The Great Clean Out of 2017.

Dear friends,

The master bedroom during the middle of a closet purge.

Before the arrival of every new year, I find myself contemplating resolutions. I’ve always thought of myself as the Queen of Self Help. Someone who has both the drive and resourcefulness to set ambitious goals and meet them. Ready, set . . . GOOOOOOOOOO!

And then I cave.

(My philosophy is if a goal isn’t intimidating enough to make you cave early on, it’s probably not worth being called a goal. Cleaning the kitchen, for example, requires little forethought or dedication.  It’s a “just do it” kind of thing. But cleaning and organizing the whole house? That’s enough to make you gulp. That’s a goal. )

But, sometimes, after I cave, I find the fortitude and the stamina to take a deep breath and dig back in. It seems to me the persistence to keep digging in, again and again, is the key to any kind of success. And though I haven’t always persisted in every endeavor I’ve pursued, I recently completed a very big goal worth writing about.

Dubbed the Great Clean Out of 2017, my goal was to clean and organize my home in a way I had never before pursued. I was feeling leaden, a bit cornered by the clutter, and looking for a fresh start. I know my age has something to do with it, but I was slowly starting to panic about the size and maintenance demands of our home. I told Mr. Mom how frightened I was of becoming one of those old couples whose home “caves” in on them because they lose the ability to keep up with things. One day they wake up old and surrounded by too many objects too many decades out of use or style. It’s a literal nightmare for me.

So I vowed to tackle our entire home and to give myself a year to do it. It seemed reasonable and the more I thought about it, the more my motivation grew. I started telling everyone of my plan. I vowed to not only clean and organize, but to purge. And purge some more. Followed by a side of purge.

I made a list. (Because nothing feels as good as check marks on a list.) I divided big jobs into little jobs. I knew I would never find the motivation to clean and organize the laundry room, for example. It’s too big, too full of built-in cabinets that had been stuffed and ignored. So I wrote down 45 items on my list, items I thought sounded manageable, such as “Kitchen desk,” and “Night stands” and “Buffet drawers” and “Coffee cart.” Things I could do in less than an hour so that I might feel energized to tackle another item on the list. Then another.

My strategy worked. I started 2017 with a bang and, by March, I had checked off more than a third of my list, including two really big/challenging spaces such as the dish pantry and the kitchen. (It took me multiple days spread over two weeks, but cleaning out every single drawer and cabinet in my kitchen — as well as scrubbing and streamlining every surface — was a true mood booster and personal triumph.) I was stoked.

Then life got hard and my enthusiasm waned. Long hours and challenging dynamics at work diffused my focus on my goal and sapped my energy. I tried to keep plugging along but the check marks slowed.

The one thing on my list I had been too overwhelmed to break down into smaller chores was the basement. I had written BASEMENT in all caps at the bottom of my list, a visual representation of the enormity of the task.  I put it on the bottom of the list because I rationalized my Great Clean Out would be deemed a success if everything but the basement got done. I mean, who would blame me? It was so stuffed that we couldn’t even walk around. Much of the contents were boxes we were too exhausted to unpack when we moved into this home, topped off with six years of stuff we should have purged but chose instead to throw in the basement.

Fortunately, my daughter offered to come home for Labor Day weekend and help me. Between her and Mr. Mom, who did all the heavy lifting and hauling off while Kate and I sorted, purged, organized and cleaned, we finished the basement in a single (albeit long) day.

There’s nothing quite like completing a project that has intimidated and plagued you for years. Finishing the basement was like a tonic, and it gave me the energy to check off a few more items on the list in the following weeks.

I was so inspired, I even added new items to the list. I decided to paint and recover my dining room chairs, a project I started before Thanksgiving and finished today. I painted the buffet and the mantle and two mirrors. I made a new slipcover for the ottoman in the den. I cleaned and repainted our deck furniture and bought all new cushions. I replaced the light fixture over the kitchen island. I hired a company to clean our carpets. After Parker moved out, I redecorated the guest room with new side tables and bedding and cleaned out his long-ignored closet. I bought a new mattress and all new bedding for the master bedroom. I reupholstered a wing chair. I bought a new sofa and recliner for the living room and new slipcovers for the sofa in the keeping room.

As 2017 drew to a close, I had two remaining chores on my list — the dreaded laundry room and the refrigerator.

First — I know a refrigerator should be cleaned regularly, not part of a major purge. But I spontaneously scribbled it on the list thinking it would be an easy win, and then I proceeded to ignore it for a year. By the time I completely emptied it last week and scrubbed every surface with soap and water, it was in dire need. If you need a mental boost and decide to do nothing else, clean your refrigerator. It seriously might have been the most energizing and pleasing project I completed all year.

Second — despite breaking the laundry room down into four manageable items on my list, I ignored it until the bitter end. I gave serious thought to skipping it all together, thinking I could still pat myself on the back for doing everything BUT the laundry room. But on Dec. 30, still clad in my pajamas at 11:00 am, I decided to dive in. I even tackled one item not on my list — our four-drawer filing cabinet (which happens to reside in the laundry room), which hadn’t been attended to in more than a decade.

Guess what? I found my “lost” passport. I found my daughter’s immunization record, which she had asked for last fall but which Mr. Mom couldn’t find despite digging through the filing cabinet. I found three savings bonds I didn’t know we had, gifts to my children 20 years ago from a family friend. I found our wills, which I thought had long ago been lost. Score four for the motivated mother cleaning in her PJs on the day before her deadline!

Now that I’m done, I’m enormously gratified to say that I literally touched (and cleaned or purged) every single item in our home. The only thing I ignored was the garage. It’s Mr. Mom’s space so I never even put it on the list. And I don’t feel bad. It needs a lot of love (and a deep clean) in my opinion, but it’s not my hill to die on.

With the interior of the house “done,” I’ve started thinking about the outside. When spring arrives, I hope we will find the energy and inspiration to power wash our exterior and our driveway. We need to re-stain the deck and wash the windows. But I really just want to enjoy the satisfaction of finishing the Great Clean Out of 2017 for a while before I think about the next list of projects.

Because the truth is — keeping up a house is never-ending, just like keeping a drawer or cabinet tidy takes continual attention. If I hadn’t ignored things for so long (hello basement), a year-long clean out wouldn’t have been necessary. But since it was, necessary, I’m awfully glad to have it behind me.

With gratitude {for finishing},

Joan, who once set a goal to run a thousand miles in a year and didn’t achieve it, but thinks the Great Clean Out might have been even more demanding.

PS: I’ve included quite a few photos in case you are curious and/or looking for inspiration to tackle your own dreaded chores. Under the label of truth in advertising, I should note a whole lot of personal interests took a back seat to this year-long endeavor. Yes, I cleaned and organized my entire house and purged several pick-up loads of excess baggage. But my quilting took a hit and I finished only one small baby quilt and a few pillows in 2017. My fitness took a real dive. Cooking and baking seriously diminished except around holidays or special occasions. And my writing was non-existent. I guess what I’m saying is everything comes at a cost. I spent an entire year focusing on our home at the expense of other interests and I’m looking forward to a change-up in 2018.

A clean desk is so satisfying. And handy.

Freshly scrubbed and de-cluttered, the kitchen project was enormously satisfying.

 

The reorganized cleaning pantry.

Refurbished deck furniture.

Room to spare in the reorganized sewing room closet.

The BASEMENT! Clean and organized after only six years.

The refreshed guest bedroom.

Refurbished dining room chairs.

The living room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Space Jam.

Dear friends,

I’m seriously in need of help.

Organizational . . . financial . . . spatial/dimensional . . . psychological. Yep, maybe all four.

fabric

This is my dining room table. My dining room table is not supposed to look this way.

It’s supposed to look this way:

prettytable

We haven’t eaten a meal at the dining room table in more than a month — ever since I permanently camped out with my sewing machine and fabric. Right now I’ve got several projects going. A gift quilt for a friend. A mini-quilt for an online swap meet. Four new quilts for Magpie Quilts.

I desperately need a studio. A light and bright studio. One with a cutting station, a sewing station, a comfortable spot to bind, a design wall, fabric storage. I swear if Kate were one year farther along in college, I would evict her things from her bedroom and set up shop. Or if I could just sell that ratcha-fratching Oklahoma house, I’d demand to build a studio out back, college funds be damned.

I’m one of those women whose tidiness is well-documented. I can walk into a room and tell instantly if a book or a vase or a candle has been moved. We make our beds every day. Our car keys are hung on a hook by the back door. My throw pillows are plumped and positioned just so. My bathroom counters are pleasingly clear and my kitchen island causes me frustration if so much as the day’s mail clutters it. Heck, even our laundry is put away on a regular basis.

I do not leave piles on the dining room table.

Until now.

All I can say is I must really love quilting to tolerate this mess.

Quilting has even usurped Gunsmoke. I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to concentrate on my nightly television/cocktail ritual with Mr. Mom. Fortunately, he’s tolerant of both the disruption and the mess. (I know because I apologized to him. Yes, I’m the kind of nut who apologizes for leaving a mess on the dining room table because if the tables were turned — no pun intended, I promise — it would really annoy me. Just ask him about his laundry room desk.)

I don’t have a solution to my problem. I guess I’m just venting, which goes against my gratitude grain AND my problem-solver grain. I suppose I’m going to have to embrace the situation or risk rubbing my Buddhist-acceptance grain the wrong way, too.

With gratitude {for grains that mostly keep me in line},

Joan, who won’t be quilting OR watching Gunsmoke this weekend because she’s meeting some Okie friends for an overnight excursion to see the Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, AR, and — for once — might have something nice to say about the Walton family fortune

A place for everything. And everything in its place.

Dear friends,

I was a busy bee yesterday. I took a day off following three consecutive 60-70 hour weeks. And while I was tempted to laze around, I had a project or two on my mind that urged me out of bed at 6:00 am and kept me working all day.

Remember my mud room makeover? Well, when I tackled that project I left a corner undone that has been bothering me ever since. You see, my mud space is an alcove that faces another alcove — which I didn’t show you in my last post. Basically, when you sit on my mudroom bench, you face an alcove that is lined with shelves. They’re nothing fancy, so as soon as I moved in, I hung curtains to hide the space — partly because it was more attractive, partly because I didn’t take time to organize the shelves.

So I spent a portion of Friday cleaning out and sorting all my cleaning and crafting supplies. Here’s a peek at the newly organized space:

backpantry

I keep the curtains closed for a sleeker look, but it’s nice to know that everything behind them is tidy now.

I also went to work on a corner of our laundry room, which adjoins this space. One of the many things that sold me on this house is the enormous laundry room. It’s about 17′ X 17′ with three walls of built-in cabinets. Although it’s a bit plain — with white walls and white cabinetry — it’s certainly bright and has plenty of room for Mr. Mom’s projects, and lots more.

Here’s a view from the mudroom:

laundryentry

That drafting table is mine, but Mr. Mom co-opted it long ago as his preferred laundry folding table. It’s a much better height for my 6’6″ laundry man.

Here’s another view of the built-in desk:

laundrydesk

This is Mr. Mom’s domain. It’s where he reads email, pays bills, talks on the phone and, of course, does laundry. It has been command central during our mountain saga and you can see he has a topographical map of  Colorado pinned above the computer and all his files (in the filing cabinet) nearby.

I don’t spend much time in the laundry room, except to retrieve my laundry, and I think Mr. Mom likes it that way. I’ve been thinking of hanging some sunny yellow wallpaper to break up the vast expanse of white walls, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. And I think Mr. Mom likes that, too.

On the opposite side of Mr. Mom’s desk is another bank of cabinets, with a sink and space for the washer and dryer. And until yesterday, there was an unused corner just waiting for me to make better use of it.

Voila! I created a sewing corner:

sewcorner

In the short time I’ve been sewing, I’ve grown weary of pulling my machine out of the closet and setting it up on my dining room table. So I sub-let Mr. Mom’s empty corner, set up a folding table, and created a space to store my supplies.

Here’s a close up:

sewcu

I sewed a slipcover for the table so that it would look prettier and so I could hide things underneath. The dust cover for my sewing machine is merely the box it came in (top removed and turned upside down) with matching fabric glued on. And my supply caddy is nothing more than a $9 vinyl shoe organizer picked up at Lowe’s.

Underneath the table, I’ve stored my fabric and a stool to sit on.

undertable

All in all, not a bad day’s work I’d say.

With gratitude {for my man, who gave up a corner of his decidedly atypical man cave and even helped me organize it},

Joan, who is itchin’ to make more progress on her quilt now that she’s in tip-top organizational shape

The mud room. Errrr, space.

Dear friends,

As if I wasn’t planning enough activities for spring what with my newly rekindled passion for needlework and sewing, I’ve also got another big project on the front burner — a new mud room.

Okay, room is a stretch.

A mud corner?

A mud alcove?

Mud space?

Whatever you want to call it, no matter the size, I’m planning a re-do. Actually I’ve been planning a re-do since the day we bought our home, it’s just that it took me two years to move from planning to doing.

I perused untold photos on Houzz and Pinterest looking for mud room inspiration. And all this time, I figured the perfect execution of my plan involved hiring a carpenter for built-ins.

Finally, I realized my little spot just needs better organization, function and decor — and all of that could be achieved without custom woodwork.

You see, my space is five feet wide and nearly three feet deep. It sits right between the garage and the laundry room, so it’s the perfect spot for shoes and coats and bags and all that stuff that accumulates near doors.

Here’s a photo of the space that I snapped on the day we toured the house with a realtor in February 2011. I’m standing in the laundry room looking toward Mr. Mom, who’s going out the door to the garage. The hall to the kitchen is behind him. You can see my mud space is a perfect little spot. You can also see the former owners cared more about functionality than decor.

mudroom

I mean really . . . could the space have been anymore boring?

The first thing I did when we moved in was paint the walls in this area a nice gray (Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore), which I continued throughout the hallway and the kitchen. I also took down the previous owners’ ugly coat rack, which is the only thing in this photo they left behind, thank goodness, and which Mr. Mom was thrilled to put in the garage for his grimy motocross gear. I also hung a mirror and added a big basket to catch shoes, but you know that wasn’t enough. The space is still dreadfully plain. And horribly cluttered.

So my plan is to add a bench, a pillow, a coat rack, a key hook, some artwork, a rug, and a new light fixture. Oh, yeah, and I’m going to hang some wallpaper for a graphic punch. Here’s my source board of all the items I ordered on a day off two weeks ago.

PicMonkey Collage2

Can’t you just IMAGINE it? I can! All the items have arrived except the rug, which is on backorder until May. Mr. Mom has already hung the new light fixture and a professional wallpaper installer is coming on Wednesday. After that, there’s just a few more things to do, including picking up my poster from the frame shop, and I’ll be done. If all goes right, my mud space might be finished this coming weekend.

I’ll be sure to take the “after” photos I know you can’t wait to see.

How do I know you can’t wait? Because I can’t either . . . and you know what they say about birds of a feather.

With gratitude {for online inspiration and a tidy little tax refund that is finally making my mud room project a reality},

Joan, who thinks turquoise blue and seafoam green are two of the best colors of all time

This will change your life.

Dear friends,

I know that’s a bold claim. Anything life-changing sounds too good to be true. Especially something as simple as a container. This container:

photo copy

But when you love to cook as much as I do and you spend any time at all in the kitchen, trust me when I tell you this little tin will change your life.

It’s called a Masala Dabba box and I learned about it from my friend Rama who recently gave me an Indian cooking lesson. Each large tin holds seven small tins and comes with a clear inner lid and a stainless outer lid. I noticed that Rama moved effortlessly around her kitchen because she had a couple of Masala Dabba boxes filled with spices on her prep counter.

Rama’s demonstration was in stark contrast to the way I cook. I rarely organize a mise en place, nor do I bother to pull all the spices out of my cabinet before I begin a recipe. Invariably, I’m foraging through my spice cabinet, yelling at Mr. Mom “Where’s the cumin?” or “Are we out of cinnamon?” It’s a rather herky-jerky approach to cooking that I’ve never seemed to overcome.

So as soon as I spied Rama’s Masala Dabba box, I realized my life would never be the same after I organized my spices. I ordered two last week, thinking I’d create an “Indian Spices” box and an “Italian Spices” box. But after labeling them and filling them yesterday, I realized I need a “Baking Spices” box, a “Chili/Mexican Spices” box, and maybe even a “Basics” box.

These tins easily stack in a cabinet or store in a drawer. So when you’re ready to cook, simply pull out one or more tin, remove the lid, and you’re ready to go.

Are you ready to change your life?

With gratitude {for friends with ingenious solutions to life’s challenges},

Joan, who graciously accepts your gratitude in advance for this life-changing tip because that’s what friends are for

Grumpybritches.

Dear Friends,

If there’s anything worse than Monday, it’s Monday after a long weekend. And if there’s anything worse than Monday after a long weekend, it’s Monday after a long weekend when Monday is really Tuesday.

Did you work yesterday? If you did, and if Monday was a holiday for you, then you know what I’m talking about. I can’t decide if the severe crankiness I encountered in everyone in my universe was a bad case of Holiday Lag (just like Jet Lag, only when you’re adjusting to the transition from time-off to back-to-the-grind), or if it was Holiday Lag compounded by a collective realization that “holy crap it’s 2012 and I’ve already blown all my resolutions and fallen tragically behind despite my pledge to catch up over the holiday.”

Aren’t new years supposed to bring new horizons? New opportunities? Fresh perspectives and rejuvenated psyches? I guess that sounds good on paper, but what I encountered in the workplace yesterday was harried souls with frazzled faces and worn nerves.

Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t whistling on my way in the door. In fact, I overslept. And when I woke up late, I looked at my calendar only to discover I had scheduled an 8:30 am meeting with a Very Important Person and I had half the necessary time to shower.

(By the way, who does that? Who schedules an 8:30 am meeting with a VIP on the first day back after a holiday? I’ll tell you who does that! A woman who is severely distracted by holiday-itis and who is so eager to get out the door before a long weekend she is clearly not paying attention.)

Suffice to say, showering at warp speed in order to be on time for a meeting on Jan. 3 is not exactly how I planned to kick off 2012, my year of gratitude (where gratitude equals all good things achieved via better planning and clear thinking).

So in the door I rushed, only to discover just about everybody was having a far worse day than me.

I actually said these words to one person early in the morning: “Wow. I’m sorry you’re having such a bad day. You know my new year’s resolution is to focus on gratitude. In doing so, I’m hoping to avoid worrying over things I can’t control and improve my outlook and productivity.”

Yeah. I knew it was a mistake as soon as the words escaped my mouth.  The person didn’t say as much, but the person’s . . . um . . . body language and facial expression were pretty clear indicators.

But you know what those words did for me? They made me realize I didn’t want to be the crankypants sitting across from me. And that, my friends, is a powerful motivator.

With gratitude {for making my meeting with one minute to spare},

Joan, who’s wearing her anti-crankypanties