December Challenge – Day One

Today I didn’t make any huge changes to my bedroom / bathroom / closet but I was able to get the ball rolling. First I completed some basic housecleaning chores; I washed the sheets, tidied the bedroom, and swept the floor.

Then I dug through my supply of light bulbs, thinking I would get one of the easiest tasks out of the way. I found three different sizes of light bulbs. None of those three fit the outlets above the bathroom sink. Oops. So we’re still missing half the light bulbs in our bathroom and I now need to buy more.

I also did a quick scan of my house, picking up any stray papers that were lying about. I only found a couple, as I’ve mostly been staying on top of what the FlyLady calls “hotspots,” places where things just pile up because they have no home. I also dug through the closet and pulled out all of the papers scattered around. Those I tucked into the big blue bin in my closet. I haven’t touched the sorting, scanning, organizing process for all of that paperwork, but at least everything is in the same place.

Progress! I’m not sure I’m going to get anything else done today. I have to leave shortly to pick up my youngest daughter from school, run a couple of errands, pick up my oldest daughter from school, run a couple more errands, make dinner, and then we have youth group tonight at church. Whew!

Items decluttered – 3

December challenge

A few years ago, I read a blog written by two women who were close friends. They would plan out their year, month by month, by picking a challenge to complete each month. They would start a new running habit, pick a home improvement challenge, plant a garden, etc. These were mostly fun projects that involved a lot of hands on work plus the potential to learn something new.

After reading through a lot of the blog archives, I was inspired to take on a few challenges of my own. I don’t remember all of the challenges I attempted but I’ve been feeling inspired lately to take on a new challenge. I want to focus on minimalism and moving forward on making my bedroom a safe and comforting retreat. So for the month of December, I’m going to attempt to make at least one improvement in my room each and every day (except Sabbaths). This includes the actual bedroom, the master bathroom, and my closet.

At first, I thought this is too small of a challenge for an entire month. But it’s a holiday month and my two girls are off school for the last two weeks of December. So hopefully bite-sized pieces each day will make for a big difference at the end of the month.

I started making a list of things that need to be done and realized this is actually a pretty big project, if I try to do things in their entirety. For example, I have several books that need to be returned to their owners. This means I need to track down the owners’ addresses, package the books, and take them to the post office. While this isn’t a huge task by itself, I have quite a few projects that involve multiple steps. I need to return several orders to Nordstrom. I need to ship some clothes to a friend. I need to sell some books online. I need to declutter my hanging clothes and I’ll have to decide if any of it can be sold or if I’m going to post things on my local BuyNothing group. I have a huge pile of paperwork that needs to be sorted, scanned, and then recycled.

Hopefully this will force me to complete a couple of very small tasks that never seem to get done. There’s some damage to the front of our bathroom cabinet but it’s an easy fix involving some glue. Then we have several burnt out light bulbs that need to be replaced. Easy fix but never gets done!

So this project will keep me quite busy! And of course, I hope to blog about my progress. Hopefully my room will feel much less cluttered and more relaxing by the time I’m done. Once my room is complete, my to-do list will certainly be much shorter!

Decluttering

I seem to be going through an organizing and decluttering frenzy. I’m not exactly certain why, though I suspect it has something to do with seeking to control one of the only areas in my life where I feel I have control. In much of our house, I cannot control things being thrown, banged, or just generally being treated poorly. My kids, probably due to their environment during their formative years, have little respect for belongings, both mine and theirs.

In an attempt to establish some boundaries, we have mostly made the master bedroom off limits. The girls cannot play their music on speaker phone in my room. They are not allowed to rummage through my belongings. They are not allowed to destroy anything. These things have been issues in the past.

Now, my room is a safe and quiet place. In an attempt to make it an emotional retreat, I have been decluttering like crazy. In some ways, I am drawn to a minimalist lifestyle. I know that I will never be considered a true minimalist as I love books. We have two bookshelves full of books in our bedroom and more books piled in the closet. However, I have slowly been culling our collection, eliminating books that I will never read or that I do not truly enjoy. I am leaving books that I hope to read someday and books that bring me joy (Marie Kondo style!).

I’m also spending a lot of time cleaning out my closet. Even though I’ve gone through my clothes several times, I still have clothes that don’t fit or that I’ve never worn. I’ll be working on clothes after I conquer the massive pile of paper clutter that piled up in our closet. Don’t have time to sort through the mail? Toss it in the closet! Need to scan and save that document on the computer? Toss it in the closet! Working on the FlyLady system has been enlightening in several ways. I no longer have multiple paper hotspots around my house. Just my closet!

It’s slow going, but hopefully each step toward organization will be a permanent improvement. I really want to move next summer. We’re renting a two bedroom condo and I would love to move into a three bedroom house (probably also a rental). But I don’t want to move a ton of stuff we don’t need. I can’t believe I shipped 15 boxes to Washington and packed my car to move up here. I own an entire condo full of stuff now. However did that happen? The least I can do is weed out a bunch of stuff we no longer need. Our local BuyNothing Facebook group has been amazing for taking tons of my stuff, proving that one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure.

August Goals

I’ve been thinking a lot about the goals I want to achieve in August. I’m almost afraid to write any. My girls go back to school on August 31st so the month of August is almost entirely summer vacation. We are slowly developing some better boundaries so that I’m able to get a few things done even though they are home all day. We do spend a lot of time together but mama still has work to do even if they aren’t in school!

I think my number one priority is exercise. My husband and I have been walking together every single day. The girls won’t come. They are invited but would rather stay home so we are finally getting daily alone time. It’s been a massive blessing this summer and is way more than I even dreamed of. Prior to this, the girls wouldn’t leave us alone in the same room. But if they have to choose between leaving us unsupervised and exercise, they’ll pick leaving us unsupervised. It’s wonderful!

After we get paid, I want to register for my first WA 5k. I should have registered several months ago when I first picked out the race but I was afraid to commit. What if things got explosive again in our home? What if something happened that sapped all of my emotional energy and left me without motivation to run? What if I can’t train to run the entire distance before September arrives? Well, I decided to register anyway. FlyLady keeps reminding me that perfectionism is detrimental in all aspects of life.. I don’t have to run the entire 5k. I don’t have to break my previous 5k record. I just have to show up and try. Just try.

So I think that continuing exercise, both for my health and to embrace the alone time with my husband, is my only real August goal. Other than that, I will keep working toward decluttering my closet, getting organized, and finding additional meals that my entire family will eat. But other than the exercise with its tangible goal of training for the 5k, I’m just going to do whatever I can. I am just going to show up and try.

A few thoughts

I’ve got a lot going on in my mind these days so I haven’t been able to put together a coherent blog post. So I thought I would just post a few thoughts.

Mother’s Day – calm. I have no idea what happened. Maybe because neither my husband or I reminded the girls it was Mother’s Day. They knew; they both wished me a Happy Mother’s day in the morning. But other than that, we ignored it. I got my favorite meal for dinner because it’s routine to have sushi on Sunday nights. I sat through a Disney Channel Original movie and think that I deserve Mom of the Year for that one. We got through the day with no meltdowns, no rages… fairly calm.

Therapy – My therapist has me working on identifying my core beliefs. I’ve been thinking about it for almost two weeks now and have only come up with two. The first one I identified was a negative view of myself, something I’ve believed since I was little. I came up with the second core belief yesterday. Thankfully, it’s more positive. I might post about them eventually. Maybe. It’s a rather raw topic for me and I’m processing some things in therapy.

Chinese – I have no idea why, but I’ve been motivated lately to return to my Chinese studies. I get frustrated that I can’t understand everything my younger daughter is trying to convey. She doesn’t converse with me much beyond surface level life. But occasionally she’ll try to tell me a story about school. I can understand enough to get the gist but I lose the details. I want to understand her. She’ll probably learn English faster than I learn Chinese, though my Chinese levels far exceed her English levels at this moment. She’s immersed, though, and I am not. I’ve studied almost every day this month, mostly dabbling in flashcards. Tonight I listened to almost half an hour of Chinese podcasts. I’m excited!

That’s most of what’s been on my mind lately. Trying to meditate in the evenings and failing most days. Finally added a daily Bible reading to my routine, mostly while I’m waiting in the pick up line after school. FlyLady efforts have stalled on forward progress but I’m maintaining the gains I’ve made already.

Life goes on. I am very slowly learning to live in the present. Very slowly.

Homemaking milestone

The FlyLady system has been helping so much (six weeks in) that I sat down at the computer today and wondered what I should do next. Normally I have a long list of emergencies to tackle. Today I have nothing. All my fires are put out. I still have a few urgent projects *ahem*file taxes*ahem* but nothing that’s considered an emergency.

I have hope that someday I’ll no longer be drowning under homemaking tasks. Yay FlyLady system!

Perfectionism and FlyLady

I am a perfectionist.

There. I admitted it.

In all of life, and in blogging, I want everything to present perfectly. When writing a blog post, I want my writing to flow well. I want pretty pictures. Before and after photos. Links to other resources. A thought worth sharing.

Seasons in life. I just don’t have time or energy for perfectionism anymore. This might be a good thing. I’ll probably have to explore it with my therapist! (Two years ago I wouldn’t even have admitted to having a therapist. I have two, actually! Personal and family).

Anyways, five weeks ago I started dabbling in the FlyLady way of life. She says a couple of things that really resonated with me. First, she says that “you are not behind! I don’t want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?” I am not behind! I am not behind! Again, I am not behind! My house doesn’t have to be perfect today. I just read the email, set my timer for 15 minutes, and tackle the daily assignment. I can do that! Even with our crazy life, I can do that!

The FlyLady also says that “even housework done imperfectly blesses our family.” Really? Even if I don’t get the entire assignment done… even if I don’t clean our entire bathroom… even if our laundry isn’t done in full… I am still blessing our family!

Both of those quotes are repeated often in the FlyLady’s emails and they repeatedly remind me that I don’t have to be a perfectionist. In fact, I CAN’T be a perfectionist. Not ever, but especially not right now. My family is made up of a husband who has to work far too much, two teenage girls with lots of trauma and in need of massive healing, and my own PTSD and anxiety. Life is crazy! And so I jump in where I can and, to channel the P90X guy, “do my best and forget the rest.”

Since I’m on week five, I’m now visiting zones a second time. This means I can do deeper cleaning than last month since the basic cleaning is already done. This also means I have time to do things other than cleaning, like my new passion – gardening!

I’m sure this blog post is riddled with mistakes and incomplete thoughts. But I’m letting go of my perfectionism and posting it anyways.

And just because, a picture of my girls.

National Quilting Day

I thought it was today, but I just realized it is actually next Saturday. Bummer! The last couple years I forgot about it until it was too late; this year I was too early. How very funny.

At least I was finally able to participate in a small way! A few years ago, someone sent me a box with quilt blocks, batting, and enough fabric for backing. I just needed to assemble the top and then quilt and baste it. Still a lot of work, but at least the blocks were already complete. The box has been sitting in my closet for awhile but I’ve been pulling it out recently. For this season in my life, a quilt kit is exactly what I need.

Today I sewed the second row of blocks together. It’s finally starting to look like a quilt top!

Maybe next week I can sew these two rows together. If I remember National Quilting Day…

Deep cleaning and self-care

I have always wanted to have a spotless house on New Year’s Eve. That way I can usher in the new year with a perfectly clean home. For various reasons, this has never happened. This year, I shrunk my goal down to manageable size – a perfectly clean bedroom.

Two weeks ago, I was talking to my husband about self-care and how important it is. We talked about how, due to my eldest daughter’s rages, no single place in our home feels safe. Every inch of our home has memories associated with various meltdowns and rages. A few months ago, we made our bedroom off limits during rages. She is no longer allowed in our bedroom if she’s raging. We need a safe space to retreat to if necessary and we also need a place that isn’t full of the negative emotions surrounding the raging.

So we decided that it was time to deep clean our bedroom and then focus on decorating it so that it feels cozy. Our room feels very sterile right now, due to the bright white walls, Pergo flooring, complete lack of bedroom furniture, and no decorations on the walls. When I mentioned this idea to the therapist, she heartily agreed that it was a good idea to focus on our bedroom. This is especially important because I use the bedroom during my quiet time each day. I need a place that feels relaxing.

I’ve spent most of my alone time the past two weeks deep cleaning the bedroom. It is spotless! I completely stripped the bed and washed everything from mattress cover to blankets. I pulled everything off the bookcases and sorted through it all, pulling out what we didn’t want and organizing the rest. I mopped the floor, scrubbed off the heater vents, and finally cleaned the glass patio doors (yuck!).

Our room still doesn’t feel cozy. We still have no bedroom furniture, other than the two cheap bookcases, our bed on rails, and a rickety folding table that I use as a desk. We still have nothing on the walls. But it’s clean! And that makes me feel so much better. Now that everything is clean, I can start focusing on ways to make the room feel more cozy. I have ideas but can’t implement many of them just yet. We’re still trying to pay off credit card debt that was accrued for our adoption trip to China. Until that is paid off, we can’t invest in bedroom furniture. But maybe I can find some small touches to help the room feel better.

Deep cleaning, for me, equals self-care. And just in time for New Years.

Cooking adventures

I finally finished deep cleaning my kitchen. It took way too long because I kept getting distracted by plane tickets, hotel reservations, shopping for our trip, and Candy Crush. Whoops! But I’m thrilled with the results.

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before

The entire kitchen has now been KonMarie’d, scrubbed, and organized.

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after

My husband was hankering after baked macaroni and cheese so I found a new recipe online and baked up a pan.

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It was so good!! I used panko instead of bread crumbs and it baked perfectly.

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We’ll definitely make the recipe again.