Thursday, January 24, 2019

Oatmeal on a Dusty Stool

My husband and I had our first meal together in almost three weeks. He has been on three other continents for ministry (not including North America) while I have been at home in a house going through renovations. If you have ever had renovations done, you know that there is a complicated mathematical equation required to figure out how long they will take. Something like:


(amount of time they say) x (estimated cost)
(current temperature) + (number of holidays in the year) 



I joke. But it is always longer than you hope. Meanwhile I've been living in a house devoid of all furniture (which has been stashed in all the bedrooms except mine) with one chair, one side table and one ottoman to sit on with my feet up for my quiet time and my evening reading. So I've been standing in the kitchen to eat my meals, which I had hoped to pare down sufficiently to lose four pounds while my husband was away, but that's another story. And, as I told you last week, I have been decluttering and reorganizing. I must have some contractor blood in me because clearing out my kitchen cupboards, bathrooms, dresser, and closet took me over a week. (Of course, in between I got to spend half a day with two of the cutest little boys I know and we had a parade around their family room, spend two days with two of my favorite little girls while their parents celebrated their anniversary, and spend a day with my dad so my mom could have a relaxing day out.) 

Yesterday I drove two hours through snow and ice to meet my husband who had just spent 24 hours traveling by car, two planes, and a bus over two continents to come home. I was so glad to see him and, I believe, the feeling was mutual 😉. We got home at 11:40pm and collapsed into bed. He was even able to trick his body into thinking it was night and sleep. 

So back to our first meal together in nearly three weeks. That would be the oatmeal we had this morning at our kitchen counter, sitting on two stools we dusted off (literally). The flooring men arrived (finally) and we left them to it. He went to work and I'm spending another day with my dad.

What's so special about oatmeal in your floorless kitchen at the counter? Nothing. And everything. The meal and the surroundings were not special, except that it was home. The company and the fact that we sat down together to eat and talk and enjoy our companionship, that was everything. We did it because we plan to, we have a habit of doing it, and we want to.

And that is the key to family meals: planning to, habiting of, and wanting to.

So start making a plan now.




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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

My Secrets for Decluttering and Organizing

Last August our daughter and family were visiting from Germany. Our son and family from Chicago came for a week to be able to celebrate my dad's 90th birthday and see all the family. While he was here our son heard about an opening teaching at a university in town. They had been doing everything they could to find a way to move here to be closer to family, so he immediately applied. They ended up staying two more days for interviews and two days after he got home (and three more Skype interviews) he was offered the job!



Just two weeks later they moved in with us. We were together for three weeks and then we left on a three week mission trip. When we came back they had made an offer that was accepted on a house, but the condition was that the sellers weren't moving until January. So my husband and I moved into my parents' basement so the family of six, who also homeschool, could have the house to themselves until their place was ready. To help my parents we did lots of odd jobs and I did all the cooking for dinners.

Being out of my house has forced me to live with less of my things. That has gotten me thinking about what I can live without permanently. Besides that, we plan to do some renovations to open up our house a bit more and I am losing four wonderful drawers, a cupboard, and our coffee space in the kitchen. I think it will be worth it because with seventeen family members in town, our Sunday dinners have gotten really crowded. I moved back into my house this week and am in full organize and toss mode. Well, sort of...

After cleaning the shower, this is probably my least favorite task. Actually it may be my absolute least favorite. Decision making is not my forte and it takes me a long time and a lot of energy. I'm depleted after just an hour because I'm so scared I'll get rid of something that I will wish I hadn't. And that I will keep all kinds of things that I have no use for! And then, the organizing in a useful, helpful manner--that is just not part of my DNA.

So I did some researching last week. Here are the most helpful hints I gleaned for decluttering, simplifying, clearing out, and organizing:


  • Get in the mood - I did this by researching how to organize and declutter, by watching shows on how to do it, and, probably the biggest factor, was the life situation we are in. But I was ready to toss, organize, and clear out.
  • Make time - Going through your things, reorganizing, and making decisions takes time. Don't expect to go through a cupboard where you have been stuffing things for five years to get done in 15 minutes. I know that my project is going to take days, but I'm in for the long haul. So be realistic about the time this will take.
  • Limit your time - On some TV shows they get up early and work 15 or 18 hour days to go through their things. (Of course, it requires extreme cases to make a show interesting!) No one has that kind of time. Plus, if you go too long, you won't be making good decisions. But I think sometimes the best thing to do is to estimate how much time clearing out one drawer or one cupboard will take and set a timer for that amount of time. If you want to complete the task when the timer rings, that's fine, but knowing you only have to work for 45 minutes, might get you started. 
  • Buy organizers - When I was setting up my spices, I found an expanding stairstep spice rack that was perfect. I was motivated to put my spices in alphabetical order and get rid of spices that were dated from five years ago!
  • Don't overbuy organizers - If you look, there's an organizer for everything. Sometimes just putting things neatly into drawers and cupboards is enough. You can rack up a big bill if you fall for every organizer available.
  • Ask questions:
    • Do I love this?
    • When was the last time I used this?
    • Does it have only one use?
    • For clothes: 
      • How many other pieces of clothing does it match?
      • Does it fit?
      • Try it on. How does it make you feel?
      • Does it need mending? Can I do it or get it done reasonably?
      • Is it outdated? Faded? Worn?
But my first and most important question is:
  • Why am I keeping this?
When I ask myself this question first, I can evaluate the purpose of the item, whether it has useful or sentimental value worth keeping. This has been a key to me getting rid of things that I don't need to clutter my house and life.

  • Reward yourself - whatever little reward will help motivate you, do that for yourself. Maybe 15 minutes of sitting and sipping a cup of coffee or pop. Maybe watching your favorite program. Maybe getting outside for a short walk. You've worked hard, give yourself a prize!

I wish you a clean, clutter free, and organized house and life this year!






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Monday, January 7, 2019

The Grocery Store Challenge

I walked around Aldi juggling a gallon of milk, two bottles of sparkling water, three mangoes, a can of black olives, and a bag of frozen meatballs. I came in for the meatballs because my grandson was coming for dinner and I know he loves spaghetti and meatballs. Because I was only going to get "one thing" I hadn't gotten a cart or even brought a shopping bag with me. As I checked out I commented to the check out clerk that I had just come for meatballs. She laughed and said, "At least you remembered the meatballs!"



I am a big proponent of once a week grocery shopping with a menu planned and a list that covers it. But there are times when I have fallen into the habit of once a day grocery shopping with no plan at all.

So the other day when I was telling my husband my big goals for 2019, he suggested one:
One trip to the grocery store a week. 

I have a lot of reasons, especially over the holidays, that I make more trips--unexpected guests, a potluck I forgot to plan for, a new family gathering where I need to bring something. But in normal weeks (if I have those) I should be able to plan my menu so that I go only once a week. He did say "plus one emergency trip." And he's right. If I am not spending time going to the grocery store as often I will have more time. 

Plus, grocery stores love people who come in often because, like me, we tend to do more impulse buying and spend more money. That's why they have weekend specials, 10% off in certain departments on certain days, and one or two days sales, in addition to their weekly ads. So I will save time and money! 

So who is with me on this? 
Will you take the grocery store challenge and try to only make one trip a week in 2019? 



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