Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paper Clutter, Projects, and the Darkness of October

You may find that this post rambles a bit. If so, I apologize. However, it's October, which means the darkness and cold are settling in, so I'm beginning to struggle a bit with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). My concentration is meh. I'm sleepy. I don't feel like exercising or dancing (very weird for me!). Reading books knocks me out. Things that ordinarily wouldn't bother me much have become exceedingly annoying lately. I clearly need to make some changes now so I don't slip into full-blown depression by Thanksgiving.

I try to avoid using the word "busy" to describe my days. It seems like a cop-out word. Everyone in modern American society seems to be busy. I don't believe I'm as busy as I seem to be. I think I just need to better manage my time. I often replay my days and weeks in my head, wondering what I do with all of the hours. I don't know what makes everyone else so busy, but for me it seems to be projects. Particularly troublesome are the projects that fail to come to a satisfying conclusion. The projects I begin seem to have a way of developing into unfinished symphonies (or novels, as the case may be).

My family did a little "move" in August when my eldest was preparing to leave for college. The other three children switched bedrooms and my office was bumped to the basement. It has been almost two months since we moved everyone, but things are still not organized the way I'd like.

The timing was fairly horrible for a room shift--it was the week before school started. I teach an online freshman composition class at a community college and homeschool my two youngest children. We totally switched our curriculum for our homeschool this year, so we are still getting used to things. In addition to the regular things, we've had extra projects and mini emergencies. My husband spent a couple weekends repairing cracks and cleaning the driveway to seal it before winter. My car broke down twice, requiring extra trips to the shop and a complete upheaval of my schedule for those days. I acquired a large load of wood chips which are being distributed throughout my garden beds--and it's taking a lot longer than I had anticipated to tackle the pile (which is sitting in my front yard). Our washing machine also needed repairing, but the repairman said it would cost as much as a new machine--so we repaired the four-year-old large-capacity, high-efficiancy machine ourselves for $200. Now the washing machine is working like it did when it was new--nice and quiet! In any case, time has been at a premium, and certain things have gotten pushed aside, like finishing the paper decluttering that should have happened before the rooms were swtiched two months ago.

I actually started to write this post back in September, before the car broke down the first time, just as school was starting. At that time, I was thinking "I still owe you an overview of the garage project." I laughed when I saw the draft of my blog post that said, "Next weekend, we hope to hang the shovels and do some finishing touches, and then I'll recap the adventure." Hmmm. Maybe we'll get to the shovels and finishing touches after Halloween....

For now, though, I would like to wrap up the untimely move. I said yes to the idea early last summer, but I went into a panic thinking about actually executing the shift which involved moving large furniture (dressers, beds, desks, a bookshelf, and a china cabinet). We rearranged furniture between three bedrooms, the mudroom, and the kitchen. Basically, it was like "moving" but staying in the same house since everyone except my husband and I would be sleeping in a new space. In some ways it was more difficult than an actual moving day because we weren't moving into an empty house. Every space was already full in our fairly small house, so choreographing the adventure wasn't as peaceful and smooth as I would have liked.

Nobody slept well the first night in the new rooms, including me! However, now that the new rooms are set up, the move seems to have been an excellent idea. All of the children are comfortable and happy in their new spaces.

Besides the physical moving of furniture, the "room move" renewed my focus to declutter, particularly kid stuff and paperwork. The "kid stuff" is under control, except the constant outgrowing of clothes for the boys. The bigger issue, of course, is paper clutter. The file cabinet that had been in the former office space was the final piece of furniture to move downstairs. Since it was full and heavy, it sat in the kitchen for almost two months.

I have been intending to purge the files for about a year now, but it's an easy project to put off in favor of other things, like baking cookies or picking tomatoes. I know in my mind that if I would simply do a few file folders each day, the job would be done rather quickly. For some reason, though, the thought of the task overwhelms me. I sometimes don't know what to save and what to shred. In this digital age where more and more bills are delivered online, how many past copies of bills do we really need to maintain on hand? USA.gov has a useful webpage for Managing Household Records that I'm planning to use to get things in order this month!

The FlyLady's October mission is to reduce paper clutter. In order to move the file cabinet, I took out all of the folders. In order to give my daughter an empty closet, I also had to take out a number of folders. These folders are stacked in my living room and my new office area. I hope to be writing by next week with my progress--not in December with the realization that two more months have gone by without success. I believe that reducing the paper clutter which is now taking over the living room and the office will help with my S.A.D.

Heavenly Father,

I know that you are all good. I know you have given me many good gifts. Help me to eliminate the clutter in my life and to be a better steward of my possessions and especially of my time. Please bless and guard those who suffer from depression, particularly as the darkness of fall and winter sets in. Thank you for all of the readers of this blog. Bless them and draw them close to your Sacred Heart.

Amen.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Two Weeks Until Race Day!

It's hard to believe it's already been a year since my last fundraiser as a Life Runner.  We will be driving from New England to Dayton, Ohio, (about 1,500 miles round trip) for the Air Force Marathon Races. I'm running a half marathon (my 5th), and my running partner is running a marathon (her first). We are raising funds for the Vitae Foundation and for a local crisis pregnancy center.

I hope my training has been sufficient, and that I can finish strong. Most importantly, I hope that my witness can help raise money for Vitae Foundation, and ultimately save lives.

If you would like to donate to my fundraiser, please visit my Razoo page.

LIFE Runner Creed Print

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Late August and Anxious Moments

I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized my first-born would be leaving in a week for college and minor seminary. I briefly met one other "Seminarian's Mom" at the registration and parent orientation day at the college in June. She is the only other person I "know" (we talked for one hour) whose son is discerning the priesthood. To say I am alone in uncharted waters would be overly dramatic, but I'm feeling a bit, well, alone in uncharted waters!


As my friends would likely attest, I'm prone to uncontrollable bouts of tears. My dad has referred to me as a "soft touch." I am rather sensitive. I thought, though, that I could handle this change without weeping. And here I sit. Eyes filling and tears blurring my vision as I try to say something profound about an experience that isn't really new. It's just new to me.

Lots of moms are sending their children off to college in the next few weeks. For some, it's the eldest. Others are now becoming "empty nesters." And many others are somewhere in between.

I remember when I was getting ready to start college. A young man who worked in the store next to where I worked in a mall joked that I was heading out in search of an "M-R-S degree." It took me a minute to process his joke (Mrs. degree), which I didn't find funny and which didn't happen in college. I was 17, and when I left home, I was still "home"--I lived with my grandmother during college and not in a dorm. However, I never did move back to my parents' house after that summer. I'm expecting my 17-year-old will likely be at our on breaks, but he may not really live with us after this week.

As I wrote the previous sentence, the waterfall of tears flowed harder. Is he scared? Will he be okay? Will he manage his time well and get enough rest? Have I taught him enough life skills for him to be on his own? Will the other seminarians say, "Didn't your mother ever teach you ... ?" Okay, I know it's not about me, but we all know many a shortcoming is blamed on the faulty parenting skills of the mother. Will his siblings miss him? Will they still have a good relationship with him after he leaves?

I'm scared. He'll only be a couple of hours away, but I won't be there if he needs me. I'm also scared that he won't need me any more.

Dear Son,

As you head off to college, remember your manners. Remember to set your alarm. And a back-up alarm. Try to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Use a calendar. Put all of your appointments and assignments on the calendar, even if you believe you can remember them. Study. Make good friendships. Exercise. Eat well. Sleep. Have fun and go to sporting events with your friends, even if you don't like to sport. Most importantly, pray. Pray before you eat. Pray when you study. Pray before bed. Pray with your friends. Pray for your siblings who will miss you dreadfully, even if they don't say it. Pray for Dad, who is also going to miss you so much. Of course, you know I will miss you. I will be praying for you every day. Please also pray for me.

Love always,

Mom

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Garage Project, the Continuing Saga!

The garage project is mostly complete! We still need to hang a few shovels and decide whether to purchase a new tool rack for the brooms and rakes for some finishing touches, but all of the hard work is done. I will write a longer reflection soon, but I thought I'd at least post a "before and after" photo comparison.

Before: Dark and Scary!


After: Bright and airy!
Thank you to my wonderful family for their help in getting this project done! My husband, all four of my children, and my niece all painted, moved things, and helped in many ways over the two week transformation of our garage. I couldn't be more pleased with the results!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spiritual Woman: Book Review: Strong Mothers, Strong Sons

A review by my friend at Spiritual Woman: Book Review: Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men by Meg Meeker, M.D. New York: Ballantine Books, 2014 ...



I hope to read this book soon as I'm mothering three sons, ages 8, 13, and 17!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Garage Project, Part Two

As I mentioned in my previous post, it would be very easy for me to go in the house, close the door, and ignore the garage without some specific deadlines and accountability. Two appointments this coming week have motivated us to keep moving!

On the back wall of the garage is a makeshift table from one of the wooden house doors we replaced 8 years ago. The door is on top of a couple sawhorses. As with any large flat surface, it is a great space for projects, but mostly it tends to be a place that accumulates clutter. The children leave toys, sweatshirts, paper, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles on the table. I tend to put gardening paraphernalia and painting supplies on the table, and admittedly not always in an orderly fashion. Consequently, when it comes time to start a project, I often spend the first 15 minutes finding the table under the clutter. On the adjacent wall is a three-tier shelf/workshop table that is partially inaccessible because it is partly behind the door table. During our Minimalism Game purge (I know, you're probably looking at the photos and thinking "What did you get rid of?"), we realized we could probably part with the cumbersome door table and rearrange a bit to streamline our storage, while reducing the flat surface invitation for clutter.

In order to make sure the door went away, I called our local building supply salvage store for a donation pick up. They are coming Thursday, so we cleared off the table this weekend. All we have to do now is put it outside on Wednesday evening.

Work surface? Nowhere to be found! 

See what I mean? Disaster. The items in the back corner
are inaccessible.
At least the floor is clear and I can fit the van in....
The next order of business was to figure out how we would deal with re-taping and mudding the ceiling to prepare for painting. A step ladder is not practical for this type of work. We asked a couple friends if they knew of anyone with scaffolding we could borrow. No luck. So I looked at the online catalog for the local construction rental place. I saw the perfect solution--a rolling work platform! I called and reserved the platform for Saturday morning. Since the store is closed on Sunday, we can get the platform for the whole weekend for the cost of 1.5 days!

One of the split seams on the ceiling.
My shoulders ache just thinking about this weekend!

You may not understand why these deadlines are so exciting to me. I will explain. Since we only have the platform for the weekend, the ceiling must be completed this weekend. No time to dilly-dally! That means by Monday morning, when I take the rolling platform back to the rental shop, the garage will have a fresh coat of paint and will look like a new place.

The project won't be done with the completed paint job, though. We still need to do some trim work around the windows. We also must make a decision on what to do with the floor (stain, paint, Racedeck, or simply clean what we have). Finally, when all the cleaning and painting is done, we will reorganize and possibly purchase a storage system to get things off the floor and orderly. The most overwhelming task, however, will be completed once the paint dries on the ceiling.

If you've done a garage makeover and have suggestions for tool and bike storage or floor treatments (pictures please, I'm a visual learner!), I'd love to see them!

Have a great week, and I hope to be sharing some great results, and maybe some interesting stories, next week!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Garage Project, Part One

When we bought our house back in 2005, we knew we would need to do some updating. We've done a little at a time, including a new roof and new doors, new faucets, lots of painting, a new garage door, and updating to the downstairs bathroom. We have a list of other updates we'd still like to make when they are in the budget. One of the worst spots in the house is the attached garage. It's "just a garage" so it was pretty been low on the priority list. Over the years, we have used the space for storing bikes, lawn and garden tools, and the van. I've also used it as a workshop for furniture and kitchen cabinet painting projects. My favorite use of the space is for practicing Irish Dance! Before our annual recital, sometimes alone and other years with my daughter or my friend, the van gets moved out and the floor swept, and then I practice my hard shoe dances. 

We are not planning to move any time in the foreseeable future, but since this is our third house, I've learned to remodel and update in terms of improving home value and sale-ability. An ugly garage space probably wouldn't be the main feature that would tank a home sale, but a fresh-looking garage could definitely be appealing to a buyer. The other thing I've learned after selling two homes is that it's smart to make the improvements for yourself, not for the next owner. I lived with dingy, ugly wall-to-wall carpet for several years at our previous house. I shampooed it, and it still looked bad. When we listed the house to sell, the realtor strongly suggested replacing the carpeting. I agreed, and the house looked so much better--for the next owner. This time, we're making the changes to make our home the way we like it.

House wall. See ugly paneling piece around the garage
door opener. The whole wall to the right of the house door
was pieced like that.
In spite of its usefulness, the interior of our garage is downright ugly. The wall attached to the house had some 1970s fake wood paneling, which would have been okay with a coat of paint, if the pieces weren't all smaller than 3' x 3'. They were oddly pieced in, and it looked super tacky. The lighting is poor and the windows are difficult to open, so it's stuffy in the middle of summer. In addition to the weird wall treatments, the sheet rock on the ceiling was taped and mudded, but never painted. As a result, the tape seams have cracked. Before his summer job started, my oldest son removed the fake wood paneling, revealing drywall like the ceiling and the other half of the house wall. The other walls are plywood. 

Attic access ladder is broken and tape seams are cracked.
My husband and I agreed last month that it's time to make some changes to the garage. Most of them are not expensive--just time consuming. We've already purged a lot of junk during June when I played the Minimalism Game, but then we had a couple weeks of not much progress. As any runner knows, having a race to train for is a great motivator. I am training for a half marathon 10 weeks from now. I started a couple months ago, and I'm starting to build up my mileage so that when race day rolls around, I'll be ready. A household project is easy to ignore and postpone, unless specific deadlines require accountability. The Minimalism Game helped because I knew we needed to purge 20+ items per day at the end of the month. Now that the game is over, it has been easy to focus on other things and ignore the garage. 

Enter...organized and hard-working husband. I had lots of other things I would have rather done last weekend, but my husband said he was planning to work on the garage. It wasn't necessarily the most romantic way to spend our anniversary, but we were working together, and that's a big motivator for me. If I have a partner and accountability, I have all the focus of a "normal" non-ADD person. I jumped into full-on work mode. We used the spackling compound we had on hand and finished patching and sanding the wall that had had the fake wood paneling. It's now nice and smooth and ready for priming and painting. Unfortunately, we ran out of supplies (we were using up what we had from other projects). So far, this project has cost "zero dollars"!

Tune in tomorrow for an update on this weekend's progress and the benefits of accountability!