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Sunday, October 21, 2012

holding down the fort

I have been on my own with my boys for a few days a Minou is off in the wilds, somewhere near Seattle, hob-knobbing and cavorting with a bunch of eco-builders and designers.

He left us hidden chocolate. That man is so sweet.

As are my boys: I loved watching them be playful, gentle, and encouraging with a little one we know. P'tit Minou Un used his Big Boy influence to encourage Finishing Dinner, while P'tit Minou Deux spent time building Mr. Potato Head and roughhousing on the floor despite being tired. I am so, so proud of them, watching the young men they have become.

Anyway, we are holding down the fort. We bought massive amounts of groceries (two teen boys in the home), we bought chicken feed, we bought cat food and dog food. Our entire household will be well fed (me perhaps a little too much so: see hidden chocolate above, plus some amazing chocolates sent by a dear friend in a surprise package). I'm also hearing a buying theme here. Let's hope (for Minou's sake) that we don't buy a house too.

We're going to an open house today, just to look.
P'tit Minou Un reminded me that this was how our big brown dog Sawyer joined the family--a weekend that Minou was out of town, and the guilty parties went to the Humane Society just to look. Ahem.

In other news, I have discovered some affordable non-code (oops) tiny spiral staircase options that could solve our attic loft access problem. And I have a big week coming up at work, with two events I am excited about. Sometimes I don't recognize outright that I am feeling a little nervous about something--until the behaviors I am employing to cope with the feeling undercurrent trigger me to notice.

Such as: why am I eating too much chocolate? Why am I spending so much time on real-estate websites and driving around town to look at houses, when we are planning to fix up our little urban farmette homestead and make it work for us? And why can't I be motivated to scrub and clean, and go on long-distance runs, instead of these other behaviors?

Oh well. Related to news, I also have several academic deadlines coming up. I had promised myself that this would be the year of No Procrastination--I am tired of the disruption this bad habit can create, as I work feverishly last minute to gallop in and deliver the goods in time for a deadline. As interesting as my online coursework is, I am really, really ready to no longer be a student. So many years of this. And here I am, procrastinating again. It's challenging, with this tendency, to study online, since there are so many built-in distractions--such as blogging and real-estate websites!

Therefore, I'm going to take a little blogging break. I'll plan to check in and post weekly on the weekends as a self-reward for getting my coursework done. I'll fill you in with my decluttering progress, which is proceeding at a slow and steady pace. Thanks to a suggestion from a reader (thanks Sue!) I have been sticking with a set amount of time per day--15 or 20 minutes. When that is done, that's progress.

Have a lovely week...please leave me anote and let me know what you're up to!

Monday, October 15, 2012

woke up

What a rollercoaster ride of emotions this last week has been.
Thankfully, I woke up from a dream of a Japanese house to realize that, although I long for space and beauty,
there are many, many, ways to create them in my life...
and that I do not want to be saddled, weighed down, leashed, or chained,
to an enormous mortgage or any other debt.

Whew! Am I the only one who has these fade in/fade out moments?
Seized with a new passion for something, swept by emotions that temporarily overcome the rational parts of my brain.
I  live in both the rational and emotional parts.
I have discovered, though, that the "middle way" of living is more sustainable.
Slow and steady. I keep coming back to that theme, because I have found such stability and comfort in it.
Not to mention progress.

 I'm back to the "ten a day out" decluttering system. This sounds like it would move quickly, but many of the things are too tiny to be noticable. Still, it keeps me moving forward.

So, no grand sweep of the house (the attic avalanche is sadly still piled on the couch). I'm having the hardest time making progress with the baby clothes and little-kid toys. My preference would be to keep a few of the classic, favored toy sets, like the wooden train and Playmobils (I'm hoping for grandchildren some day far in the future, and we do have younger kids over to play occasionally). Also to keep just a few of the cutest, most memorable outfits...and pass the rest on to some other adorable baby or toddler to wear and make their own memories in. Most of these clothes were passed on to us from little Bastien, Tasman, and Zane. However, here is where I must defer to the P'tit Minous, who are inexplicably attached to their three-month old outfits and two-year old coats. Sigh.

We are (I'm claiming some credit, but really I should say Minou is) making progress on the attic remodel too. He pulled out all the rough flooring over the weekend and installed a new ventilation system to deal with moisture from the shower upstairs. I'm so excited to imagine this as our cozy little sleeping loft space (shhh...I mean, "storage space", since we aren't installing a legal staircase at this time. The City does not like lofts with ladders, since the fire marshal couldn't get up there). We live in the rainy Pacific Northwest, and I can just imagine falling asleep to the lullaby of rain on the metal roof just over our heads.

And in other news, I'm back to jogging, tonic for my soul and mood (there's nothing like a good run in the pouring rain), and I love my new job and co-workers. Life is good.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I'm in a mood.

I shed a few tears over the Japanese house last night, then let it go.
Its sale is pending. It was snapped up once the price dropped--so low, but too high.
(I stopped tears quickly as P'tit Minou Deux said "Mama you're making me sad...")
The open, empty space. The Shinto temple aesthetic. It was lovely and unique.
I hope that whoever bought it will love it and live in it, not leave it as a university rental.

Here we are. Dreams aside. This is my home... la Maison des Minous.
And it is a sweet one. Well-insulated, wood-framed windows, trees all around, and the garden.
Also lovely and unique, in a warm, friendly, simple, crowded, cluttery way.
We built it from the ground up. (not really, but designed and watched it built)

Warm and friendly and simple is good. Crowded and cluttery, no.
I'm ready to part ways with Things. I want less of them. I crave open space.
I need fewer posessions than I own. I desire to break the emotional ties to them.
Expect to see progress on that Attic Avalance within the next week.
Tonight, I want everything to go.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Home clutter maintenance takes time.
Not a lot of time, but regular time.
I find it amazing and overwhelming how quickly everything can pile up
with just a few days of being-too-busy.
Too busy to do that regular evening sweep,
tidying up, recycling, returning books to their shelves,
coats to the closet, shoes to the Shoe Box, and above all,
papers to wherever they need to go.

I recognize that it is all about building habits.
My lovely mother-in-law, Mamie, is a home organizing genius.
She loves to clean, move furniture around, and rearrange drawers.
You could eat off the floor in her home (though she wouldn't let you).
It would not be recommended to do that in our home
unless you were trying to really prime your immune system.
Years ago, as I quizzed her on How She Did It,
I remember she said, "If you just take the time
to put each thing back in it's place after you use makes all the difference."

Of course, I scoffed: too simple! How could that solve our clutter problem?
Well, part of the problem back then, with limited storage,
was that not everything had a place to live.
 But now, many Goodwill bags out the door later, it does.
And it really does make the difference.

After just one week of attention spread in many other places,
when I forgot that the thirty seconds it takes to return something to its home is worth it in the end, our downstairs looks like a whirlwind hit it. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but it feels overwhelming to me. Paper piles. Magazine piles. Shoe piles. Homework binder piles. Things headed-out-the-door-but-not-there-yet piles.
And with all these piles, it's harder to find the floor to keep it clean.

So just like a monk sits down to meditate and takes the first breath, a runner heads out the door and takes the first step, a cook picks up the kitchen knife and prepares to cut the first vegetable, I have to learn to start from the beginning again every day. Pick up my first item, and return it to its home.
The simplest tasks performed again and again.
Back to basics. Building the habits. Home maintenance.

Friday, October 12, 2012

mia due to CHN

I apologize for some sparse postings this past week.
There has been a lot going on in the Casa de Minous.
I started a new job this week.
It was really hard to say goodbye to my wonderful coworkers at my past job, my first nursing position.
I loved working in women's health. I loved the privilege of talking with clients about very personal details of their lives.

However. I took a leap, in equal parts for my minous (the hours are much more family friendly) and for myself, craving a new challenge and wanting a broader base of experience as a new(er) nurse.

And let me say that I love, love, love my new position as a Community Health Nurse. My new coworkers have been very warm and welcoming, the job will be (I can already tell) constantly changing (that's a good thing), and it is so, so interesting with many areas to learn about. There are a lot of parts to this job that I have never done before, and it will be a personal and professional stretch. There is much to learn and a lot of support for learning it. In the few spare quiet moments, I have been working my way through a video series based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Guide to Immunizations and Vaccine Preventable Diseases". This is much more fun than it may sound like.

It is also enjoyable to be downtown. I wander over to the library at lunch time, and walk to P'tit Minou Deux's ballet studio after work to watch the last part of his class and catch a ride home. The location and hours have me feeling more integrated with my family's daily life, which is just what I wanted. I was actually at home cozily cooking dinner in my pajamas at 7:00 p.m. one night, thinking that I would have been just getting off work and starting my 45 minute bike commute home the week before. Now when I ride my bike, it's just 15 minutes!

I haven't touched the attic avalanche this week, but now it looks like a neatly stacked tower that has completely taken over the landing couch rather than an avalanche, thanks to Minou. I'll get to it this weekend, if only a little bit.

How has your week been? What are you up to?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

house hunger, again

Oh, as if there is not enough going on right now...
I went and fell in love with a house.

And I didn't pine in silence and privacy, either--
I dragged each of my family members to see it, one by one.
It is sitting empty, a little Japanese-styled jewelbox
half a mile from my boys' schools.
Full of windows, soaring ceilings, tatami mat room, an office studio for Minou
and yes, three bedrooms.

No yard to speak of--but between full time work (at a new & wonderful job), finishing my BSN nursing degree, and helping P'tit Minou Deux with homework, I am not finding much time for farming these days.

And it just dropped $50,000 in price.
To be what we could just ever so barely afford.
With a personal loan for the down payment offered by a dear family friend.

What to do.
Stretching financially like that goes against everything I believe in and feel comfortable with.
I don't believe in debt, I don't carry debt (except a small mortgage).
I like the security of an emergency cushion.
To know that even if the worst happened, we would be OK for a while.

Yet--it's a great investment, close to the university and a park, sure to appreciate in value.
It is a gem of a home.
Not for everyone--no storage and no carport (or garage).
Perfect for a minimalist!
(a real one).
My boys could walk to school.
And did I mention how beautiful it is?

Sometimes it's handy to have an architect in the family.
While I rhapsodized about the light, the lines, the Japanese soaking tub, the open floor plan,
Minou noticed the cracks in the major beam, the water damage on the ceiling,
and crawled under the house to see the falling insulation and floppy HVAC pipes.

My bubble was burst.
I still want to buy it, though...for someone with the money to put into fixing into it, it would be a wonderful investment.
The problem is, we don't have the money.
But we almost do. With no cushion.

What do you think? What would you do?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

attic avalanche


I had been feeling, dare I say it, just a tiny bit smug about all the decluttering progress I have been making. Watching things going out the door that aren't loved or used, even parting with emotionally charged things like my father's book collection and folders full of prior course material, feeling very proud of myself.

Well, I still am, but I realized today exactly why the house has been looking so spacious.
There's this little thing called an attic.

And ours was completely emptied today, to make room for some renovations--ripping up the flooring and insulation to make it into (eventually) a finished sleeping loft.

And that attic space was full. It didn't feel full, but there you have it. Bring everything in it down the pull-down stairs into the upstairs landing/office area, and there is a horrific, piled-up mess.

And if I thought prior items were emotionally charged--here we are talking baby clothes, baby toys, boxes of papers and cards.... How will we do this?

I'm not sure that P'tit Minou Un will be able to get out of his bedroom to come down for dinner.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Great Glasses!

OK, let's have a vote!

I need a new pair of glasses (my old one has been repaired more times than I can count)
and...I have $300 of insurance left that are earmarked just for that. How lucky am I?!

More lucky than lucky, except that I find glasses shopping to be quite stressful.

First, I'm utterly blind as a bat without my current pair of glasses, so to try and get an impression how a new pair looks, I must place my face 6 inches from the mirror and squint my eyes fiercely.
Let's hope that distorts my usual affect just a little bit.

Second, I find it hard to be objective about my appearance, usually estimating glasses to be either much more or much less flattering than outside opinions corroborate.

And my family has limited patience for weighing in as I try on pairs in different poses. (My local wonderful glasses store allows clients to check out up to 4 pairs of glasses for up to 3 days before deciding). How about like this? From this angle? Pair A or Pair B? Mama, who cares?! (Husbands/sweeties know better than to express their opinions on such matters too forcefully, so Minou comments with caution).

Therefore I am relying on you, my readers! Because I know you will tell it like it is.
Right? Please leave me a comment and let me know which pair you prefer and why.
As a reward you will have my gratitude forever and one less nurse in unflattering glasses walking around.

Here are the choices.

Option A:

Option B:

Option C:

Option D:

I do realize that they are mostly similar. But slightly different--honest!
P'tit Minou Un took the pictures, and I was trying to look serious.

Please weigh in--I need some help!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

shoe fly, don't bother me


Enormous, smelly, muddy, sweaty, clean, dirty...Piled in the entry way, tucked under the backpack hooks, trippable objects on the mat in front of the front door, and sometimes even (thanks to Guess Who 15) on the couch, they seem to be everywhere except where they are meant to live. Which in our house is in two official places.

One is this old tulip bulb box that I love. It lived for a long time in the front entry, and recently was exiled to the downstairs bathroom where it was a little too out of the way. It was found sitting empty. Our home is supposedly a shoes-off zone, so shoes should be coming off in the entry way. Back it comes to the entry. The original idea was that each family member has two slots for their "most active shoewear".

The other shoe home is a folding shelf in the front hall closet, where Minou and Mama Minou's shoes are rumored to live. This closet is also where we keep the giant dogfood bag and the shredding bag and my stash of items on their way out, as well as the more standard coats and jackets and board games and sleeping bags, so the shoes were forever falling off the shelf and having to be retrieved from the depths of who-knows-what. Not working. Out it goes! (this folding table was a free one I found curbside near the university and brought home, despite the suspicious burn marks)

Can you see the hiding shoes?

Minou has created his own shoe stash in his closet area in the downstairs bathroom, so his limited collection can just live there (he likes to keep the shoe boxes, so the shoes might as well live in the boxes and take up less space).

And what will I do with my own eight pairs...sigh. As I said before, for the family member who preaches minimalism, I also have the greatest number of personal clothing items. Well, jogging and gardening shoes live outside due to their yucky factor (these are the ones piled in fromt of the front door), and slippers migrate around with me. My new plan is to seasonally rotate. Sandals (3) now go to the attic, leaving me with just two pairs of everyday shoes...which will fit in the tulip box! Hooray. Space problem solved. At least for now.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

clear & clear some more

Somewhere, and I can't remember where, I read a blog post or a blog post response about Uncluttering by a mother. This mother said that when her children were small, every day she cleared out 10 things from her home to create a more serene, functional and peaceful space. It could be big things, furniture or clothing or books, or it could be 10 broken pens from the random pen drawer. It didn't matter. Just 10 things.

That's my goal right now, fast-tracking the 365 Less Things. And if I find I can't do 10, well, I'll step it back down. I'm also trying to do the 10 first thing in the morning, because if I do this before bed, I end up staying up too late, mooning around the random pen drawer feeling confused.

Today: clothes. I'm frustrated with P'tit Minou Deux's sartorial selection. Despite his closet full of a resonable number of clothing changes, he has one preferred outfit that he would like to wear daily. My requests for clean and varied clothing are met with "You can't tell me what to do". Ah, 13.

So why keep all those hopefully selected (by me) items in the closet that are met with daily rejection? Why, indeed? If a "How about this?" has been met with an emphatic "Ugh!" at least 5 times, no let's make it 10, I see no reason why said item needs to remain on his closet shelf. Let's clear it out. As he commented the other day, it's true that most of his clothing consists of hand-me-downs (I personally love that frugal solution!). Which does mean that they may not really be to his taste and were not of his choosing. So by making the space in his closet, we will see what he really "needs" and have more room to boot. And hand these clothes along to another friend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

simplify for family

My life is so full of competing goals and desires.
It's often difficult to realize what is most important.
And then something happens...
A child's suffering can be just that.
But it can also be the "canary in the goal mine",
a signal that something is out of balance.
A reminder that daily life without time for snuggles, stories, and home-made muffins is too busy.

Yes, I recognize the privilege in making that choice to slow down, to decline work in order to reduce stress and focus on the needs of my kids (and sweetie).
As a mom, I'm usually trying to teach the skills of self-sufficiency.
But even the most self-sufficient of us need a little nurturing and looking after.

So, slowing down...nurturing myself and nurturing my family.
Making the doctor's appointments.
Making the lunches (they can do it).
Making gingerbread chocolate-chip pumpkin muffins for snack.
Making something yummy for dinner.
Helping with homework with extra patience,
and reading an extra chapter or two of Huckleberry Finn.

Also: making time for friends and support (walks, special meetings out).
Looking for the bright spots and encouraging him (them) to do the same.
Enjoying the warm and cozy glow.
Let's hope this helps restore hope and nurtures optimism.
Putting the focus on what's most important...