Monday, October 20, 2014

Declutter Week Four: Living Room and Dining Room

You may have noticed that there was no decluttering going on at Chez Blueday last week. This is because I worked for four days and was exhausted. I must admit, put like that, it doesn't look terribly exhausting, but I don't think I have ever worked four days in a row outside the house ever, and I got halfway through a post on Monday night and fell asleep! And I certainly did nothing around the house other than basic tidying, laundry and dinner. I am very impressed at the work all you full time working mums do, especially those who sometimes have the energy to write to us all at night as well.

I have been watching old episodes of Kirstie's Vintage Home recently while doing the ironing. And something I have noticed is that while all the decorative touches she adds and creates are lovely, really, the significant difference happens when those rooms are decluttered. It is not just a matter of moving things around and storing them more efficiently, it is the fact that a good three quarters of the stuff in those rooms is gone by the end of the make-over, that creates an end result  which is so peaceful and inviting. Not only more peaceful and inviting though, also more adult. A living room that is very cluttered really has the look of a teenager's bedroom. It is as if the things in the room are more powerful than the person who owns them. This is a feeling I have often had, especially in the years when my house was dreadfully cluttered. I was completely overwhelmed by my 'stuff', which meant I had effectively handed over my power to a bunch of inanimate objects. A clear, calm, deliberately arranged room sends a powerful signal - I am in charge here, and my things are here because I have chosen them, not because they have just cluttered themselves all over the place.

In one of the episodes I watched, a couple had a very cluttered house, but a very clear idea of the aesthetic they were after - 60s retro. It turned out that they had quite a lot of lovely pieces of 60s furniture, and that they were also very knowledgeable and competent at buying good pieces secondhand. At the beginning of the show though, in their living room cluttered with baby gear and daily detritus, they looked terribly helpless, and you couldn't see that they had any aesthetic at all. It was literally hidden under the clutter. What decluttering revealed was a confident and knowledgeable young couple with an adult room which showcased their talent for design.

Two or so years ago we had our whole living room and dining room gutted and rebuilt to add double glazed windows, insulation, new floors and less walls. We lived for a whole winter with the master bedroom as our only living space. It was quite... cosy. When the day came that we could finally move into our 'new' spaces, I only moved about a third of the 'stuff' back into the rooms that had originally been there. It was about then that I started my 'war on stuff' as well, so very little now lives in either room. They are not large rooms, so having very little in them except furniture makes them quite calm spaces to be in (well, let's be honest, a lot of daily nagging needs to go on to achieve this outcome. I have hopes that it will be only, oh, five more years or so before the nagging becomes internalised, and the shoes, hairbrushes, craft-work, tea cups and toast plates all magically find their own way back out of these spaces).

Now, I would really like to add some more Kirstie-style decorative touches these rooms - especially one large bare wall in the living room, but the fact that it is a lovely clear and calm space after I have whipped around and tidied every morning, and plumped the cushions, well, that makes me happy. The only things that are stored in this room are invisible. Magazines, DVDs, CDs, all tucked away in the coffee table and the cupboard. My sister-in-law taught me the value of lamp-light for a living room, so every evening I close the curtains and light two lamps. The soft light is very calming. I noticed when the children were small that soft lighting after dinner, and no TV, helped them settle ready for bed. That is not what always happened in our household - but when it did, bedtime was much pleasanter! Even now, the ten year old is much calmer when we have soft lights and music and a story instead of the overhead light and television. It is also an excellent way for adults to relax and wind down. Soft lights and no visual stimulation tell our brains that it is time for sleeping. Maybe this is why I am usually in bed by 9.30pm. Or maybe that is my inner nana!

So, jobs for the living room this week:

Sweep the ashes out of the fire place for summer.
Take all the covers off the couch to wash them. I have never done this. I hope I don't shrink them! I had all the cushions made with zips when the couch was re-upholstered, but I have never been brave enough to unzip them. I was going to have the couch cleaned, but maybe I can do it myself...
Um, I think that is it. Oh, there is a pile of magazines on the ottoman that I keep meaning to give to a friend. Must do that.

Jobs for dining room:

I have some lovely old wooden file drawers from The Man's work next to our dining table. They are our craft drawers, filled with all the children's art supplies. We always do art at the table, which means it has to be cleared away before the next meal. This is vital. Once we had an art area in another room. We used to be able to close the door on art mess. That was a big mistake. Only having craft where we must confront its messiness three times a day is a lifesaver! We put away a lot more consistently now. However, these drawers are becoming over-stuffed, and a lot of them don't even shut properly any more. It is time to reorganise them. I will get Posy to help me. She loves rearranging things. Then maybe we can have fun making Christmas craft. Ha ha. I wrote the words 'fun' and 'craft' in the same sentence. Don't worry, fun crafts will likely never feature on this blog again:)

Another job that confronts me in the dining room is the surface of the dining table. A few weeks ago Posy had a hissy fit about an art project, and threw it across the table in a rage, spattering acrylic paint everywhere. Now the surface of the table is covered in a fine splatter of paint that won't come off. There are also numerous scratches, paint stains from previous art projects, dents and various mysterious stains that could be anything, up to and including blood. I am not quite sure how to tackle this problem. I could refinish both the table and the coffee table, which has similar issues. I actually can do this, but would have to take them outside, and it would take days. Maybe when The Girl finishes exams it could be a mother-daughter bonding project. I expect she will be thrilled about that. Meanwhile I think I may have to reframe the table as 'rustic' and 'well-loved'. Unless anyone has a magic acrylic paint removal recipe?

Who would like to join me in making the living room and dining room presentable for the holiday season (or in Australia, just in time for the children to come home for the summer holidays and mess it all up again for six weeks..).

Oh, and here is my very best tip for making the dining room look organised. Push the dining room chairs in neatly. Or nag someone else to. Makes all the difference. Ditto plumping cushions in the living room, and folding the blankets neatly. My floors are a disgusting sight right this minute, but I'm hoping anyone who visits will only notice the splendidly plumped cushions!!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Juggling With Fire

It is quite early on a Saturday morning. I haven't had much sleep. During the night I dreamed that I found a lump in my breast. When I woke up at an ungodly hour, of course I found a lump in my breast. I sent a text to The Man, who is currently in China, so he could prepare himself for single parenthood. Because clearly I was about to die. After some hours of mentally rehearsing touching deathbed scenes, I realised that what I had was more of a ridge than a lump. And actually, there was a similar one on the other side. Aargh! Two lumps. Then it occurred to me that maybe what I was feeling was possibly a muscle. I have, after all, been lifting (quite small) weights in the gym for months. I sent a further text to The Man: Possible alternative diagnosis - an actual muscle. Middle aged woman goes to doctor to be told she has a muscle. Surprise all round.

Of course I will go to the doctor. Of course she will tell me I am fine, but sensible to have checked. Of course..

Today is The Boy's 21st birthday party. That dear little baby, who was always happy, but saw no reason to go to sleep. Ever. And now he's all grown up. Still always happy. Sleeps more now. Still as crazy as he ever was. On his list of things to do this morning is Buy Kerosene. There are going to be friends juggling fire sticks at the party. What could go wrong? Some time ago The Boy decided to juggle with steak knives. He sent me a photo of the blood. Silly boy, I could have sworn I told him not to juggle with steak knives. Didn't I? Or did I skip that instruction?

I have been nagging him for months to do his tax. I told him yesterday now he is a grown-up there are No Excuses. Several weeks ago he asked me to write a book for teenagers leaving home. He said there were so many things he had no idea about. Like the first time he paid his electricity bill, he stood there holding the bill, with no idea what to do with it. Should he recycle it? Or keep it? Why would he keep it? Was it important?

Well, of course I was up for that. I knew exactly how it should start. 'Do not juggle with steak knives' would be my first piece of sage advice to the young and confused, followed by 'Do your tax'. But then, before my magnum opus was even properly begun, I found the exact book he was after. It has already been written, by a pert and charming young redheaded snippet of a journalist. Curses. There goes my writing career before it even started. Still, it is a wonderful book. Any of you with young adult children, order it right away for them for Christmas.

It is called Adulting (How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps) by Kelly Williams Brown. Kelly Williams Brown is an annoyingly accomplished and engaging writer. Her book covers cooking, cleaning, and filing bills. She also gives useful advice on appropriate behaviour and dress codes at work as well as important tips on how not to kill houseplants. The chapters on friendships and relationships though, are absolute gold, and the real reason we all need to go and buy this book immediately for every young person we know. With this book in hand I feel I could have navigated the treacherous shoals of my rocky teenage social life, university years, and young adulthood much more gracefully and with more confidence and integrity than I did at the time. I loved this book. There is also a blog which includes some of the material from the book, and more useful life advice. Yes, you may thank me now for sorting Christmas presents for all your nieces and nephews/god children/grandchildren, and every 18th and 21st you ever go to from now on. You're very welcome.

I will now be popping out to the gym to work on that muscle.

Updated to add fire juggling photos. None of which, I am pleased to say, feature The Boy:)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Green and Thrifty

My green and thrifty adventures this week have been all about the garden and the kitchen. Which is not a surprise. The necessity of eating every day makes garden-and-kitchen the most obvious place for making huge savings. It's all a matter of planting a little of something, often, then eating what you grow, wasting nothing, then putting all the non-edible bits back into the garden. This sounds simple, but is actually fairly complex and demanding, as many seemingly simple things are. But probably quite definitely worth it:)

Popped up to the pool with the kettle - as you do. No, I wasn't planning an afternoon tea pool party, although that idea certainly has its merits. I was actually planning an all out assault on certain persistent weeds in the retaining wall there. I plugged in the kettle at the pool deck, repeatedly filled and boiled it, then poured it on the dock and dandelion weeds whose roots go down between the bricks in the retaining wall, and refuse to die. Ha. That learned 'em. They won't try that trick again in a hurry. When I wasn't waging war on weeds I fed the orange trees up by the pool with two bags of delicious straw chicken bedding that my lovely gym buddy gave me. Best. Gift. Ever. Will make my hungry oranges happy, and biodegrade in no time. Brilliant present, requires no dusting! Am hoping for many more similar gifts:) Also added sheep poo for extra goodness.  Sheep poo was the only thing I bought at the recent school fair. It actually doesn't provide much extra nutrition to plants, but is the most marvellous soil conditioner, especially for my clay soil.

It has been cool and rainy this week, which is excellent weather for transplanting, as the poor plants and seedlings get a good start with the rain, and no heat-induced transplant shock. Who has seen the gardening hint regarding planting the bunches of spring onions that you buy at the shops? Well, this week I had a go - used the tops of the onions, planted out the bottoms. Let's see how that works out. Has anyone else tried this?

Baby peas, baby parsley, wonky spring onions

Although I have tried many home made and natural cleaning products, I have always had to resort to nasty chemicals for the oven, because I wait for about a year between cleanings, despite my best intentions. Well, this weekend, I finally found a way to clean my oven successfully using lemons and baking soda. And lots of elbow grease.

When I started getting email reminders for this year's school fair, it occurred to me that I still had unidentified chunks of frozen lamb from last year's school fair, when I bought a side of lamb all at once to be thrifty. I am pretty sure that year-old frozen lamb won't kill us. At least it hasn't yet, but I did make a resolution to cook the remaining lamb chunks ASAP. So I thought I would share my fail-proof recipe for Mystery Freezer Meat. I made up this recipe because my family didn't really like any of the slow cooker recipes I tried. Not enough flavour, and vegies that taste blah at the end of all that cooking, so my solution was to invent a slow cooker base recipe, which I cook up with a big chunk of any cheap meat, then freeze and reheat with fresh vegies and spices at dinner time:

Best Ever Slow Cooker Base

Throw into the slow cooker:

1kg (2 lbs) of any cheap stewing meat. Fatty is fine, and makes it lovely and tender, just pop it straight in. A whole chicken also works well.
2 chopped onions
2 to 4 minced or chopped garlic cloves
2 heaped tsps dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 bottles tomato passata (680gm or 24oz each)

Cook on low for 8 hrs (I always start it on high until it boils, then turn down to low).

Once the meat falls apart when poked with a fork, turn it off and cool it down. When it is cool I pull apart the meat and fish out any bones, cartilage and fat. The I pop it into the fridge overnight. The next day I skim off any fat, and freeze in dinner-size portions. This amount makes about four dinners for our family of four.

When I want to serve I add salt, spices and vegies.

For Chili con Carne I add chili, coriander and cumin plus kidney beans, and serve with corn, salsa and sour cream.

For a classic stew, sauteed mushrooms and steamed or roasted pumpkin and carrot served with mashed potato.

Chunks of roasted zucchini, tomato and red pepper for a vaguely Italian inspired dish served over pasta or cous cous.

Whatever else your imagination suggests..

What fun thrifty projects have you undertaken this week? Any kitchen and garden adventures?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Declutter Week Three: Kitchen

Last week in my bedroom I had a lot of decluttering to do, but very little cleaning. This week is the opposite. LOTS of cleaning, very little to declutter. Two years ago when we renovated I moved from a large kitchen with walk-in pantry (which is now my bedroom with walk-in dressing room) to a small kitchen with standard corner pantry cupboard. Quite a big loss you might think. But what did I gain? Sunshine! A wonderful view! A kitchen integrated with the rest of the living area. Company while I cook. All worth it. I also discovered that I didn't need lots of the kitchen stuff I had been hanging on to, and can't remember what I got rid of, though it was quite a lot.

I think we all have a lot of 'stuff' in our kitchens that we don't need. Our grandmothers all cooked every meal from scratch and preserved food from their gardens with a fraction of the gadgets and storage space that we all have now. Think of the cupboard space in an average 1950s or even 1970s home compared to our kitchens today. What are we hanging onto that perhaps we don't really need?

Having said that, I am not volunteering to going back to beating up cakes with a wooden spoon. On the other hand, I have a small, cheap  hand-held electric beater, not a giant, expensive Kitchen-Aid, gorgeous though they are. For each of us there may be a different set of gadgets that we love and use every day, and others that maybe we keep 'just in case'. Maybe it's a bread machine or a juicer or fifty extra tupperware containers or a cup cake stand that is getting in between chaos and a sane, calm, ordered space. A very dear friend of mine hates to throw away plastic take away containers, because that would be such a waste. When I helped her clean out her kitchen last year they were taking up a whole cupboard! In my case I have said 'No' to the Thermomix and the Kitchen-Aid and the bread machine, and 'Yes' to the blender and food processor I already own, and making bread by hand, which I find very therapeutic. It all comes down to our individual kitchens and habits. How much space do we have (this is a reality we generally can't change) and what are our habits and needs (these can change if we want it enough)?

Anyway, I have accepted the reality that I cannot fit anything else into my kitchen without removing something already there, and I am quite happy with that, because I can't think of anything I need to cook or store that I can't currently manage, so all good:) Actually, having said that, I could stand to remove a couple of things from my baking and cookware drawers, because the key to a calm kitchen, or any kind of storage, is a margin of space for inefficient packing. A couple of my deep drawers are so full that they require very dedicated stacking, which means they don't shut when the children unpack the dish washer. This is clearly unacceptable:) So well, yes, a little decluttering is in order.

But principally this week - cleaning. Theoretically I clean one wall of the kitchen each week. But practically, these last few months I have been skipping the deep clean and just wiping surfaces before returning to howling in a dark corner. Now I have mostly quit howling, I am noticing the months of ground-in grime. And much as procrastinating is one of my best talents, the satisfaction of a sparkly clean kitchen is profound, as is the wonderful seratonin hit of vigorous exercise in a sunny kitchen to the accompaniment of rather loud music. Well, I am hoping for all of that anyway:)

So tasks for this week:
Cleaning the fronts of all the cabinets, including the high ones I always skip (we had cupboards built up to the ceiling to get extra storage and no dust traps).
Cleaning the rangehood, including the filters.
Cleaning the microwave and oven (aargh!).
Cleaning out the fridge and freezer.
Oh dear, the bin cupboard.
Clean the dishwasher.
Make sure there isn't any unused food in the pantry (rhetorical - I know there is!) Come up with a plan to use it.
Anything else? Clean the appliances on the bench.
Vacuum and wipe out the drawers.

Will I get through all of this? Possibly not, but anything that I manage will be an improvement:)

Monday: Did all my Monday jobs, then had a nana nap and faffed about, feeling broody and miserable with my cold. Am not a fun person to be around with a cold. Finally at 10pm was about to drag my sorry self to bed, but couldn't bear to not be able to report a tiny bit of progress to you all - so cleaned the microwave. Teeny tiny baby steps:)

Tuesday: Similar to Monday. I cleaned the bathroom, napped, then started in on my cleaning jobs at the relatively early hour of 8.30pm. Climbed up on my step ladder and washed the fronts of all the high cabinets. I am really going to have to get a wriggle on over the next few days! I might even have to contemplate starting to clean before dinner.

Wednesday: Medical appointments, visitors, children.

Thursday: Feeling blah about unrelenting march of iron levels towards bottom of chart. More medical tests imminent. Visit friends for mental health boost. Bath.

Friday: Ok, we CAN clean the kitchen, can't we? I climbed up on the step ladder to clean the stainless steel range hood with my excellent home made bathroom paste, only to be met with the message 'Posy was here' inscribed in the greasy, dusty film that covered it. Thank you Posy, my housekeeping conscience. Why, you may ask, was 10 year old Posy high enough to be able to leave a message above my line of sight? My guess would be she was standing on a high stool raiding the chocolate I keep out of her reach. Until now..

And here, my friends, is my tip of the day. Which you are probably already doing anyway. A couple of months ago a friend was visiting after I had spent a good half hour cleaning the range hood filters laboriously in the kitchen sink. 'You know you can put them in the dishwasher?' she said nonchalantly. Ha. Well, today I can confirm that, yes, it is indeed possible to wash filters in the dishwasher. Hooray! Happy days! I may be the last person to discover this, but just in case I am only the second-last person to find out, I offer this tip to you, my lovelies, to use as you will.

Saturday and Sunday: Aargh, the state of the oven has been haunting me. Usually (read 'once a year') I clean the oven using the most toxic chemicals in spray can known to man, because nothing else will shift the baked-on gunk. But this weekend would be different. Armed with several oven cleaning recipes using no more than lemons and baking soda, I would be green and clean. First I liberally wiped the inside of the oven with my bathroom paste (see above). Then I heated the oven. When it was good and hot (200C, 390F) I poured boiling water into a pan of cut-up lemons, popped the pan in the oven, and left it all to cook for 20 mins. Turned off the oven without opening the door and let it all cool down to merely warm. When I took the pan out it looked like this:

All that brown gunge had dripped into the pan from the roof of the oven. Mmm. Now imagine steel wool and 20 mins or so of hard scrubbing, using extra baking soda on the baked-on lava-like formations on the oven door. It was a great workout. It did not bear much resemblance to the instructions in my old housekeeping manual which blithely advised me that I would be able to wipe out the oven with a soft cloth. Ha. Still, perhaps previous generations cleaned their ovens more than once a year.

Ok, so now my oven is quite reasonably clean, though not exactly ex-factory pristine, I am wondering if it is possible to wipe it out when I have used it? Possible yes, but probable? Hmmm...

Thank you, as always for your company and comments. They keep me cleaning and decluttering with verve if not 100% efficiency. You will have realised by now that I have not accomplished everything on my list - but you know what, the kitchen is WAY cleaner than it was last week, so I am counting this week as a win:)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Green and Thrifty

There are two types of cooking: the first is when you find a nice recipe and go out and procure the ingredients for it. The second is when you pull a whole bunch of nearly dead ingredients out of the fridge, stack them on the kitchen bench, and wildly cast around for something to do with them all as they are going off before your very eyes...

Today's cooking session was of the latter variety. What I had to work with was: some limp celery and an elderly cauliflower. That became cauliflower soup. A chicken carcass became chicken noodle soup. Some left-over rice became fried rice, which is a miracle food in my book, because it is the one food Posy will always eat. Sure enough, she turned up with a buddy just as I had finished cooking it, and they ate it for lunch. I made naan bread to go with the soup, and The Girl whipped up a chocolate self-saucing pudding, so we are all set for weekend food, and the fridge is much tidier.

I have ad awful cold id the head. I have been dripping copiously into one of The Man's large hankies, and popping out to pick sage leaves from the garden every few hours. Here is my pretty green sage tea. It tastes... sage. But I think it is making my throat better.

If I were to implicitly believe my herb book, in addition to its antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties, my sage tea would be curing my: tonsillitis, bronchitis, TB, arthritis, gout and 'women's problems' (that would be all of my problems, I guess). It will also calm my heart and delay the ageing process due to its antioxidant properties. Go sage. Edited to add: Forgot to note - sage tea is a big no-no if you are pregnant, but excellent after giving birth (helps contract the uterus) and excellent for menopause, as highly estrogenic. If you are pregnant, do not drink any herbal teas unless you know they are safe for pregnancy:)

While I was out picking sage, I noticed the oregano was at peak lushness, so I picked a whole bunch of that to dry. Most herbs are better fresh, or made into herb butter and frozen, but I really like dried oregano. And I find if I pick it now, it isn't covered in white fly as it will be in a few weeks. I know, extra protein, but I am happy with today's vegan option.

You want more green and thrifty? Well, here's one The Girl prepared earlier. One of her dear friends has a birthday, and The Girl made her a hamper of mug, book, and special teas, because she is that kind of kindred spirit friend. The Girl packaged up the teas in lovely bags with home made labels, painted a beautiful card:

And gift-wrapped it in a shoe box with knotted-string-and-button detail. Mmm, perfect.

It is school holidays and very low key at the moment. Rosy has spent days lying in the hammock and reading in her pyjamas after spending the first part of the week with her friends at the beach. I am thrilled that Posy has discovered some local buddies who live on the same block, so that they can visit each other without having to cross the road. They spend so much time with each other, whizzing up and down the streets on their scooters, in and out of each others' houses. It is very relaxing for all the parents, because none of us have a bored ten year old girl under our feet. Mostly I only know they are here because I look out the back door and see legs dangling down out of the pear tree. And there is the shrieking of course. But generally it is muffled. Anyway, mostly it is all very calm and cruisy, and they are painting, playing board games, scooting and constructing complicated pulley arrangements with rope and baskets in the tree.

Happy Spring Days! Tell me about your thrifty projects this week..

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Declutter Week Two: All the Bedrooms

Well, it is school holidays here in Tasmania, which makes it a perfect week for the children to declutter their own bedrooms. To add an extra fillip of motivation I have bribed the girls with the promise of an expedition for tea and cakes upon successful completion of this project. As the holidays are two weeks long, I have extended the deadline for them. Fifteen minutes of decluttering and tidying and emptying cupboards per day may do the trick. Well, at least it will improve the situation immensely. Surely?

As for me, I will just spend the one week on my room, because otherwise I will be on this decluttering project until Christmas. I don't know about you, but I tend to use my room as a dumping ground for various unclassifiable piles of things that I need to do something about at some unnamed future date. Currently I have Posy's outgrown school uniforms to give way or sell, a bunch of Posy's dolls that she doesn't want anymore that I can't bring myself to just take to the op shop (Mummy sentimentalism..), a stack of pictures that I haven't hung yet since the renovations happened, a pile of clothes that I can't decide whether I want to keep or not.. you know how it goes. Also, the tops of the cupboards in my dressing room are decorated with tubs of computer accessories, bags of gift wrapping, children's art supplies and other detritus that doesn't belong to me. And really, who knows what is lurking in the depths of the wardrobes?

I have an idea that I would like a space that is an expression of me, rather than a Useful Place to Store Odd Things. It may take a while to find out what it is that I really want in my room, but there is quite a lot that I know I don't want in there. Again, I will be updating during the week. I will start with sorting the piles on the floor, proceed to the Unidentified Objects on top of my wardrobes, and finish with forays into the dark depths of the cupboards. Oh my. Then I will spring clean. Luckily the weather is vile this week, excellent for staying in and sorting out.

Monday: Today I merely clutched at my aching head and repeatedly asked myself why I had said 'yes' to the giant weekend sleepover. Also spent some thankful hours in a quiet theatre watching Rosy's ballet competitions, which was quite tedious, but at least no-one was squealing, crying, or making a mess.

Tuesday: Here is what I am starting with:

Today's washing all over the bed. Somebody should fold that and put it away.
Chair one:

..and Chair Two:

When I inherited these chairs from my Granny I fondly imagined all the hours I would spend sitting and reading in them. Well, I have done that, but generally only after tipping a pile of clothes off them first. I can understand why the Japanese invented rooms where you pack away the bed everyday and decorate merely with a vase of ikebana. It removes the temptation to drape 'stuff' on every horizontal surface. Must. put. clothes. away. Actually, none of these are my daily clothes. I do put them away. They are all piles of clothes I need to mend, give away, children's clothes to take up to the shed for next season, etc etc. At least the cat enjoys sleeping on them.

Update: It took half an hour to tidy and put everything away, including the washing. I haven't actually resolved any of the piles as such. Just moved them. I still have a pile of school uniform, a pile of Posy's outgrown clothes, a pile of dolls, and a pile of books to take to the secondhand bookshop. It is really a pile of errands. I will try to get through it all this week and find deserving homes for everything. Oh, and see that lovely skirt up above? It is a very nice Italian tweed skirt that I bought for $5 from the Red Cross shop two weeks ago. It has been languishing there because I haven't tried it on yet. Because I just hate trying on clothes. So today I finally did, and it fits perfectly. This increases my winter work wardrobe to four outfits, which is nice for everyone who has to see me in the same thing every day:) Yes, I know everyone else in the country has moved on to summer outfits, but this is Tasmania. We get summer between January and March. Sometimes.

Wednesday: Posy's room is a repository for treasure of many different kinds. It has been the children's room since we moved in here fifteen years ago. First it was The Boy and The Girl sharing, then The Girl and Rosy, then all the girls, then Rosy and Posy, now just Posy. Very little has been removed from the room in that time, and going through it is like an archeological dig, slowly peeling back the layers.

Today we set the timer for fifteen minutes and I had to drag Posy in kicking and screaming. But then we couldn't stop, 'Oh wow, here is my yoyo/slinky/down ball/book light. Thanks for making me clean up Mum!' Now there is a sentence I never thought I would hear coming from the lips of any of my children. We filled up the recycling bin with mountains of paper. Glory be, Posy feels that she is finally able to let go of half-coloured ten-year-old colouring books that she inherited from her sisters. We sorted through eighteen years' worth of dolls' clothes. Oh my. It is very hard to get rid of dolls' clothes that your eighteen year old sewed as a six year old, but where do you draw the line with precious memories? I can't keep everything forever. And The Girl will always be the same person who sewed dolls' clothes at six. That part of her is within her forever, and I don't need an artefact to preserve that moment.

I also climbed up to take things off the top of my wardrobe, but it was too hard, so I put them back again. There is always tomorrow.

Thursday: So tomorrow came, and I managed to avoid all forms of decluttering until 7.30pm, when the children were all playing canasta with The Man, who is home for a few days. No, I lie, earlier in the day I pulled a shoebox from the top of the wardrobe which proved to be full of photos, which I spent an hour going through. I got them out again at dinner, and we all walked down memory lane again for a while. Such adorable baby children I had! So easy to get distracted when decluttering!

So here is the mess I had to contend with: Wardrobe One

And Wardrobe Two:

Having slept on the problem of what to do with all the mess on the tops of the wardrobes, I went up to the shed and hauled down an old trunk. I bought it many years ago when The Girl was a baby and we lived in Port Adelaide. I used to potter down the esplanade which was lined with second hand shops, and bring back treasures balanced precariously on the big old English pram, with The Boy trotting alongside and complaining.

Anyway, I have decided to store everything that is archive material (photos, cards made by my children, the box full of paintings and hilarious stories written by my genius children) into the trunks. Done. Also stored a large bag of Christmas themed cards and gift tags in there, along with the Christmas crackers I bought on sale last year.

I threw out most of the old paint, because it was, well, old, and saved some good paint to give to friends with small children. Then I realised that most of the rest of the stuff on top of the wardrobes was stored there while we were renovating and had absolutely no storage space in the rest of the house. Now we do. And yet, out of sheer habit I have been climbing on a wobbly step stool every time anyone wants gift wrapping, or when I need my boots, which I store in their boxes. I have been needlessly risking a broken wrist for over a year now, just because I was used to it!

I found a spot for the boots in the wradrobe. Gift wrapping and the bag full of useful bags were sent downstairs to the study, along with a tub full of possibly useful computer-related accessories. Maybe I will sort them when I get to decluttering the study. Maybe. So, now the wardrobes look like this:

Wardrobe One:

Yes, I know that trunk is painted blue. It was the 90s. Remember how the 90s were all about blue and yellow? And ducks? It takes me a while to catch up with interior decoration trends. One day I will paint it white, or French Grey or something. Or I will just leave it until blue comes back and then I will be totally On Trend once more:)

Wardrobe Two:

Most boring photo ever. Isn't it wonderful? Now that I am not distracted by the annoying clutter, it occurs to me that there are two bare lightbulbs adorning the room. Ah well, decluttering first, decorating later. I am not superwoman.

Friday: Today I opened the wardrobe doors. It was entirely on the cards that I would be writing to you from Narnia this evening, but, silly me, these are Ikea wardrobes, and the most I could hope for was a magical trip to Sweden. That didn't eventuate either, but there was a miracle after all - clean and organised clothes storage.

I must say, that with all the downsides and miseries of separating this year, it makes me feel a little guilty to be quite so gleeful about all the extra storage space I now have. The Man has left a few of his clothes here until he has a permanent other home, and those that didn't fit in the small wardrobe downstairs were all in their original drawers and hanging spaces, until today, when I rationalised them into a very small space indeed, and spread out my clothes luxuriously. I took the opportunity to weed out pieces that I don't absolutely love (quote from Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones, 'Only buy clothes that make you do a happy dance,' or in the case of decluttering, only keep clothes that make you want to do a happy dance when you wear them.)

I pulled out a number of strange items that had no business cluttering up my wardrobe - piles of mending, piles of Posy's outgrown clothes to move along, piles of bits and pieces that I clearly intended to send to the op shop but never quite got that far. There are now bags waiting in the back of the car to leave the property, and the clothes in the wardrobe are hanging, rather than being squashed in on top of clutter piles.

I am so happy. I did imagine that these weeks of organising the house were going to be dreadfully tedious and boring, and I am quite sure my life looks extremely boring to the casual observer, or blog reader:) but I must say I feel enormously chuffed with myself having accomplished what feels like so much, but really, without expending much extra energy at all, just doing a little each day. More life lessons.

Saturday: There are really no significant cleaning jobs to do in the bedroom, so a nice day off - except for one annoying job. I have been meaning to scrape the builders stickers off the 'new' window for, oh, two years now. So today was the day. Four minutes. Two years!!

And today, the only thing I had to clear off the bed was the cat..

So how about you? Bedroom an oasis of tranquility? Or will you join me in sending some of that stuff to a better place?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Green and Thrifty

The green and thrifty adventures at Chez Blueday continue apace.

Walking to the gym continues to be a wonderful interlude in my day. I walk through an avenue of ornamental pear trees which are currently in bloom. Every single garden in my neighbourhood is bristling with daffodils, magnolia trees, blossoming pink plum trees, camellias and rhododendrons. If I was whizzing past in my car, I would miss all this floriferous deliciousness, sunshine and life-enhancing exercise. What's not to love?

I'm considering other destinations I could reach on foot. It takes all of twenty minutes to reach the centre of town from my front door (there are hills though...whine, whine). Farmers' market, twenty five minutes or so. And you know, I am so whiny and lazy, that even though I love my short gym walk, and never want to drive it again, I still think walking into town will be hard. Please take me to task in the comments, and tell me to get out of my car and into the Great Outdoors.

Ok, problem of social etiqutte here that I need advice on: this winter I ran out of black socks without holes in them. I only had two pairs to start with, but now they are both languishing in the mending pile, with no action on that front. The helper elves haven't visited. So then I reclaimed some yummy thick bamboo socks from Rosy that I bought for her for school camp. They are wonderfully warm, but too thick to wear with nice shoes, so then I purloined some of The Man's. He has several dozen pairs of socks between two states, and I'm sure he won't miss a couple of pairs. They are a bit big, but who is going to notice or care? They are black socks worn with black shoes and long pants, ie invisible.

Then I was inspired to stop using tissues and start using hankies like a proper nana (thanks for the motivation Lucinda). Problem is, I own delicately embroidered nana hankies, inherited from nanas, which aren't really useful for actually blowing a nose. So I revisited The Man's wardrobe downstairs and sequestered several of his numerous man hankies as well, and can now blow my nose in capacious comfort, without consuming trees or hurting my nose on embroidery. Now, this is my awkward social problem, and I need to canvass opinion on this - it is totally normal to steal underwear from one's ex-husband, isn't it? Good, just checking.

More green and thrifty goodness: yesterday I made two batches of bathroom cleaning paste, and one of toilet cleaner, so I really have no excuse not to clean the bathroom.

Last night I had enormous fun making toothpaste and sunscreen at Tanya's Living Better Group. Can you imagine that? Toothpaste and sunscreen, those mysterious concoctions that are magically manufactured in plastic tubes, by some mysterious alchemical process in far away factories, can actually be whipped up by ordinary folk in kitchens with forks and whisks, with not a glass retort or white lab coat in sight. I will be road testing these concoctions over the coming weeks, and will be able to provide a review of their effectiveness in the fullness of time (I am not sure quite how to evaluate the toothpaste, other than on taste. How do I rate its effectiveness in anything less than a five year dental health study with a separate control group?). You can find the recipes on Lisa's facebook page. She ran a wonderful workshop for us, and is a mine of information on all sorts of things I never imagined it was possible to make myself.

I have also been pottering away with my decluttering project which has been relatively painless so far, which is why I started with the hallway! Today I have been cleaning walls and decobwebbing ceilings. This wraps up Week One of what promises to be quite the multi-week project. Frances has been busy decluttering this week as well, and as always manages to be practical and philosophical. I have been enjoying reading her decluttering diaries.

Thrifty garden tip of the week - I have been anxiously watching over some baby tomato plants that popped up in the garden recently, just a little too soon for safety in an uncertain Tasmanian spring, and sure enough about a week and a half ago there was a snap frost. How to protect the tomato babies? I have read about horticultural fleece in overseas gardening books, but never seen it for sale here, so I improvised - with teddy bear stuffing, popped over the top of the seedlings, skewered into place with wooden skewers. The baby tomatoes survived, and now I have a bag of teddy bear stuffing in my gardening cupboard.

Eating out of the garden this week: lettuce, lemons, the first oregano of the season, parsley, rhubarb, garlic chives. Planted: snow peas in the school garden. Cheerful chaos!
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