the kitchen. First I swept up all the loose chunky stuff that I could get to and then put my old Eureka to the test. It got up quite a bit of the stuck on mud and things are looking a little better in there. Just don't look on the back porch.

So here is my old work horse going at it in the kitchen. There was enough dirt that I had to change the bag soon after starting (it wasn't all from the kitchen tho, it was just time to change the bag).

And here's when I left off after 15 minutes. Some more sweeping, vacuuming and mopping are in order, but not today.

Early this morning while it was still fairly cool I worked on the ditch on the hill. Spent most of the day in front of the computer. I had intended to go back and work some more on the ditch this evening when it cooled off, but my son showed up and he helped me finish clearing the culvert in creek. We realized that the water was high enough that it was actually coming over the top of the crossing and some water had been running right down my driveway. That is  a bit scary because that is a huge amount of water backed up. I'll have to be really keeping an eye on things and get the culverts cemented in ASAP, with a little overflow channel in case this happens again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Blessed are the Flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape" Lyddy

In light of the grand mud slide (Oh I know it's nothing compared to what you have in California and other places, but a pain in the butt for me) all decluttering and most housework will come to a halt so that I can deal with this mess.

Before I can even clean up the back porch though I have to dig out the ditch on the hill above my house. That is so that when it rains again I will not have more water running into the house. Once that is done I'll get the house taken care of.

This is going to take a bit though because it's pretty bad up there.

Here is where part of the water came down and ran down by the pallet, then down the side of the hill into the yard.
Here's a slightly different angle of the same spot.

Here's the area higher up. What you can't quite see in the photo is that on the right a gully is forming and all the dirt washed down and blocked up the ditch, so water that was coming down the ditch went down the side of the hill instead; this is probably where most of the water came from that ended up in my house.

This is the same area as the last photo after about an hour of hot, sweaty work with the shovel. Just glad I didn't hit any really big rocks cuz I didn't take the pick axe up there with me. You can see where I dug through the pile of dirt that washed down, clearing the channel so it can go on down the way it is supposed to.

As soon as I get a chance I will bring some seeds up here to plant and try to get some more cover so there is less chance of erosion. In the meantime I have about another 75 feet of ditch to clear out.

Remember if you click on the picture you can see it bigger.