Friday, April 25, 2014

De-cluttering: Week 17 - Distraction Sometimes Does Wonders

I thought it would be really easy to do this week's de-cluttering project.  The idea was to put away the winter coats (and hope that I don't need one again for many months). 

I also store the vacuum cleaner in that cupboard though, so the first thing I did was drag it out, of it's hiding spot.  I had not vacuumed behind the furniture since January, when we put away the Christmas tree. For some strange reason, I suddenly thought this would be a good time to do it.

I started off pulling out the big chair, and the table beside it.  Before Christmas this chair was on the end wall, but I moved it to be beside the window, just so there would be enough room for the tree.  I thought, if I'm going to pull he furniture around, this would be a good time to put it back.  Basically that just meant interchanging it with the love seat.

As I may have mentioned, back when we bought this set, it's bigger than our previous furniture, and it has not really fit into the room as well as one would hope.  Once I had the loveseat pulled away from the room,  I took a notion to move the one piece of the set that had never been on the end wall to that position.  The couch.  I wasn't sure it would fit though as there was a dresser and an end table in each corner.

I know, you are wondering why on earth a dresser is in my living room. Well, I inherited it. It was in my Grandmother's living room when I was a child, and then it was in my Aunt's living room when my kids were growing up.  Now it's in mine.  It's never made it to a bedroom, at least not within my lifetime, so it just seems like it belongs there.

To fit the couch into that spot meant I was going to have to move the dresser. It's old. It's genuine wood, and it's heavy.  It also had drawers full of a lot of heavy stuff that made it impossible to move without emptying them at least partially out.  That, of course got me to sort and eliminate some things that I found in really old financial papers from way back in the 90's, and some gardening and nature type magazines that I guess I thought I would paint from.  But really, I prefer to paint from my own photographs, so why was I keeping them?

I made a fine mess of the room, and the coats never did get put away.

But in the end, after a lot of pushing and  pulling and grunting and groaning, and even a few moments of wondering if I was going to have to wait for hubby to come home to put it all back if it didn't fit (as I was too worn out by then), the room ended up looking better than it ever has.  I did some unscheduled de-cluttering of drawers, and maybe even the room as it actually looks like it's bigger now.  I even got all the rug and baseboards vacuumed. I think I did a good job, even if it wasn't the one I intended to do.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Talking on Paper

Stephen King has always been my favorite writer.  Not because he can scare me half to death with his stories, but because he can climb into a characters head and become that character, whether it's a teenager, a woman or an old man.

Oh wait.  I think maybe I have that backwards.  I am currently reading "Stephen King/On Writing" and he says the characters take on a life of their own and end up making the story he's trying to tell so much better than he ever expected it to be. I don't often write fiction, but I have. What he says is true.  The characters take the story and run with it.

This reminded me of my high school days, so many years ago.  I remember hating the way English Literature teachers took the fun out of reading by pulling apart the novels we were assigned to read. They said things like, "What did the author want you to think when he wrote that?"  I figured, even then, that this was utter nonsense.  Story tellers don't write words to purposely make you think this thing or that.  They just tell the story and let the reader fill in the blanks.  Except, perhaps in the case of a mystery, when the writer might purposely think up some red herring to throw at you, just to put you off the scent of figuring out who killed who too soon.  Good writers don't plot the story out nearly as much as some of my English teachers would have you think.  It just proved they are teachers, not writers.

When writing fiction, characters often lead you places you would never have thought of going.  This could change a plotted story completely, or if you are stubborn about it, make the story you insist on trying to tell unnatural and stilted.  You have to let the characters lead. They know where they are going, even if you don't.

I had a mother say to me recently, "I wish you could teach my son to write."  I felt that was a great compliment. It started me thinking though.

I've heard a lot of people state that they can't even write a letter. I'm sure they can, but they were probably intimidated by all those English lessons having to do with grammar and composition they had to endure in school, and came out thinking it was all a lot harder than it actually is.  Putting words on paper can be intimidating if you think about it too much. That's the trick, I guess. Don't think about it.  I have an answer for anyone who ever told me they would like to write a letter to a friend or relative, but they just can't write. If you can talk, you can write.  I get them to tell me what it is they wanted to tell the person on the receiving end, and when they were done, I say, now pick up your pen and just write down what you just told me. It doesn't need to be any fancier than that.  Many of them don't believe me, I'm sure, and those letters never do get written.  That's a pity really.

The best way to improve your writing is simply to read. Let go of the thought of being some literary genius and just enjoy the art of writing. You will likely succeed as other people will identify with what you are saying. It's just talking on paper, after all.  As you can see, that's all I ever do here.  I got you to read this far, didn't I?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

De-cluttering - Week 16 Boxed Up and Boxed In

I'm not sure if I can call what we have been doing this week de-cluttering, but there has been a lot of sorting and boxing up of stuff going on, and we've certainly been moving it about. 

My oldest son is getting ready to move from one apartment to another.  He has been living in the current place for at least 10 years, and has been happily collecting tons....and I mean that literally.....of records.  Yes, I'm talking vinyl.

The problem with that is they are difficult to move. You can't put too many in a box because they are so heavy. If you put them in boxes so they are standing on edge, the boxes cannot be piled one on top of another.  Sometimes that's the only way they fit in the box though.

The room where most of them have been kept is on the 4th floor of a building with no elevators.  That means a lot of hauling box after heavy box down an awful lot of stairs. 

My son doesn't actually move until the end of the month, but we knew early on that there was no way we, or anyone really, could haul all that weight down that many stairs all in one day with collapsing before time ran out.  So, we decided to get some of them down and out of there early. 

As it happens, he has transferred a lot of those albums onto CD's now, so he was willing to give up a lot of the records.  It would have been nice to have had time to try to sell them, but that wasn't possible.  So if you are interested in old vinyl records, take yourself over to the Brockville Good Will store, as we hauled two vanloads full over there this past weekend.  It doesn't matter what your musical taste is, I'm sure you will find something.

We also made off with a box full of video movies, some of which we will keep for the grandchildren. 

Just about everything is now boxed up and ready to move.  I'm glad my son was so good at that, though he had himself pretty well boxed in before we hauled away all those records.  We moved him in there ourselves, but it is very apparent that we will be needing to hire someone to help move him over to his new place.  Luckily for all, it's on the ground floor!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Personal Validation

Years ago a strange thing happened to me. I didn't understand what was going on. It didn't seem possible, but it certainly felt real.

In the past I've only told certain people about it, because I figured they would just look at me strangely. But recently I read an article that let me know I'm not the only one who has experienced this sort of thing.

At the time, an elderly aunt was living in the local nursing home. She was a spinster lady, as she often called herself, and had gotten to the point where she needed care. She had phoned me numerous times a day to tell me that, until I eventually found her a spot in the home near me.

Every day I would walk over there and visit with her for an hour or more.  It became obvious that she was suffering from some kind of dementia, as she sometimes forgot where she was or how long she had been there.  Other members of my family either stopped visiting or refused to go because they preferred to remember her as she once was.  But I went, day after day.  She had always been important in my life, and it bothered me terribly to watch her decline. I had no one to share that burden with.

Then it happened.  I was sitting alone in my living room when this feeling came over me.  It was like I was enveloped in love. There is no other way to describe it.  It was absolutely marvelous.  I was overcome with this sensation of being totally surrounded, by nothing but love. It happened a couple of times over the period of a week or so, and then it was gone.

Today I feel like someone, my father perhaps, had come back to thank me for looking after his sister.  I can't be sure it was him, but I do know I didn't imagine the experience. If I could, I'd imagine it as often as I could manage.  It was that wonderful.  There is just no way to conjure up that feeling again.  It came out of nowhere, and then it was gone, as was my aunt not too long afterwards. 

The article I read was in the March issue of Elle magazine. Scientists actually call this type of episode the "sensed presence." Though not necessarily the spiritual hug I received, apparently otherwise normal, healthy people do sense someone with them in times of stress. It lets them know they will be alright if they just persevere. I was certainly stressed as, not only was I dealing with this elderly relative alone, the staff at the home had told me that they could not legally stop my aunt from leaving the building if she decided to walk out the door.  She had not yet been deemed incompetent, and she often asked me which way my house was. 

While this sensed presence, or "third man" as climbers call it, is known to come to people in isolated or dangerous situations, the author soon learned that it could happen to anyone living with stress. Even him.

If you want to know more about this sort of experience, read The Third Man Factor by John Geiger. Actually, I think the excerpt available at the top of the linked page is the same piece I read in the magazine. For me, it was just validation that I did experience this special phenomenon, and it's nice to know I'm not any sense of the word.


Friday, April 11, 2014

De-Cluttering Week 15 - Children's Books

There is a big book sale coming up at the Merrickville United Church in May.  I've got way too many books so I thought I'd start weeding them out.  I have a terrible time parting with books though, so when my nine year old grandson came for a visit recently I gave him a job.  I hauled up several armloads of children's books that are stored in an old china cabinet in the basement,  and had him sort them into four piles:  books he liked; books he thought his little brother would like; books that were too young for either of them, but maybe their two year old twin cousins might enjoy; and books to send to the sale. 

He was really good at sorting them, though sometimes I was a bit surprised at which pile he put something into.  Once he got those piles established, I got some boxes and we packaged them up.  The books for the sale were easy enough, as were the books for the twins. 

There is a general rule though, at his house, that he's not supposed to bring things home, as he and his brother both have more books and toys than any kid actually needs.  I figured we could get the books back to his place if we did it a few at a time though. He sorted through his pile again.  There were some books that he had me put back in the basement because he said he really wants to read them but he'd do it later, however, he did manage to fill a small box full to take home with him.  Those were all for him to read now. 

I wanted him to do the same for his brother.  But he had other ideas. He thought those books should all go in the spare bedroom, so they would be there when the little one came for an over night stay.  I didn't think it would go over well if one kid went home with a box full of books and the other kid didn't get anything until his next visit, so I picked out a few to take to him. He was quite happy with the books I chose for him, especially since there was an old colouring book in the pile.  It didn't take him long to discover the colouring book also had a story line at the bottom of each page.  Even though he's still in kindergarten, he can read well enough that he quickly figured out what story it was too.  He ran off got get some art supplies and busied himself colouring in story pages until we went home half an hour later.

While I didn't get that cupboard empty yet, I did get rid of quite a few books, with others already designated to go to a new home sometime in the future.

We'll tackle the bottom part of the cupboard next time my grandson visits. I think there are games and puzzles down there.  I might even get to use the cupboard as my basement pantry if we keep this up.

Meanwhile, if you have any books you want to get rid of, the Merrickville United Church will be happy to accept them.  You can deliver them to the Merrickville Library, or drop them off at the Church  between 10AM and noon, or after 6:30PM on Wednesdays between now and the 1st of May.   Maybe you will even manage to make room to take home a few you haven't read during the sale that takes place during the three middle weekends in May.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Don't Care, Just Feed Me

Recently, while on Facebook, one cyber friend was hinting that it was time for me to post a new blog.  Just then, I spotted a picture another cyber buddy had posted, and laughingly told him that picture might just inspire a blog post.  He put up a smiley face. That's how these things are born.
The photo was of a bar and grill called I Don't Care.  When I saw it, I immediately thought it was a very clever name.  I'm sure I know how it came about. 
When a couple who has lived together any length of time decide to go out, the man often asks the woman, "Where would you like to go?"  The reply is often, "I don't care."  Now, guys may not find that helpful, since they generally aim to please, and they don't see our answer as helpful.  The thing is, in most families, the woman does the cooking, and the man eats what is put in front of him.  He might occasionally make a suggestion, or put forth a request,  but for the most part, he has no idea what he will be eating until he sits down at the table. 
Women like to eat out because it means they not only don't have to decide what the meal will be, they also don't  have to cook, or clean up afterwards. We're sure, where ever we are taken, we will find something on the menu that we will be happy to eat.  It's a treat just to get out. 
Since men seldom get a choice as to what they are going to be eating, we are often quite willing to let them choose not only what they want off a menu, but what establishment they want to head for.  When we say, "I don't care," when being asked where we want to go, we are really saying, "You choose dear, since you never get a chance to decide what you are going eat the rest of the time."  (Mind you, if the guy comes up with someplace we'd really rather not go, you can be sure we'll set him straight).
I think whoever thought up the name of this establishment needs to open a chain of them, and have them pop up all over the land.  Then, when a woman tells her man "I don't care," when he asks her where she wants to go, he will know exactly where to take her. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

De-cluttering - Week 14: Getting Potted

With Spring's arrival comes a little task I put off too long last year. I needed to plant my heritage tomato seeds.  I put it off so long last year that I only ended up with a few unripened tomatoes by the time the frost came back. I did my best to save the seeds, though I have no idea if they will germinate this year at all. That's a major shame since every one I planted last year germinated.

I went down to the basement to find a container to plant these few precious seeds in. What I found was a messy jumble of pots that had been taken to the basement and abandoned there. My basement is rather cool and I tend to avoid it, so these things can happen easily enough. But we're de-cluttering on these pages these days, so this looked like a job for this week.

First I sorted plastic pots into one pile and clay pots into another pile. Then I took them out to my gardening cupboard in the garage. If you were wondering why they didn't get put there in the first place, it was because there was too much stuff piled in front of that cabinet last fall.  Not my stuff, mind you!  And if you are wondering why I don't just throw them out, well, it's just about time to plant things, or give some perennials away, so I may need the pots.  If I am going to dispose of any, it will be after that time has past.

With the pots put away, that left the planters.  I cleaned out space in that cupboard in the background of the photograph to see if they would fit in there. The cupboard holds craft supplies, and matted photos left over from old art shows.

I got most of the planters to fit on the top shelf, and I'll de-clutter the bottom shelf some other day.  As I said, it's cold and damp down there, and I've had a bad cough for several weeks now, so I don't want to aggravate it.

I did use the Shop Vac to clean up the area though.  Then I used it to take care of a lot of spider webs and dead ladybugs.  After that I washed down the cupboard doors. I think I did pretty good, even if I didn't get rid of everything.  The frog planter will have a plant in it soon enough.  The green pot needs descaling. Our hard water has built up a lot of unsightly calcium along the bottom edge. I'll take care of that soon as I like that pot. It's one I painted myself.  It's sitting on a battery that my hubby promised to dispose of. So other than that, there is just the two other planters that are stacked together that don't have a home.  Oh, and the little tray of square ones that I've tucked beneath the edge of the cupboard. It tends to sit on my kitchen table where I can grow herbs or violets in those pots.  Right now my hoya has that spot as it will bloom there at this time of year.

Meanwhile I did get the heritage tomato seeds planted in the same lined basket as last year.   I can only hope something grows, as I'd hate to lose out on seeds for next year.

I think I did pretty good this week, especially since I got rid of so many spider webs.  I also got rid of a bag of old clothes, and a big bag of magazines.

I have a pretty busy week ahead of me, so I'm not sure what kind of de-cluttering I can find time to tackle. I'll have to think about that.  What spot in your house needs a bit of de-cluttering?  Maybe your ideas will spur me on.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's Official. Spring Has Arrived.

Spring has sprung, or so I'm told. It was difficult to believe that though, with all the snow that's still on the ground.  This is a picture that was taken from my living room window on Sunday.  Does that look like spring to you?

The temperature had began to climb and the warm sun hit the white siding of my house, causing the snow to start to recede near the foundation on the south side.  I saw actual life coming through the ground on March 26th.  When I posted that on Facebook, a few people were amazed that I had bare earth. I explained that this was near the foundation, but it still gave some people hope that spring was not just a figment of our imagination.

Then, on the first of April, the snow melted back a bit further, and I discovered the narcissus had been hiding under the snow, and were also up. I posted that on Facebook too, half expecting someone to accuse me of posting it as an April Fool joke.

Today, even I got a surprise.  The first crocuses decided to bloom, in a spot where I had not noticed life yet.  Yes, they are snuggled right up close to the warm foundation, but now I'm starting to believe spring really has arrived.  There is hope after all.

 My first crocus last year, was on March 28th, by the way, and my records say they were a couple of weeks later than the year before. This year they are a week later than last year.  If this is a trend, then so much for global warming.

At supper time, I saw a mosquito sitting on the window screen.  Not everything about spring is welcome. But since it's still not warm enough to expose too much skin, we may be able to enjoy a few flowers before we start feeding the bugs. 

Happy Springtime, everyone!