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!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Minimalist, I Am Not

Today, June 30, was the final day of my participation in the Minimalism Game with a group of friends. I have posted some of my daily decluttering tallies in this blog: here, here, here...and here. I have pondered whether decluttering would help my un-diagnosed ADD and whether the accountability in the game would help me maintain focus. The answer to both of those questions is "sort of." 

Pride is a useful tool. When other members of the group would send the group emails with their daily tallies, I couldn't let them beat me. I'm not always a "winner," but I am fairly competitive. My pride motivated me to keep purging junk, even though I wasn't highly motivated personally to get rid of things on certain days. I knew that the other members of the group would notice if I didn't send a message with my purge list, so the accountability kept me going to the end of the game.

Has the decluttering helped my focus? I would say, not yet. We have purged a lot, but several areas need more concentrated purging, then organizing before I can be in the spaces without being regularly distracted. Most importantly, the office needs an overhaul. However, some of the spaces that were particularly distracting to me are much better today than they were May 31.

Several members of my household have contributed to the item count. My daughter cleaned out the clothes that she doesn't wear and the socks with holes for a 20-something count. Because she cleaned out her dresser, I was able to repair a broken drawer, and her "clothes pile" is no longer on top of the dresser. The clothes are mostly put away, and I can now stand in her doorway and talk to her without feeling anxious at the sight of the clutter.

The boys helped my husband with a garage clean-up that tallied to the full count for days 28 and 29. When I drove the van into the garage today, I noticed that it felt much roomier. Organizing and painting the garage is the family project for the rest of this summer, so the Minimalism Game was a great first step to getting that project underway.

I was struggling today to finish the game. I had a bit of a headache and thought about not bothering with the final day. The pride thing started gnawing at me around 9 p.m.  I was sitting here wondering what I would do for the final 27 since I had the first 3 accounted for.  I kept looking at the shelves in the office closet, knowing that I probably could have gotten quite a few days’ worth out of there, but I hesitated to tackle the space for some reason. A few moments ago, my gaze fell upon a green basket. I remembered that I used to store cassette tapes in that basket. On top of the cassettes were some small photo albums. My daughter and I looked at baby pictures of her and the two older boys for a few minutes, then I dug in to find the cassettes!

Day 30
1.  Pair of my husband's old running shoes
2. A pair of holey, not holy, underwear.
3. Dried out glue stick
4-30! Mix tapes and other 1980s cassettes.


For July, I will be working on the garage project and my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, but I may try a 31-day Minimalism Challenge for August with a special focus on the office and kitchen. Then, I'll let you know if my focus improves.

I have learned from this game that I am not a minimalist, and I probably never will be. However, we have recognized as a family that we have held on to a lot of junk that we really do not need. Clearing out the junk makes it easier to find what we do need and to use the useful things we'd forgotten because they were hidden in the clutter. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The REAL reason why children fidget

The REAL reason why children fidget Do you or your kids have attention problems? How much physical activity do you get each day? Angela Hanscom of Timbernook suggests that lack of movement could be a big part of the problem! I've "unplugged" my kids for the afternoon, and we're heading for an afternoon at the lake!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Maintaining Focus through a Game

With all the things I'm getting rid of, I would expect the house to feel empty! Of course, lots of the items are small enough to fit in my hand, so the impact is gradual. Even so, this minimalism game is motivating me to keep purging junk, which will make it easier to find the things we need and keep the house clean.

My husband and I stood together in the garage the other day and considered some purging that we'll be doing in there this weekend. Days 21 and 22 should be a cinch since I'll have a team working with me! My husband will make sure that all of the children pitch in for the garage project!. Once the garage is purged and reorganized (and the ceiling and one wall painted), it will make getting in and out of the vehicle more comfortable and will make the tools, bicycles, and lawn mower much more accessible. In addition, it will look nicer and will be a welcoming place to drive into when I come home.

So, here are my decluttering accounts for days 13 to 17.

Day 13:
(1-12, trash!)
1-10 Pile of threadbare, holey cloth napkins that actually were in the washing machine. As I was moving things to the dryer, I thought, "Why are we keeping these? I have new ones with no holes!"
11-12 Facecloths that were threadbare, too.
13 A skort that I never wear (going to a friend)

Day 14:
(1-9 are in a bag to donate to Goodwill)
1-3 Skirts
4-6 Dresses
7-9 Sweaters
10-14 plant trays (3) and a bunch of empty "six packs" from plants, recycled

Day 15

1-3. Two water bottles and a belt for running--given to a friend who will use them!
4. Work ID from former employer, 2005
5. Refrigerator magnet
6. "Hallmark" book (basically an extended greeting card) 
7-9. Cubic zirconia necklace and two pairs of earrings 
10-15. Other costume jewelry (pin and several pairs of earrings).

Day 16

1-16 Medicine cabinet and linen closet purge of "lotions and potions"!  Samples of hair product that I'll never use, old nail polish (some that my daughter contributed to the cause!), multiple packets of mineral oil and a packet of oatmeal bath stuff from the 1990s.

Day 17

1-3 rags that have seen better days
4-7 several of my youngest son's 3rd grade workbooks
8-12 more HBA stuff
13 Dried up Mod Podge
14-17 T-shirts of mine that were so old, floppy, and ugly that I wouldn't even wear them to garden or paint.

Almost everything I've purged the last few days is trash that I've been ignoring. The game is making it so much easier to toss, toss, toss! 

As I write, I'm noticing that my office holds many items that we never use and that my tiny desk is a big mess. The office will be my decluttering focus for the next few days. Purging and then organizing this space is essential if I'm going to conquer my distracted nature when I am working!

In addition to being a homeschooling mom and a blogger, I teach a college composition class and am a freelance writer. I've written articles mostly for Catholic websites, but my personal goal is to write a novel. In fact, I hope to write many novels, but the trick is to finally finish one! I have started and quit NaNoWriMo several times (November is always too busy for me), so I'm hoping to finally write my first complete novel during Camp NaNoWriMo this July. 

Who knows, the Minimalism Game may just inspire the focus I need to stick with the writing project for the entire month!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Will Decluttering Help My ADD?

What makes me most distracted? Hmm--that's a tough one. I would say weeds and junk. If I walk outside between May and October, I will often lose track of my original mission and begin pulling weeds. If I walk into another room in the house to get something, I often forget my mission as I notice clutter along the way. I'm hoping that my participation in a decluttering mission for June will help me maintain focus as I move from one room to the next in my daily chores.

Today is Day 12 of the Minimalism Game. I had out of town company for days 8-11, so I did a couple days ahead of time, and I've caught up with the rest today. Over the past few months, my children have been on a chore rotation where the responsibility of washing and drying dishes and emptying the dishwasher is on a weekly rotation. The chores have gotten done consistently on most days. I'm always delighted to walk into the kitchen before bed and see that all the dishes have been washed, dried, and put away. Unfortunately, like a "clean" bedroom with a messy closet and a pile of stuff under the bed, my kitchen has become cluttered behind closed doors and drawers.

From time to time, I, as the mother and homemaker, must step in and correct the mess. I could "make them do it." I've taught them all many times to stack bowls of the same shape together and to corral the lids in a zipper bag to keep the storage container cabinet neat. In fact, I probably will recruit one of them to fix that particular mess. But the drawers and pantry were full of little bits of stuff that could easily be recycled or thrown away, ultimately making the clean-up process easier since the closets and drawers could more comfortably hold the items that really belong there in an orderly fashion. In any case, the decision of what to keep or toss is up to me.

With that goal in mind, I purged the following items.

Day 10:

I recycled 10 old gardening magazines. I did get distracted and look through all of them one last time. However, I discovered that radish seed pods can be used in stir fries, so it was worth the look (I have several radishes that have gone to flower this week).

Day 11:

1. Cat medication (over 4 years old)
2. Almost empty bottle of calcium with a "best used by date" of October 2010
3. Bottle of blackstrap molasses. Yes, it's a good source of iron. But it's gross.
4. Nearly empty can of Clorox Disinfecting Spray (I don't use many chemicals in the house anymore, so it has been in the closet for years!)
5. Dried out floral foam
6. Container of mini Christmas cookie cutters--used once, 6 years ago.
7. Lint roller handle for which I can no longer find refills
8. Bottle of eye medicine from 2011
9. Old shoe box that had corralled vinegar and other bottles in the pantry. Replaced with nice round tray that will function as a Lazy Susan.
10 & 11 Several Walgreens prescription instructions and an empty cough medicine bottle

Day 12

1. Broken plastic fork
2. Instructions for a salad spinner
3. Instructions for a can opener
4. Bent metal fork someone found in the yard, which was washed and put on the side in the silverware drawer years ago. Nobody has ever used it.
5. Broken wax crayon for use with Easter egg coloring
6-10 Medicine cups and spoons with calibration that is worn and hard to read
11 & 12 plastic baby spoon and fork set with teeth marks

All items except the cookie cutters went to the recycling or trash. I will give the cookie cutters to a friend or donate them to Goodwill since they are like new. As I have been decluttering for nearly two weeks, I am delighted when I open and close a drawer without a struggle. I feel more peaceful when things are orderly. And, if things are orderly, I can more easily maintain focus.

The kitchen is in much better shape now, and I have a better idea of what is on hand in the pantry and refrigerator. My next step is to make a menu and grocery list. Since the clutter is gone, I should be able to sit in the kitchen and get the lists done without distractions.

Do you struggle with ADD? Is your house cluttered? Maybe a month of the Minimalism Game will help you cut the clutter and establish more focus. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Disclaimer: I am not trained as a doctor or psychologist, so I don't have professional qualifications to help you with ADD or ADHD. I'm simply a person who is easily distracted and is happy to share my experiences on things I've tried that help me to maintain focus.