Thursday, March 31, 2011

Acting the Way I Want to Feel

I've mentioned The Happiness Project several times on this blog over the past couple of weeks and I bring it up again today because I found myself thinking about one of the approaches discussed in the book.  Author Gretchen Rubin articulated twelve personal commandments for herself as she began her journey to mindfully appreciate the many gifts in her life in order to foster her own happiness and subsequently enhance the happiness of those around her.  The commandment that came to the front of my mind today - as I tiredly considered all I hoped to accomplish - was to act the way I want to feel.  I wanted to feel productive.  I wanted to be amused - and not annoyed - by the considerable antics of Miss Intrepid and two of her preschool friends who were with me for about five hours.  I wanted to enjoy the everyday beauty and wonder of today's tasks.

So I did just that.  I focused - as much as was possible with little ones around - on accomplishing one thing at a time.  The surprisingly few times that conflict arose between the girls, or when I received regular reports that some toy had been broken, or at the point I discovered that they had taken all of the books off of two bookshelves to make a swimming pool (I'm still trying to figure that one out) I was mindful about rolling with the situation and being playful in my response.  I spent time in the kitchen not only cleaning up, but baking.

And you know what?  By not focusing on the bigger picture of what needed to get done, and allowing myself to concentrate on one thing at a time, I made good progress on what I hoped to accomplish.  By approaching any sign of conflict with girls with humor, I handled little bumps - hurt feelings here, a broken cup there, etc. - gracefully.  And I found joy and peace in baking some fresh bread and my favorite black bottom recipe (of course, I've really enjoyed eating everything, too!).

Not a new lesson perhaps - to act the way I want to feel and to just "do it" when I can think of a hundred reasons not to - but today was a great reminder on both counts.  It was a good day.

How about you?  What do you do to stop yourself from spiraling down into a black hole of time wasting and other non-productive tendencies?

"A day will never be anymore than what you make of it.  Practice being a "doer"!"  ~ Josh S. Hinds

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Failing to Plan and Planning to Fail

Last week I posted about four of the biggest obstacles I put up for myself in approaching my day-to-day life with intention - sleeping in, reading during the day, spending time online, and good ol' procrastination.  There is something else that I can readily point to as a reason that I often get to the end of the day and can't necessarily account for how I spent my time (or feel that I got a lot of things done, but they weren't the "right" things).  I don't always plan well.  Nothing more complicated than that...I just don't plan my time well.  To borrow, and slightly adapt, a great quote from Winston Churchill - she who fails to plan is planning to fail.

There are a few things that help me on the planning front when I actually do them.  One is that I keep a white board calendar hanging next to the mirror in my bathroom.  When I remember to update it at the beginning of the week it helps keep me on track - where I need to be and when, what out-of-the-ordinary events are coming up, etc.  The other thing that helps me plan is staying on top of my to do list.  For me, that means writing down everything that flits through my mind that I would like to tackle - big or small - and prioritizing my top "must do" items for the day and week.  These are simple things, and yet I'm not consistent in doing them.  Part of it is that I don't necessarily love managing details and I let these small things slip through the cracks.  But part of it is that I often make things too complicated.  Rachel at Small Notebook nailed it in her post "Are You Making Your To Do List Too Hard?".

The irony of this post is that my whiteboard calendar hasn't been updated in a week and a half.  I should go write that down on my to do list.

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day."  ~E.B. White

Today's quote was sent to me by one of my wonderful sisters-in-law...thanks, Jules!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Project Simplify - Week 3 Results (part 2)

As I mentioned in the results post for hot spot #3 - kids' clothing and toys - I was only able to make it through a small part of what I hope to eventually tackle.  I spent some time working on this over the weekend and wanted to share the results of that effort with you.  The biggest thing that we managed to accomplish was cleaning out our voluminous cache of dress up clothes and accessories.  Most of our dress up items were purchased second hand - thrifting items that were not necessarily intended for children's dress up have yielded some interesting and high quality pieces.

Here are the before pictures:

The dress up trunk and hat stand were both purchased at Goodwill.  Good luck actually finding something in there, kiddos.

Miss Intrepid's dress up basket

Princess Wonder's dress up basket

The kids really got into selecting what we were going to keep and what we were going to give away.  I laid everything out in groups of like items - outfits, hats, shoes, gloves, wings, accessories, etc. - and had each child take turns picking their favorite items to keep from individual piles.  After a couple of rounds from each grouping, we put the other items in the donate pile and the kids all seemed happy with what we were keeping and what we were giving away.

And now - my favorite part - the after photos.

Princess Wonder and Miss Intrepid's dress up baskets ready to go back into their rooms - the bulkier/more oddly shaped items stick out of the top, but things are not overflowing.

The communal dress up trunk in a corner of our dining room - we can actually close it now!

This is what is being donated to Miss Intrepid's preschool/being given to a family member.

It was great to clear out some of our dress up stash to have more room and less mess, but the best part was making things more accessible for my little ones to actually use.

Wizard E2B

The Butterfly Princess

And introducing...well...a little bit of everything from Miss Intrepid's dress up stash

"This world is but a canvas to our imaginations."  ~Henry David Thoreau

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thrift Share Giveaway and Project Simplify Hot Spot #4

It is that time of week to join Apron Thrift Girl for Thrift Share Monday and, as I have for the past couple of weeks, I will be hosting a giveaway for a previously thrifted find.  Congratulations to Lisanne, as the only commenter on last week's post she is the sole winner of both lots of the vintage paper travel games!  And without further ado, here is the thrifted item looking for a new home this week - an unopened vintage mushroom and ladybug latch pillow kit from Bucilla.  If you are interested in winning this bit of crafty vintage goodness please leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on Friday, April 1st and I will draw a winner over the weekend.

Don't you just love that 1970's flair?

Simple Mom announced hot spot #4 for Project Simplify today - the kitchen.  I've focused periodic efforts over the last couple of months on the kitchen, so there isn't as much work to be done here as there has been in the past.  That being said, there is still plenty of work to be done and I look forward to tackling some of the cabinets and drawers that I've been studiously ignoring.  As Running Man accurately observed, I have a fair amount of aspirational clutter lurking in my kitchen that needs to find a new home where it will be actually used.

I'll be working on both this week's hot spot while continuing to plug away on last week's (kid clothes, books, toys, etc.) and I look forward to sharing my results throughout the week.  I am linking up to Thrift Share Monday - come on over and join us!

"If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life."  ~Louis Parrish

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Although decluttering continues here, we're enjoying all sorts of activities as a family this weekend.

As I type this, Enthusiastic Explorer Boy (E2B) is happily watching Star Wars: A New Hope while Running Man rides his bike inside on a stand for 2 1/2 hours (!) next to him.  We let E2B watch his first Star Wars movie on his birthday when he turned seven last year.  I'm not quite ready to let him watch any of the newer movies, but he keeps hoping that I'll fold.

After watching one or both of her older siblings play soccer for the past three years, Miss Intrepid was finally old enough to join a peewee team at the local YMCA this spring.  Today was a practice session so that the kids could meet their coaches and teammates before games start next week.  I've never seen a child so excited to put on a pair of shin guards!

Watch out Mia Hamm!

Two years ago Princess Wonder saw a Highland dance competition at some Scottish Games and was absolutely mesmerized.  She sat for about an hour in 90+ degree weather and didn't move as she watched the competition.  For the next several months she talked about watching the dancers and, when it became clear that this interest was not just a passing fancy, I asked her if she'd like to learn this style of dance.  She enthusiastically said yes and has now been taking lessons for nearly a year and a half.  The students at Princess Wonder's dance studio always perform at a local Irish Festival on the demonstration stage (traditional Irish dancing and Scottish Highland dancing are distinct styles of dance, but it all seems to blend together nicely) and it is a great way in a relatively casual setting to dance in front of an audience.  Last year, despite only having danced for a few months, Princess Wonder said that she'd like to participate as well.  As it turns out, she was not quite ready to perform - even in a low key environment.

Stage fright set in and this is all that my little dancer was willing to do onstage last year - she was only too happy to exit stage right when her instructor finally stepped forward to see if she wanted to get down.

This year, however, was an entirely different story.  When I asked Princess Wonder earlier in the week if she wanted to try dancing at the festival this year she said that she wanted to.  She explained that after being on stage at school this week to receive her participation certificate for the science fair she wasn't nervous about the idea of dancing in front of people anymore.  And I have to say, that girl dances with a lot of joy!  Her smile and enthusiasm had me grinning from ear to ear.

Look at her go!  And the tongue out in concentration is beyond adorable.

I hope that you are having a weekend filled with joy wherever in the world you are!  I look forward to checking back in tomorrow for the reveal of Project Simplify's hot spot #4 and Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday.

"Things won are done, joy's soul lies in the doing."  ~Williams Shakespeare

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Project Simplify - Week 3 Results

For the past three weeks I have been participating in Simple Mom's Project Simplify, a five week challenge that has us focusing each week and a different hot spot around our home.  This week's hot spot was our children's clothes and toys.  I had every intention of posting my results (so far) of decluttering the kid's belongings last evening, but my body had a different idea and when I lay down for "a few minutes" to let medicine kick in for a big headache I fell asleep for the night instead.  I'm feeling great today and ready to share my results.

While our days are typically pretty full, this week has been busier than usual with several days filled with things like volunteering for the science fair and serving as a chaperone on Princess Wonder's field trip to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (where, not surprisingly, she and the other girls in our group joyfully discovered a fairy house at the base of a large tulip poplar and a smattering of fairy dust on a rock along our path).  As a result, I have not yet gotten to all of the hot spots of children's clothing, toys, and books around my house.  "Not yet" being the operative words here.  With three little ones who I am trying to get involved in cleaning/purging their belongings, I have to be a bit more creative - and intentional - about the time that I carve out for the decluttering process.

So, without further ado, here are the before shots of Enthusiastic Explorer Boy's (E2B) closet and wardrobe drawers.

E2B's closet before cleaning it out.  Did I mention that he loves to build with Legos?  All of the bricks you see pictured here were purchased at yard sales.

The green bin and cardboard box that you see at the top of the closet are filled with off season clothes and clothes for the next year or two that were obtained second hand.  Although you can't see them, there are also two small boxes where I keep shoes (everyday casual, dress, and soccer cleats) that have also been purchased second hand for future wear.  Rather than pay full price for new shoes, I have been able to find high quality shoes for pennies on the dollar that still have years of wear left in them.  The most that I have spent for a pair of shoes at the thrift is the $14.98 I paid for a pair of Dr. Martens boots.  The boots appear never to have been worn and retail for $70 - they will be perfect for hiking in this summer.  While E2B and I were working on his closet yesterday, I pulled out a pair of Keen sandals for him to wear this spring and summer.  I paid $0.98 for them a year or two ago at the thrift as opposed to the $45 I would have had to pay new today.

I seem to have gotten off topic in my enthusiasm for extolling the benefits of thrifting.  Back to decluttering...

As a starting point, I asked E2B to look through his closet and drawers and take out any clothes that either no longer fit, that he didn't particularly care for, or that - even if they fit or he liked them - he didn't really wear.  He came out of his room with absolutely nothing.  I'm sure that a big part of this was due to the fact that he would rather be outside playing with his friends than inside cleaning with me.  Nevertheless, we stuck to it and were able to make good progress.

E2B's pajama drawer.  He is expected to put away his own clothes after they are washed and, as you can see, the concept of putting things away neatly is something we are still working on.  This drawer was very full even without the three pairs of pajamas that were in the laundry.
E2B's shorts drawer.  Other than to put in a couple of pairs of shorts picked up at a consignment sale recently, this drawer hasn't gotten much use for the past five months.

And here are the after pictures:

The top part of E2B's closet.  The bottom portion of the closet still needs to be picked up a bit,  but overall he has his Legos well organized.  After two hours of trying on and organizing his clothes I thought it best to let the kid get outside and play.  Picking up will happen over the weekend, though!

I decided to use the same technique that was so helpful to me in clearing out my own clothing and I had E2B try on everything in his closet and wardrobe.  He wanted to hold onto a number of shirts with sleeves that were definitely on the short side because he "really liked" them.  Rather than keep a closet full of long sleeve shirts that were too short, I told him that he could choose one to keep until this summer but that it was time for the others to be moved on to someone else who could wear them.  Allowing him to keep a favorite shirt, despite the fact that it didn't fit particularly well, along with pulling out other shirts from his bins at the top of the closet that were new to him was enough to make him feel at peace with getting rid of the others.

One thing that I insisted we whittle down because they were sitting on the top shelf of his closet were E2B's sports trophies - he had six of them sitting in there and I told him that we need to limit the number that he keeps to five.  He had a hard time picking the one trophy to get rid of and there were tears involved - because logic doesn't always hold that much sway with adults when it comes to our stuff let alone a seven year old - that made me waver.  On the one hand, I don't want to keep everything that comes into the house nor do I want to cultivate a strong sense of attachment to "stuff" amongst my children.  On the other hand, he is a kid and he is proud of his trophies.  

In his book The 100 Thing Challenge, Dave Bruno ultimately decided that he would not force his children to purge their belongings while he was on a journey to tackle his own consumer behavior.  This is what Dave had to say about reaching this decision after asking his daughters to part with some of their dolls and what came to my mind as I discussed getting rid of a trophy with E2B.  "The truth is that there is no direct correlation between a young girl's loving care for her doll and a grown man's greed for ever more objects of status.  When a child is forced to give away a cherished toy, it is more likely to damage her heart than build up her character.  That is not the same for adults who can learn a good deal about virtue when they restrict their covetousness."  In the end I proposed to E2B that we take one trophy out of his room and if he is still missing it in a week or two he can have it back.  If, on the other hand, he forgets about or decides that he no longer minds not owning the trophy then we will find a new home for it (Running Man actually can use them in his office where they routinely hold a variety of fun events in which winners are given repurposed trophies).

I'm curious to know what techniques others use to help their children purge clothes, toys, and objects like sports trophies.  Any suggestions?

E2B's pajama drawer after giving two pairs of superhero (complete with cape) pajamas to Princess Wonder - one of which she proudly wore last night - and at least six other pairs to a neighbor.  Really, how did we end up with so many pairs?  I think that they must multiply in the dark solitude of that drawer.
E2B's shorts drawer post-purge.  I now know that I don't need to buy any more shorts for this summer - he's set!

E2B's pants drawer after the purge (I didn't take a before photo) - even with an additional pair or two of pants in the laundry it is clear to me that I need to keep my eyes open for some more jeans.

In the end, we were able to pass along a bag of clothes that no longer fit E2B.  Even so, I think that he still has more clothes - especially shirts - in his room than he realistically needs or will wear.  We decided to turn all of the hangers around so that they are hanging backwards and will only turn them around the correct way once something has been worn.  After a few weeks we'll be able to see what is actually being worn and we'll hopefully be able to whittle down what remains even further.

There are two lessons that I took away from working our way through my son's clothes this week and I know that they'll only be reinforced as I tackle the girls' rooms.  The first is that my children have more clothes than they need.  Because I buy the kids their clothes about a year ahead of time through second hand sources, I am able to build up their wardrobes for a particular season before they need them.  The downside to this - the way that I do it, anyway - is that I don't know what I have already purchased and I end up with more of a particular time of item than is necessary.  So the change that I am going to make is that I will begin keeping an inventory of the children's clothing.  That I way I can make a more informed buying decision about a piece of clothing when I come across it in a thrift store, at a consignment sale, or at a yard sale.

The second lesson I learned is that I need to go back and take another look mid-season at the clothes out in the children's closets/wardrobes and those that have been packed away for future wear.  E2B has grown enough since this fall that certain clothes that fit five or six months ago are now too small and other clothes that were packed away because they were too big are now just right.

I'm linking up to Simple Mom's hot spot #3 results post a day late - I look forward to seeing the progress that other folks have made as well.  Come join us!

"Expensive clothes are a waste of money."  ~Meryl Streep

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cutting Myself Some Slack

As I mentioned yesterday, this week seems to be busier than usual around here.  I now find myself sitting in front of the computer to write today's - I suppose at this point I should say tonight's - post and I'm absolutely exhausted.  Although I had intended to write an update on my list o' goals, I've decided to share a little slice from our day instead and then it is off to bed for me.

One of the big activities that we've been focused on this week has been the science fair at school.  The kiddos have been finishing their experiments and creating their displays while I've been writing up name labels for each of the 170 students participating and volunteering as a judge.  Both Enthusiastic Explorer Boy (E2B) and Princess Wonder entered experiments in the fair.  E2B just loves this sort of experience - he participated in the science fair last year as well - and Princess Wonder entered for the first time.  E2B's favorite part?  Seeing friends and checking out the experiments that others worked on.  Princess Wonder's favorite part?  Receiving a participation certificate!

Princess Wonder's science fair experiment was "Wut Do BroDS like to EEt?" - translated from best guess spelling to "What do birds like to eat?"  She wanted to know what they would prefer...seeds or bugs.  The only creature that visited our feeders was a squirrel who liked both. meal worms.  Miss Intrepid has enjoyed holding them and letting them walk around her hand.  Good stuff!
E2B's project was titled "How Water Travels Up Stems" and he ran two experiments using white flowers and water with food dye.
That boy sure does take his observation notebook seriously!

So I'm going to cut myself some proverbial slack - a deliberate decision versus the aimless, and decidedly non-intentional, sit-around-in-my-pajamas-doing-nothing-much-morning I indulged in yesterday - and call it a night.  Sleep well and I hope that you'll come back for a visit tomorrow to see the results from Project Simplify's hot spot #3.  Don't forget to leave a comment on Monday's post if you'd like a chance to win some vintage paper travel games by midnight tomorrow night.

"O bed! O bed! delicious bed!
That heaven upon earth to the weary head."
~Thomas Hood, Miss Kilmansegg - Her Dream

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How To Live Unintentionally

As I work towards approaching my days with greater intention, I have to examine what it is that inhibits me from doing so.  Some days I feel invigorated and I greet the day with a great sense of purpose, a "can do" attitude, and the energy to make it all happen.  The best part about these days is that I feel more peaceful, I am more positive in my interactions with others, and I am able to handle bumps in my day with more grace.  Some days I find it hard to get anything accomplished and I indulge myself in activities and behavior that are counterproductive.  The worst thing about these days is not the outer chaos around me (though I am not a fan of having a messy house, dropping the proverbial ball on any number of commitments, running late, etc.), but rather the resulting inner chaos that seems to go hand in hand with the outer unrest.  It is these days when I have very little patience and I am more apt to take it out on the people around me - especially the kids.  Sure, everyone needs a day off now and then and I don't think that every day needs to be a veritable bastion of productivity.  However, I haven't gotten myself to where I am now by just taking the occasional mental health day.

So upon reflection, I have identified what I think are the four things that I do - sometimes on their own and sometimes together - that stop me from enjoying those great days more often.  This is how I live unintentionally.

1. Sleeping in
For me this means skipping my morning workout - something that I was very good about not doing until the last few weeks - and staying in bed until I have to get up to get the kids moving for school (with little to no time to spare).  It may also mean hitting snooze on my alarm repeatedly.  Often it means doing both of these things.  Not only do I feel better and more energized after a workout, but I know that the kids and I all have a better start to the day when we have had the time - because we are up earlier - to move slowly in the morning and, quite honestly, putz around doing a bit of nothing.

2.  Reading during the day
I absolutely love to read!  I enjoy reading books that teach and energize me.  I enjoy reading about different times and places.  I enjoy reading books that show me a slice of someone else's life.  And I admit to enjoying the occasional fluff book with no redeeming qualities other than its pure escapism and entertainment value.  It is usually this last category of books that gets me into trouble.  I can easily get sucked into a compelling story and all of a sudden I find that my day is gone.  Either that, or I stay up ridiculously late finishing up a book because I just have to know how it ends.

3. Spending time online
As Rachel over at Small Notebook discussed so ably in a recent post, it is easy to find ourselves in inspiration overload and I certainly have the need to protect my time from too many good ideas.  I find myself cruising the blogosphere and reading about all sorts of great things that I'd like to do - ideas about parenting, cool places to go, ideas about gardening, interesting activities, beautiful crafts to make, and more...oh so much more!  When I spend way more time planning great things to do rather than actually doing them, that is a problem.  Rachel has followed up her discussion about inspiration overload with a post about breaking up with old hobbies - it is well worth the read and I, for one, have some breaking up to do.

4. Procrastinating
Need I say more?

Numbers one, two, and three on this list can be great things.  Sleeping in occasionally is not only a treat, it is an important way to help me get much needed rest that often is lacking as the parent of young children.  Reading is tremendously enjoyable and is the primary way that I treat myself to something just for me (something that is important for everyone and absolutely necessary, I think, for anyone who spends most of their time taking care of the needs of other people).  Connecting with others through email, staying on top of world events, and finding inspiration in the blogosphere absolutely enhances my life.  But I find - for me - that these things are only good in moderation and I can have a hard time keeping myself in check.

As for number four on the list - this one is the most troublesome and often can be found skipping hand in hand with my other time wasters.  Sometimes I procrastinate because if I can't do something perfectly I don't want to do it at all.  Sometimes I procrastinate because I would simply rather do something else.  But procrastination really drags me down when it is a result of having so much to do that I don't know where to begin and I feel overwhelmed by the day ahead.  If I allow me to psych myself out, then I just end up making the situation worse by putting off until later what I should be doing right now.  For example - this week is a particularly busy one with a variety of commitments (more than usual) around here.  Today I started the day knowing that I had a lot that needed to be accomplished.  So how did I spend my morning?  Feeling overwhelmed, floating around the house getting a few small things done here and there, flipping through a book, and sitting like a lump in front of the computer in my pajamas.  Sure, I rallied eventually and got a lot done during the second half of the day.  But still, I could have accomplished more and I would have felt better about my day had I just taken baby steps this morning.

For now I'm going to sit with these four things and see where this awareness takes me.  There will certainly be more to share in the coming months.  In the meantime, what are your time wasters and how do you keep yourself on track during the day?

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."  ~Voltaire

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Cast of Characters

I'd like to take a moment to introduce my family - they are my inspiration for making the changes that I am sharing in this space.

First is Running Man, my husband and partner of 11 years.  We met in college at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and in most ways we complement each other quite well.  The fact that he is a great planner, very organized, and most certainly Type A means that my more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach to life and home management can be stressful.  Luckily for both of us, there are elements of this that make me nuts, too, and I'm committed to making some changes - for me - that I believe will benefit our entire family.  In his spare time, Running Man is training for his first IronMan triathlon.  He's nuts, but I love - and am very proud of - him!

Our oldest child is Enthusiastic Explorer Boy (E2B), who is seven and our only son.  He is an avid life learner who continually reminds me of how much fun it is to explore and learn about, well, everything.  Whether he's climbing a tree or reading his way through a series of books, he gives it his all.

Next is our oldest daughter, Princess Wonder.  At the magical age of five, she is vibrant and creative and has a fabulously bohemian sense of style.  When she takes in everything around her she sees magic and wonder and a hidden world of fairies.

Last, but not least, is our youngest daughter, Miss Intrepid.  At the tender age of three, she has a BIG personality in a little body and knows exactly what she wants.  She is a fearless participant in this adventure of life and constantly keeps me on my toes.

Princess Wonder, Running Man with Miss Intrepid, and Enthusiastic Explorer Boy pose for a windy photo after Running Man finished his 3rd marathon in March 2011.  I can be found where I usually am in pictures - behind the camera!
When I asked Running Man what he thought about the monikers that I would be using for our family on the blog he enthusiastically weighed in and then asked me what my "name" would be.  Brittany, I told him.  Hmmm, a bit boring perhaps, but there it is.

"When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses."  ~Dr. Joyce Brothers

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thrift Share Giveaway and Project Simplify Hot Spot #3

I'm excited to start off the week by planning how I will attack hot spot #3 in the Project Simplify challenge.  This week, along with other Simple Mom readers, I will be focusing on organizing and cleaning out the kids', clothes, the whole nine yards.  Here's the tricky part, I will be doing it with their assistance as much as possible.

And lucky me was the big winner this past week over at Simple Mom.  Everyone who links up to Tsh's Project Simplify results post with before and after pictures for that week's hot spot is automatically entered in a fabulous giveaway.  I've won a combo pack of organizational tools from Jennifer at I Heart Organizing and I look forward to sharing more details with you soon.

Congratulations to The Joyful Thrifter at Joyful Treasure Hunting and Gina over at Lime Kiln for winning last week's Thrift Share Pyrex giveaway!  They will be receiving the Shenandoah casserole dish and divided snowflake dish respectively.  My little ones were quite enthusiastic about being able to draw the winners from the ice bucket in our hotel and I know that they'll be thrilled to help with round two.

In keeping with my theme of loving to thrift, but also trying to purge things from around the house, I will be hosting another Thrift Share giveaway this week.  Without further delay, here are the thrifted goodies awaiting a new home...vintage paper games "for travel & leisure" made in 1974 by the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company (more commonly known as 3M).  All but one of the games appear to be unopened, and the one game that is open appears to have been unused.  Each game is for two players and promises to be:

  • Quick & easy to play.
  • Stimulating for teens through adults.
  • Fun & challenging.
And check out those graphics - aren't they a hoot?  These would make funky discussion pieces on your coffee table, great raw material for altered art, or fun to actually play.

Hex, Naval Battle, and Tic Tac Toe

Thorns, Snare, and Plasm

Check out the combined household income levels on this business reply card (not to be returned after January 1, 1975).

If you would like to be entered into the drawing for these vintage paper games, please leave a comment on this post by Friday night at midnight EDT.  I will draw and notify two winners - one for each lot - on Saturday.  I'm linking up to Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday - stop on by to see what thrifted treasures have been found this past week.

"Whatever we possess becomes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others."  ~Jean-Nicolas Bouilly

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Vernal Equinox + Spring Cleaning

With the first day of spring now upon us, I can officially call my continued purging of all manner of stuff from around my home spring cleaning.  I recently read Dave Bruno's "The 100 Thing Challenge" and it really helped me to think about some of the things that I had been holding onto in a different way.  I'll post another time with more about the book and what I found to be helpful, but I wanted to go ahead and share a couple of those hard-for-me-to-let-go items with you now.

Back in the late 1990s my parents gifted my brother and I each with a set of our very own golf clubs.  At that time I didn't know how to play golf, so I took a lesson and was happy to hack my way through 18 holes with my husband - who was then my fiance - or with my family (I can remember one time that the five of us were on three separate fairways even though we were playing the same hole...good times!).  If I'm honest with myself, I can count on one hand the number of times I've played golf in the last 11 years.  I haven't played even once since having children.  I don't have any burning desire to go out and play golf.  I don't know that I'll ever even play again.  So why have I been I holding onto them?  I'm not entirely sure.  The more I thought about these clubs, the more it became clear to me that there was a much better use for them than just sitting around in my garage.  Just because I had the space to store them didn't mean that I should continue to do so.  Well, I'm happy to report that this week my golf clubs made their way to a new home - I donated them to First Tee, an organization whose mission is to "impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf."  A very good place for them to be, indeed!

If ever I'd like to play a round of golf again, I'm sure that I can find someone to lend me clubs for the day or I can rent them - I really don't need my own.  
The next item was harder to let go.  In my head, I'm an acoustic guitar player.  In real life, not so much.  For years I desperately wanted a guitar so that I could learn to play and nearly a decade ago my sweet husband bought me one to help make that dream come true.  I took lessons and even got to the point that I could play a simple song or two.  Fast forward almost 10 years to the here and now.  My lovely guitar sits in my house where it has not been played for most of that time.  I couldn't play a simple song now even if something important was riding on my ability to do so.  Unlike the golf clubs, I still have a desire to play the guitar and I think that I might pick it up again someday.  Might...not will.  Yes, I would still like to play, but there are a lot of things that I would like to do and there are many of those things that I am more likely to do in the near future.  So after debating with myself on this, I decided that - like the golf clubs - someone else could be getting use out of the guitar right now.  So on Friday this guitar and its accessories made their way to a new home with the YMCA music program.

If the time comes that I'm ready to try playing again, something that I know will be years down the road (if at all), then I can evaluate if my interest is serious enough at that time to buy another guitar.  And hey, I can always find one second hand!
On an entirely different note, I'm sure that many of you heard the news that last night would boast a "supermoon" during which time the occurrence of the full moon coincided with the lunar perigee (the night during which the moon is closest to the Earth and occurs once every 18 years).  We just happened to be at the beach for the weekend to cheer on my husband while he ran a marathon, so we were fortunate enough to see the lunar perigee over the ocean.  What an incredible experience!
As the moon was rising around 7:30pm EDT.

Just a short time later around 7:45pm EDT.

The moon, no longer looking reddish, reflecting on the ocean around 9pm EDT.

The waves were quite large this morning after last night's supermoon.

I hope that everyone had a magical weekend and I look forward to joining you for another week of Project Simplify with Simple Mom!

"There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls."  ~George Carlin

Friday, March 18, 2011

Project Simplify - Week 2 Results

Today marks the end of the second week of Simple Mom's Project Simplify - this week's hot spot has been paper clutter.  I was excited to learn about this week's focus because I am highly challenged by paper clutter.  Between mail (mostly unsolicited "junk"), school papers, and the lovingly - and voluminously - created artwork of three young children, I seem to be surrounded by paper.  Tsh suggested tackling books while dealing with paper clutter, but books in this house will require a week of their own so I'm planning to make it my own personal hot spot after the five weeks of Project Simplify are over.

Overall I would only give myself a 4 or 5 on a scale of 10 for my work on paper clutter this week.  Part of it is that I didn't have - or create - enough time this week to attack all of the paper piles in the house.  Another part of it is that I physically can't get to some of it - in particular the stash of nostalgic paper clutter that I have set aside to potentially scrapbook (more on this when I get to #8 on my 2011 goals list, getting my craft room in order).  Because I have issues with paper in many areas of the house, I decided to focus primarily on the most visual, and certainly a significant, problem area...the office.  Or more specifically, my half of the office desk.  Okay, perhaps my paper has the tendency to take over more than half the desk.

Here is the before picture of my desk at the beginning of the week.  As you can see, I don't do a good job of sticking to a "file, don't pile" regimen.

Before: my less-than-organized desktop.
But wait, there's more!  Check out some of the paper clutter hot spots in my kitchen - the refrigerator and the door leading out to the garage.
Before: from homework storage to reminder notices to the children's artwork, a lot of paper ends up on our refrigerator.
Before: the garage door is sporting unusually low clutter volume in this "before" picture, but it is certainly cluttered enough.
Here's a peek at my work space after moving all of my paper clutter into a single big box to start with.  I liked the idea of holding a movie marathon with films that don't require great concentration - they provided the right amount of distraction when I needed it - while sorting through my paper horde.

More paper than I know what to do with?  Check!
A method of sorting to help pare down my paper clutter?  Check!
Remote control to keep those movies rolling?  Check!
One thing that I was glad to cross off of my perpetual to do list this week, and something that I had written on my add-to-2011-goals list just days before Tsh suggested it in her post, was getting registered on the DMA's do not mail list for catalogs, magazines, and other solicitations.  I also registered to stop getting pre-approved credit solicitations here.  Although this would have been a great place to start some time ago, my method of dealing with junk mail was to call each sender individually and ask to be removed from their distribution list.  As with many of my good intentions around the house, I have the tendency to set this mail aside to deal with it later only to find myself with a box full of junk mail awaiting my attention.  I feel very hopeful that joining the do not mail list/opting out of prescreened credit offers will eventually mean that there are fewer solicitations to deal with in this way.

Without further ado, here are my "after" pictures.
Wait!  Is that a desktop I see?
So nice to be able to open the fridge without the fear of cascading papers.
I got rid of the papers behind papers that tended to build up on this door.
One thing that I have always done with certain reference papers (group rosters, gym schedules, etc.) is to tape them to the inside of a cabinet in my kitchen.  If I ever need to access the information I can do so with a quick peek behind a closed door.  I realized that I still had this type of reference material on my refrigerator, so I decided to build upon a good thing and I moved some of the class schedules for my children from the refrigerator to the cabinet door.  My goal is to reserve real estate on my fridge for homework, progress trackers (i.e. piano practice sheets), and reminders for upcoming activities.
I find it helpful to be able to access phone numbers and other information that I commonly refer to quickly without needing to pull something out of a file or look it up on the computer.  As a bonus, I don't have to fight piles on the refrigerator to find them any more.
Although there is still much work to be done to conquer and maintain control over paper clutter in my home, this week helped me get off to a great start and I'm linking up to the hot spot #2 results post over at Simple Mom.  What helps you stay on top of the flow of paper into and out of your house?

**As a reminder, the Pyrex giveaway ends today, so please be sure to leave a comment by midnight tonight on Monday's post if you'd like to be entered to win.  I'll be randomly drawing the names of, and contacting, two winners on Saturday.

"The opposite of simplicity, as I understand it, is not complexity but clutter."  ~Scott Russell Sanders

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Purging With a Purpose - What to do with all that stuff?

There are many, many reasons to divest my household of stuff, but the one that comes to mind today is that if I'm not using something that is in my home, then nobody is using it and someone could be.  So when I am purging, I want to move things along to a place where they have the best chance of getting used.  Here are a few categories of items that I routinely purge and what I do with them along with the places that I most often share my former belongings with:

Kid's clothing, books, and toys:
As I mentioned in a previous post, virtually all of my children's clothing comes from second hand sources - hand me downs from neighbors with older kids, thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops.  When my oldest daughter grows out of her clothes, I launder them and store them in boxes labeled by size for my youngest daughter.  When my youngest daughter outgrows them, I pass them along to a niece who is about a year and a half younger.  When my oldest grows out of his clothes, I pass them along to a neighbor whose son is about the same age, but smaller, than my son.  By the time their clothes make it to my kids, they have often been worn by multiple children and it is great to know that there is still life in them and that they will continue to get use.

As I mentioned in yet another post, I love books and they can be found in every room of our house.  We have a lot of books (many of them thrifted) - too many books, really - and I have been steadily purging them for about six months to get the number down to a more manageable level.  My oldest child is only seven, so most of the children's books that I have are appropriate for the early elementary or preschool crowd.  Some books I pass along to friends and family members, but I give many of them to the preschool that my youngest child attends for the small library they have in each classroom.  As anyone who has young children can attest to, preschoolers tend to love their books to pieces, so there is almost always a need for new-to-them books.

I do more of the same with toys and games - some go to friends and family and most of the rest are donated to the preschool.  A local preschool is a great recipient for other items that might otherwise just end up in the trash.  Now I am certainly not advocating giving something that should go in the trash to anyone, but I do recommend thinking more creatively about how items might be used.  Little toys and small items that aren't good candidates for a thrift store (what I refer to as the effluvia of childhood - costume jewelry, cars, toys that come with kid's meals at fast food restaurants, plastic goodies given away at parties, etc.) may be just right for the "prize" box in a preschool classroom.  Small odds and ends from your personal crafting supplies - along with household items like toilet paper rolls and egg cartons that are otherwise destined for recycling - may be perfect for preschool crafts.  I try to make throwing something in the trash an absolute last resort.  The danger here is that I'll hold onto something too long because someone, somewhere might be able to use it, but I've gotten better about moving things out quickly.

While I have a lot of children's books in my home, I certainly have a plethora of books for adults as well.  In the last six months I have given books to friends, donated them to my church library, bundled them for sale in a silent auction, dropped them off at the local library for their annual fundraising book sale, and donated them to thrift stores.  Another place that can sometimes use books are organizations that provide temporary shelter to the homeless or to women and children fleeing domestic violence.

People I know:
My personal preference is to give things looking for a new home to friends and family.  If I have something that a friend needs or would like, then I get satisfaction in sharing those things with them instead of donating them to a thrift where they might or might not be sold.  Eventually, things that are not sold at most thrift stores end up in the landfill, though many thrifts are quite creative in how they manage inventory before it gets to that point.  My most tried and true method of making offers to friends is via Facebook...I simply post what is looking for a new home in my status and I often find a taker.

Non-profits with specific needs:
If I know of an organization that has specific needs that I can help with, then I prefer to donate items there where I can feel confident that they will get used (or at least they have a high likelihood of being used) versus donating them to a thrift where they may or may not be sold.  For example, we had a number of pet items that we weren't using for our dog - such as a specialized collar meant to help prevent chewing after surgery on her tail but that she managed to find a way to get around - that we donated to B.A.R.K, a local rescue organization.  Many non-profits keep a wish list of items on their websites and you might be surprised how many needs you can fulfill by donating things that are sitting around unused in your house.

Free section at the dump:
Periodically I end up with things that are useable, but are not likely to find a new home via donation to a thrift store.  If I have something like this - an example would be left over building materials from home improvement projects - then I will take it to the "Too Good to Throw Away" section at the county dump.    Items in this little covered area are free to anyone who would like to take them.

I do use Freecycle periodically, but mostly for items that I don't feel will find a home elsewhere.  Unlike the building materials that might end up at the free section at the dump, these are usually household items.  Examples of what I have Freecycled in the past include electronic items that are compromised in some way but that someone with more technical know how than I can fix (i.e. a video camera, a wireless router, and a video baby monitor).  By using Freecycle for these items I can be completely upfront about what the problem is and if someone feels they can fix or otherwise use the item then they can speak up for it.

Thrift Stores and Sales to Benefit Non-profits:
While I do try to find specific recipients of my purged items whenever I can, I donate a large portion of the stuff that comes out of my house to thrift stores or to yard/garage sales being held to benefit non-profit organizations.  An added bonus of donating items to thrift stores is that their sale helps to raise money for a variety of great community organizations.

As you purge things from your home, what do you do with them?

"The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less."  ~Socrates

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 Goals Update #1

Last week I shared a list of goals for 2011 and, as I said then, I fully expected it to change in some way and it has.  Knowing myself as I do, it is a safe bet to guess that it will change yet again.  This is part of the beauty of lists...I can perform a proverbial brain dump and then when I remember something else - or come up with something entirely new - I can just add it on.  So the first order of business is to update my original list of 25 to become a list of 30.
  1. Knit something for each of my children to wear.
  2. Plant a vegetable garden this spring/summer.
  3. Plant a butterfly garden.
  4. Complete my Virginia Master Naturalist certification.
  5. Run a 10K in under one hour.
  6. Grow seedlings for a portion of the vegetable garden.
  7. Scrapbook regularly – paper or electronic (once a month?).
  8. Put my craft room into working order.
  9. Purge, purge, purge!
  10. Write letters via snail mail to my friends and loved ones (once a week?).
  11. Teach the big kids to knit.
  12. Learn how to sew using my sewing machine.
  13. Spend time delving into family history and combining documentation from my family and my husband’s family.
  14. Partner with the local elementary school to share environmental education opportunities with the students.
  15. Incorporate more handmade gifts into our family and holiday celebrations.
  16. Plan ahead and sign the kids up for summer camps that allow them to explore their passions and new things.
  17. Create a family mission statement.
  18. Volunteer as a family.
  19. Explore museums and historical sites around town.
  20. Shop at local farmers’ markets regularly throughout the spring and summer.
  21. Start nature journaling.
  22. Go geocaching and create a local cache.
  23. Have our backyard certified as a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat.
  24. Go to the theater with the kids.
  25. Train for and participate in my first triathlon.
  26. Explore traditional methods of food preservation and learn to can.
  27. Make pasta from scratch.
  28. Get registered on the Direct Mail "do not mail" list.
  29. Actively manage retirement accounts and investments.
  30. Update will and estate plan.
Although I hadn't put any of this down on a formal list until I prepared last week's post, these are things that have been rattling around in my mind for some time and I have already taken steps in 2011 to meet some of these goals.  For the purpose of this blog, though, I will resist the temptation to check things off immediately (perhaps my fellow list makers out there can commiserate with the urge to add something to a list that has already been completed just to be able to check it off).  Instead, I will share progress as I make it and give a full report out at the end of the year.

So what progress have I made since last week?

Goal #4 - Prior to last week's goal post I had already met the basic and advanced training requirements for my Virginia Master Naturalist certification.  I had also completed about half of my volunteer requirement (40 hours annually).  I have started preparing a project proposal that, if approved by my chapter, will allow me to receive volunteer hours for my time spent working on goal #14.

Goal #14 - Earlier in the week I met with one of the fifth grade science teachers at my children's elementary school who is very enthusiastic about providing environmental learning opportunities for his students.  He has been awarded two grants this school year to purchase equipment in order to provide students with a meaningful watershed experience.  Later this month I will be supporting his efforts by wading out into the Chickahominy River with students to test water quality.  Hopefully this will just be a starting point and other opportunities will develop.

Goal #9 - The purge is on!  Between cleaning out my master closet and wardrobe as part of Simple Mom's Project Simplify and passing along part of my vintage Pyrex collection through a giveaway on this blog, I have made solid progress on decluttering during the past week.

Goal #16 - On Monday evening I attended a session offered by the county regarding summer enrichment opportunities.  This gave me some additional ideas for camps and other programs that the kids might enjoy this summer.  Next up...actually registering before things fill up.

Goal #19 - To help celebrate my birthday a little bit early, my Mom drove into town and took me out sans kids.  We visited the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where we ate lunch at Amuse and visited the Pablo Picasso exhibit.  It was an incredible day and I was so very lucky to spend it in the company of my mother.

Mom and I after a great day at the VMFA.
All in all, good progress so far, though I've got a big task ahead of me between now and Friday to unleash my vengeance on hot spot #2.