Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Shopping, Scheming, Cooking, Walking – Typical Thursday Fare

Despite the fact that I never (ever) get done everything that I want to on my days off from work, the rare day does roll along where I do so much (or at least enjoy what I’m doing so much) that I don’t care.

Today has been one of those days.

Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to:

- Organizing Scheming

Although I didn’t make any real headway into any one organizing project today, I did continue my thought process on all of the various areas I’m dealing with. I set out today looking for two very particular items; one, I found:


Well, okay, I wasn’t looking for exactly this. But I was looking for some way to hold 4-5 binders neatly on my desk. This will definitely do the trick, and I found it for $8 at a local recycling center. Also, I think it looks pretty cool. (And it’s not dirty, just wet. That’s a trick of the light. I will still probably give it a good cleaning, though.)

The other item was a clear plastic shoe organizer, but not one that I intended to use for shoes… I’ve ended up deciding that may not be exactly what I’m actually looking for, but I have other ideas. Stay tuned.

- DIY Makeup Scheming

Have you noticed how expensive makeup is? If you wear it, and you buy good makeup, you probably have. Have you also noticed how many scary ingredients are in it, even (and perhaps especially) the so-called “natural” mineral makeup brands? I have noticed both, for some time now, but felt like there was nothing I could do about it unless I wanted to stop wearing makeup altogether (which, silly as it is, I don’t).

Anyway, I did some furious googling today, and several hours later have pieced together what I hope will be a workable recipe for foundation; I’m going to try it out in a couple of weeks and let you know how it goes.

- Walking the dog

So this actually isn’t normal Thursday fare, which is why it’s noteworthy. I’m ashamed to say that I do not walk Otis with the frequency he deserves, and that’s a topic for a whole other post really, but suffice to say: today we went on a walk. Hooray!


- Cooking

Among other things, tonight we are making this coconut milk ice cream recipe, and if you have an ice cream maker, you should too! We tried it last week and it was simply wonderful.

Hope all of you had a good Thursday as well!

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

A Foggy Evening: Winter Repeats Itself

Winter is beautiful, but it gets so little love from so many. Everyday I hear the refrains, “When will this cold end?” “I can’t wait for spring!” “I have to get out of here.” The last week or two, all complaints have focused on the cold and fog—this blanket that has settled in the valley, turning street lights and night-time tree branches into magical scenes.


And I know: winter is hard. It brings challenges for young, old, and sick; the cold requires you to bundle up, call on your courage, and take good care of yourself. It’s all too easy to long for warmth and light to replace the cold and dark.

But when did our memories become so short? Winter repeats itself. Spring repeats itself. Summer will be here before we know it. And each in turn will bring its own challenges along with its own joys.

Lord, grant us the wisdom to remember that winter is only a season—and it is beautiful in its own way.


Monday, January 21st, 2013

Attempting Organization: Our Master Bedroom Clothes Closet

Good morning! Happy Monday. As you know, I have recently made it my goal to get organized (or at least more organized) in as many arenas of my life as I can. A lofty goal—and one which, I realize, may not be entirely possible—but one worth striving for.

For whatever reason, I decided to start with our closet. Well, I know the reason, actually: it’s because every single day, getting ready for work was turning into progressively more and more of a nightmare. Where are my work clothes? Are they even clean? Is this basket full of clean clothes or dirty clothes? Were these clothes that were on the floor clean before Otis lay on them and chewed them?

In the past, I may have attacked a problem like this by maniacally shoving everything that was on the floor into some spot or other, getting rid of as many things as possible along the way because obviously I had “too much stuff.” (I may have also shed tears of frustration at not knowing which clothes were clean and which were dirty and so washing them all over again.)

I also, in the past, would have entirely blamed myself for this situation. “Your closet keeps getting messy because you are lazy, and don’t want to put things away. And that’s that.”

This is only partly true. I am lazy sometimes—or more truly, I am busy, and tired, and preoccupied with other matters. But as I have learned more about organizing, especially through multiple readings of Organizing from the Inside Out, I have realized how important it is to tailor your space to your specific way of dealing with busy, tired, and preoccupied—because those facts of life aren’t going away, and it actually is possible for your space to help rather than hinder you.

Closet, Before

The first step I took in this re-organization project was actually not an action at all: I observed. For about a week, I kept a mental tally of all the things I was looking for that I couldn’t find and tried to keep my finger on the pulse of why exactly I was so resistant to put away clean clothes after I washed them.

The answer turned out to be surprisingly simple (for both Gil’s clothes and mine): either A) Items were stored in a space that was not the right size for them or difficult for us to get to, or B) Items had no home at all.

For example: Gil’s T-shirts and shorts were haphazardly thrown into that hanging organizer on the right side of the closet, but they didn’t fit well in those compartments. My T-shirts and blouses, on the other hand, were hung on a high rod on the left side of the closet (see below), a poor choice for two reasons: 1) I prefer folding to hanging and 2) I never wanted to reach so far above my head to retrieve or put things away. (Silly, I know, but remember we’re trying to create the path of least resistance.) You’ll see the solution to this problem in a moment.

Closet, Before

So, after analyzing what was wrong with the closet and coming up with a plan for how to fix it, we went into action. We spent a day taking all our clothes out of the closet, folding and sorting them into categories that made sense to us (I did three loads of laundry to make sure that we had everything in front of us).

Then we purged. We spent a lot of time focusing on Gil’s clothes, because I tend to purge clothes frequently throughout the year and didn’t have a ton extra to get rid of. His clothes also take up a lot more space than mine, so it was extra important that he not have ill-fitting or old, ratty clothes weighing him down!

Sort, then Purge

After all that (Phew!), it was time to bring everything back into the closet, according to the plan and observations we had already made.

One adjustment we made (which illustrates the point that organization is not all about aesthetics) was removing the canvas boxes from the top shelf in the closet. (You can see them in the first photo above.) They were beautiful, yes, but they held memorabilia and cards—not anything we needed to access on a daily basis and certainly not in our clothes closet. What we really needed was a home for our shoes where they were easy to put away and the dog couldn’t eat them, and that top shelf turned out to be perfect.

Closet, After

To solve the clothing placement dilemma I mentioned above, we simply swapped the two sets of clothing! Now Gil’s folding clothes are in large wire cubicles on the left side of the closet, right above his hanging clothes… (not everything was clean when I took this picture, hence the emptiness of those top cubicles)

Closet, After

… and my folding clothes are in the organizer on the right side of the closet, with dresses hanging on one side and short hanging storage on the other.

Closet, After

I also created a home for the scarves that always seemed to be all over the place:

Closet, After

And I made sure that specialty items like skirts had the kind of hangers that they needed… because nothing is as frustrating as not having the right tools to put something away.

Closet, After

So, all in all, I would call this closet re-organization a success. It took longer than I wanted it to (and I didn’t finish some parts of it yet—like the vanity top, and the corner shelves which I didn’t even take a picture of), but it has truly helped my peace of mind in the morning. I actually enjoy putting clothes away (did I really say that?!), because they all have a specific place to go. Who would’ve thought?

(Oh, and I’d like to take a moment to say I know how spoiled I am to have a walk-in closet WITH A WINDOW. That light and space do make things much easier, but I am positive that this same process of analysis and problem-solving could apply to a closet of any size.)

I hope this inspires you to take on whatever problem spot in your house is putting the most friction in your day—it’s worth it, I promise.

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Little Loves: Ceramic Owl Measuring Spoons

Little Loves: A series highlighting in images the little things in my life that are beautiful, useful, or otherwise bring me joy.


Gil gave me these little owl measuring spoons in my stocking this year. Aren’t they just darling?


Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Attempting Organization – Part One: Why Get Organized?

I am beginning a project–a potentially long, difficult, and foolhardy project–and I want to bring you along for the ride. My goal? Organization. (I know, how very January of me.) Organization of home, organization of money, organization of priorities and tasks.

I plan to bite this project off in bits and pieces, and to share with you the particularly difficult or particularly helpful bits. I’ll talk more later about my method and specific goals. But first, I’d like to take one post to talk about why I am taking this project on at all.


It’s very simple, really:

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

- Professor Albus Dumbledore

We hear the word “organization” or the phrase “get organized” so many times (especially at this time of year) that we easily forget what they actually mean.

It’s all too easy to equate “organization” with “visual order,” like rows of labelled boxes or paperclips and rubber bands neatly in separate drawer dividers. This is not entirely wrong. Visual order can be a part of organization; an outward manifestation of the fact that organization exists, but it is not one and the same thing.

True organization is a deeper, more basic state of being, and it need not necessarily be accompanied by fancy organizing “tools.” It is, essentially (to borrow from Radiohead), everything in its right place.

You’re cooking and you need that one frying pan. Do you know where it is? Can you reach right for the cumin, or do you have to search for it? You’re getting ready for work, can you remember where you left your glasses or your keys?

This is most easily understood by examples like this, on the level of “stuff,” but it is just as true for the organization of priorities, tasks, even one’s mind (thank you, Dumbledore).

Order of space is knowing what tools you have at your disposal and easily being able to use them, order of mind is knowing what things are most important to you (and where your security comes from).


All of that should give you a good idea of why anyone would want to be organized, but let me give you a glimpse into my personal reasons.

Ever since I was a child, I have had two deeply ingrained tendencies that, together, have made life quite interesting. On the one hand, I have always been a lover of order. On the other hand, I have also always been an insufferable procrastinator and clutterer. Why did God put these two traits into the same person? Don’t ask me—maybe He has a sense of humor?

In any case, you could say that this project, “Attempting Organization,” is one which I am not starting so much as continuing from the day I was born. Here are my personal reasons for continuing it:

1. The problem is so crippling. When I look at the things in my life that bring me stress, they inevitably lead back to lack of clarity. Lack of clarity on what I’m supposed to be doing–so I don’t do anything. Lack of clarity on where something is, because there’s too much clutter around to find it. Lack of clarity on where to put something, so I just stack it any old place and can’t find it later. (Such a first-world problem, I know… but it is a real problem! All of us who have been blessed with so much stuff have also, in a way, been cursed.)

2. The payoff is so great. I have experienced another way of living, at various times in my life, and it is so much better I can hardly describe it. The latest time was last year, in our last house, when my mother came and helped me go through the same process I’m now attempting on my current house. I couldn’t believe it–now that I knew where everything went, I actually put things away! I knew where things were when I needed them… I experienced a kind of mental clarity I’m not sure I had ever had. Aaaand then we got a dog… and moved.

3. I believe that striving is important, and progress is possible. There is an important balance to be struck in this project in order not to fall off either on the side of perfectionism or the side of apathy. So although I know this world is not a perfect one, and never will be, I am still driven to strive toward a clearer state of mind. Because even if I fail, the effort is worthwhile, and even if I fall short, I know I will make progress toward my goal. Every time I’ve attempted it in the past I have gotten a little closer than the time before.

Plus, this time? I’m going to be bringing you along with me to keep me accountable. I hope you enjoy the ride.